Tag Archives: middle east

Opinion: the dangers of a new Middle East conflagration

Storm clouds are gathering over whether Iran should be invaded as a pre-emptive strike to prevent its manufacture of nuclear weapons. Already, Israel seems to be moving pro-actively, while the subject would have been discussed by Cameron during his trip to Saudi Arabia. The US has initiated the tightening of economic sanctions against Iran and has raised its naval profile in the Persian Gulf, though it would clearly prefer to postpone any military action until after the US Presidential election in November. Meanwhile, are the various diplomatic manoeuvres around Syria a rehearsal for future action against Iran?

Very great caution …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged | 8 Comments

The coalition agreement: families & children and foreign affairs

Welcome to the tenth in a series of posts going through the full coalition agreement section by section. You can read the full coalition document here.

If you have been following this series of posts, you’ll be familiar by now with the mix of statements in the families and children section: a strong showing of Liberal Democrat policies, some amenable Conservative policies and then a couple of tricky points.

So we have policies which would happily fit in a Liberal Democrat manifesto such as maintaining “the goal of ending child poverty in the UK by 2020”, supporting “the provision of free …

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Opinion: The Wisdom of Clare Short

Clare Short, in her book, An Honourable Deception?, talks about religious fanaticism. She makes the point that the Iraqi body count website calculates that between the 9/11 bombings and February 2004, there were roughly 3,500 deaths resulting from Islamic extremist attacks on Western targets. In comparison she points out that over 13,000 non-combatant civilians died as a result of the Iraq war, as well as another 3,000 in Afghanistan, and 3,000 Palestinian civilians.

Looking at these figures – and acknowledging that many more Muslims have died in violence in the Balkans, Pakistan, Chechnya – it is easy to see why young Muslims living in these countries have a view of the world that includes a sense that the world values their lives much less than those of, say, me, a typical western male…

Obviously any member of a western government would shout me down were I to make such a claim to their face. Any Western liberal democracy places the utmost value on human life, regardless of race, religion or gender. At least, so any Bill of Rights you care to read would tell you.

But that’s just the point. It’s easy to legislate for a concept, but to live up to that all the time is not easy.

We shouldn’t shy away from the fact that any democratically elected government that values its prospects for re-election jealously protects the lives and interests of its citizens. Couple this very understandable bias with the fact that none of the most powerful and influential governments in the world are Islamic nations and you get the situation that, in any multinational forum – be it the G8 or the UN – it is the interests of the richer, western liberal democracies that are put to the fore not those of the Islamic world.

Look at the Darfur genocide. Were that happening in the UK there would be an overwhelming response, not only to protect those being oppressed, but to bring the oppressors to justice. It is not outside our power to take such actions when these events occur -even in the Sudan, but our governments choose to take less action because there is no reason to take any action other than a moral obligation.

It is this narrow self-interest that is the major driving force behind every country’s foreign policy. However, it is arguably at the root of most of the problems in the world. The fact is that the ‘war on terror’ has killed far more Muslims than it has anyone else. I say that we should forgive the Muslims of the world for thinking that the world doesn’t care about them. Fair point, really. This view is borne out of a dispassionate examination of the facts over the last couple of hundred years.

It is this feeling of impotence in the face of an unjust world that is at least partly driving young Muslims into the arms of extremist recruiters. If we are to overcome these problems, we could do worse than learn lessons from the UK’s attempts over the years to resolve the sectarian problems in Northern Ireland.

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Davey: Blair must come clean on torture or quit as Mid-East envoy

The Guardian splashed this morning on the revelation that Tony Blair was aware of the ­existence of a secret interrogation policy which ­effectively led to British citizens, and others, being ­tortured during ­counter-terrorism investigations:

The policy, devised in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, offered ­guidance to MI5 and MI6 officers ­questioning detainees in Afghanistan whom they knew were being mistreated by the US military.

British intelligence officers were given written instructions that they could not “be seen to condone” torture and that they must not “engage in any activity yourself that involves inhumane or degrading treatment of prisoners”.

But they

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[email protected]: Jonathan Fryer – What Hope for the Middle East?

Over at Society Today, Lib Dem blogger and London candidate for the European Parliament Jonathan Fryer examines the prospects for peace in the troubled region. Here’s an excerpt:

… the prognosis for the future need not necessarily be as grim as the pessimists fear. First and foremost, the arrival of Barack Obama in the White House should provide a whole new dynamic to the Washington-Tel Aviv axis. In the past, US administrations – including that of George W Bush – have allowed Israel to get away with murder, literally and figuratively. That has included the ongoing expansion of Jewish settlements in

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Does the Israeli election result prove PR just doesn’t work?

Whenever electoral reform – ie, proportional representation or ‘fair votes’ – is debated, those who oppose it will almost inevitably use a variation on the following arguments:

• it produces coalition governments which are weak, divided and indecisive (far better, obviously, to have strong government regardless of whether a majority of people actually voted for it);
• coalition are created by political deals in “smoke-filled rooms” which the voters have no control over (unlike our Parliamentary system of whipping and Prime Ministerial patronage, of course);
• The government which emerges bears no relation to the individual parties most voters support (compared with …

Posted in Europe / International and News | Also tagged , , and | 4 Comments

Opinion: Israel has no option but to defend itself against Hamas and Iran

Lib Dem Voice has invited both the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine (article published here yesterday) and the Friends of Israel to submit articles looking at the current Middle East crisis. Today we publish this contribution from Matthew Harris, Secretary of Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel.

At the pro-Israeli peace rally on Sunday 11 January, Trafalgar Square echoed to the sound of speaker after speaker calling, as the thousands of placards read, for “peace for the people of Israel and Gaza”. As a Liberal Democrat who believes in human rights and the rule of law, I cannot echo those …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 41 Comments

Opinion: The West must take some responsibility for the current crisis in Gaza

Lib Dem Voice has invited both the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine and the Friends of Israel to submit articles looking at the current Middle East crisis. Today we publish this contribution from Andrew Baldwin, Secretary of Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine.

The recent violence in the Gaza Strip is extremely damaging for the so called ‘peace process’ in the Middle East. The international community has been slow to act, issuing statements urging Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel, but this almost abandonment of the Palestinian people is extremely dangerous for the future, and ignores the fact that the international …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 20 Comments
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  • User AvatarYeovil Yokel 16th Nov - 2:33pm
    ‘European Reform Group’ seems like a strange name for a bunch of devious EU-phobes.
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 16th Nov - 2:17pm
    Sorry, David. It has to be Jo Grimond. Sadly whilst one can feel affection, one also has to lament a very sad waste of talent....
  • User AvatarMichael 1 16th Nov - 2:13pm
    Thanks for posting this, Caron. Charles Kennedy's speech during the party conference debate in 2013 on Europe is on youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4poB2T-ohVw It is sad...
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    Simply the best leader we ever had.
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    The deal is about what you would expect from the EU given the Irish border issues, if it fails in parliament then hopefully the next...
  • User AvatarChristopher Haigh 16th Nov - 11:54am
    There is a sinister organisation within the Tory party called the European Reform Group which is presumably coordinating a hatchet job on Mrs May. As...