A new world thanks to diplomacy

 

              What a difference a Parliamentary debate can make!. When many of us Conservatives  made clear we would not vote for a cruise missile attack on Syria, we were granted a debate and a vote before action. Labour late in the day joined our opposition to a military attack. The government agreed to offer a second specific vote before any military action, followed by  acceptance  it could not win a majority for such a vote so would not hold one.

             Mr Obama then decided he had to consult his Congress before embarking on the military strike which the US, UK and France had been planning. He cited the UK precedent as part of his reason for asking Congress. It soon became clear to him that winning the vote in Congress was going to be difficult. Meanwhile Mr Putin offered a diplomatic opportunity to the west.

             The west was at first reluctant. However, we now have progress with an agreed UN line which Russia and China as well as the US, UK and France can accept. The Syrian dictator has agreed to reveal and then destroy his chemical weapons. The Inspectors start their work this week.

               Even more remarkable, Iran has now decided she wishes to negotiate a new relationship with the west, saying she has no wish to develop nuclear weapons.  Iran wants to end the sanctions against her, and start to benefit from some of the technology, advice, goods and contacts the west can bring.

              Of course when dealing with people like Assad, the Iranian leadership  and Mr Putin the west needs to be careful and seek sensible guarantees. There could well be bumps on the way to more peaceful relations. However, it is good news that diplomacy is now possible. It is  better news that there are some signs that some dangerous weapons can be removed from the Middle East and some friendlier relationship can be established with Iran.

             The UK Parliament played its part well on the world stage. We showed the world that a democracy can challenge its leaders and advise them to adopt a new course. That new course will be very popular if successful. So far it has proved much better than letting off missiles from a distance without having the intent or unleashing sufficient power to change the regime. As some of us argued at the time, the problem with regime  change if you escalated to achieve that , is how do you then create a peace loving and settled democracy out of the ruins of a toppled dictatorship and on the foundations of the lethal hatreds of a civil war? Now it appears we are getting some welcome changes in the Middle East through alliance building and persuasion rather than through bombing.

 

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30 Comments

  1. Alan
    Posted September 28, 2013 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    The only thing that seems plausible to me is that the Parliament’s refusal to give Mr Cameron the authority for threatening force showed Mr Obama a possible way of delaying coming to any decision about using force. He seemed very reluctant to use force even before he decided to consult Congress.

    I can well believe that both the US and Russia have a common interest in not wanting chemical weapons to come into the hands of terrorists. If Russia believes that the Assad regime will win the civil war without the use of chemical Mr Putin may have thought that it was preferable to remove the chemical weapons as soon as possible.

    I doubt that the actions of the Parliament, or the threat of the small amount of force that we would add to any US operation, would have any influence on Mr Assad or Mr Putin.

    Still less will it have influenced Mr Rouhani or Mr Khamenei to consider halting the development of Iranian nuclear weapons. At most it will have been seen as a weakening of the West’s reliance on military force. They will be paying far more attention to the US than to the UK, and are quite likely influenced by the observation that until the issue of chemical weapons arose the US was prepared not to interfere in Syria. They may have concluded they will be left alone if they do not pursue nuclear weapons, and I think that is probably a correct conclusion.

    Still, there is no great harm in us telling ourselves that we have brought about a peaceful resolution of the issue of chemical weapons in Syria and the development of Iranian nuclear weapons, just as long as we don’t get delusions of grandeur and try to use this ‘influence’. If we do we may find it does not exist.

    The main rationale for the UK taking part in US military operations is to demonstrate to the US, on whom all our defence depends, that we will provide support to them if they ask for it. If the US does not want to use military force that argument becomes irrelevant.

    • Hope
      Posted September 28, 2013 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      It also demonstrates, once more, what poor judgment Cameron has and out of touch he is with his party, its supporters and the country. Good try to deflect the bad decision Cameron made and how Miliband out maneuvered him.

      Despite castigating Miliband Cameron still follows Miliband’s idiotic energy policy. Says it all really.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted September 28, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

        I do not exactly hold a brief for Cameron but Miliband before that crucial vote was an etymological definition of prevarication, which literally (old meaning) mean walking a crooked path.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted September 28, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      We shouldn’t get delusions of grandeur, but nor should we habitually talk down our own country.

  2. Mike Stallard
    Posted September 28, 2013 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    Teedy Roosevelt: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

    It is so heartening to see that, yes, politicians can learn from their mistakes (Iraq).

    • zorro
      Posted September 28, 2013 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      Or jaw jaw is better than war war……

      zorro

      • alan jutson
        Posted September 29, 2013 at 7:05 am | Permalink

        Yes you have to talk in the end, so better to try to find a solution before using force if at all possible.

        Still a long way to go, but we now at least have a start.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted September 28, 2013 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Indeed some very welcome changes in the Middle East through alliance building and persuasion rather than from usually counter productive bombing. Particularly in Iran and Syria.

    Let us now hope for many u-turns at home and in the EU after all nearly every policy area needs them. Particularly Cameron’s tax borrow and endless waste and his quack energy policy with tax payer subsidies.

    Listening last night to Caroline Lucas, on Any Questions, one is left wondering if she and the green party “experts” are so scientifically illiterate as to actually believe the drivel they spout. Or do they know it is pure nonsense and are just complete charlatans. Do the Greens and Libdems have a Physics GCSE or A level between them? If so they clearly did not understand it.

    • lifelogic
      Posted September 28, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      No one surely, can really be stupid enough to think that extra taxes, over expensive religious energy and silly huge subsidies for “green jobs” can be anything other than a huge net job destroyer/job exporter – can they?

      One would have to be totally bonkers to believe that.

    • Bazman
      Posted September 28, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      You are so stupid as to believe that we can compete with the third world on pay and accommodation so you and the greens have a lot in common. Have you seen the price of fire wood these days? You would have to be middle class to be afford to cook on it. A third world Greater Switzerland? You have to be bonkers to believe that. A third world Britain with an elite led by Prince Charles is however a possibility, like a Russian style oligopoly that you so admire running the state for a few and telling the rest it is for their own good. Ram that.

      • Edward2
        Posted September 28, 2013 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        You have the nerve to label others of writing fantasies and being deluded and yet you write a post like this one.
        An hilarious fantasy of the future of the UK, Baz.

        • Bazman
          Posted September 29, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

          An elite running Britain for their own benefit a fantasy now or in the future? Get real.

  4. Glenn Vaughan
    Posted September 28, 2013 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    John – Iran has been claiming for years that it does not want to develop nuclear weapons. Mr Obama is the worst kind of American President i.e. a ditherer and the Assad regime has not destroyed a single chemical weapon to date after the Aug 21st massacre.

    Is all of the above supposed to be a triumph for British democracy because of the vote not to take military action against Syria? I hope the negotiations with Assad, Iran and Russia will be not be so ingenuous.

    • stred
      Posted September 30, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      Unlike the previous Iranian president, the new one seems to be reasonable. But the Israeli PM has described him as ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’. Unlike Mr Obama, who is a sheep in wolf”s clothing.

  5. Gary
    Posted September 28, 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    I don’t know if it is pragmatism because we can no longer pay for these wars, or we are growing up and now prefer to talk and compete through innovation and trade. Whatever it is, these are most welcome developments and a cause for hope.

  6. Andyvan
    Posted September 28, 2013 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    I’d say that it isn’t just Assad and Putin you need to be careful about dealing with. Obama (words left out) routinely ordering people to be killed by missile attack without trial and sanctioned many military attacks on countries that pose no threat to the US. He has eviscerated the constitution and militarized law enforcement(etc). To my knowledge that matches all Assad and Putin have ever managed.

  7. zorro
    Posted September 28, 2013 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    As John says, the new approach does set a new mood music. There would have been missile strikes if the vote had been in favour. Of that, I have no doubt whatsoever. What is important is that the atmosphere to solve problems diplomatically whilst ensuring assurance of good faith is being pursued. Some countries may have thought that they would benefit from the chaos, war, and destruction that has been fomented in the Middle East by allowing extremist killers to roam freely in several countries. Hopefully, the spotlight will be on ALL countries there who have access to biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons with expansionist plans.

    zorro

  8. Anonymous
    Posted September 28, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Excellent !

    You have every right to feel good this weekend. A shame about the weather though… but even this has its upside as it helps to prove you right on another political issue.

    • formula57
      Posted September 29, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      Indeed!

      And what a shame also that unable to join the rejoicing is our Foreign Secretary whose ill-judgement and maladroit actions show how unfitting it is that he remains in his job. He might be important to the ‘ Party but he is not to the rest of us and him staying in place to make repeat errors is no comfort.

  9. Bert Young
    Posted September 28, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    The big scene seems to be changed in the Middle East due to the intervention of individuals who were prepared to stick their chins out ; in any event any effort to use force on behalf of “rebels” who hack the heads off people in front of their young siblings , is madness itself . The opportunity now exists for good old straight-forward diplomacy to calm things down and produce a reasonable solution . Hopefully the same common-sense approach will apply to the economic settlement required in the USA ; the fiscal cliff – unless solved , will have a more devastating consequence for the world than any Middle East conflict .

  10. John B
    Posted September 28, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    To summarise.

    97% of ‘scientists’, 95% ‘believe’ that probably 50%+ global warming is manmade.

    ‘Scientists’ previously said they were 90% confident their models correctly accounted for all possible natural factors affecting global warming, so global warming could only be due to Mankind.

    They now say absence of the 90% confidently predicted global warming is due to heat disappearing into the deep oceans, clearly, if true, not correctly accounted for in their models, thereby invalidating them, but which has increased their confidence in them to 95% as a consequence, but assign Manmade global warming contribution as anywhere between 50% and 100% but do not know the actual figure, and are 95% confident in it whatever it is.

    And we must take these folk seriously?

    What is a worry is we are ruled by people who clearly do.

    • Bazman
      Posted September 28, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      Well, actually, no. That’s like seeing a corpse with a bullet wound to the head and saying “Except for the bullet wound to the head you cannot come up with a convincing explanation why this person is dead.”
      I’ll remind you that while denialists are distracting everyone about the “pause”, about climate sensitivity, and all that, the Arctic sea ice is melting. Antarctic land ice is melting. We just experienced the hottest decade on record. And it’s difficult to stress this enough. The trend over time is higher temperatures.
      Have a look a site called Skeptical Science. I know its not the BBC and is less easy to deny and there are other sites such as Treehugger that are reality based unlike yourselves.

      • Edward2
        Posted September 28, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        Under one degree rise since records began.
        No wonder you dropped the word “catastrophic” from your religion Baz.
        Sea level rises predicted…not happened.
        Post 2000 runaway temperature rises predicted…
        Just not happening.
        You need to watch Al Gore’s old film and have a look how many of his doomsday predictions have already not come true.
        I note having made a fortune he has gone rather quiet lately.

        • Bazman
          Posted September 29, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

          Actually, no. They didn’t predict “runaway” warming, they use models of the atmosphere checked against real measurements to make predictions of future temperatures. The warming predicted was steady and unsettling, but hardly “runaway”.

  11. Vanessa
    Posted September 28, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Pity it does not happen more often. I am sure we would not have gone into the EEC in 1973 if Heath had consulted Parliament. I don’t believe he did nor did he debate it.

    Reply Of course it was debated and voted on in Parliament! They had to put through the European Communities Act.

  12. Mark B
    Posted September 28, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Spin and more spin.

    Cameron did not need Parliament to rubber stamp his little war. He could have used the Queen’s Prerogative. Same with Obama, he has executive powers and has no need of congress.

    Parliament just happened to vote the right way, not that Miliband would have known, he was all for it.

    In short, we got lucky and the right result. Nothing to do with ‘Democracy’ as you put it.

    As for Assad, he is no more or no less a dictator than some of the Regimes in that part of the world with which we choose to do business.

    Assad and the Russians in my view have played an absolute blinder in foreign policy and diplomacy, while the West looks week and inept. Assad may lose his chemical weapons for now but, he is winning the war, and that is more important. He needs the US and others to stay out long enough to win. i for one hope he does. Not for his sake but for others.

    Iran, another Russian ally, is playing a very clever game. I would not be too quick to sing their praises. They know if they got nukes’ Saudia Arabia and possibly others would get them to counter balance things, much like the West and the former Soviet Union and India and Pakistan have done.

    Just having the technology and the means to produce and deliver a weapon on target is enough. No need to do the rest.

    We are seeing a bit of jaw-jaw because we cannot afford in men, material and treasure, war-war. There is little appetite among the people for further conflict. And with elections in the West near, not much political will either.

    The Russians, Chinese, Syrians and Iranians know this. They know that both politically and financially we are in trouble. We are weak.

    This should serve as a lesson. Fight the wars you really need to fight and in between, save your money for wars, because you’re going to need the cash !

  13. Trevor Butler
    Posted September 28, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    As someone who has spent most of his long life in the ‘third world’ I never can understand the ‘powers that be’ attempting to look at third world conflicts through first world glasses – There are very few ‘good guys’ involved in the Syrian civil war – its about tribalism and getting one’s own back – As it is in most places in Africa and the Middle East – Yet western governments try and deal with things as if there are ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ in a cut and dry , black and white sort of way – Is this a deficiency in the FCO? Probably – as most of our politicians (apart from yourself and a few others) come across as rather naive in the ways of the world which, apart from a blinkered, lefty education, can only be down to deficient briefing from the ‘experts’ in Whitehall

  14. peter davies
    Posted September 28, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    It seems the best outcome from an impossible situation. I only hope all sides who brokered the agreement are sincere enough to follow them through.

  15. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted September 28, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    In Syria, the government and the opposition appear to have fought each other to a standstill, neither being able to occupy the whole country. Also, the opposition is not united, being split between Islamists and democrats. That points the way to a power sharing government, with Assad still in power and opposition figures holding up to half of the cabinet posts. Just as in Northern Ireland, it’s no more than the best of a bad job, but a war weary people may settle for it.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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