London: A group of former British ambassadors have joined a campaign calling for Tony Blair to be removed from his role as Middle East envoy after his recent attempt to “absolve himself” of responsibility for the crisis in Iraq.
The letter, organised by the makers of George Galloway’s film The Killing of Tony Blair, says the 2003 invasion of Iraq was to blame for the rise of “fundamentalist terrorism in a land where none existed previously”. The signatories, led by Blair’s former ambassador to Iran Sir Richard Dalton, describe the former prime minister’s achievements as Middle East envoy as “negligible”.
Other former diplomats to sign the letter are Oliver Miles, who was ambassador to Libya when diplomatic relations were severed in 1984 after the killing of WPC Yvonne Fletcher, and Christopher Long, ambassador to Egypt between 1992-95.
Other signatories include former London mayor Ken Livingstone, the human rights barrister Michael Mansfield QC, the former Liberal Democrat peer Lady Tonge — who resigned her party’s whip in 2012 after declaring that Israel would not last forever — the former Tory prisons minister Crispin Blunt, George Galloway, the Green MP Caroline Lucas and the Daily Telegraph columnist Peter Oborne.
The letter, written before Friday’s seventh anniversary of Blair’s appointment as the representative of the “quartet” on the Middle East, says the former prime minister’s achievement as Middle East envoy are “negligible” and he is guilty of seeking to please the Israelis. The quartet consists of the UN, the EU, Russia and the US. The letter says: “We, like many, are appalled by Iraq’s descent into a sectarian conflict that threatens its very existence as a nation, as well as the security of its neighbours. We are also dismayed, however, at Tony Blair’s recent attempts to absolve himself of any responsibility for the current crisis by isolating it from the legacy of the Iraq war.
“In reality, the invasion and occupation of Iraq had been a disaster long before the recent gains made by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis). The sectarian conflict responsible for much of the war’s reprehensible human cost was caused in part by the occupying forces’ division of the country’s political system along sectarian lines.”
It added: “In order to justify the invasion, Tony Blair misled the British people by claiming that Saddam had links to Al Qaeda. In the wake of recent events it is a cruel irony for the people of Iraq that perhaps the invasion’s most enduring legacy has been the rise of fundamentalist terrorism in a land where none existed previously. We believe that Mr Blair, as a vociferous advocate of the invasion, must accept a degree of responsibility for its consequences.”