In the United States when someone mentions "UI," most of us think of Unemployment Insurance, but not former UK prime minister Tony Blair.
Late last week came word of a major scandal from the UK Daily Mail. In the three years since he stepped down as prime minister, Blair pocketed more than $30 million in oil revenues from his secret dealings with a South Korean oil consortium, UI Energy Corporation. Despite all his best efforts to keep his connection to UI secret, word is spreading like wildfire throughout the U.K.
Now, you might ask, that he's no longer in government and has his own company, Blair Associates, why would anyone care what his business dealings are? Well, for openers, Mr. Blair is also the West's envoy to the Middle East. Of concern to British politicians, too, is that a former prime minister has been stone cold silent about being on the payroll of an immense multinational oil corporation, specializing in oil exploration in Iraq, and one that coincidentally happens to find itself in another challenging part of the globe.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Blair isn't the only prominent politician on UI's payroll. Others reportedly include former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke, as well as politicians like Congressman Stephen J. Solarz, former secretary of defence Frank Carlucci, former ambassador to Egypt, Nicholas A. Belites, and U.S. Commander for the Middle East General John P. Abizaid. And, these are just the ones who acknowledge any association with the oil conglommerate.
Two-time presidential candidate, Ross Perot, is listed on UI Energy Corp.'s Web site as part of their extended family. One wonders if there are any other presidents, or presidential candidates, who may have been considered family by the South Korean oil firm.
While they've only been around for about twenty years, it didn't take UI long to come up to speed. A message from the company's president, posted to their Web site, says they are interested in "development of overseas resources such as the Middle East and Africa. Especially, Iraq where various Energy (sic) developments are expected."
UI is now considered among the largest investors in Iraq's oil rich Kurdistan region, which is said to have obtained a modicum of autonomy since the Iraq war.
Some argue that Blair is benefiting hugely from the connections he made during the Iraq war, but maybe it's the other way around. More likely, the decision to collaborate with the U.S. on military adventurism in Iraq was on account of connections already in place by then leaders of both countries.
Blair worked hard to prevent disclosures of what is alleged to have been only a three year relationship with the South Korean oil firm, but it's not inconceivable that his relationship with UI Energy Corp. precedes his departure as prime minister. It's also quite conceivable that his dedication to keeping this matter confidential was meant to protect other international political figures besides himself.
As the UK Daily Mail notes, "The secrecy is particularly odd because UI Energy is fond of boasting of its foreign political advisors." Who else may be found to be among UI's secret foreign political advisors?
Importantly, it is one thing to consult with a firm that acknowledges resource "development" in Iraq when one is envoy to the Middle East.
Yes, that may well be conflict of interest, but multiply that conflict of interest exponentially should evidence emerge of his dalliance with UI Energy while he was acting prime minister.
Clearly, the Blair scandal calls into question the exact nature of the alliance between two central figures, and engineers of the Iraq war; then UK prime minister, Tony Blair, and an American president, George W. Bush.
Jayne Lyn Stahl is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.