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.

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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.  


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!!


Another Whitewash?

June 16, 2009

The announcement that the Iraq war inquiry will be held in private is regrettable to say the least. David Cameron has rightly described it as ‘an establishment stitch-up.’ Holding the inquiry in private will mean that its findings will be viewed with the same suspicion as the previous reports/inquiries into the Iraq War and doubts will remain as to whether access to all relevant documents is granted and adequately scrutinised. And to state from the outset that no blame will be apportioned is just ludicrous. How can a serious recommendation be made if a mistake isn’t acknowledged and identified?

This inquiry should be held in public or not at all as this Government’s record on transparency on this issue is non existent. It has previously defeated Conservative proposals to force a public inquiry and vetoed the publication of minutes of cabinet meetings discussing the legality of the war; and the Hutton and Butler inquiries raised more questions than answering them.

But the biggest cop out of all is that the inquiry will only report its finding after the next general election when many of the cabinet/elected members who should be held accountable have been re-elected or have retired or have lost their seats! By delaying the inquiry the Government has ensured that no one will be held responsible or accountable for the deceit in taking this country to war.


Iraq Inquiry

March 25, 2009

David Miliband has confirmed that an inquiry into the Iraq war will be held sometime after July 2009. This is long overdue and it is to be hoped that the inquiry is comprehensive and wide ranging, and this time actually deals with all the circumstances leading up to the war especially the use of intelligence by ministers in making decisions.


Unacceptable Behaviour

March 11, 2009

Those Muslims in Luton protesting against soldiers returning from Iraq should this morning reflect on and carefully consider their behaviour and actions. The shouting and waving of placards accusing the soldiers of being criminals and murderers was not only offensive but indefensible and portrayed them in the worst light imaginable.

Over a million people marched against the Iraq war and many more opposed it. But their opposition does not give them the right to abuse soldiers who having risked their lives in battle have returned home – no doubt elated simply to be alive! The decision to go to war was a political one and not taken by a vote among soldiers. They were following orders which every army in a democratic society has to do otherwise the governance of a country would simply fail. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of any war, a nation’s soldiers must be treated with dignity and respect and the soldiers parading in Luton should not have had to face the abuse and vile placards as they did yesterday.

The protestors should give thanks to the fact that they are living in a country which allows them to publicly protest regardless of the offense their behaviour causes to the rest of the country. If they had been living in Iraq under Saddam Hussain’s rule and had carried out the same protest against Iraqi soldiers returning from war in Iran or in Kuwait, they would have been very fortunate to have had more than 24 hours to reflect on their actions.

With freedoms of speech and expression comes responsibility. The protestors should have given thought to the consequences of their actions and the offense they would have caused and exercised caution and restraint. Whatever cause they were supporting is not done any favours by such abusive and childish behaviour and once again a minority has brought shame on the majority of Muslims in this country.


Two Million Extremists

February 18, 2009

The Guardian has details of the code from a new anti terror strategy being proposed in Government referred to as Contest 2. According to the draft anyone holding the following views would be regarded as an extremist:

• They advocate a caliphate, a pan-Islamic state encompassing many countries.

• They promote Sharia law.

• They believe in jihad, or armed resistance, anywhere in the world. This would include armed resistance by Palestinians against the Israeli military.

• They argue that Islam bans homosexuality and that it is a sin against Allah.

• They fail to condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan.

If this is adopted and becomes policy, the Government will have 2 million Muslim extremists on its hands in this country and perhaps many non Muslims as well.

Most of the above are thought crimes and some are directly contrary to the fundamental beliefs of Islam that Muslims hold. For example, Islam says that homosexuality is a sin – and every Muslim is aware of this. But the vast majority of Muslims living in this country do not discriminate against homosexuals or treat them any differently to anyone else. If they do then legislation is in place to prosecute them.

Most Muslims happily accept that they are living in a liberal democracy and a secular society where there is no state religion which everyone has to adhere to. Most simply do not care what a person does behind closed doors in the privacy of his home and how he chooses to live his life. Muslims view homosexuality being a sin in the the same way they view other sins such as people living together as an unmarried couple or having a child out of wedlock or drinking alcohol or eating pork. Why not add these to the list of extremists beliefs as well?

If promoting Sharia is an act of an extremist then the Government should go in the dock first. It has facilitated the introduction of Sharia based financial products now readily available from mainstream banks, permitted halal meat in schools, hospitals and elsewhere, given permission for Mosques and madressas to be built, funded Muslim only organisations, allowed and funded Muslim schools etc etc etc. All Muslims are promoting Sharia Law when they worship, follow moral guidance, marry in accordance with Islamic rules, fast in Ramadan, give charity and go on pilgrimage. This list is endless and shows how little thought has been given to the definition of Sharia Law.

The failure to condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan would also lead to extremism. A million people marched against the war in Iraq and there were many who saw that as a war of aggression and occupation where people had a right to self defence and refused to condemn people who they thought were fighting in self defence who subsequently killed coalition soldiers. I suspect many non Muslims would get in trouble under this category too but is non condemnation sufficient justification to make someone an extremist? And how do you police this – would there be a register which people signed to condemn the killings of our soldiers and if you didn’t you’d be an extremist? What should be an offence is any celebration of the killing of any British soldier killed anywhere in combat regardless of whether a person agrees with the political decision to go to war or engage in combat.

The craziest one of all is this definition: ‘They believe in jihad, or armed resistance, anywhere in the world. This would include armed resistance by Palestinians against the Israeli military.’

Jihad is a fundamental belief in Islam. A Muslim state is given permission by Islam to defend itself against an aggressor or be aggressive where it fears an imminent attack. This is similar to the Just War Theory developed in Christianity. To say that anyone who believes this is an extremist is to hold an extremist view! It would be better to say that anyone who plans and engages in violent acts of terror and kills innocent people is an extremist regardless of whether he believes that he is engaged in Jihad.

Advocating a caliphate, a pan-Islamic state encompassing many countries is not a crime. Actively pursuing it and engaging in acts of terror to achieve this would be. Advocating a Caliphate state in the UK is an oxymoron.  When the population of Muslims in a country is 7% advocating a Caliphate is a call that isn’t even worth responding to, let alone giving it such significance that it makes someone an extremist.

As mentioned here and here, the Government seems to have no idea what it is doing in its strategy in dealing with radicalisation and extremism in this country. The Contest 2 seems consistent with its previous actions.