Blair asked UAE for $35mn to boost Gulf state’s ‘reputation, influence’

FILE PHOTO. Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair (2nd L) talks to Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, chairman of Emirates airline, as he walks to his plane at Dubai airport December 20, 2006. © Eddie Keogh
Ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair offered to boost the reputation and influence of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in return for $35 million, it has emerged.

Blair, whose role in the Iraq war was savaged by the long-awaited Chilcot report last week, is on friendly terms with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayad Al Nahyan.

The multimillionaire former politician secured a $7 million-a-year-deal to promote the UAE in 2014 – the “strategic partnership” arrangement includes payment for monthly visits from Blair to UAE, professional fees, expenses and private offices.

It comes on top of an existing deal between Tony Blair Associates and the UAE, where the Gulf state pays for the organization’s services to developing nations around the world.

One of the richest of the Gulf States, the UAE has been criticized for its human rights record, its lack of electoral democracy and its involvement in the Saudi-led war against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

It adopted a new law last year that bans vandalism and insults to “God, his prophets or apostles or holy books.” It also bars epithets such as “infidel” or “unbeliever.”

According to the Sunday Telegraph, which first reported the business deal, the scale of the arrangement shows how lucrative Blair’s consultancy business has become.

The contract was due to run for five years, according to company documents, and asked for professional fees of $6.21 million a year and an additional $688,000 to cover the organization’s annual expenses.

Blair was Middle East peace envoy at the time of signing the deal. In this role, he worked to improve the economic situation of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and sought investment from nearby Gulf States.

As part of the deal, the UAE covered the costs of monthly visits by Blair, a “furnished office” and even phone bills.

In a letter of proposal, Blair said his consultancy “can help create networks of connection that capitalize” on the UAE’s financial clout.

There is a big opportunity for it [the UAE] to build its brand and reputation, and to establish powerful networks of influence.”

The former PM boasts of his extensive network, which operates “in around 25 different countries,” a figure which doubles to 50 when his work with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation is included.

There is virtually nowhere in the world right now where we could not work or provide the necessary contacts either politically or commercially, should we want to.”

A spokesperson for Blair said, “This is old news and that draft proposal went no further as we have already made clear. In any event fees would not go to Mr. Blair but to invest in the business and pay for staff and costs.”

Mr. Blair does all his work in the Middle East on a Not For Profit basis‎. The suggestion that he is personally ‘profiting’ from the Iraq war is offensive and wrong.”