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British politicians: stop shouting adjectives, banging drums and dropping bombs (Jenkins) and exert unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement (Corbyn)

Paul Ingram, executive director of BASIC*, commented on Simon Jenkins’ statement quoted in today’s article on another website:

“It is a war crime to disable, maim or poison a victim by chemical or biological means, yet it is permissible to blow them to bits. Dropping chlorine evokes howls of horror. Dropping bunker busters does not. Cluster munitions, the most horrible of delayed action weapons, remain in the arsenals of NATO armies”.

Paul (left) wrote: “Fair enough, and of course I agree that the war mongering these last two days, particularly by the BBC, is shocking indeed. But to equate CW with other munitions is to miss the point that they are expressly illegal, and we have to be building up stronger humanitarian law piece by piece and defending strongly those pieces already in place”.

The editor replied: “Yes, I think Jenkins could have made a valid point just by referring to conventional bombs”. After checking on the illegality of cluster bombs she asked Paul, “Did US ever sign this?”

He replied, “No, I don’t think the US is a signatory. It certainly hasn’t ratified” and continued:

“I was on Russia Today yesterday saying that the best response for the Russians now would be to strengthen their call for a UN Security Council meeting and present all the evidence they have that the chemical weapons attack was not a Syrian air force one … or to come up with further evidence for their current explanation.

“The worst aspect of the cruise missile attack was the way it by-passed the UN Security Council and was illegal and is a major step in the direction of unilateralism and flagrant use of force.

“There are plenty of conspiracy theories going around, but the consequences are that Russia will no longer tolerate US aircraft over Syria and will strengthen the S300-400 systems that appear to have shot a majority of the 59 cruise missiles out of the sky.

“… and I see that Russia is sending its own missile destroyer into the Med today”.



Will parliament stand firm again?

*The British American Security Information Council (BASIC) works to address security challenges by building confidence in a shared, sustainable security agenda. We work in both nuclear weapon and non-nuclear weapon states, with a specific expert focus on the UK, US, Europe and the Middle East.




Media 51: the New Statesman was being economical with the facts – of course a rattled David Cameron in PMQs ‘dialled up the abuse’

George Eaton, political editor of the New Statesman, appears to be another nominal socialist who cannot accept the democratically elected Labour leader who has such an enthusiastic cross-party following in the country.

george eatonNew to Mr Eaton’s work, the writer visited the site and saw the general Corbyn-undermining tenor of his articles, post election. How he would dislike the admiration expressed by South Korean speakers and young Brits in a South Korean film ( recently circulated.

Today he exults: “Labour right triumphs in PLP elections of backbench committee chairs – many of them ‘part of the problem, rather than part of the solution’. And yesterday Eaton reported that at this week’s PMQs session, Cameron’s patience ran out – accompanied by jeering Tory MPs.

Eaton attributed the PM’s tone to ‘contempt for Corbyn’ but social media – Roslyn Cooks tweet – filled in the very significant missing link: the statement which will be seen as a major threat to arms trade, party funding and a loss of face for the PM on the international ‘stage’

Cameron was deeply riled by the Labour Leader’s statement issued shortly before Prime Minister’s Questions and lost the respectful tone assumed in earlier sessions. Jeremy Corbyn:

jc 5“David Cameron’s invitation to Britain today of the Egyptian president and coup leader Abdel Fatah al-Sisi shows contempt for human and democratic rights and threatens, rather than protects, Britain’s national security.

“Support for dialogue and negotiated conflict resolution in the Middle East is vital to us all. But to welcome and bolster with military support the coup leader who overthrew a democratically elected president in 2013 and has presided over the killing and jailing of many thousands since makes a mockery of government claims to be promoting peace and justice in the region.

“Support for dictatorial regimes in the Middle East has been a key factor fuelling the spread of terrorism. Rather than rolling out the red carpet to President Sisi, the Prime Minister should suspend arms exports to Egypt until democratic and civil rights are restored.”

Britain’s shame: the UK arms industry is a major supplier of weapons and other military equipment and $24bn has been invested in the Egyptian economy by British businesses in the past five years – British-based companies such as BP and Vodafone being among the biggest players in the Egyptian economy.

As the poorest Britons struggle to cope with ever-reducing incomes the PM focusses on the intervention-induced chaos in Syria

Reports of cables between Britain and Saudi Arabia, proposing secret vote-trading deals, shed light on Saudi Arabia’s ludicrously inappropriate appointment as chair of the UN Human Rights Council. They will lead many to feel even more Dazed and Confused than Steve Beauchampé.

He points out that David Cameron and George Osborne have spent the last two years frustrated by Britain’s inability to attack and overthrow yet another sovereign government in the Middle East:

“They clearly never learn – Cameron and Osborne both voted for the catastrophic invasion of Iraq in 2003 (ed: & 1991 Gulf War) and were in charge for the almost equally disastrous 2010 NATO intervention in Libya – and it is hard to overstate how bad an outcome might have resulted from further British meddling in the region. Possible consequences include Russian intervention to aid Assad, with the attendant risk of heightened tension, or worse, between east and west; the creation of an even larger vacuum into which Islamic State or any of the other militant terror groups vying for control of Syria would have moved; an earlier and swifter exodus of refugees from an even more war ravaged country”.

Assad No 10 2002

But Britain has long been ‘meddling’ in Syria. For some reason – after a honeymoon with the new leader (above outside No 10 in 2002) – relations soured. The public has never been informed as to the reason for this change of heart, or for the duration or extent of its alliance with ‘our special friend’ to support and give ineffective training to ‘moderate rebels’.

This policy is said to be rebounding on the two inept and inhumane Anglo-Saxon governments concerned

Reuters reports that on Sunday, in an interview with U.S. television networks CBS and PBS released by the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin branded U.S. support for rebel forces in Syria as illegal and ineffective, saying U.S-trained rebels were leaving to join Islamic State with weapons supplied by Washington and adding: “In my opinion, provision of military support to illegal structures runs counter to the principles of modern international law and the United Nations Charter”.

Further reading raises a question: was the Syrian uprising due to eventual outworking of free global market policies adopted by Assad’s father, which everywhere offered the usual benefits to those in power but led to rising inequality/unemployment (see steel plant closure in Teeside)?

It is on record that socio-economic inequality increased significantly after free market policies were initiated by Hafeez al-Assad (the President’s father) in his later years, and accelerated after Bashar al-Assad came to power, (see LA Times). With an emphasis on the service sector, these policies benefited a minority of the nation’s population, mostly people who had connections with the government, and members of the Sunni merchant class in Damascus and Aleppo but the country also faced rising youth unemployment rates. This coincided with the most intense drought ever recorded on Syria which lasted from 2007 to 2010 and resulted in a widespread crop failure, increase in food prices and a mass migration of farming families to urban centers. Syria had also received, in the same period, an additional 1.5 million refugees from Iraq. By 2011, Syria was facing steep rises in the prices of commodities and a clear deterioration in the national standard of living.

A complete volte face by the Prime Minister

Beauchampé looked forward to the speech to be delivered by Cameron at a meeting at the United Nations where – the allies having failed to subdue IS – he did, as forecast, call for Assad to be allowed to remain in power for a transitional period while everyone (including Britain) concentrates on ousting Islamic State.

The idea of a transitional period is ‘for the birds’ he writes, believing that neither President Putin, or the government of neighbouring Iran will accept Assad’s replacement by a regime approved by Britain or the United States.

Even more dazed and confused we await the outcome.

Corbyn would probably agree that a foreign policy based on subservience to the United States is a source of deep shame for many Britons

A reader sends this link to an article by Peter Oborne. The following highlights may tempt readers pressed for time to open it.

With barely two weeks to go until the election of a new Labour leader, a British establishment project has been launched to stop Jeremy Corbyn at any cost. Most of the mainstream media as well as the majority of Labour MPs and party donors are part of this conspiracy to nobble the front-runner.

The Western powers always assert that they support democracy. But the truth is different. Mr Corbyn’s critics always claim that they want democracy. But do they really? They only want democracy, so long as it does not threaten the interests of their powerful backers.

Some Labour strategists envisage that Jeremy Corbyn should be duly defenestrated if he becomes Labour leader in 15 days time – so that Labour supporters can be made to vote again. I am not a Labour voter, let alone a member of the Labour Party with a vote in the current election. However, I am certain this would be a disaster for British public life.

If he wins, he must be allowed to lead his party and to make his case.

Mr Corbyn is the most interesting figure to emerge as a leader of a British political party for many years. This is because he stands for a distinct set of ideas and beliefs which set a new agenda in British politics. If he wins on 12 September, he will be the first party leader to come from right outside the British mainstream since Margaret Thatcher in 1975.

Corbyn is mounting a direct and open challenge to the British system of government of international alliances as they have worked since Tony Blair became Labour Party leader.

For two decades both main parties have shared the same verities about British foreign policy. They have regarded Britain as automatically subservient to the United States. This in turn has meant that we have interpreted the partnership with the Gulf dictatorships – such as Saudi Arabia and UAE – as central to Britain’s Middle East focus, while taking the side of the Israeli state against the Palestinians. In the Middle East this approach has ensured that we are confronting a growing terrorist threat in the region with an ever-decreasing base in popular support, and actually hated by an ever-growing population who identify Britain with their oppressors.

No matter which party was technically in power, British foreign policy has remained unchanged. David Cameron is indistinguishable in foreign policy terms to Tony Blair. (Indeed, the former prime minister has become one of Mr Cameron’s most valued foreign policy advisors.)

Jeremy Corbyn would smash this consensus.

Most people would agree that on the most intractable foreign policy issues of our time Corbyn has tended to be right and the British establishment has tended to be wrong. What Corbyn does or thinks today is likely to be vindicated a few years later. Hard though it is for the British establishment to stomach, Corbyn’s foreign policy ideas have generally been more balanced and far-sighted than those of his opponents.

This certainly does not mean that he is always right. I believe that he has been naïve about Vladimir Putin, ruler of an authoritarian state which is founded on corruption and violence. He has been unwise to contemplate British withdrawal from NATO.

Corbyn is our only current hope of any serious challenge to a failed orthodoxy. Blair and Cameron have both adopted a foreign policy based on subservience rather than partnership with the United States, which has done grave damage to British interests.

Obama, Cameron’s “great friend” – if he toes the line

obama cameron eu

Deplored: once again Britain’s senior politicians – pre-election – seek to reaffirm ‘friendship’ with those who – after subverting and overturning South American democracies, created or acquiesced in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib and destabilised the Middle East by supporting Iraq – then illegally invading that country.

US president Barack Obama lavished praise on David Cameron during his recent visit to UK prime minister to Washington, calling him a great friend and “one of my closest and most trusted partners in the world”.

But he has little to offer compared with Germany, said to be seen as America’s main ally in Europe, following doubts over Britain’s membership of the EU – Brexit [British exit]. 

Philip Stephens noted recently in the FT: “the Tory election manifesto leaves the US administration at best incredulous and sometimes scathing. Why on earth, the president has been heard to ask, would any British leader flirt with the idea of pulling up the drawbridge against the EU?”

He continues: “Stripped of diplomatic niceties, the American view of Europe is that, since Germany pays most of Europe’s bills, Chancellor Angela Merkel more or less runs the show”.

US officials question whether UK will continue to be a reliable military ally

Mr Cameron has agreed to supply a further 1,000 UK troops to NATO exercises in eastern Europe over the next year countering Russian military involvement in the region and to provide more drones to help with surveillance missions against Islamist militants fighting in northern Iraq, but the American government has other concerns:

  • the precedent set by parliamentary votes limiting British participation in the coalition against the Islamist extremists in Syria and Iraq;
  • the UK’s increasingly limited naval power – not even one aircraft carrier until 2017 so is unable to deploy and recover aircraft, act as seagoing airbase and no effective maritime patrol aircraft – more diplomatically: Jane, “UK’s maritime patrol capability gap;
  • Britain can offer only a few ageing Tornado bombers to assist with aerial bombardment.

Some see the Swiss model is a favoured alternative, minus its safe haven banking practices.


Media 36: few mainstream outlets report 1381 Palestinian minors killed

Hearts sank as news came of the deaths of three Israeli teenagers. These were reported all over the world.

At the burial service

At the burial service

Not so the deaths of 1381 Palestinian minors, killed by Israeli security forces in the occupied territories: 2000-2014.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed on Monday that Israel’s response to the murders would include a building a new illegal settlement. One settlement for three – how much land for 1381?

Haaretz the Israeli daily, unlike other mainstream media, features the ‘balance of brutality’, noting that the names and the names of those who sent Palestinians who killed 129 Israeli children, are public knowledge; but the soldiers who killed 1,381 Palestinian children remain nameless and unpunished.

The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories records events caused by and affecting both Israelis and Palestinians. Established in February 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members, B’Tselem, provides tables of child fatalities in the Occupied Territories, 2000–2014:

B'Tselem fatality stats

In 2013 the Middle East Monitor, which gathers news from Palestine, and its regional neighbours from partner organisations and correspondents on the ground, headlined: One Palestinian child has been killed by Israel every 3 days for the past 13 years.

In the decade to 2013, according to a March 2013 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (“UNICEF”), Israel has arrested some 7,000 Palestinian children; 18 of 27 arrested in Hebron in March 2013 were below the age of 12.The report was based on 400 cases documented since 2009. It stated that the Palestinian children who are detained by the Israeli military are subjected to “widespread, systematic and institutionalized” ill treatment in violation of international law.

UNICEF estimated that in the West Bank IDF and Israeli security services annually arrest around 700 youths between 12 and 17 years old, often from their homes at night. They are blindfolded, painfully restrained, and subjected to physical and verbal abuse while being transferred to interrogation, where they are coerced into confession without immediate access to a lawyer or family. Signed confessions are typically typed in Hebrew, which few Palestinian minors can read. As of January 2013 Israeli military prisons held 233 males under 18, 31 under the age of 16.Additionally children are shackled during court appearances and made to serve sentences in Israel. UNICEF stated these findings “amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture”.

Robert Fisk comments: “In the end it’s about the colonies Israel is building against international law on Arab land”. . . and – as the Washington Institute adds – supported by USA as a counterweight against radical forces in the oil-rich Middle East.