Thursday 02 Apr 2020 | 22:44 | SYDNEY
Thursday 02 Apr 2020 | 22:44 | SYDNEY

Blair Middle East synthesis


Michael Fullilove


5 December 2008 10:06

When Tony Blair was appointed the Quartet’s representative to the Middle East last year, I was cautiously supportive of the pick. I thought the appointment was as much about Tony as it was about the Middle East, and I was troubled by the unseemly haste in rushing to make the appointment before he vacated Downing Street.

But I couldn’t completely agree with the groans from the much of the world’s media. Yes, the odds were clearly stacked against Blair – but I believed he’d bring energy and optimism to a conflict in need of both. The risks involved in the appointment were mainly to his reputation.

In the fifteen months since, I’ve wondered occasionally whether I made the wrong call. Certainly, it’s hard to point to much substantive difference that Blair has made. However, a speech he delivered yesterday in Washington, which has been pinging around policy and political circles here and in the Middle East, has confirmed me in my initial view. I found it thoughtful and compelling – one insider told me it’s the best short synthesis of the situation on the ground he has read.

President-elect Barack Obama is likely to move quickly to appoint a US national as special envoy to the Middle East. The US has a unique role to play in the resolution of the conflict, and there are outstanding candidates for the job. But given the prestige that Tony Blair continues to enjoy, the international community would be well advised to keep the former PM in the mix as well. There’s more than enough work to go around.