Lembit: “Time to talk to al-Qaeda”

The BBC reports on Lembit Opik’s plea for the West to speak to al-Qaeda:

It is time to talk to al-Qaeda. Having been through this in the past, I know this is right. Declaring war on terror does not deliver peace. The random killing of hundreds of civilians has obviously secured headlines from the perpetrators. As long as this cycle is repeated, we have relatively little chance of achieving closure on the terrorist methodology.

“For those people that want revenge, it’s hard. But then the crime will have created its own ricochet. That would distract from any chance of strategic solutions – leaving us with a tactical ricochet of violence instead of a strategic end to violence. …

“We’ll only make progress when we take a more grown-up approach to an essentially understandable organisation. I am not setting myself up as the saviour of the western world; anyone could be saying what I am saying. The real progress would be to lock people into the process much more than shadow boxing. The British political system is afraid to acknowledge the potential legitimacy of the motives behind terror. They think that means they are condoning terror – nothing could be further from the truth.”

As the BBC article points out, Lembit’s is not a lone voice – former Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam and Tony Blair’s former aide Jonathan Powell have both also urged Western governments to talk to terror groups such as al-Qaeda. But the view has not persuaded Ed Davey:

“We are light years from this point – he’s kidding himself,” says foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey, who last year conducted a four-day fact-finding mission to the Middle East. He backs more dialogue between forces in Afghanistan and the Taleban, and between the west – especially the US – and the Iranian government.

But adds: “The problem with al-Qaeda is that their actual agenda is the destruction of our way of life.” He supports any informal contact with al-Qaeda or intelligence gathering the government may be engaged in, but thinks “the idea that there is a meeting of minds to be had is impossible”.

And he adds, wryly: “It is possible to debate with Opik, unlike with al-Qaeda.”

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6 Comments

  • I agree with Tristan.

    Al Qaeda is a banner, not an organisation. It is a banner that thankfully very few dangerous and hardline muslims choose to take up in furtherance of a terrorist agenda, either soley, or with others from their locality.

    Therefore, each of these “terror cells”, despite being under the banner of “Al Qaeda” have no link to each other whatsoever. You could try and negotiate with one of them should you locate one, but anything you discuss or any agreement reached concerns that “cell” only, and has nothing to do with other “cells” either at home or abroad.

    Al Qaeda is not the IRA, and people need to stop working for solutions based on that invalid assumption.

    The only possible solution to the problem is to work with muslim communities to try to limit any possible causes for extreamism in the first place, and root it out should it take hold.

    I would also like to point out that the Terrorism acts do nothing for those solutions and in fact are counter productive.

    Arguing for “negotiation with terrorists” may be headline grabbing and contentious, but it’s not always valid.

  • Martin Land 31st Jan '09 - 8:47am

    Perhaps he’s going to defect?

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