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.


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.


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.


Nick Griffin & Question Time

October 23, 2009

I was unfortunately very disappointed with last nights Question Time and especially the way David Dimbleby chaired the discussion. Everyone knows that the BNP is a racist and vile party. Nick Griffin’s views are equally well known especially those relating to race, immigration and Islam i.e BNP topics. Yet more than three quarters of the show was devoted to these issues with quotes of what Griffin has stated in the past being thrown at him from all sides. Griffin despite being hated by almost all in the audience must have been delighted to have had the chance to say that immigration had been and was still out of control and that Islam was incompatible with western democracy. His message wasn’t to the studio audience but to those living in run down council estates and other deprived areas where such messages are so well received. He had several more open goals and had he not been so nervous and overwhelmed he could have made more of this opportunity to put forward his ideology and get his message across.

The panel discussions should have focused more on current concerns of the population on matters such as the economy, housing, education etc which would have exposed the shallowness of the BNP ideology. The BNP does well when it is criticizing others, highlighting or exposing populist concerns and being entirely negative and blaming a particular group for all society’s ills. Yet it doesn’t do well or win when it has to put forward policies to tackle these concerns or explain them in any detail.

Griffin would have looked even more out of his depth on discussions on education or crime or managing the economy out of the recession. In the end the BBC got its ratings and we didn’t learn anymore than we already knew about the BNP and Nick Griffin, who could have made much more of the oppurtunity afforded to him by the BBC to get his message out but failed to do so.


Clerics Challenge Ayatollah

July 6, 2009

The death of Michael Jackson knocked the situation in Iran off the main slot in the news media. At the time, the police were restoring their control after the mass demonstrations and once control was regained, we started hearing noises from the Clergy and others that the demonstrations were treasonous plots to overthrow the Government and those involved should be tried for treason. It sounded very familiar and with the foreign media being monitored and restricted in their movements we expected a firm crackdown by pro government militia and the Police.

However it is being reported that that the Clerics in the city of Qom who are regarded as the most influential of all Clerics in Iran have declared President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election to be illegitimate and have condemned the crackdown against those protesting. This is highly significant and is akin to a direct challenge to the authority of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and will no doubt be a huge fillip to those who are claiming the election was rigged. Whether the Clerics in Qom are able to do anything more than make a statement is debatable. I doubt if their comments will lead to a recount of the votes or a new election but their statement is significant and may ensure that the expected crackdown against those demonstrating isn’t brutal and that any future elections will be fairer and more closely monitored. It’s a small step but nevertheless very significant.


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.


US Concerns in Swat

February 20, 2009

The US has tentatively responded to the imposition of Taleban rule in the Swat region which can be seen here. I suspect there’ll be a stronger response in due course once all the details are known.