Tag Archives: Syria

Revive the Arab League!

Britain’s David Cameron has expended a lot of energy during this past week trying persuade the House of Commons and the rest of the nation that we should instigate air strikes against ISL in Syria.

Why expend so much energy on such a waste of time, lives and money!

If he wants to see off ISL, he should be coercing the Arab League into doing something, instead of assuming that the ISL jihadis will listen to nothing more than a few explosions in their backyard. They’ve already heard a few of them, and still they seem to want more.

An organisation whose time has been barren for 70 years

Founded in 1945, the Arab League’s describes its own objective as to “draw closer the relationships between member States” and to “co-ordinate collaboration” in the region. At least, that’s what it says it does.

In truth, it does very little. It might be thought of as a footnote in David Lean’s ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. But, if my memory of that film is anything to go by, the League is best remembered as an opportunity lost.

If it had more teeth today, it would be doing something.

As it is, we in the West are left believing (or being led to believe) that the troubles in Syria are all our fault; that we should get stuck in there and sort it out, so they stop fighting with each other.

A generation or more lost

Who are we in the western world to tell them what to do?

We don’t have a handle on the truth. There’s more than one.

The one they hold is as valid as ours, which is based on the belief that there is one deity and one Holy Son of that deity, Jesus, who died on a cross so that the rest of us sinners could live in peace. End of. They (the jihadis and others) believe their man was the deity’s prophet: Muhammad, with a creed not a million miles away from that of Jesus’.

The trouble, as always, comes when family is involved. The Shia and Sunnis are part of the same family, but don’t see eye to eye on who’s the rightful heir to Muhammad. Traditionalist Sunnis believe they are the chosen successors. Shia muslims believe the others have no such right.

That’s their problem, not ours.

David Cameron should be promoting the idea that it’s up to them to sort out their own differences, not us. It’s not our role to be playground monitor. We should not interfere with how they play their games.

But we should promote fair play.

Which is why we ought to be putting our weight behind an Arab League that wants to bring about peace and harmony in a troubled region. That wants the playground to be level.

At least, that’s what their charter says they believe.

An end to ISL

If the League were to act, and act strongly and swiftly, there could be an end to ISL, and thus an end to the fighting in the Middle East.

As it is, ISL will only grow stronger and stronger as less and less is done.

And the more we talk about them, the more recruits they will attract.

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How much horror can the world cope with?

The news of the execution of photojournalist James Foley was shocking in the extreme.

To learn that someone had tweeted links to the horrific footage of his death was breathtakingly appalling.

How could anyone do that?

And how could anyone be so obsessed with being allowed to say just what they like – whenever they feel like it – that they take to the web and criticise Twitter for removing all links to these gruesome images?

Yet James Ball has done just that in the Guardian.

Claiming that Twitter – once lauded as “the free speech wing of the free speech party” – has gone too far, he berates it for making an editorial decision that’s out of line with its role as “a platform” with no curatorial powers over its users’ messages and thus its content.

What nonsense!

If no one exercises any control over what appears on Twitter, Facebook, Google or any other “free speech” platform, who knows what we could see next.

In any event, the tweeting of these grotesque images has done nothing for any sensitive being. All is has done is fuel the publicity surrounding the evil acts perpetrated by the Islamic State’s jihadists.

Which is, no doubt, what they wanted.

But is it what the rest of the world wants, or can cope with?

I don’t think so.

 

 

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Putin gets united

At last! A world leader who can see the wood for the trees!

And isn’t that a blessing when so many trees have been used in the great Syrian debate?

But seriously, Putin is to be congratulated.

His recent piece in the New York Times – which read like an open letter to the people of America – sets out his  argument for caution in the search for a solution to what he described as “an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country”.

He (or his talented ghost writer) presented a compelling case for the use of diplomacy rather than force, and made an interesting point when, in mild tones, he chastised President Obama for talking up “American exceptionalism”.

Putin believes it’s “extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional”, which is fine by me. We’ve seen a little too much of America wanting to set itself up as the world’s “exceptional” nation, with sometimes dire consequences.

I also think he’s right when he says: “There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. We are all different, but …. we must not forget that God created us equal.”

But perhaps the most interesting passage in his piece dwelt on the value of, and threats to, the United Nations.

“No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations”, he said.

He clearly believes the United Nations Security Council must be a key player in the resolution of the Syrian crisis, and rejects the idea of it being bypassed by “influential countries”.

I want to believe him when – speaking about the current dialogue between the United States and Russia – he says he wants to “keep this hope alive”.

And I’m very glad he supports the right united.

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Which United should we support?

For many people the answer is simple. It’s Manchester United.

Hungry for an identity that gives them sporting bragging rights, they want to align themselves with what they see as the most successful football club in the world.

Others may choose Newcastle United, Dundee United, or even Sheffield United, in the hope that – like their Manchester counterparts – they, too, will be able to walk tall, knowing their club is supremely successful.

For the politicians and leaders of the Western world, the choice is different. And maybe not so easy.

Just now, with their embroilment in Syria’s affairs – and none can fail to be embroiled, if only at a debating level – it’s either the United Nations or the United States of America.

On the one hand, we have an organisation whose stated purpose is to “maintain international peace and security” and – to that end – to “take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace”.

On the other we have the most politically and militarily powerful nation in the Western world.

We have an organisation that seems to have been cast as the world’s policeman and a nation that seems to want that role for itself.

We have a choice between what looks like the crippling impotence of the commitee-bound Nations or the terrible potency of the law-enforcement-minded States.

Tough decisions

So pity the politicians.

Unlike us, they cannot make their choice based on the colour or design of a football kit or the skill and athleticism of an individual player.

They must side with someone in the Syrian conflict – the peacemakers or the warmongers – or face the probability of being mere spectators as the situation worsens, the fighting escalates and the number of lives lost increases day-by-day.

In the meantime, the rest of us can only watch and wait, hoping that – in the light of the British Parliament’s brave decision to be guided by both the law and right-minded thinking – none of the principal players scores an own goal.

Were that to happen, we would all be losers. Even the football supporters.

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What’s so special about gas?

The international outrage expressed since Monday’s chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb, which – according to Médecins Sans Frontières – left the Syrians with 355 dead, has been understandable.

The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women, children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is, says US Secretary of State John Kerry, “a moral obscenity”.

And, he adds: “The international norm cannot be violated without consequences”.

And so the US and her allies move inexorably towards another confrontation in the Middle East which, like the one perpetrated against Saddam Hussein, may well be doomed to failure.

Whatever you think of the legality of such a move, one question remains unanswered.

Why has it taken so long?

Why have the US and the UK waited until now to rattle their sabres with such force when, in the three short years since President Assad started his crack-down on the so-called rebels, more than 100,000 people have died in Syria?

What is the difference between a life snuffed out by gas and a life blown to bits by a bomb or a missile?

The other unanswered question is: where will it end?

“The heir to Blair”

Reporting on the British Prime Minister’s return from holiday to recall Parliament, and his determination to destroy the Syrian regime’s stockpiles of chemical weapons, The Independent describes David Cameron as “the heir to Blair”.

They point out that, in echoing Tony Blair’s argument that there was a “moral case” for the war in Iraq even without a UN mandate, Cameron describes Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons as “morally indefensible”.

And yet, despite his moral stance, Blair is still vilified for taking Britain to war in Iraq.

If his experience is anything to go by, Cameron stands in danger of being remembered for taking Britain into a conflict that, according to some sources, would pitch the US and her allies into a proxy war with Iran, which is providing the Syrian government with its weaponry.

And can anyone see an end to a conflict of that kind?

Where is Blair?

The final, unresolved question of the day must be: where is Blair in all this?

He has backed intervention in Syria, which seems bizarre given his track record in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He has said he “understands every impulse to stay clear of the turmoil” and that “we have to understand the consequences of wringing our hands instead of putting them to work”, which all sounds fine until you begin to wonder if it’s all just hot air.

Given that Blair is supposed to be the EU’s advocate for peace in the Middle East, where riot and civil commotion are the norm almost everywhere, I cannot help but think his fine words are those of a gasbag.

I can only hope that, if that’s the case, there is something special about his brand of gas and that further death and destruction – by whatever means – will be averted.

If not, no matter how “proportionate” the West’s actions may be, they will not – as before – be in my name.

And Cameron will have that on his conscience.

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