After serving nearly eight years as special peace envoy for the “Quartet” powers mediating the Israel-Palestine conflict, Tony Blair is resigning, reportedly “over his poor relations with senior Palestinian Authority figures and [his] sprawling business interests.”
After almost a decade as envoy, it’s hard to see anything Blair has done to bring Israelis and Palestinians any closer to peace. The two parties are farther apart than ever by most accounts, with Israeli leaders publicly disavowing the “two-state solution” the Quartet on the Middle East was created to bring about. During Blair’s tenure, a Palestinian official described the group as “useless, useless, useless.” A Brookings Institution report concluded that “the Quartet’s role was usually relegated to that of a political bystander.”
But although he failed to broker peace, Blair did manage during his time as special envoy to transform himself into a well-paid and outspoken apologist for some of the most brutal autocracies in the world. The former prime minister who once positioned himself as a principled supporter of democracy, even famously waging a war to bring democracy to Iraq, now leads a consulting firm that has reportedly received tens of millions of dollars doing advisory work for dictatorial governments in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Last year, leaked documents obtained by Britain’s The Telegraph revealed Blair advising the dictatorial government of Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nuzarbayev on how to best spin a 2011 massacre of unarmed protestors by his regime — a massacre that occurred just a few weeks after Blair began working for the regime, which had ostensibly hired his firm to advise it on good governance issues like judicial reform, corruption, free press and the rule of law. While Blair worked for Nazarbayev, however, human rights actually deteriorated in Kazakhstan, according to various sources. As Human Rights Watch’s director for Central Asia said of Blair’s role in that country, “[Blair] has been indifferent to those suffering abuses and has given a veneer of respectability to the authorities during a severe crackdown on human rights.”