Diary

Obama's latest betrayal

25 February, 2010

Well done to Toby Young in the Telegraph for pointing out how Obama, yet again, has sold out one of his former allies. Never mind his curious betrayal of Eastern Europe over missile defence, the Iranian people during the post election rallies and Israel over settlements, now America's Chamberlainite President has betrayed his very closest ally, Great Britain. By adopting an official position of neutrality on the question of Falklands sovereignty, an issue that has once more raised its ugly head following Argentina's hissy fit over oil exploration, Obama is actively undermining the special relationship that has been fostered for so many decades. Let us try to remember what is at stake. As Young spells out:

'The Atlantic alliance has been the cornerstone of British foreign policy since 1941, when Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt joined forces against the Axis powers. Dean Acheson may have declared that Britain had lost an empire and yet to find a role, but successive British Prime Ministers have know what their role is and, by and large, it has been to stand shoulder to shoulder with America, presenting a united front in a series of global conflicts, from the Cold War to the Gulf.

It is not just cynical realpolitik. Our two nations have more in common with each other than they do with anyone else. We share a belief in liberal democracy, in freedom, and it is largely thanks to our willingness to commit ourselves to the defence of those ideals that the world has not been engulfed by fascism, communism or Islamofascism. For this alliance to survive, both countries must recognise their obligations and, from time to time, that involves one of us setting aside more localised concerns for the sake of the cause.'

Indeed so. The last point explains why Reagan abandoned neutrality during the 1982 Falklands War and supplied Britain with much needed intelligence against Argentina. He recognised that, much as he did not wish to stir anti US resentment among former South American allies, he had an obligation to his closest ideological ally. But all a State Department official could muster yesterday was this somewhat risible line: 'The US recognises de facto UK administration of the islands but takes no position on the sovereignty claims of either party.'

But British sovereignty over the Falklands is not some irrational chimera. It is backed up by the fact that there has been a solid British majority on the islands for well over a century. British governments since 1945 have consistently declared that there should be no change in the island's status unless this has been agreed by the islanders themselves; and clearly they have no interest in being ruled by Argentina. This is a pretty powerful claim for self determination you would think.

Strange that Obama refuses to see things this way. On the other hand, is it really that strange at all?

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Richard

london, UK

28/02/2010

Politically, Obama is actually wise to play it neutral. Why get involved in something he doesn't need to get involved in? He isn't the arbiter of who owns what. Everything is subject to negotiation. Argentina feel they have a claim on the Falklands. That is their narrative. You can't deny their narrative. Who is Obama to deny them it? Just because someone's people are in a part of the world doesn't mean that they cannot be withdrawn for the sake of peace can it? They are 8,000 miles away afterall. What would you prefer: another war or handing sovereignty to Argentina and peace?

A voice of clarity in the military establishment

23 February, 2010

(Due to the pressure of work, this blog has been delayed).

I had the pleasure last Sunday to hear Colonel Richard Kemp, a former Commander of British forces in Afghanistan, at the Zionist Federation annual dinner. Colonel Kemp has had enormous experience as a military man, having seen service in Germany, Cyprus and Northern Ireland as well as working with the Joint Intelligence Committee.

But the thrust of his talk was about the Israel Defence Forces, not the British army, and what he had to say was very illuminating. Colonel Kemp lamented the knee jerk condemnation, almost Pavlovian in nature, that routinely accompanied the IDF's actions when similar actions by the British army tended to go unnoticed. In his view, some of the criticism of the IDF was anti semitic and motivated by what he termed 'dark forces.'

He also went on to explain how much the British army in Afghanistan owed to the IDF. When he became Commander there in 2003, British forces faced the protracted threat of suicide bombings. He turned to a contact in the Israeli embassy who in turn contacted an Israeli Brigadier-General in the Golan Heights. The Israeli flew to London and spent 4 hours briefing the Colonel on Israel's tactics for countering terrorism. This advice subsequently formed a large part of the British army's manual for dealing with suicide bombings. Thus while the Iranian regime has armed the Taleban and killed British soldiers by proxy, Israel has helped to save the lives of British soldiers.

Then he spoke about the IDF in Gaza, repeating his view that Israel had taken extraordinary steps to prevent the deaths of civilians during the previous war (Operation Cast Lead). Israel dropped a million leaflets over Gaza, they issued broadcasts telling people to leave certain areas, they enforced a three hour ceasefire every day and they allowed aid to be sent into Gaza. Colonel Kemp was quite clear that the charge of war crimes, made routinely by the left, was as far from reality as you could possibly get.

This was the voice of a brave man in the British military establishment. There are others who have expressed similar sympathies, such as General Sir Mike Jackson (former Chief of the Defence Staff) and Colonel Tim Collins. If only you could find such intellectual clarity in the rest of the establishment.

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Israel acts, Britain laments

19 February, 2010

There is an excellent article in the Daily Express by Chris Roycroft-Davis asking why Britain can't follow Israel's lead in dealing with Islamist militants. In all the uproar over forged passports, some of it quite understandable, what has been lost sight of is the importance of the operation itself. As Roycroft-Davis points out:

'As military chief of terrorist group Hamas, Mahmoud al Mabhouh had the blood of many Israeli soldiers and civilians on his hands. He was in charge of smuggling rockets and grenades into the Gaza Strip so his murderous gangs could lob them into Israel.'

The bleeding heart brigade have rather overlooked the fact that this individual was a ruthless murderer who was planning to import dangerous weaponry from Iran that would have endangered the lives of many Israelis. It was a vital matter of national interest that he was dispensed with.

Unlike the whingeing, breast beating British government that forever bleats on about terrorists' human rights, and is thus paralysed in its fight against the radicals, Israel acts decisively and unapologetically against its foes. One detects in the article a (justified) embarrassment at Britain's weak willed approach to terror.

True, he questions the modus operandi involving misuse of British passports but does not lose sight of the essential point: that such operations are a vital part of the West's armoury in defending itself from menacing jihadism. What a shame he is not at the heart of government. Do read the entire article.

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Passportgate

18 February, 2010

OK, let's start with the obvious. We can be fairly sure that the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was carried out by a Mossad team, possibly with help from other recruits. That is hardly rocket science. The hit was carried out with the efficiency, planning and professionalism that we associate with the Israeli secret service while they alone had the best possible motive for the killing.

Al-Mabhouh was a Palestinian terrorist thought to be delivering a significant arms shipment from Iran to Gaza. In particular, he wanted to bring long range rockets into Gaza that would have threatened the lives of three million Israelis. His removal is likely to exert a deterrent effect on any Arab or Muslim plotter who is seeking to help Iran expand its nefarious influence around the Middle East. It may also make Iran think twice before using such intermediaries to smuggle weapons. The justification for this action should scarcely be questioned by a single Western democracy.

But there is of course more to this case than that, as 'Passportgate' has revealed. Now intelligence agencies forge passports routinely in order to carry out covert missions around the world. After all, their agents are trained assassins, not social workers. Mossad is no different, indeed they have the greater need to use forged documents given the number of Middle Eastern countries they must visit. Many of these countries will not accept Israeli passport holders.

Still, cloning the passports of your own citizens who, in a state of understandable panic, are then able to cry fowl, is an own goal. The golden rule of any intelligence agency is never to get caught and to prevent unnecessary public exposure of its operations. By operating in secret and denying a trace back to the home country, the agency can better leave its enemies guessing about who is after them.

In this case, the Israeli fingerprints are hard to miss. Hence the number of Israeli officials who are talking of an intelligence 'blunder' and who, in some cases, are calling for Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, to resign. That would be premature. Dagan is popular in Israel and his knowledge of the Iranian threat makes him indispensable to his government. Still, he may think twice before repeating this operation.

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richard

   

18/02/2010

Why would Mossad use the identity of its own citizens? Wouldn't an Arab country do this to plant the evidence firmly on Israel? Wouldn't Mossad have warned its citizens if it was Mossad? Many other countrues would wish to see Mabhouh out of the picture also.

Flash Gordon and the politics of spin

15 February, 2010

When Gordon Brown came to power in 2007, he promised an end to the era of spin. No longer would government attempt to manipulate the media with cheap soundbites and phoney presentation.

Naturally, the idea that spin died with the end of Blair was foolish. Brown tried cheap media manipulation on a number of occasions, most notably when he visited Iraq during the Tory party conference to make quick diversionary headlines.

But he sought a different image to Blair: instead of slick media presentation and charisma, he promised he would remain a private individual. For good measure, he promised he would never use his family as ‘props.’

It might be overly cynical to suggest that he was doing that tonight during his interview with Piers Morgan. But then again, how else to describe it? Certainly he displayed real and very raw emotions when he spoke movingly of the death of his first child and how he and his wife had suffered afterwards. It was hard not to be moved by his account. No one could doubt the depth of his wife’s feelings as she cried for her lost child.

But surely it would have been more dignified to keep these emotions private rather than opening them up to media gaze. Did the public really need to see these raw feelings on display, as if we had a right to access the PM’s inner life? Some things ought to have remained beyond the realm of public scrutiny.

But actually this was not the most revealing part of the interview. For later, he spoke about his wife Sarah, how they met years earlier and how he proposed to her on a beach. Morgan asked if he proposed on bended knee and whether he was a member of the 'Mile High Club.' Truly vulgar, vomit inducing stuff.

If there is a strategy for ‘humanising’ Gordon and making him more accessible to the public, then it is utterly transparent. With an election looming, the PM’s dour image is an electoral disadvantage. If only the spin doctors can put a bit more flash back into Gordon, it will be harder for the Tories to portray him as a psychologically flawed creature.

But this is to merely re-assert the politics of image that has so disfigured British politics in the last decade. It also represents a U-turn on Brown’s own stated aversion to spin, revealing him to be nothing more than a slick opportunist who will do anything to stay in power. Perhaps this interview revealed more than Gordon intended.

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And now it gets uglier...

12 February, 2010

The police are investigating another ugly manifestation of the virulent anti Zionism endemic in British universities. This week, Palestinian academic and Hamas devotee, Dr. Azzam Tamimi, addressed students at the School for Oriental and African Studies. Among his calumnies against Israel, he offered the following racist narrative to justify his opposition to a Jewish state:

‘Why are the Jews superhuman and better than anyone else that God would give them a homeland? Is God a racist? A god who would prefer people because of their race is not a god I want to associate with. Claiming they are being given the land of God is a racist idea.’

But it gets worse, much, much worse:

“You shouldn’t be afraid of being labelled extreme, radical or terrorist. If fighting for your home land is terrorism, I take pride in being a terrorist. The Koran tells me if I die for my homeland, I’m a martyr and I long to be a martyr.”

This passage is particularly revealing. It shows firstly that the terror attacks perpetrated by Muslim extremists against Israelis are indeed motivated by an Islamic ideology and a specific interpretation of the Koran. You heard it direct from Tamimi, no matter what wet left-liberals try and tell you. Second, it is a direct, unmitigated, in your face glorification of suicidal terrorism with little room for nuance. He 'takes pride' in being a terrorist and 'longs' for jihadist 'martyrdom', Islamist speak for mass murder. Let us see what else he said:

Having heard this demagogue speak in Trafalgar Square, I can testify to his oratorical power and his frightening ability to sway a crowd. Now he has glorified terrorism in the most unequivocal terms in the midst of another verbal pogrom against Israel, leading (rightly) to a police investigation.

Denis MacShane has described Tamimi as a “preacher of anti-Semitic hate and jihad.” So why has it taken the police so long to investigate him?

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Degenerates heckle Israelis on campus

10 February, 2010

I have often used this blog to highlight the irrational, frenzied denunciation of Israel in Western academia. In the last few days two events have vividly highlighted this phenomenon. As you can see in the following link (www.jpost.com/Opinion/Editorials/Article.aspx?id=168254), the Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, was continually heckled when he addressed students at the University of California. To see this terrifying spectacle of hatred is to make one's blood boil, whatever one's opinions on the Arab-Israeli conflict. For it represents the most blatant debasement of academic values, the most important of which is freedom of speech.

The insidious display of venom is simply frightening. But at least no one called for Oren and his co-religionists to be killed. Not so in Britain sadly. On Tuesday, Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, addressed that most prestigious of institutions, the Oxford Union. During the course of his talk, a person screamed 'Death to the Jews' in Arabic while Ayalon was met with a torrent of abuse from others. Fortunately the police are now investigating the student who incited murder. There is no better illustration of the degeneracy, bigotry and outright malevolence that stalks the pro Palestinian camp.

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Amnesty's jihadi poster boy

10 February, 2010

The gurus of Amnesty International have spent years railing against the ‘abuses’ of Guantanamo Bay. They cited the fact that people were being held without trial, that they existed in a kind of legal limbo without access to lawyers (even military ones) and that they were experiencing torture on a regular basis.

One could certainly sympathise with part of this argument, even if one didn’t share the group’s decidedly left-liberal agenda. Torture can certainly be counter productive in dealing with terror while detention without trial is often problematic in a democracy.

But Amnesty’s claims to the moral high ground, rightly questioned in recent years, have been finally shot through by one of their own workers. Gita Sahgal, a senior officer for the organisation, has recently been suspended for criticising Amnesty’s collaboration with a group called Cageprisoners.

This group is headed by Moazzam Begg, a former detainee at Guantanamo whose incarceration has turned him into a figurehead for the oppressed. Sahgal has not questioned the wrongfulness of Begg’s incarceration. She has instead asked why Begg has been used as a figurehead for her organisation given his jihadi sympathies, hence his opposition to human rights.

Begg is a self confessed admirer of the Taleban who first travelled to Afghanistan in 1993. So impressed was he with the jihadi movement there that he went back with his family in the summer of 2001. Not only did he know about their barbaric policies, such as their denial of education to women, but he appeared to embrace them. Thus his comment on the Taleban:

“I believed that the Taleban had made some modest progress — in social justice and upholding pure, old Islamic values forgotten in many Islamic countries.”

Begg’s Islamic allies include radical preachers such as Anwar al-Awlaki, the man alleged to have influenced the failed Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Amnesty should also have a careful look at the Cageprisoners website. According to Begg, among the allegedly innocent Muslims held captive by the British state are such dignitaries as Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada, two of the biggest recruiting sergeants for Islamist terror.

The site lists these captives’ various grievances against the state, leaving the reader with the impression that they have been falsely locked up by the ‘Islamophobic’ authorities. Yet even the briefest glance at their many utterances over the years gives a rather different picture. They are the subscribers in chief to the global Islamist jihad which seeks a form of cultural conquest of ‘infidel’ lands. This is what Begg believes in too.

Sahgal is therefore quite right to question Amnesty’s behaviour. If her organisation disagrees with homophobic murder, attacks on women and religious intolerance, they should have nothing to do with Begg, regardless of his previous treatment. Far from being a Muslim Martin Luther King or Gandhi, Moazzam Begg represents just the kind of medieval savagery that human rights groups are supposed to disdain. Amnesty’s leaders must be in a wretched state for not seeing this.

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Universal jurisdiction should be scrapped

05 February, 2010

Remember Downing Street’s exasperation last December over the arrest warrant issued for Tsipi Livni. Remember all that faux outrage, the indignation at the abuse of the law, and the endless promises that ‘this will never happen again.’ Well, it all turned out to be so much New Labour hot air.

Jack Straw has led the opposition to any imminent change to the law of international jurisdiction. He does not stand alone. A significant number of his Labour colleagues also oppose a change in the law with an early day motion attracting no less than 108 signatures. There is every possibility of a highly significant and (for the government) damaging backbench revolt.

While not enough to defeat the Government, these 108 MPs might persuade Messrs Brown, Straw and Miliband to renege on the pledges made to their Israeli ‘allies’ only weeks earlier. In any case, Straw always has one eye on his Muslim constituents in Blackburn while the government has a collective eye on the forthcoming election.

Just to clarify, the universal jurisdiction law allows a private individual to demand an arrest warrant for someone who happens to be on British soil, even though that individual may not be British and his alleged crimes were committed abroad. While it was originally designed to hold to account those responsible for the most egregious abuses of human rights (torture, genocide etc.), it has since become a politicised weapon used by the enemies of the West. Israelis have been singled out by this legislation on several occasions, the latest being Tsipi Livni who was forced to cancel her trip to London after an arrest warrant was issued.

As things stand, opposition Israeli politicians or generals could face arrest the moment they touched down on British soil. And very soon, this deplorable situation could be tested to the limit. It was widely reported yesterday that Livni is planning another trip to the UK, which will test David Miliband’s promises of a change in the law to the limit.

But even an amendment to the law would be insufficient. For one thing, the power to issue arrest warrants should not lie with the Attorney General who is, after all, a politician first and foremost. The elephant in the room is the very notion of universal jurisdiction, a nightmarish juridical albatross slung around the necks of Western democracies.

At first glance, a law to arrest war criminals, torturers and mass murderers has some merit. Who would not like to see Robert Mugabe and Sudan’s Al Bashir brought to trial for their murderous policies?

But that is just it – they won’t. Dictators and masterminds of terror seem to be getting off scot free while their democratic counterparts are the ones being targeted. No one is proposing to arrest Chinese or Russian politicians despite the horrors being perpetrated in Tibet and Chechnya. The leader of Hamas would have an easier time in London that a former Israeli general. The leftward bias is hard to miss.

As a result, foreign judges could take it on themselves to initiate show trials of politicians, often based on the most spurious interpretations of what constitutes ‘a war crime.’

This is part of the reason why universal jurisdiction is so problematic. It allows judges to make decisions affecting other country’s citizens but without regard for accountability. Yet, as Daniel Hannan argues so persuasively, crimes are the responsibility of the state in which they take place. Tyrants should be brought back to the nation where their crimes were committed rather than being shipped off for a tedious trial at an ‘international’ court. And this cannot be done until they are militarily defeated by another power.

International jurisdiction is a powerful idea precisely because it tallies with the idea that nations are redundant. This is why the left adore it. Not only does it give them a stick with which to beat their favourite enemies (US, Israel etc.) but it bypasses the very ideas of national sovereignty and territorial sovereignty which are the cornerstones of Western politics. This new ‘lawfare’ is a threat to the West but, as so often, one that we have helped to create.

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Don't count on Iran's mullahs unclenching their fists

03 February, 2010

Since his inauguration, the 44th President has pursued a strategy of conciliation to Iran’s mullahs, downplaying his criticism of their murderous regime in the hope of a diplomatic breakthrough. His sole reward has been endless Persian defiance. The Iranian fist has remained clenched, just as this blog predicted more than one year ago.

So the increase in America’s naval presence in the Gulf, together with her deployment of Patriot anti missile batteries in the Gulf States, may at last indicate a change of mood from the White House. Many will argue that this as a step in a better direction, considering that the Iranian regime is impossible to cajole through nice diplomatic sentiments.

As proof that this strategy has worked, many will point to Ahmadinejad’s statement today in which he agreed to export his country’s enriched uranium. Caution is needed, however. It is one thing to agree a plan and another thing to put it into action; words are not actions.

In any case, the decision on accepting this deal will be down to Ayatollah Khamenei in whom supreme power is vested, not the ‘elected’ President. So even if Ahmadinejad’s intentions are honourable (a highly dubious matter given that Iran has just test launched a new satellite), he may face an insurmountable stumbling block to his plans.

But America’s current position is not entirely satisfying because indicates a strategy of containment. America is prepared to ward off an Iranian missile strike by pre-emptively placing anti missile batteries in surrounding countries. In other words, instead of planning for destroying Iran’s illicit facilities, the Obama administration may be preparing for the day when Iran turns into a nuclear state, hoping that deterrence will thwart an attack on its regional allies.

But this would be a disastrous strategy. Leaving aside the vexed question of deterrence, an Iranian arsenal would seriously destabilise the region, leading to an arms race and the possibility of an arms transfer to terrorist groups. It would increase Iranian influence and power in the region, including in Iraq, the Gulf States, Lebanon and beyond. Iranian nukes would present a long term security problem of the highest order.

That is why containment and deterrence are not sufficient weapons in this crisis. We have moved beyond the Cold War and it is time that the Obama team realised it.

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