Did Tony Blair blow it as Mideast envoy?

Blair's Iraq-inquiry gaffes roused anger against him in Britain -- and may disqualify him as peace envoy

Published February 2, 2010 12:20AM (EST)

Tony Blair's widely panned appearance at last week's Chilcot inquiry into the origins of the Iraq war reminded the world about the former British prime minister's role in that lethal fiasco. Like many of the Iraq war's instigators here in the United States, Blair has gotten a free pass while flaunting his lack of remorse. Indeed, the failure to hold him accountable resulted in his appointment as the special envoy of the "Mideast Quartet" in June 2007,  charged with reviving the peace process on behalf of its members -- the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and the Russian Federation.

Blair has been serving as the Quartet's representative in the troubled region for well over two years without much protest or much impact. But his smug, self-serving testimony about Iraq -- filled with the same deceptions and evasions that irreparably marred his reputation -- may at last render that position untenable. According to the Guardian, moreover, he will be called to testify again sometime within the next few months about the precooked and plagiarized intelligence reports used by his government to prove that Iraq's mythical "weapons of mass destruction" posed an imminent threat.

During Blair's long-winded justification of his actions, he compared the current threat from Iran's nuclear program with the supposed threat from Iraq's supposed WMD arsenal no fewer than 58 times. "We face the same problem about Iran today," he said -- a call to war that sounded weirdly discordant coming from a man committed to encouraging peaceful negotiation.

Now many in the Mideast have lost patience with Blair, whose lack of achievement, focus on personal enrichment, and tactless commentary cancel out whatever prestige or influence he may still possess. When he was first appointed, moderate Arabs gave him the benefit of the doubt, despite the Iraq war and his perceived favoritism toward Israel. The United Arab Emirates, for instance, publicly welcomed his appointment.

The goodwill is gone. Over the weekend, the Gulf News -- an important English-language daily based in Dubai -- published a lead editorial titled "Blair simply isn't up to envoy job." Reviewing his tenure in scathing terms, it said that he has been "consistent in one thing since his appointment -- issuing statements that are filled with impractical suggestions, ineffective calls and hollow promises. Surely, Blair's uselessness and redundancy are ample reasons for the Quartet to dismiss him from his current post." Perhaps the foreign ministers of the quartet members will be smart enough to heed that advice before Blair embarrasses them again. It seems quite unlikely, based on his public displays so far, that he has the decency to resign. 

By Joe Conason

Joe Conason is the editor in chief of NationalMemo.com. To find out more about Joe Conason, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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Iraq War