Why Did Tony Blair Become A Pal of Col. Qaddafi's?

September 25, 2011 Topic: Political Theory Region: United States Blog Brand: Jacob Heilbrunn

Why Did Tony Blair Become A Pal of Col. Qaddafi's?

Multiple visits. Private-jet loans. A shady deal with a Russian oligarch. What else are the former British prime minister and Libyan strongman hiding?

Tony Blair's reputation has been steadily crumbling ever since he left office as British prime minister. But the latest revelations and allegations in the Sunday Telegraph represent a new low for Blair. In several articles, the newspaper shows in convincing detail that Blair has had very close dealings with Qaddafi since he left office, including six visits, at least two on a Bombardier Challenger 300 jet that was paid for by the Libyan regime—the same jet that Robert Mugabe used to visit the Libyan strongman.

Blair is paid some £2 million a year by JP Morgan to serve as an adviser. The firm sought to consummate a deal between the Libyan Investment Authority and, the Telegraph reports, a company run by the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. "The multi-billion dollar deal, which later fell through, would have seen the LIA provide a loan to Rusal, the world's largest aluminum producer." Blair is pleading innocence of the deal. But JP Morgan apparently invoked his name during the negotiations. Did Blair not know that? Throughout, Blair kept his meetings with Qaddafi quiet. The point is that no one really knows whether he did or did not raise the Rusal deal. But it all looks very murky, and Blair is insisting that everyone has to take his word for what happened or didn't happen. But why so many meetings with Qaddafi? Until a clearer pictures emerges, Blair's reputation will be further tainted.

More broadly, Blair is trying to juggle a number of roles. In the morning he is the big Middle East negotiator. In the afternoons, he's the businessman trying to lubricate connections between big shots. In essence, Blair has turned himself into a mini-corporation. He's cashing in on his former job. Jason Lewis writes in the Telegraph: "Our investigation shows how Mr. Blair has pulled together a team which spans loyal former staff from Downing Street, high-flying consultants and a series of well-connected, and, in many cases, wealthy, Americans from Wall Street and the Bush and Clinton administrations." Blair also has a close relationship with the Boston-based Monitor Group, which sought to burnish Col. Qaddafi's image in America.

More will come out on these affairs. For now, it is perturbing enough to learn that Blair would have gone to such lengths to cultivate ties with the man who was behind one of the most heinous terrorist acts in modern times, the Lockerbie bombing. For Blair, who repeatedly invoked moral reasons for intervening in Iraq, it is a most curious position indeed.