The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend

June 16, 2014

The situation in Iraq is dire. It is now in the midst of a sectarian civil war which will inevitably involve several more Middle Eastern countries in some form or another. Already Qassim al-Suleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds force is said to be in Baghdad along with members of the Revolutionary Guard directing operations and preparing for battle with ISIS. If the Iranians appear to the Saudis, Qataris and other UAE nations etc to be exerting excessive control and influence in Iraq they will start to worry and may end up funding any Sunni group fighting in Iraq. In any event ISIS seems to be very well funded and its horrific slaughter of the Shia Iraqi soldiers it captured shows what its intentions are as far as the Shias are concerned. If reports of the amount of money ISIS has access to are accurate, with some suggestions of it potentially having $1.5billion then the wars in Iraq and Syria will be long drawn out affairs and very bloody.

What will be interesting to see is how the Iraqi Sunnis not aligned to ISIS or Al Qaeda will now respond. Previously they fought groups such as Al Qaeda and more or less defeated them – this time it is doubtful they will side with Nouri al-Maliki’s government which has been very sectarian in its dealings with them. If groups such as the Naqshbandi Army and Ansar al-Sunnah Army align themselves with ISIS with some suggestions of this having already occured then the Iraqi government is unlikely to survive without extensive help from the Iranians especially as the US and UK have categorically ruled out any military intervention.

The West and in particular the United States had an opportunity when the Assad regime used chemical weapons against its own people to launch air strikes and support moderate forces in Syria which would have in all probability led to the downfall of the Assad regime. The West backed away and the support the Assad regime received from Iran allowed it to cling to power with the effect that moderate forces in Syria gradually became marginalised by groups such as ISIS whose brutality and success against anyone it fought led to more recruits to its cause and to its inevitable move into Iraq to cut off supplies to the Assad regime, widen its war against the Shias and try and establish a caliphate.

The west unless it intervenes militarily or starts to arm a particular group has its hands tied and is not in any position to do anything meaningful. And it is for that reason that the US is considering talks with Iran….the enemy of my enemy is my friend and no longer evil! Realpolitik or an acknowledgement that the US policy on Syria has spectacularly backfired? What happens in the short term in Iraq is now going to be more important to how events will unfold in the Middle East than what happens in Syria.


Inevitable UKIP Win

May 26, 2014

UKIP winning the Euro election will have come as no surprise to anyone who has been out canvassing these past few weeks. The mood of the electorate was very apparent and an anti-establishment/Westminster vote was always going be registered.

What was surprising was the decimation of the Liberal Democrat vote, and is ‘just reward’ for a string of broken manifesto promises and for taking a pro EU line that was bordering on the ridiculous. I suspect that there is more woe to come for the Liberals at next year’s general election.

The opening up of our borders to immigration from new member states in the EU was always going to lead to a backlash from voters especially at a time when the economy has more room to recover. While unemployment is significantly down and important economic indicators are all pointing in the right direction it will nevertheless take time for the full effects of this recovery to filter through especially to those areas which were hurt the most during the recession under Labour.

While the principle of freedom of movement of persons between EU members is a sound one, it only works effectively when this movement is between people in states with similar living standards and similar incomes. Where there is a divergence in these factors between nations, then the movement of persons primarily in one direction with an obligation to also provide benefits to those arriving will inevitably create difficulties and tensions within communities. Those arriving and settling in specific areas of the country also leads to pressure on the education and health services and can lead to additional problems, and when a political party incessantly highlights these concerns then it is inevitable that its message will resonate with voters which is what UKIP has effectively done.

As things stand the hands of any government are tied in dealing with this problem. Either there is an effective re-negotiation with other EU states in this and in other areas where there is a plethora of diktats and legislation emanating from Brussels or we simply pull out of the EU -anything else is simply tinkering at the edges. The Conservative Party is the only party committed to re-negotiation and to holding an in/out referendum and unless it gains a majority at the next general election we’ll be having more or less the same debate and discussion at the next Euro election.


Green Light to Assad From the UK

August 30, 2013

While the will of Parliament and democracy has prevailed the decision taken last night is totally and utterly wrong. How this country can sit idly by and give Assad’s regime the green light to use more chemical weapons against innocent people is beyond comprehension. I hope the US and other nations now do the right thing and give the appropriate response to the Syrian regime’s acts of genocide.

I’ll do a detailed post later as I am absolutely livid at the moment. However, I really do hope Ed Miliband never ever gets close to becoming leader, or allowed to take any decision which affects this country. No doubt his general election manifesto will now include the UK giving up her seat at the UN Security Council because if his view is that we shouldn’t get involved when chemical weapons have been used then there will be no circumstances when he will believe the UK military should get involved.


Syria Debate on Thursday

August 27, 2013

The Prime Minister has just tweeted:  

“Speaker agrees my request to recall Parliament on Thurs. There’ll be a clear Govt motion & vote on UK response to chemical weapons attacks”

A few days I posted that if chemical weapon use by the Syrian regime was established then some form of intervention would be inevitable. The momentum for direct action is now building and some form of military action by the West I suspect is now only a matter of time.


Intervention in Syria?

August 21, 2013

If it is confirmed that chemical weapons have been used today in an attack by the Syrian government then this represents a serious escalation in this conflict and will most likely mean that there will be some form of intervention by a coalition of countries whether a UN mandate is secured or not. Bearing in mind that the war in Iraq was entered into on the premise, which turned out to be false that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction he was preparing to use then the actual use of chemical weapons by a dictatorial regime in the same region will be impossible to ignore. 

With the continued unrest in Egypt and in other neighbouring countries, the Middle East has become in recent months an extremely volatile region.  


Egypt!!

August 14, 2013

A military led government will apply military solutions to its problems and it should come as no surprise that this morning Egyptian security forces have started to use extreme force to clear supporters of former President Morsi camped at two sites in Cairo.

The obvious and first lesson the West should learn from this whole sorry saga is that elections do not always equate to a satisfactory or friendly democratic government and Western leaders should not get giddy when elections take place and think a western style liberal democracy will be installed the day after the election.

Secondly if the West supports elections (held fairly of course) and democratically elected governments in places where dictators/military ruled then it must be prepared for the outcome that governments which it does not particularly like or agree with will get elected! And even in this scenario the west should support the process by which the government was elected even if not the actual government. Otherwise you end up with the situation in Egypt where an obvious military coup wasn’t described as such and the west now finds itself in limbo between the proverbial rock and a hard place where it didn’t condemn outright military intervention and the ousting of an elected president and now has to look on as civilians are dealt violently by security forces and the country begins its descent into violent civil unrest.

The stance of the west in Egypt will also be viewed by various parties elsewhere in the Middle East who will no doubt conclude that coming to power through the ballot box is no guarantee of acceptance or legitimacy in government by the West and conclude that they should use means other than the ballot box to come to power.


Campbell at Iraq Inquiry

January 12, 2010

I have to say that I wasn’t impressed at all with the questioning of Alastair Campbell this morning at the Iraq Inquiry. The questioning was far too disjointed, lame and obvious follow up questions were not asked. What’s the point of holding such an inquiry if the panel doesn’t have the expertise to thoroughly examine and cross examine a key player in Government in the run up to the Iraq War. It was frustrating to say the least and embarrassing to watch when the most obvious follow up questions weren’t asked. I doubt Tony Blair or any other senior person involved in the decision to go to war will fear giving evidence based on today’s extremely poor performance by the panel. I would adjourn the whole process and get some decent lawyers in who would justify the extremely high costs to the taxpayer of holding this Inquiry. Pathetic really!!


Ban The March!

January 4, 2010

Below is a platform piece I have written for Conservative Home on the proposed march by islam4uk through Wootton Bassett:

The decision by the extremist group Islam4uk to plan a march through the streets of Wootton Bassett is an act of deliberate provocation not designed, as alleged, to honour "innocent Muslims" killed in the conflict in Afghanistan – but simply to antagonise people who have had the decency to regularly honour returning soldiers killed in battle.

The proposed march is distasteful propaganda which all right-minded people, regardless of the religious affiliation, will abhor. And on this occasion, the Home Secretary must exercise some of the numerous powers at his disposal and prevent it from taking place.

Islam4uk is a marginalised and potentially dangerous group of Muslims led by the notorious Anjem Choudary which, among many things, attacks the “polytheistic anathema that is democracy” and declares  Muslims who actively participate in the democratic process as out of the fold of Islam. Its members, however, are more than happy to live within such a system and enjoy its benefits including the right to protest.

The organisation is a platform for the global front Al-Muhajiroun and its leader Omar Bakri Mohammed, the Islamist radical and former head of Hizb ut Tahrir in the United Kingdom which allegedly had numerous links with would-be terrorists and Al-Qaeda operatives. Islam4uk’s aim is to "propagate the supreme Islamic ideology within the United Kingdom as a divine alternative to man-made law" and advocates "complete upheaval of the British ruling system, its members and legislature, and demand the full implementation of Shari’ah in Britain" – in other words to introduce and implement Sharia Law according to its warped definition in the UK.

Perversely, Islam4uk wants its members to be allowed to walk through the streets of Wootton Bassett chanting political slogans and displaying their tasteless placards by relying on the principles of democracy which give people the right to voice their opinions wherever they choose – no matter how unpalatable these opinions are; yet at the same time it believes that democracy and secularism is apostasy as it is man-made and not by God and should therefore be rejected by all Muslims. Islam4uk seeks to remove democracy as a system of governance, but in order to achieve that goal is nevertheless content to use the philosophy and values of the democratic system.

Mr Choudary and his associates are either short-sighted or don’t have any qualms about adopting such a hypocritical stance, but the vast majority of Muslims in this country and elsewhere will see through this deceit and find the proposed actions of Islam4uk to say the least, utterly obnoxious. There are other places where the killed “innocents” could be remembered but to attempt to do so in Wootton Bassett is a cynical and feeble attempt by Mr Choudary to use the deaths of these “innocent” people to publicise the propaganda of his group and of course have another day in the media spotlight.

Allowing this march to take place has the potential to damage community relations in many parts of the country by, for example, giving far right groups as well as others the opportunity to lump all Muslims together with Islam4uk and show it as their representative. More importantly, it is disrespectful to the soldiers (and their families) killed in Afghanistan who have passed through RAF Lyneham. While ideally, as James Gray MP has said, we should "ignore it, treat it with disdain, contempt, or even mild humour", the reality is that the press and media will not allow this to happen and will give the marchers the oxygen of publicity they seek.

Islam4uk and others of their ilk need to understand that democracy has its boundaries and provocatively marching in a place synonymous with caskets containing bodies of soldiers killed in conflict is undoubtedly crossing these boundaries, for which there should be severe consequences. For these reasons the Home Secretary should act firmly and decisively and not allow the march to take place in Wootton Bassett.


Shame on the Chinese

December 29, 2009

The execution of Akmal Shaikh by the Chinese authorities should be unreservedly condemned and our Government shouldn’t accept the nonsense from the Chinese that ‘no one has the right to comment on China’s judicial sovereignty.’ That right can only be removed when its judiciary starts to act like one instead of behaving in the appalling manner that it has done in this case.

Mr Shaikh was mentally ill and delusional, but was treated in the same way as a normal person without any consideration being given to his state of mind and his illness. The behavior of the Chinese has been disgraceful and confirms the stereotype of a country that sticks two fingers up to the human rights of not only its citizens but of those belonging to other countries as well.

Our government has made public statements only recently and we have to ask what it has been doing for the past two years when Mr Shaikh was first arrested and found guilty. The EU has recently been collating as much power as possible from nation states regarding foreign policy – so here’s its chance to do something useful for a change.


The Afghan Problem

November 4, 2009

The tragic death of five British soldiers today has once again ignited the debate relating to the aim of the mission in Afghanistan on the same day Kim Howells MP, chairman of the intelligence and security committee and former minister advocating the removal of British troops.

As things stand I don’t support the idea of removing our troops as this would be a massive fillip to the Taliban and its allies and would lead to a surge in Taliban fighters coming into Afghanistan from the border region of Pakistan, once again destabilizing the country and undoing the work that has been carried out by allied troops to date. This would also quite simply be disastrous for Afghanistan, Pakistan and India not to mention the UK. The removal of allied troops would lead to the Taliban and its allies again setting up terrorists training camps specifically training would be terrorists to target the UK and the west which would mean once again taking some sort of military action to deal with these camps in the near future.

Having said that what is unclear is the strategy that we are currently employing in Afghanistan and what the clear goals of the current operation are. There is a great deal of ambiguity about the current operation and while keeping out the Taliban is the obvious aim, the Governments of the UK and US have allowed their initial strategy to drift to the extent that members of the public have no idea what is being done and when the end is likely to come for this operation or when the troops are likely to be pulled out. Alternatively, if the intention is to stay in Afghanistan for a period of say twenty years then this should be categorically stated so that the continued discussion which must be demoralizing for the troops and their families of whether we should pull our troops out each time we sustain casualties is avoided.

I hope that with an incoming Conservative Government there is a clearer strategy and a better explanation of the aims of the mission in Afghanistan.