Paul Rogers’ January article has a bearing on yesterday’s London attacks

March 23, 2017

A Yardley Wood reader draws our attention to an article by Paul Rogers, professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University, openDemocracy’s international security adviser

Some points made:

Rogers refers to the bombings of London’s transport network on 7 July 2005 (correction), when fifty-two people were killed on a bus and three underground trains. (The four perpetrators also died), describing it as “the defining event for Britain in relation to political violence, closely connected to the Iraq war although this was strenuously denied by the Blair government at the time”. He continues:

“This “disconnect” has remained a feature of British attitudes to al-Qaida, ISIS and other extreme Islamist groups, even if some people pointed out at the time that the loss of life on “7/7” was no higher than the daily loss of life in Iraq.

“Now, nearly twelve years later, the war goes on with a similar disconnect – there is simply no appreciation that Britain is an integral part of a major war that started thirty months ago, in August 2014. It may take the form of a sustained air-assault using strike-aircraft and armed-drones, but its intensity is simply unrecorded in the establishment media. This is a straightforward example of “remote warfare” conducted outside of public debate.

“Thus, when another attack within Britain on the scale of 7/7 happens, there will be little understanding of the general motivations of those responsible. People will naturally react with horror, asking – why us? Politicians and analysts will find it very difficult even to try and explain the connection between what is happening “there” and “here”.

“The straightforward yet uncomfortable answer is that Britain is at war – so what else can be expected? It may be a war that gets little attention, there may be virtually no parliamentary debate on its conduct, but it is a war nonetheless”.

He lists some of the factors which underpin this approach:

  • The post-9/11 western-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya have left three countries as failed or failing states, killed several hundred thousand people and displaced millions. This causes persistent anger and bitterness right across the Middle East and beyond.
  • While the Syrian civil war started as the repression of dissent by an insecure and repressive regime, it has evolved into a much more complex “double proxy war” which regional rulers and the wider international community have failed to address. This adds to the animosity.
  • The situation in Iraq is particularly grievous, given that it was the United States and its coalition partners that started the conflict and also gave rise directly to the evolution of ISIS. The Iraq Body Count project estimates the direct civilian death-toll since 2003 at more than 169,000. After a relative decline over 2009-13, an upsurge in the past three years has seen 53,000 lose their lives through violence.
  • Since the air-war started in August 2014 the Pentagon calculates that over 30,000 targets have been attacked with more than 60,000 missiles and bombs, and 50,000 ISIS supporters have been killed.
  • But there is abundant evidence that western forces have directly killed many civilians. AirWars reports that:”As ISIL was forced to retreat in both Iraq and Syria, the year [2016] saw a dramatic jump in reported civilian deaths from Coalition airstrikes. A total of between 2,932 and 4,041 non-combatant fatalities are alleged for 2016, stemming from 445 separate claimed Coalition-caused incidents in both Iraq and Syria.”
  • ISIS, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), and other groups have no air-defence capabilities yet are determined to continue the war, seeing themselves as guardians of Islam under attack by the “crusader” forces of the west. At a time of retreat they will be even more determined than ever to take the war to the enemy, whether by the sustained encouragement and even facilitation of individual attacks such as Berlin or Nice, or more organised attacks such as in Paris and Brussels.

These groups seek retribution via straightforward paramilitary actions, responding especially to the current reversals in Iraq. They want to demonstrate to the wider world, especially across the Middle East, that they remain a force to be reckoned with.

Rogers thinks that a repeat 7/7–level attack in Britain is probable, although when and how is impossible to say.  Again, it will not be easy to respond. But in trying to do so, two factors need to be born in mind:

The aim of ISIS and others is to incite hatred. Politicians and other public figures who encourage that is doing the work of ISIS, adding “This can and should be said repeatedly”.

And the links between the attack and the ongoing war in Iraq and Syria must be made: “That Britain is still at war after fifteen years suggests that some rethinking is required” and ends:

“Politicians who make these points will face immediate accusations of appeasement, not least in the media. But however difficult the case, it needs to be made if the tide of war is to be turned”.

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Conceding the EU’s shortcomings, as individuals and as a nation we have much to gain from continued membership

June 16, 2016

A clear and persuasive article in the Friend, 17 June 2016

 

Over the years my wife and I have been to Vienna, Strasbourg, Prague, Amsterdam and Florence and walked across a Rhine footbridge into Germany into the small German town of Kehl. In all these places we were genuinely welcomed and felt a real sense of being Europeans.

While conceding that the EU has its shortcomings, we believe that as individuals and as a nation we have much to learn and to gain from continued membership. This view is shared by many financial, medical, cultural, trade and human rights organisations with a much greater insight than we can claim.

We would be deeply concerned if, in event of Brexit, the UK became even more dependent on the expansionist foreign and military policy of the United States, which, I believe, has a long record of ousting elected democracies by force.

The US accounts for almost half of all global spending on weapons; it sells to the UK the missiles needed for our Trident weapons of mass destruction, and it provides huge military support to Saudi Arabia and Israel, two countries that, arguably, have fomented instability in the Middle East.

We believe it would be much harder to solve problems diplomatically if the UK were to leave the EU, and that such an exit would itself trigger serious political/financial instability within Europe, to the great cost of ordinary people.

The EU can do much to improve employment conditions and human rights, which could be greatly furthered by further international research and development collaboration, projects in transport, education and climate change prevention.

Ken and Kay Veitch

Cheshire East Area Meeting


Is soft power undermining Iran after force failed?

May 30, 2015

Mission accomplished? After an unsuccessful eight year proxy war , money and commodities poured from the United States into the Middle East and, in the name of normality and freedom, all but the strongest young people are being remade in the image of the Western consumer.

iran younger gen

Hard power is exerted by financial inducements, invasion and remote killing by drone aircraft. Soft power sounds quite benign, but as Joseph Nye points out in The Future of Power (2011), it can be wielded for good or ill: Hitler, Stalin, and Mao all possessed a great deal of soft power.

He adds: “It is not necessarily better to twist minds than to twist arms”.

Leading where?

roula khalafRecent ‘advances’ in Iran are being celebrated and underpinned by the FT’s Roula Khalaf (left), who was invited to speak in April’s economic summit for female executives akaGlobal Female Leaders‘. She records that the boys and girls of the Islamic Republic watch western television and Iranian expatriate channels beamed from Los Angeles, Washington and London. “The youth are different from 10 years ago,” says Hamid-Reza Jalaipour, a professor of sociology at Tehran University, “Individualism is high . . . they do what they want”.

Soft power ‘achievements’ of satellite channels, social media and clothes designers noted:

  • Instilling a sense of inferiority: “Iranians aren’t known in the world. We’re not a reference for progress. The US is. Europe is”.
  • The rate of divorce has been steadily rising, up more than 5% in the past Iranian year that ended in March.
  • One young man stopped praying and lost faith that the goals of the 1979 Islamic revolution could be achieved. “They were good for 1979 — slogans like oil for free, free housing, equality”.
  • The hijab comes in all colours and patterns. Some don’t even bother tying it around the neck. The jackets that are supposed to conceal their bodies are tighter and the hems are rising up.
  • They spend their lives on social media — Viber is the latest craze, and a forum for jokes about their leaders. According to the ministry of communications’ April figures, 20 million Iranians have smartphones.

Encouraged by the Daily Mail

iran younsters d mail

  • “In downtown Tehran” Ms Khalaf is told, “the kids, aged 16 to 25, call themselves Sholex. They are like a street gang. They come from poor families, and live on the streets, drinking, smoking (tobacco and hashish) and wasting time . . . an outcast society, separated from the rest, living in a world they made up themselves.

In short, exhibiting the downside of Western societies

Surely with some justice, Islamic leaders ‘regularly blame the west for corrupting [the under 40s]. Ms Khalaf continues: “In a recent statement, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader and highest authority, hinted at his frustration. “They [the youth] are intellectually exposed to dangerous threats — the ways of corrupting them are many, there are communications media that can . . . spread a wrong thought or comment”. He continues: “Today the country is not involved in the military war but it is involved in political, economic and security wars — and, above all, the cultural wars.”

Nazanin is a 28-year-old graphic designer, who describes herself as an outcast. “When foreigners look at TV they don’t see the real Iran. We have the surface society and we have the underground society. We have our parties, we get drunk, nothing is legal. We live like in the west.” The police? “You can get around them, especially if you have money and you can pay bribes.”

Some common sense survives – no ‘Arab Spring’ pawns:

Ms Khalaf asked Afra (who works for a research company) and her friends how they envision Iran changing. Step-by-step reform, they say, not upheaval. One revolution for Iran is enough. “The Islamic revolution made us less developed and we’re afraid another one will take us even further backwards,” says Hamid, a 25-year-old finishing graduate studies in engineering. “Look at the Arab revolutions,” he continues, referring to Syria, Egypt, Libya”.

These illusions of normality, freedom and prosperity are confidence trick. The unmentioned features of the USA, a country which young Iranians and others have been led, by soft power, to admire as ‘an ideal state of freedom’, are military aggression, pollution, child abuse, violent pornography, youth unemployment, high cost of housing and energy and inequality.


Media in Japan and the United Arab Emirates report the UN Review Conference of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

April 30, 2015

At a time when the future of Trident is an election issue in Britain, it is difficult to get news of this event. The writer was alerted by the mother of one of the delegates to the conference taking place now in New York. She had described the march through the city and only technical reasons have prevented the transmission of a picture taken on the spot.

Atomic bomb survivors and peace campaigners take part in a march through New York last Sunday ahead of the U.N. conference to promote nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation that was to start Monday. | KYODO

Atomic bomb survivors and peace campaigners take part in a march through New York last Sunday ahead of the U.N. conference to promote nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation that was to start Monday. | KYODO

Around 7,500 people carrying banners and signs chanted “No nukes!”, “No more Hiroshima!” and other slogans as they walked about 3 km toward the United Nations,

An account and picture of the march was published in Japan which has experienced the horror of nuclear attacks by America.

At a rally held ahead of the parade, Yuko Nakamura, who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in August 1945, recalled that more than 200 students at her school died when the United States dropped the bomb. She was 13 years old at the time.

Toward the end of the event, more than 7 million signatures on petitions from Japan and other countries seeking negotiations to eliminate the world’s nuclear arsenals were submitted to Taous Feroukhi, the Algerian ambassador who will chair the NPT review conference, and Angela Kane, top U.N. official for disarmament affairs. The conference will continue through May 22.

gov uk logoIt was good to find a statement on GOV.UK, a public sector information website, created by the government’s Digital Service. Baroness Anelay, the Minister of State at the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, is attending the UN 2015 Review Conference of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It opens:

baroness anelay“The United Kingdom remains committed to the Non Proliferation Treaty. It has played an unparalleled role, keeping the world safe and curtailing the nuclear arms race. It is at the centre of international efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, to create a nuclear weapon free world, and to enable access to the peaceful use of nuclear energy”.

And closes: “The United Kingdom will therefore play its part to reach an outcome that best benefits our collective rights to undiminished security, whilst taking us closer to our goal of a world free from nuclear weapons”.

dr al jabarThe only national media report found on the first page of a Google search was by the UEA’s The National: the Emirates’ Minister of State, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, said that the UAE was committed to ensuring global peace and security:

“The UAE attaches high importance to the NPT. It supports the right of countries’ peaceful use of nuclear energy with transparency and abiding by the highest standards of security and safety.”

He cited the UAE’s peaceful nuclear programme as a role model on how non-nuclear countries can utilise the international framework of cooperation, as provided for by the treaty.

Dr Al Jaber made a welcome call for the elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide, urging nuclear states to abide by their commitments: “[We] need to adopt practical steps to declare the Middle East as a nuclear weapons free zone”.


Peace and prosperity, built with a post-war constitution as the cornerstone

March 30, 2015

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The Mainichi Shimbun recently reported that Crown Prince Naruhito, at a press conference on his 55th birthday on Monday, called for handing down history correctly, ahead of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II later this year: prince naruhito“I myself have not experienced the war, but it is important to look back to the past humbly and correctly pass down tragic experiences and the history behind Japan to the generations who have no direct knowledge of the war, at a time memories of the war is about to fade”. He described postwar Japan: “enjoying peace and prosperity after it was built with the Japanese Constitution as the cornerstone.”

“I hope this year will be an opportunity to take the preciousness of peace to heart and renew our determination to pursue peace,” he said.

He added that he was “deeply hurt” by the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and terrorism that has taken lives including those of Japanese.

As we have noted before on this site, the constitution, which has been taken to heart by the Japanese people, includes the radical Article 9:

The official English translation of the article is:

ARTICLE 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.(2) To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.


Some hope for constructive dialogue: Putin and Psaki

October 27, 2014

Neil Buckley (FT) reports (October 24th & 26th) that President Vladimir Putin attended a meeting of foreign academics and journalists at the Valdai International Discussion Club in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. This summary adds excerpts from the Associated Press report by Vladimir Isachenkov with contributions from Matt Lee in Washington.

putin at valdai sochi 

President Putin said that the US has been undermining the post-Cold War world order and stressed the need for a new system of global governance. (AP) He criticised the United States for what he called its disregard of international law and unilateral use of force.

On October 26th, Buckley added to his account of Putin’s charges: “US had repeatedly violated the rules through military action – sometimes with NATO or European allies – in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and instigating often ill-fated “coloured” revolutions. Along the way, President Putin alleged, it had even used Islamist terrorists and neo-fascists as instruments. That had made the world much more dangerous. Americans were ‘constantly fighting the consequences of their own policies, throwing all their efforts into addressing risks they themselves created’ “.

He insisted that Russia has no intention of encroaching on the sovereignty of its neighbours, alleging that US support for ‘an armed coup’ against former president Viktor Yanukovich in February triggered Crimea’s breakaway from Ukraine and the current conflict. (AP) “Russia is not demanding some special, exclusive place in the world,” he said. “While respecting interests of others, we simply want our interests to be taken into account, too, and our position to be respected.”

(AP) President Putin accused the U.S. and its allies of trying to “tailor the world exclusively to their needs” since the end of the Cold War, using economic pressure and military force and often supporting extremist groups to achieve their goals. He cited the wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria as examples of flawed moves that have led to chaos and left Washington and its allies “fighting against the results of their own policy.”

A string of US-led military interventions from Kosovo to Libya was listed with the comment:

“This is the way the nouveaux riche behave when they suddenly end up with a great fortune – in this case, in the shape of world leadership and domination. Instead of managing their wealth wisely … I think they have committed many follies.”

See the Washington Post: a brief history & picture gallery of key military interventions by the United States.

us intervention

President Putin asserted that Russia was a strong country and could weather the measures. He advised the US and Russia to draw a line under recent events and sit down with other big economies to redesign the system of global governance along “multipolar” lines.

Noting that since the US had ridden roughshod over existing rules – for example when it invaded Iraq without UN Security Council backing – he suggested the UN could be “adapted to new realities”, while regional “pillars” of a new system could help to enhance security. President Putin warned that the alternative could be serious conflicts involving major countries: (AP) “hopes for peaceful and stable development will be illusory, and today’s upheavals will herald the collapse of global world order”.

Hopeful?

Alexander Rahr, a leading German expert on Russia and Putin biographer, said he believed Moscow was “not looking for confrontation”. Realpolitik might yet come into play, notably because of the crisis in the Middle East. “America needs Russia’s help in dealing with ISIS,” he said. “That might start to change things.”

Moscow was ready for “the most serious, concrete discussions on nuclear disarmament” and to discuss rules on when military intervention in third countries was permitted, President Putin said. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that the U.S. has been able to work with Russia on a range of issues and hopes to engage with Moscow again on areas of mutual concern.

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A Quaker comment on drone warfare and the arms trade

September 25, 2014

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The pressing of a button to send a drone to destroy a target, killing innocent people, too, including children is as barbaric, to me, as the cruel beheading of hostages.

The button presser never faces the immediate consequences of his actions either. Sadly, neither do we. The horrendous results are shown on Al Jazeera never the BBC.

The Islamic State is the creation of the West. It is a reaction to the Iraq war and our hypocritical policy to the Islamic world. We support and sell arms to a country that conducts public beheadings and prevents women from working without their husband’s permission.

We need to campaign for an ethical foreign policy and an end to western military intervention in the Middle East. We also need to make links with the mainstream Muslim community to support them in confronting extremists and demonstrate that we and others are willing to join them in their critique of Britain’s foreign policy and the consequent killing of innocent Muslims in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.

James Whiting
Wandsworth Meeting, London

the Friend 29.9.14