Tony Blair hasn’t even begun his new role as Mideast peace envoy for the Quartet before the disagreements started to fly about precisely what he was supposed to do. And it doesn’t bode well for Tony. According to the U.S., Tony has a purely technical role to play in encouraging Palestinian nation-building. He will not, I repeat, NOT play any role in political negotiations. Got that? We get this from Condi Rice who wants everyone to know that Tony’s not going to muscle in on her turf:
In his new role as envoy to the Middle East, Tony Blair will be charged with shoring up Palestinian institutions, but not with trying to nail down a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians because Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, is handling that job herself, administration officials said Wednesday.
And a bang-up job she’s doing I might add. At least she’s gotten Abbas and Olmert to agree to meet biweekly in principle. And they also have learned how to sing “working toward a political horizon” in lovely two-part harmony. Other than that, I can’t figure out what she’s been doing with her time in the Israel-Palestine region.
Helene Cooper quotes Aaron David Miller on the problematics of Blair’s appointment and Miller is right on the money:
Some Middle East analysts said Wednesday that such a narrow mandate would hamper Mr. Blair’s chances for success.
Indeed, the lack of a link between final status talks and the building of Palestinian institutions is the crux of why previous attempts have been unsuccessful, those analysts say.
“Unless he has the authority to deal with the Israelis on the issue of movement and lifting of barriers, he’s not going to get very far,” said Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center who was a senior adviser for Arab-Israeli relations at the State Department under the last three presidents.
“If this is a variation of the Jim Wolfensohn portfolio, where you have a very smart guy who is thrown at the economics of the Palestinian issue, but without the authority to help change the situation on the ground, then this isn’t going to work,” Mr. Miller said.
If the following quotation is accurate (and I wouldn’t credit anything anyone in this Administration says especially when it is spoken anonymously) then Blair just hasn’t “gotten” how hopelessly toothless is the structure of the position he’s accepted:
A senior Bush administration official maintained that Mr. Blair did not press American officials to allow him to take on the final status issues. “That was not a source of conflict,” the official said. He asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.
And if this report in Haaretz is accurate and current, then Tony has some rough-sledding ahead:
The Quartet representatives were unable yesterday to reach agreement on the mandate for outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair when he takes up his new post as the Quartet’s special envoy for the Middle East peace process. UN representative Michael Williams, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Yakovlev, European Union representative Mark Otte and U.S. assistant secretary of state David Welch met yesterday for three hours in Jerusalem, mostly focusing on the Blair appointment. Officials in Jerusalem said there were disagreements between the U.S. and the UN, which approve of the appointment, and Russia and the EU, who object.
This is tantamount to an employer hiring someone before they’ve fully agreed on what his job description is supposed to be. But not to worry, Tony’s served as Bush’s trusted poodle for so long I’m sure he won’t stray from the script and actually try to do anything terribly substantive that might step on Condi’s toes.
When Condi was over here in Germany for the first time she gave interview with DER SPIEGEL.(2002/2003?) I’ll probably never forget the following passage.
Condi: After 1989 everybody wondered what would be the next great threat- ;-(;-no more Cold War ;-). But then 911 happened and everybody knew.
I have find it to get the exact phrasing for you. I already thought about it, when Condi was on your mind last time. It read strangely delighted to me.
John Yorke says
No need to worry about Tony B and his effectiveness as envoy extraordinaire to the Middle East. I e-mailed him on Tuesday when he was still Prime Minister. He now has the full spec on what to do if it all falls apart in his dealings with matters Middle Eastern.
Here is what I said..
RE: International Affairs
Dear Mr. Blair, 26th June 2007.
Although I may have disagreed with some decisions made in your name – and technically mine also – I am somewhat saddened by your departure from No. 10. After so long a residence there, it will take some time to get used to not having you about the place. No doubt, this will reflect your own feelings in the matter.
You now appear to be embarking on a fresh round of Middle East diplomacy. Good for you and I hope you manage to make a better fist of things as peace ambassador than most of your predecessors. That being said, this particular port-of-call has seen precious little return on all such efforts – and there have been many over the years. In the event yours meet with similar success, might I suggest you take along a back-up plan, some fail-safe device to throw into the breach should more conventional measures fail you. I would not like to see you come away from the table with absolutely nothing to show for all the commitment and promise your journey there might carry.
I may also send this to Gordon. I think the first paragraph should appeal to any chancellor of the exchequer worthy of the name. As for the last paragraph, it contains the most classic get-out clause of all time. It must, therefore, surely recommend itself to politicians everywhere – with, perhaps, the exception of one contingent.
His reply was certainly formulaic but welcome nonetheless.
Thank you for taking the time to email me.
It has been an enormous honour to serve as Prime Minister for the last decade, and I appreciate your kind words.
My family and I appreciate the wonderful support that we have been shown during our time in Downing Street.
So there you have it , Richard. Tony’s getting on board with the program; there will be peace in our time and all will be right with the world. What next? Well, that, I suppose, remains to be seen.
P.S. Hi BJ.
A good quote but ‘It read strangely delighted to me’ . Can we take it that you liked itl?
No John, you can’t take it that way. This would mean, I would welcome WWII/IV without any hesitations. … But I can see that if you produce weapons and fund ever rising military budgets you need conflicts. And that this production is a huge power – jobs – that MUST have impact on politics. Sometimes it feels the military and its developments is at the center of our whole industry-machine.
I wondered after 1989 what would happen now, as many did. And I somewhat feared that now the huge and ever rising production and budgets of the US would need a new valve. What would happen to the ideas that were meant for Russia, would people give up further research in their the military Research and Devoopment give up the path they followed before? I doubt, very, very much..
What is first the hen or the egg?
I have to admit that I had shares in the securities sector, I possibly might think differently. But I can also see that the main hindrance to any attempts at conflict solution are the well trodden path, and the money it produces.
I have to get the quote and I have to get it in context. And than you tell me what you associate with it. I have to admit that to me Condi’s statement somehow mirrored the Research & Development kind of thinking of her former employer. I can easily admit that she is a very bright person, she made the German number one political talk show lady look rather stupid. And I do not think she is in any way “evil” but I sometimes wonder if our structures are.
John Yorke says
Large scale warfare, pre and post 1989, along with the desire and the ability to wage it, stems primarily from fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of an enemy who we do not know and can never get to know, fear of our own dark and primitive common ancestry so often held in check only by the thinnest veneer of so-called civilisation,
To combat this, a high degree of certainty is needed. And building more weapons of war, more military funding, seldom promotes thoughts or actions along that direction.
Always a new threat surfaces to replace every old one we succeed in vanquishing. Alas, twas ever thus. And, as long as that situation remains, it will be ever thus.
Sorry if that sounds a bit depressing. It’s late and I’m tired. I’m sure things will look much better in the morning.