Published on Tuesday, December 19, 2006 by Agence France Presse
Blair Failed to Influence Bush, Caught in Iraq 'Mistake': Think-Tank
Prime Minister Tony Blair has failed to influence United States President George W Bush's foreign policy, a top foreign affairs think-tank said.
A briefing paper from Chatham House also said that the "terrible mistake" of the 2003 Iraq invasion, led by the United States but strongly backed by Britain, would resonate long after Blair leaves office next year.
"The root failure of Tony Blair's foreign policy has been its inability to influence the Bush administration in any significant way despite the sacrifice -- military, political and financial -- that the United Kingdom has made," said the paper, penned by outgoing director Victor Bulmer-Thomas.
He added that Iraq was a foreign policy "watershed" which, like the 1956 Suez crisis, would alter the relationship with the United States for many years to come.
"The post 9/11 decision to invade Iraq was a terrible mistake and the current debacle will have policy repercussions for many years to come," the paper added.
Blair stands accused by the report of over-estimating the extent of his influence in Washington.
"The bilateral relationship with the United States may be 'special' to Britain, but the US has never described it as more than 'close,'" it said.
While Bush's announcement that the United States would accept a two-state solution in the Middle East was "seized upon" by those close to Blair, the report says, there is "no evidence" that this was linked to British pressure.
It adds that, while Blair's political capital in Washington was not as great as he thought, there were questions about whether he used what influence he had to greatest advantage.
"Anecdotal evidence also suggests that the prime minister did not make full use of the opportunities that were presented to him," the paper says.
Blair had "learnt the hard way" that "loyalty in international politics counts for very little," it added.
On Iraq, Bulmer-Thomas said it was a "terrible mistake" to rely on arguing that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction to justify the war.
His paper added that the "jury is still out" on whether Blair knew such claims were "overblown or even fabricated."
Blair's successor will have to develop closer relations with Europe and will not be able to offer "unconditional support" for US foreign policy, the paper said.
The US is also likely to urge Britain to develop closer relations with Europe in future, it adds.
"What US governments want is a European Union that can make a real contribution to the international political and security agenda, and any European government with the diplomatic skills to deliver EU support will be hugely appreciated," it says.
Responding to the paper, Blair's Downing Street office pointed to progress in foreign policy fields such as tackling poverty in Africa and climate change which it highlights.
"International relations are not a matter of quid pro quo," a spokeswoman said.
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