World Review: Qatar as power broker, EU rapid deployment and abortion in Texas

In one of history’s ultimate ironies, the West may end up working with the political organisation it overthrew and fought for 20 years. The reason? To prevent another more extreme Islamic organisation from using the central Asian country as a base for terrorism. ISIS-K has made it clear that it wants to use terror to undermine the West and export Islamic fundamentalism. It has also said that the Taliban leadership is as much a target for their suicide bombers as Americans.

At a Pentagon press conference this week, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the Staff, described the Taliban, as “ruthless” but added that in war “you do what you must.” When asked if the US would cooperate with the Taliban, he said: “that is a possibility.”

Meanwhile British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab flew to Qatar which has been acting as intermediary between the West and the Taliban.

Raab ruled out recognition of the Taliban but added: “We do see the need for direct action.” In London, the Foreign Office, revealed that Simon Gass, Britain’s Special Envoy for the Afghanistan transition, is holding talks with Taliban officials. Gradually, the West appears to be reluctantly accepting that it has no choice but to cooperate, possibly even support, the Taliban if its original goal is to be achieved.

One of the winners from the Afghan debacle is the Gulf state of Qatar. The ruling Al-Thani family and its diplomats have managed to establish their country as the region’s number one power broker by making itself the essential intermediary between the key players. Ten thousand US troops and Britain’s Number 83 Air Group are based at Qatar’s Al Udeid Airbase. British and American envoys are currently in Qatar talking with Qatari and Taliban officials about organising the safe passage from Afghanistan of Westerners and Afghans who worked with NATO forces. Qatar is one of the key staging posts for Afghan refugees. On the other side of the fence – the Qataris help to fund Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and maintain close relations with Iran. It has been reported that they also turn a blind eye to “charities” raising money for Al Qaeda and Isis. Then there is Al Jazeera which is the only region’s only critical and relatively free news organisation. The only Arab monarchy safe from its searching reports is the Al-Thani’s.

Near the top of Washington’s wish list is that Europe takes more responsibility for military roles in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. A meeting in Slovenia this week of EU foreign ministers appears to have taken a step towards fulfilling that wish. The meeting was preceded with an agenda-setting article in the New York Times by EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Josep Morell in which he wrote that Afghanistan demonstrated that it was time for Europe to “step up.” The result was that the foreign ministers in Slovenia agreed in principle to the establishment of an EU-wide rapid deployment force of “willing countries.” Details are vague with talk of anywhere between 5,000 and 20,000 troops. Small but a start.

Of course, if Europe takes more responsibility it will demand more say and more independent action. The Europeans think that it was a mistake to withdraw from Afghanistan and are appalled and ashamed that they are linked in the public’s mind with the humiliating chaos of the American-led retreat. Washington should be careful of the axiom that one should be careful of what wish they for.

Germany would be key to whether or not the planned rapid deployment force goes ahead, its size and its responsibilities. But at the moment, Germans are heavily focused on federal elections. With just over three weeks until polling on September 26, it looks as if this vote could be one of those watershed events.

For a start, Chancellor Angela Merkel (“Mutti” or mother as she is known to the German voters) is stepping down after dominating the German and European political scene for 16 years. On top of that, it looks as if her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and its Bavarian partner the Christian Social Union (CSU) may lose. An end of August poll of polls showed the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) three points ahead at 24 percent—the first time in 15 years it has been in the lead. Other parties are also doing well. The Greens are up at 12 percent and the centrist Federal Democratic Party (FDP) are polling 17 percent. The only party other than the CDU/CSU to have dropped is the right-wing anti-immigration Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) which has fallen five percentage points from the last election in 2017.

Germany’s proportional representation system allocates Bundestag seats based on the percentage that each party polls. This almost always means a coalition and the party with the biggest percentage claims the Chancellor’s job and is given first crack at forming a government. Of course, three weeks is a long time in an election campaign and the CDU/CSU has pushed its biggest gun onto the campaign trail—Mutti.

Texas has thrown a massive spanner into America’s abortion debate. Republican Governor Greg Abbott this week signed a law which says that anyone who aids and abets an abortion later than six weeks after conception can be sued for a minimum of $10,000. But what makes this new law so interesting is that no state official will be involved in the legal process. Instead the law suits can be brought by individuals or organisations from anywhere in the world. This will effectively create a worldwide team of anti-abortion vigilantes.

The Texas legal chicanery also prevented the Supreme Court from ruling on the issue. For it to hear a case there must be a plaintiff and a defendant. At the moment, there isn’t. And when there is it will take years to work its way through the legal system to the Supreme Court. By then, other Republican-led anti-abortion states will have followed the Texas example and further muddied the legal waters. The Supreme Court, however, is expected to rule on the underlying legal principles of abortion by next June when a Mississippi anti-abortion law is appealed. With the current conservative complexion of the court and the success of Texas it appears that a June ruling could overturn the 49-year-old legal precedent of Roe v. Wade. The Democrats could attempt to pass legislation to strengthen Roe v. Wade or Biden could appoint two liberal justices to re-balance the pro-abortion court. Both those options are fraught with political dangers. It is clear that the abortion issue has moved to the top of the agenda for the November 2022 mid-term elections.

The latest polls show that 57 percent of Americans support legal abortion which should be a plus for the Democrats and the pro-abortion lobby. But then, they have to vote.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopedia of the War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain". He has a weekly podcast, Transatlantic Riff.

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Brad Barrows 4th Sep '21 - 6:12pm

    Whatever your views on abortion as a form of birth control, the problem with the Roe v Wade ruling that established a Constitutional right to abortion up to 24 weeks was that the constitutional basis for the ruling was, at best, extremely thin. Obama could have got legislation passed when the Democrats controlled both chambers, and with a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, but didn’t consider it possible that the Supreme Court would ever have a majority of Justices who would rule of the basis of what the Constitution actually says or intended rather than on a more liberal basis. His failure to act now means that there is no federal legislation in place to guarantee the right to an abortion should the Supreme Court overturn the Roe v Wade decision.

  • Steve Trevethan 5th Sep '21 - 5:07pm

    Might it be the case that the USA has always worked with the Taliban?

  • Paul Barker 7th Sep '21 - 12:42pm

    Those Polling figures for The Greens & “Liberals” should be the other way round – The FDP are averaging 13% & The Greens 18%, nearly double what they got last time. Both Parties are likely to be involved in any new Coalition.

  • Charles Smith 7th Sep '21 - 7:13pm

    The U.S. Justice Department said Monday that it will not tolerate violence against anyone who is trying to obtain an abortion in Texas as federal officials explore options to challenge a new state law that bans most abortions.

    Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department would “protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services” under a federal law known as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

This post has pre moderation enabled, please be patient whilst waiting for it to be manually reviewed. Liberal Democrat Voice is made up of volunteers who keep the site running in their free time.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Nonconformistradical
    @Peter Martin "Raising taxes generally will, at the moment, benefit for younger people who are struggling to pay increased mortgage costs too." How, if they a...
  • Peter Martin
    @ Steve, It is the lending process by commercial banks that creates what is often referred to as 97% of the money in circulation. It also the spending proces...
  • Peter Martin
    Raising taxes generally will, at the moment, benefit for younger people who are struggling to pay increased mortgage costs too. I admit it will be a hard sel...
  • Chris Perry
    P.S. Just by way of clarification. It is my belief that although people born in these islands might identify with their place of birth they are likely to descri...
  • Simon McGrath
    Have the Tories really 'underfunded ' the NHS. According to the Kings Fund , spending was £150.3bn in 2018/19 and £181.7bn in 2022/23 (all in real terms ). ...