Email thread offer glimpse of how wife of former British prime minister used her influence to secure meeting between US secretary of state and Qatar’s first lady
At a glance the emails look like the work of a professional lobbyist. The first – sent in May 2009 to Hillary Clinton’s private email account – is marked “confidential”. It seeks to set up a meeting between the US secretary of state and another powerful woman, Sheikha Mozah, the second wife of the then emir of Qatar.
Nothing unusual about this. Until you read to the bottom and catch the name of the lobbyist-in-chief – Cherie Blair. At this point Tony Blair had left Downing Street. Over a four-month period in 2009 Cherie Blair repeatedly emails Clinton – they swap 19 emails in all – urging the then US secretary of state to carve out a space in her busy diary to meet Mozah.
The correspondence offers a tantalising glimpse of how top-level international influence works. It raises questions as to why Cherie Blair would lobby so assiduously on behalf of her “friend”, the extremely rich wife of one of the Gulf’s more conservative rulers. It would be more normal to arrange an appointment with Clinton via regular diplomatic channels. Or the US embassy in Qatar.
The emails also suggest that the relationship between Blair and Clinton is friendly and familiar, but not intimate or warm. The tone is businesslike. Both Clinton and Blair seem to divine – correctly, as it turns out – that their private exchanges might at some point be leaked. Clinton turned over her personal emails voluntarily, with the State Department releasing them this week, after a US judge intervened.
Cherie Blair dispatches her first email to Clinton on 13 May 2009, using her personal BlackBerry account. She addresses Clinton – incorrectly, with one “l”– as “Hilary”:
“You may not know but for the last four years I have been working with the Qatari’s and in particular with Sheika Moser [sic] on disability issues in Qatar and I have built up a good relationship with them.
“Sheika Moser has approached me privately saying they are keen to get their relationship with the USA on a more positive footing and she was hoping for a ’‘woman to woman’ private meeting with you. She is happy to come to Washington if you could make some time available.”
“Is this something you would be prepared to do [?].”
Blair describes Sheikha Mozah – full title Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned – as “someone who has real influence in Qatar”. She adds that their conversation would not just be about charitable issues but “would be about the US/Qatar relationship generally”.
In 2009 this relationship was good, and in no need of mediation by third parties. Qatar had sought to position itself as a bridge between Iran and the west. According to David Hartwell, a Middle East analyst, key themes included Doha’s diplomatic support for Hamas and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, at that point enjoying a fleeting upswing. All of which made Cherie Blair’s intervention “odd”, Hartwell said.
Odd or not, Blair’s approach is fruitful. Nine days later Clinton – using her unofficial account – emails back. “Cherie – So sorry I’ve been slow in responding but I’m very interested in talking…” Clinton says she would be happy to host Mozah in the US or Europe, and adds: “How do you think I should proceed? All the best, Hillary.”
On Wednesday Cherie Blair’s office said that Blair had had a relationship with Mozah for “a number of years”. They shared an interest in disability issues with Blair co-chairing a disability conference in Qatar, it said, adding: “As the email also makes clear, she was merely acting as a conduit – on a woman to woman basis – between Sheikha Mozah and Hillary Clinton.”
The answer, however, fails to explain fully why Cherie Blair pursued the subject with such keenness. At the time Tony Blair was working as Middle East envoy on behalf of the “Quartet”: the United Nations, EU, US and Russia. Cherie Blair does not refer to Blair’s role trying to broker a regional peace deal. Rather, she appears to be acting directly as a fixer for the Qatari ruling dynasty.
More at The Guardian
Disclaimer: This article was not written by Lorra B.