The overriding moral imperative: to avoid war

August 20, 2017

In the Financial Times recently Dr Jenny Clegg wrote: “The overriding moral imperative has to be to avoid war. The preservation of the international multilateral system requires it”.

She added, “Britain is in a position to exercise some influence here . . . At the moment, other world leaders are calling for calm, with German chancellor Angela Merkel saying clearly that she sees no military solution to the conflict, but we hear nothing from UK prime minister Theresa May”.

Dr Clegg points out that Russia and China have called for North Korea to put its nuclear and missile programmes on hold, while the US and South Korea cease their joint military exercises. The aim is to create an atmosphere more conducive to the resumption of the six-party talks, in line once again with the latest UN resolution.

Two days later, on August 17th, Brian Eno, Bruce Kent, Mark Rylance, Emma Dent Coad and Michael Rosen were among the signatories to a letter calling for Theresa May to exert diplomatic pressure on Donald Trump to de-escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Last November, RAF Mildenhall announced that the Royal Air Force took part for the first time in military exercises on the Korean peninsula alongside the US and South Korean military.

Royal Air Force Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, the RAF chief of air staff; Lt. Gen. Won, In-Choul, the South Korean Air Force Operations Command commander; and Lt. Gen Thomas W. Bergeson, 7th Air Force commander, participated in a media event for Invincible Shield at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Nov. 8, 2016

The civilised echo Dr Clegg’s call: “Will Theresa May now take the step to support the “freeze for freeze” by ruling out committing any armed forces, including for joint exercises, in the region?”

Dr Jenny Clegg (Chorlton, Manchester, UK) is a senior lecturer in Asia Pacific Studies at the University of Central Lancashire. She first visited China in the 1970s and has followed developments there closely ever since. Her published work includes ‘China’s Global Strategy: towards a multipolar world’ (Pluto Press, 2009), and ‘Fu Manchu and the ‘Yellow Peril’: the making of a racist myth’ (Trentham Books, 1994). She has produced a number of publications on China’s rural reforms as well as foreign relations.

 

 

 

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Japan’s closely monitored peacekeeping mission in South Sudan

July 28, 2017

The Japanese public supports the country’s ‘peace constitution’ and is keenly aware of any breach of its terms. At present they are scrutinising the role played by the 350-strong contingent of Japan’s Self-Defense Force, which was based in Juba after fighting in the area had halted and a UN peacekeeping force was in place – a precondition for the SDF’s participation. Its mission was to build infrastructure and be responsible for engineering and construction in the capital.

United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) peacekeepers from Japan assemble a drainage pipe at Tomping camp, where some 15,000 people who fled their homes following recent fighting are sheltered by the United Nations in Juba.

Its mission ended at the end of May this year after facing public criticism because the second contingent was allowed to guard UN bases, mount rescue missions and escort U.N. staff and personnel of non-government bodies (NGO). Though this was in line with a security law passed in 2015 that expanded the SDF’s overseas role, critics say it is weakening Japan’s war-renouncing constitution.

Defence Minister Tomomi Inada, who earlier rejected opposition calls to resign because she refused to describe the conflict as “fighting” has been questioned, as part of an ‘internal probe’, about the Ground Self-Defense Force troops’ activity logs.

The logs — which initially were said to have been discarded by the Ground Self-Defense Force but had actually been preserved by them – described tense moments last summer in South Sudan. Fuji News Network reported it has obtained “handwritten notes” of a Feb. 13 meeting, taken by a senior Defense Ministry official, that showed Ms Inada was informed by a senior Ground Staff Office member of the existence of the logs’ digital data. She denied an allegation that she endorsed a decision by the ministry and the Ground Staff Office to keep GSDF’s retention of the logs from the public.

The logs had been kept on the computer of the Self-Defense Forces Joint Staff Office but immediately after the announcement the GSDF erased the data it had in its possession, at the instruction of a top official of the GSDF staff office, according to government sources.

This was controversial information that could have affected a parliamentary debate on whether to give the GSDF members new, and possibly riskier, roles during the U.N. peacekeeping operation, in line with the country’s security legislation that took effect in March last year.

On Friday 28th July Ms Inada resigned.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters at his residence in Tokyo today that Japan would continue providing development aid to South Sudan.

If even 10% of Britain’s population scrutinised the country’s defence operations in this way its foreign policy might take a very different course.

 

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Middle East Eye: Peter Oborne reviews Jeremy Corbyn’s foreign policy     

July 2, 2017

Last month’s statistics show visitors from seventeen countries, with  ‘Neutral or non-aggressive countries and states’ as the most widely read entry and twice as many readers from the United States as from UK. Today we draw on Peter Oborne’s article about the foreign policy of the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

After a reference to the ‘colossal debt of gratitude for restoring genuine political debate to Britain’ and ‘his extremely brave and radical decision to break with the foreign policy analysis of Blair and his successors’ Oborne considers the Labour (pre-general election) manifesto: ‘a well-argued and coherent critique of the foreign policy consensus which has done so much damage over the last quarter of a century’ – stating that it offers a serious alternative to the catastrophic system of cross-party politics that gave the world the Iraq, Afghan and Libyan calamities.

He compares the Conservative manifesto, which ‘contains no specific foreign policy pledges and no mention of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Palestine or the Middle East at all’, with Corbyn’s promise to implement the will of parliament and recognise the state of Palestine.in a vote three years ago.

The Labour position on the Yemeni bombardment is described as admirable and that of the last two administrations condemned:

“Under Cameron, and now Theresa May, Britain has thrown its weight behind the Saudi bombing campaign. I am afraid that Michael Fallon . . . recently said that the murderous Saudi bombing raids have been carried out in “self-defence”. This comment was frankly obscene, and Fallon owes an apology to the thousands of Yemeni families who have been bereaved as a result of Saudi attacks . . . his approach is sadly typical of the series of misstatements and lies emanating from the British government over this terrible Yemen business”. (Below, a ruined hospital, one of 20 filed photographs of the onslaught on Yemen)

Oborne points out that Corbyn demands comprehensive, independent, UN-led investigations into alleged violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen, including air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition and the suspension of any further arms sales for use in the conflict until that investigation is concluded.

He continues: “Needless to say, the British media (and in particular the BBC, which has a constitutional duty to ensure fair play during general elections) has practically ignored Corbyn’s foreign policy manifesto”. Oborne also adds that, as Mark Curtis has pointed out, the BBC website carried only 10 articles on Yemen but 97 on Syria in the six weeks to 15 May “focusing on the crimes of an official enemy rather than our own”. Further:

“His manifesto pledges to ‘commit to working through the UN’ and to ‘end support for unilateral aggressive wars of intervention’. We have been waiting to hear a mainstream British politician say this for years, and at last Corbyn (supported by his capable foreign affairs spokesperson Emily Thornberry) has spoken out against the pattern of illegal intervention favoured by the United States and its allies.

“Corbyn has also had the moral courage to highlight the predicament of the Chagos Islanders, supporting their right to “return to their homelands. He bravely but correctly compares the British betrayal of the Chagossians – deprived of their Indian Ocean home as a result of a squalid deal between Britain and the US in the 1960s – with our national loyalty to the Falkland Islands, the South Atlantic territory that Britain sent a taskforce to recapture following an Argentinian invasion in 1982. But it is deeply upsetting that the BBC has betrayed its own rules of impartiality and ignored Corbyn’s brave stand on this issue”. He concludes:

“Jeremy Corbyn has raised matters of deep importance that go right to the heart of Britain’s role in the world, and in particular the Middle East. Yet his radical and brave manifesto is being traduced, misrepresented, and ignored. That is wrong – and a betrayal of British democracy”.

Peter Oborne was named freelancer of the year 2016 by the Online Media Awards for an article he wrote for Middle East Eye. He was British Press Awards Columnist of the Year 2013. He resigned as chief political columnist of the Daily Telegraph in 2015- see his blistering account of his reasons here

His books include The Triumph of the Political Class, The Rise of Political Lying, and Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran.

 

 

 

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As Jeremy Corbyn implied: “The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”

June 7, 2017

It is the 50th anniversary week of the Six-Day War of 1967 when Israel seized 1,200 square water-rich kilometres of the Golan Heights from Syria and later annexed it – though its right to this land has never been recognised by the international community.

Donald Macintyre, who lived in Jerusalem for many years and won the 2011 Next Century Foundation’s Peace Through Media Award, recalls in the Independent that fifty years ago Shlomo Gazit, head of the Israeli military intelligence’s assessment department, heard detailed reports of the destruction that morning of almost the entire Egyptian air force by Israeli jets – his 23-year-old nephew being among the few missing Israeli pilots. He then started work on a clear-sighted blueprint for the future of the territories Israel had occupied, arguing that “Israel should not humiliate its defeated enemies and their leaders.”

Jerusalem: an open city or UN headquarters?

There were then, as now, many leading Zionist Israelis who believed that occupation was a wholly wrong course. Gazit outlined plans for an independent, non-militarised Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; the Old City of Jerusalem would become an “open city … with an international status resembling that of the Vatican”.

A British Quaker, Richard Rowntree, advocated moving the UN Headquarters from New York to Jerusalem and years later Sir Sydney Giffard, a former British Ambassador to Japan, presented the social and economic advantages to Israelis and Palestinians of moving the UN Headquarters to the vicinity of Jerusalem (Spectator link only accessible if account created). Whilst recognising difficulties and obstacles, Giffard felt that UN member states giving determined support to this project “could enable the UN to effect a transformation – both of its own and of the region’s character – of historic significance”.

But after 50 years the Palestinians, as Macintyre points out, “a resourceful and mainly well-educated population, are still imprisoned in a maze of checkpoints closures and military zones, deprived of civil and political rights and governed by martial law (denounced by Mehdi Hasan here, destruction of sewage system pictured above). And all this nearly three decades after Yasser Arafat agreed to end the conflict in return for a state on Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – 22% of historic Palestine (Even Hamas, so long one of many excuses for not reaching a deal, last month issued its qualified support for such an outcome)”.

“The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”

Under this heading, Macintyre points out that the US provides Israel with over $3bn (£2.3bn) a year in military aid and the EU implements trade agreements which exempt only the most flagrant economic activity in the settlements from its provisions, leading Benjamin Netanyahu to believe he can maintain the occupation with impunity.

He summarises the potential gains of a peace agreement for Israel: “full diplomatic and economic relations with the Arab world, an end to the growing perception of Israel as an apartheid state, the reduction of costs – moral and financial – to its own citizens of using a conscript army to enforce the occupation”.

Co-existence in Iran

In several Stirrer articles, opening with this one, Richard Lutz reports on his visits to Iran – as a Jew, albeit lapsed – and Roger Cohen’s account in the New York Times is not to be missed. He – like Lutz, “treated with such consistent warmth” in Iran, says, “It’s important to decide what’s more significant: the annihilationist anti-Israel ranting, the Holocaust denial and other Iranian provocations — or the fact of a Jewish community living, working and worshipping in relative tranquillity. Perhaps I have a bias toward facts over words, but I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran — its sophistication and culture — than all the inflammatory rhetoric”.

As so many civilised Israelis and Palestinians work for peace, some details recorded here, and the settlement of Neve Shalom (above) shows what is possible, Macintyre ends by saying that it is not just the Israelis and the Palestinians who should be reflecting this week on the impact of what is surely the longest occupation in modern history:

“It is time for the Western powers to reflect on their part in prolonging a conflict which will never end of its own accord”.

 

 

 

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Jeremy Corbyn’s Chatham House speech: 12 May 2017 – extracts

May 13, 2017

“A Labour Government I lead will keep Britain safe, reshape relationships with partners around the world, work to strengthen the United Nations and respond to the global challenges we face in the 21st century”.

Jeremy Corbyn regrets that General Eisenhower’s presidential warning about “the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the military-industrial complex” and his stress on the need for “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry”, has gone unheeded: “Alert citizens or political leaders who advocate other routes to security are dismissed or treated as unreliable. My own political views were shaped by the horrors of war and the threat of a nuclear holocaust . . . My generation grew up under the shadow of the cold war. On television, through the 1960s and into the seventies, the news was dominated by Vietnam. I was haunted by images of civilians fleeing chemical weapons used by the United States”.

He continued: “Today the world is more unstable than even at the height of the cold war. The approach to international security we have been using since the 1990s has simply not worked. Regime change wars in Afghanistan Iraq, Libya, and Syria – and Western interventions in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen – have failed in their own terms, and made the world a more dangerous place . . . This is the fourth General Election in a row to be held while Britain is at war and our armed forces are in action in the Middle East and beyond. The fact is that the ‘war on terror’ which has driven these interventions has failed. They have not increased our security at home – just the opposite. And they have caused destabilisation and devastation abroad”. 

Corbyn quotes the findings of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee’s report on David Cameron’s Libyan war which concluded the intervention led to political and economic collapse, humanitarian and migrant crises and fuelled the rise of Isis in Africa and across the Middle East and asks: 

“Is that really the way to deliver security to the British people? Who seriously believes that’s what real strength looks like?

“We need to step back and have some fresh thinking. The world faces huge problems. As well as the legacy of regime change wars, there is a dangerous cocktail of ethnic conflicts, of food insecurity, water scarcity, the emerging effects of climate change. Add to that mix a grotesque and growing level of inequality in which just eight billionaires own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion poorest people. And you end up with a refugee crisis of epic proportions affecting every continent in the world. With more displaced people in the world than since the Second World War. These problems are getting worse and fuelling threats and instability. The global situation is becoming more dangerous.

“A Labour Government will want a strong and friendly relationship with the United States. But we will not be afraid to speak our mind. The US is the strongest military power on the planet by a very long way. It has a special responsibility to use its power with care and to support international efforts to resolve conflicts collectively and peacefully . . .

“A Labour Government will conduct a robust and independent foreign policy – made in Britain. A Labour Government would seek to work for peace and security with all the other permanent members of the United Nations security council – the US, China, Russia and France. And with other countries with a major role to play such as India, South Africa, Brazil and Germany. The ‘bomb first, talk later’ approach to security has failed. To persist with it, as the Conservative Government has made clear it is determined to do, is a recipe for increasing, not reducing, threats and insecurity. 

“I am often asked if as prime minister I would order the use of nuclear weapons. It’s an extraordinary question when you think about it – would you order the indiscriminate killing of millions of people? Would you risk such extensive contamination of the planet that no life could exist across large parts of the world? If circumstances arose where that was a real option, it would represent complete and cataclysmic failure. It would mean world leaders had already triggered a spiral of catastrophe for humankind.

“Labour is committed actively to pursue disarmament under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and we are committed to no first use of nuclear weapons. But let me make this absolutely clear. If elected prime minister, I will do everything necessary to protect the safety and security of our people and our country . . . The best defence for Britain is a government actively engaged in seeking peaceful solutions to the world’s problems.

“But I am not a pacifist. I accept that military action, under international law and as a genuine last resort, is in some circumstances necessary. But that is very far from the kind of unilateral wars and interventions that have almost become routine in recent times.

“I will not take lectures on security or humanitarian action from a Conservative Party that stood by in the 1980s – refusing even to impose sanctions – while children on the streets of Soweto were being shot dead in the streets, or which has backed every move to put our armed forces in harm’s way regardless of the impact on our people’s security . . .

“The next Labour Government will invest in the UK’s diplomatic networks and consular services. We will seek to rebuild some of the key capabilities and services that have been lost as a result of Conservative cuts in recent years. To lead this work, Labour has created a Minister for Peace who will work across the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We will reclaim Britain’s leading role in tackling climate change, working hard to preserve the Paris Agreement and deliver on international commitments to reduce carbon emissions.

“Labour will re-examine the arms export licensing regulations to ensure that all British arms exports are consistent with our legal and moral obligations. This means refusing to grant export licences for arms when there is a clear risk that they will be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law. Weapons supplied to Saudi Arabia, when the evidence of grave breaches of humanitarian law in Yemen is overwhelming, must be halted immediately.

“A Labour Government will give leadership in a new and constructive way and that is the leadership we are ready to provide both at home and abroad . . .

“In the words of Martin Luther King “The chain reaction of evil – hate – begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark days of annihilation”. 

“I believe we can find those solutions. We can walk the hard yards to a better way to live together on this planet”.

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Click on this link if you wish to read the whole text which also discusses relationships with Russian and Syria: https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2017/05/jeremy-corbyns-chatham-house-speech-full-text/#. Our thanks to Felicity Arbuthnot for sending the link.

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Update on Israel-Palestine

February 18, 2017

The UN Security Council has been urged by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, to take decisive action now to end the country’s occupation of Palestinian territory. 

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Hagai El-Ad, executive director, told an informal council meeting Friday on “Illegal Israeli Settlements: Obstacles to Peace and the Two-State Solution” that Israel has controlled Palestinian lives in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem for the past 49 years “and counting”.

With the 50th anniversary of the occupation approaching next year, El-Ad said: “The rights of Palestinians must be realised, the occupation must end, the UN Security Council must act, and the time is now.” He stressed that the council “has more than just power: you have a moral responsibility and a real opportunity to act with a sense of urgency before we reach the symbolic date of June 2017 and the second half of that first century begins.”

btselemAmericans for Peace Now, a sister organisation of another Israeli rights group, Peace Now is also campaigning for an end to Israeli occupation. Lara Friedman, the group’s director of policy and government relations said that when Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation signed the Oslo peace accords 23 years ago, the settler population in the West Bank was 116,000, At the end of 2015, it was almost 390,000.

“I urge you here today to finally take action in the Security Council to send a clear message to Israel that the international community stands by the two-state solution and unambiguously rejects policies that undermine it – including Israeli settlement policies,” Ms Friedman said.

US deputy ambassador David Pressman told the meeting that “the United States remains firmly committed to advancing a two-state solution … [and] we are deeply concerned about continued settlement activity”. He recalled that last week the United States condemned new Israeli settlements and said that since 1 July more than 2,400 settlement units have been advanced in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This makes “a viable Palestinian state more remote”, he said: “In short, we need to start implementing the two-state solution on the ground right now”.

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Earlier this week, at a joint briefing with Netanyahu in Washington, US President Donald Trump asked the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold off on building new Jewish settlements on land claimed by Palestinians..

Trump promised to strike a deal that would bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state… I can live with either one. The United States will encourage a peace and really a great peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, but they have to negotiate it themselves”.

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Paris Peace Conference 2017

January 20, 2017

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Vanderbilt Model UN website

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