Are the states created by the 1st World War in the Middle East now collapsing?


It is a strange coincidence that at the very time when the western powers remember and reconsider a war 100 years ago, the Middle East is testing the borders and consequences of the 1919 peace. Both Syria and  Iraq, creatures of the war to throw off Turkish imperial rule, are being sorely tested in brutal civil and religious wars a century later.

On May 16 1916 France and the UK signed the secret Asia Minor Agreement – or Sykes-Picot deal. They had the private consent of Russia as well, though the Bolsheviks took a different view when they overthrew the Czar. The infamous Sykes-Picot line gave to the UK influence over Jordan, South Iraq, Haifa and Acre, and to France North Iraq, Syria and the Lebanon. It became a matter of deep controversy when it was made public later. This agreement jostled with the wish of the UK to offer Palestine as a homeland for a  small neutral Jewish state, and with the pledges of Lawrence of Arabia and others to the Arabs that the Arab nation would also have a free and independent Arab state.

The results of these varied wishes can be seen today. The Arabs did get free territory and states of their own, but not all of the land and cities that they wanted. Lawrence saw Damascus as a capital for the Arab state, but France did not share this view when it took possession in 1920. The borders of Syria and Iraq did not reflect the patterns of tribal and religious allegiance, posing problems for their rulers to find ways to keep the different groups together in harmony. Israel became the Jewish homeland, attracting many settlers. It caused tensions with  the Palestinian Arabs which the allied powers had not thought through well.

On 29th June Abu Bakr al Baghdadi declared the Caliphate and announced his intention to overthrow Sykes-Picot. I did not write about it at the time, as I had no idea how serious it might become. Today reports from the region tell us that the new state has taken territory from both Syria  and Iraq, has defeated regular armies, captured oil fields and Mosul and claims to control an area from Aleppo to Diyala. Some say it now has a population of 6 million in an area larger in  size than  the UK.

Official sources from Shia governments say that the Caliphate hard liners have attracted Sunni support, but this will melt away once, for example,  Iraq deals better with the Sunni minority. One side  wants the world to think that the Islamic state is a temporary rebellion which will be defeated by splits in its own ranks and by a stronger military response is due course from Iraq and Syria. The other side says that the IS is gathering strength all the time. As it gets more revenue from oil and other assets, so it can arm itself better. As it expands its territory it attracts those who dislike  Shia government, and can control those who have to live under its jurisdiction. It can , they say, change the map of the Middle East fundamentally.

What is true is the brutal civil war of Syria continues, with the main opponents of Assad turning out to be IS, the militant advocates of the new Caliphate. The democratic and more moderate opposition that the west wanted to back and believe in  is being squeezed between the forces of Assad and the forces of the Caliphate. Iraq remains in deep trouble, with Kurds, Sunnis and Shias battling against each other. The state now faces a serious challenge from the IS.

It is difficult to see how the west can make things better. As I have written before, we should be neither pro Sunni nor pro Shia. Being against Assad, an unpleasant dictator, could help IS, which is not a great place to be either. The UK should concentrate on energy self sufficiency in these uncertain times. It should keep our military out of the Middle East as  our troops cannot easily intervene to help force a better outcome.

The USA has the force which could stop IS. President Obama has been wrestling with the military, political and moral issues over intervention yet again in this area. His current announcement that he might both bomb IS forces to prevent more Christian/Kurdish places being taken and drop humanitarian relief supplies to those already displaced shows the difficulty of his and the west’s position.

Intruding a western army into Iraq or Syria would not be a good idea. Eventual victory would make the west an occupying power, left with the formidable problem of how you then mend the local politics so they can become self governing again. Eventual withdrawal or defeat would cause more death and misery for no good purpose.

Bombing runs the risk of killing those you do not wish to kill, and also fails to tackle the explosive politics and religious conflicts on the ground.


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  1. Lifelogic
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    Indeed what can the West do constructively, very little I suspect.

    Energy self sufficiency , fracking, not destroying our coal powered power stations, not burning expensive biomass and nuclear. Kill all the daft subsidies for wind and PV, the former are just a way to divert tax payers money to rich land owners. In effect a legalised defrauding of the tax payer.

    Why oh why did we have C Huhne & still Ed Davey and yet fire Owen Patterson? How can Cameron make such bonkers decisions and why did he throw the last election and lumber the country with these deluded fools?

    • Bazman
      Posted August 8, 2014 at 6:46 am | Permalink

      Why not kill subsides for daft nuclear which cannot exist without subsidy. Subsidy for fracking too which is economically dubious. Wind, wave and solar can and does in many cases even though you do not believe this. You repeat the same drivel without being able to back anything up with facts, but have the audacity to talk about quackery and religious beliefs with a non existent grasp of a the most basic science. Who own the facts? You!?

      • Lifelogic
        Posted August 8, 2014 at 7:35 am | Permalink

        Wind, wave and solar cannot really compete (other than in special situations, with current technology) without absurdly large subsidies. Fracking would be taxed not subsidised, nuclear, coal and gas too can compete on a level playing field and are taxed in general not subsidised.

        I see 65,000 fines have been issued last year for parents daring to take their children out of school for a day or two. Is this to be yet another new tax to fund the bloated state sector pay bill & pensions? On top of the 299 we have had already from Mr Morally Repugnant & the IHT ratter.

        So they mug parents with parking fines while dropping the children off and now they can mug them if they do not drop them off as well.

        • Cliff. Wokingham.
          Posted August 8, 2014 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

          I saw the “fines” story too. I have thought for a while now that these fines and many others imposed by every Tom, Dick and Harriet you can think of, are little more than an extra tax.

          The sad thing is that the sheeple are blaming the Head Teacher for inflicting these fines onto parents but, just like many regulators, they are merely carrying out instructions from central government. It seems to be a clever way to avoid getting the electorate upset with the government by transferring blame onto a third party.

          I am convinced that the people of the UK love fines because, every time a minor sin is highlighted by the media, everyone appears to say they should be fined…..There was a time when only a court could impose a fine.

          In my opinion, when the criminal justice system is used as little more than an extension of HMRC, both institutions are brought into disrepute.

          I am also very annoyed when the PM decides that a “record fine” imposed by a regulator, should be handed over to a charity rather than being used to reduce the national debt.

        • Bazman
          Posted August 9, 2014 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

          Nuclear cannot ever compete on a level playing field as it is massively subsidised by the state in particular insurance and build costs. Oil and gas are subsidised in many ways as well as taxed. In many scenarios wind and PV is economically viable and profitable without subsides competing with fossil fuels in a number of countries. This is unfortunately the facts and if you care to have this out on a level playing field you will find out, but facts and science are not what you are about.

      • Richard1
        Posted August 8, 2014 at 7:48 am | Permalink

        No subsidy is required for fracking, that’s the point of it. Nuclear requires guarantees on dealing with waste. The advantage of it nuclear it is a material addition to generation capacity (unlike wind and solar). The sources of energy which can’t survive without heavy operational subsidy are wind, solar etc.

        The idiocy of the German govt’s giving up of nuclear, prompted by green leftists, is illustrated very starkly by Germany’s current dependence on brown coal and Russian gas.

        • Bazman
          Posted August 8, 2014 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

          No subsidy for fracking? Sorry!?

          • Richard1
            Posted August 9, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

            No subsidy is required to make fracking economic. Plenty of companies are prepared to undertake explorative fracking without subsidy. What they need is the removal of impediments imposed at the behest of greens. Check your facts.

          • Bazman
            Posted August 9, 2014 at 11:33 am | Permalink

            Fracking has received subsidy and we will see how green right wingers are when they get their drilling rigs. If they do as at the moment the economics are dubious.

      • stred
        Posted August 8, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

        Why don’t you rad Sustainable Energy Without Hot Air, available free on the DECC website. This gives an analysis of all the options and limitations of sustainable energy. Then you would have figures to make rational argument. Only basic maths is necessary to understand it.

        If you can’t, don’t worry. Ministers don’t seem to have read it or understand it either.

        The possible percentages for wind, tidal, wave and biomass are given and the amount of energy available, with land and sea areas. Then you would understand why nuclear is necessary. Also, just how incredibly difficult and expensive it will be if the EU wishes to show the rest of the World what to do, and how in the end it may not work in practice.

      • lojolondon
        Posted August 8, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        Bazman, by far the cheapest, most reliable and eco-friendly way to produce power is nuclear energy.

        • Bazman
          Posted August 8, 2014 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

          The most expensive way of boiling a litre of water ever conceived by man. A power source of last resort. See nuclear submarines. May have short term use.

          • libertarian
            Posted August 9, 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink


            Wrong as normal. Actually nuclear power is incredibly cost efficient to run. The problem is the huge cost of building the infrastructure and then dealing with the waste.

            So its actually an incredibly efficient and cost effect way of boiling a litre of water.

            Indeed see nuclear submarines, maybe you ought to get out more. Nuclear subs have been running for 60 years now and are set to continue as they are the most efficient, green and practical way of patrolling the seas.

            Educate yourself with some science


            NB The above is a link to some evidence Bazman try it some time you may learn something

          • Bazman
            Posted August 10, 2014 at 10:22 am | Permalink

            Nuclear submarines are safe and have been without problems for 60 years. really?! I think you will find that is not the case…You are wrong.

          • libertarian
            Posted August 11, 2014 at 10:08 am | Permalink


            Nowhere did I say there had been no problems for 60 years. Maybe you ought to get someone to read the posts to you as you seem to struggle with this.

            Did you read the links?

      • libertarian
        Posted August 8, 2014 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        Ha ha ha Bazman,

        You’ve never supplied a single link to a fact to back up anything you say. Rather than continue your bullying of LL how about you provide a shred of evidence for the nonsesne in your post?

        Typical socialist, do what I say not what I do. Zero credibility Bazman

        • Bazman
          Posted August 8, 2014 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

          Treehugger is a good source of ‘sensible’ information putting forward many conflicting views. Sorry! Non deluded.

          • libertarian
            Posted August 9, 2014 at 11:04 am | Permalink


            1) The fact that you get your cliched beliefs from a Green activist site and then have the temerity to accuse others of not posting scientific facts is a laugh

            2) The fact that you get you opinions from cliched political site, cite them here and don’t even link to your sources and then scream insults at others tells me all I need to know. You are a pointless internet troll

          • Bazman
            Posted August 9, 2014 at 11:38 am | Permalink

            I know you hate facts, but deluded right wing beliefs are for the birds especially on energy. Sustainable clean energy is green activism? This tells us all we needs to know. Tell us what is not fact on this site of shut up.

          • libertarian
            Posted August 9, 2014 at 10:41 pm | Permalink


            Cite some evidence, provide a link or reference a scientific paper. Until you do this you will be considered the buffoon you are.

            When are you going to respond to the links I gave you on the other threads? Fools use insult others cite references in a debate. Fool

          • Bazman
            Posted August 10, 2014 at 9:22 am | Permalink

            Do you need a link and a scientific paper to understand that clean sustainable energy is desperately needed in the world and the race is on to find it? If Britain follows you foolish head in the sand views we will be so far behind on this technology we will never catch up costing billions and many jobs.

          • APL
            Posted August 10, 2014 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

            Bazman: “Do you need a link and a scientific paper to understand that clean sustainable energy is desperately needed in the world and the race is on to find it? ”

            Admitting that ‘clean sustainable energy’ does not exist at the moment, and further admitting that any assertions Bazman has made to the contrary are incorrect.

          • Bazman
            Posted August 10, 2014 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

            Clean sustainable energy does not exist. You have hear it here.

          • Bazman
            Posted August 11, 2014 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

            A very upsetting story for you is that Mars. The chocolate bar manufacturer is to by announcing that it will soon begin construction of a massive wind farm in Texas that will produce enough clean energyto power all of MARS’ operations in the United States and many other private companies such as IKIA have made massive investments into providing their own clean and cheaper energy sources. Many wish to purchase o more cheaper renewable energy whic include General Motors, Wal-Mart, Bloomberg, Facebook, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Mars, Novelis, Sprint, Proctor and Gamble and REI.
            What do you propose to do to stop this and other projects that may be carried out in the future plundering profits of oil companies and stealing taxes by using ‘free’ energy.

    • Bazman
      Posted August 8, 2014 at 6:49 am | Permalink

      Do you just blindly write the same thing like this as one of your afterthoughts? Landlord nonsense..

      • Bill
        Posted August 8, 2014 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        Not sure what you are on about. I have not seen much evidence that you know anything about science or technology. Insult is not the same as argument. Or did you not know this?

        • Ted Monbiot
          Posted August 8, 2014 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

          Bill, the left rarely debate or even argue. They just insult, shout, heckle and sometimes get violent.
          Its a sign their arguments are worthless and they know it.

          • Bill
            Posted August 8, 2014 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

            Too right!

            The last time I heard this kind of stuff was in the days of a certain Arthur Scargill. But he wasn’t all that popular even in his own back yard. I saw graffiti on the wall of a Doncaster car park which read, ‘If Scargill wants b—-y communism, let him go to b—-y Russia’.

        • Bazman
          Posted August 8, 2014 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

          Mindless repeating of the same nonsense that when questioned about its basis refuses to answer and then retreats it again is not sound argument. Any science and technology or ideas I mention can be backed up by argument and facts this is the difference his is just chuntering right wing drivel. From a white middle aged mans perspective that believes he alone own the facts and any challenging of them is just silly lefty nonsense, by uninformed children and foolish woman. Deluded ignorance no less. This is an insult to us all.

          • Bazman
            Posted August 8, 2014 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

            Oh! And where is you answer to this barrage liflocic?! You do not read after you have wrote anything as it is unquestionable? Maybe to you…

          • libertarian
            Posted August 8, 2014 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

            So Bazman

            When given a response as I did on two other threads here to the nonsense you post how come you never answered? You continue to repeat drivel about the jobs market after I posted numerous links proving you wrong.

            Once again you’re being called out on what you accuse others of.

            You’re just a hypocrite. You’ve never backed up anything you’ve posted with a link to a fact. You can barely spell science , technology or fact.

            Your last rant was also rascist, ageist and misogynistic but then thats par for the course. As Bill and Ted both noticed you don’t debate or argue you just insult. Still thats socialism for you cliche, myth and insult

          • Ted Monbiot
            Posted August 8, 2014 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

            I think you have just proved my earlier point with these two posts of yours Bazman

          • Bazman
            Posted August 9, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink

            You have posted links by agencies who are always looking for names this was pointed out to you also the jobs requires specific skills which is the problem for many people and companies of which many are having to close due to alack of skilled persons. Your ideas that the potential employees should pay for their training in order to get these jobs proves what nonsense this is. There is a shortage of reasonable paying work within a commutable distance. Minimum wage zero hours contract are not enough to live on an this is shown by The housing benefit bill for people in work is set to top 12 billion. The taxpayer is funding poverty wages the taxpayer also being the working poor.
            Two links about shale gas in America in particular from a right wing source is not the full picture by any means. Europe has a different geological and population for this and in America there are many contraventions and problems with this and shale oil.
            As for racist against and misogynistic. Sorry to offend the oppressed minority of white middle aged and often middle class men. They need all the help they can get.
            The most obvious and my main point is where is liflogics post on this.
            Right wing simplistic nonsense still stand unfortunately. Not an insult but fact.

          • libertarian
            Posted August 11, 2014 at 10:15 am | Permalink


            Oh yet more made up drivel on jobs. Continue to live in cloud cuckoo land. Nowhere have I advocated people paying for their own training. There are 100,000’s of good paid full time jobs as witnessed by yet ANOTHER fall in unemployment and now 32 million in work.

            I’ve provide multiple links to official data sites proving conclusively that your daft opinions on wage levels, zero hour contracts aren’t born out by the facts. But hey you continue in your fantasy world.

            Jackanory politics Bazman

          • Bazman
            Posted August 11, 2014 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

            The links you provided were for agencies on fishing expeditions. They phone me an text me all the time with mythical work.
            Where are your 100’s of thousand of good paying jobs? As I said almost all need specific skills in specific geographical areas and if you do not live there or near enough, cannot get the job even if you have the skills. This is the problem across the country. Companies at one time paid living allowances for this. now most do not further increasing the problem.
            Is everyone just bone idle except East Europeans?

        • Bazman
          Posted August 9, 2014 at 10:51 am | Permalink

          This is my point you do not want to debate as this would involve facts and not links to right wing biased sites.

          • Ted Monbiot
            Posted August 9, 2014 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

            My point is, when you stop being personally insulting and abusive to others then holding a proper debate with you would be possible.

          • libertarian
            Posted August 9, 2014 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

            Bazboy I’ve never linked you ever to a right wing site or indeed a site of ANY political opinion. All my links have been to wiki entries or factual data provided by authoritative organisations that are independent. You’ve never provided a link to anything. Do you not know how to do links or are you just scared that your cliched, myth based drivel will be uncovered at source. I think you’re frightened

          • Bazman
            Posted August 10, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

            This is not a battle of the links site and if you are unable to tell which sites are right wing then there is no helping you. Wiki is a basic site like an encyclopaedia an if you look links to many other sources saying different views to the one given. If you learn to use the net and the tabs in your browser you might even educate yourself, but I doubt it as your views are set to right wing nonsense by default. Was Humpty Dumpy fat?

          • libertarian
            Posted August 11, 2014 at 10:19 am | Permalink


            1) YOU bully others about providing evidence while providing none yourself

            2) I provide links to independent sites confirming my sources of data used

            3) I reference Wiki for general background for you so that you can learn about things of which you have no knowledge but lots of opinions

            4) And for about the 400th time my politics are neither Tory or right wing so you childish insults have no effect

    • Richard1
      Posted August 8, 2014 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      We should certainly avoid any direct intervention. The one thing we must use this crisis for is to face down green-left opposition to shale gas, our one hope of energy self sufficiency.

      Probably the best bet in terms of the IS is to hope (and perhaps assist) the Kurds to defeat it. Its clear from the news coming out of the IS that its at least as bad as say Nazi Germany.

      It is indeed remarkable that Owen Paterson was sacked from the govt whereas the resignation of Baroness Warsi is seen by the Conservative leadership as something to be regretted! Clearly ability effectiveness and achievement are not criteria for ministerial office at the moment.

  2. Mark B
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    John Redwood MP said;
    “The borders of Syria and Iraq did not reflect the patterns of tribal and religious allegiance . . . “

    For me, this sentence hits the nail squarely on the head. Not only that, bit you could make the same argument not only throughout the Middle East, but Africa, Europe and indeed even the UK.

    As we remember events 100 years ago, one thing that is coming through all the ‘noise’, is the wasted opportunities to settle matters, that even today, that still haunt us.

    For example: We still are no closer to settling our own tribal / religious dispute in Northern Ireland.

    To me, many of the problems stem from the narrow perceptions of a minority as to what ‘they’ think is best for the majority, without ever thinking or feeling the need to consult them. No one ever asked the Arab, African and Persian peoples what ‘they’ wanted. And the same mistake is being made here at home.

    Another consequence is the failure is in the EU and the Ukraine. We also saw it in the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Failure to get a demos (consent from the people) for such things always leads to disputes, rivalries, accusations and, eventually bloody conflict. But to the aforementioned, especially the EU, such notions are deemed ‘populist’.

    Like Sykes-Picot, they are laying the seeds of future strife.

    We maybe looking back over 100 years history, but we do not seem to be heeding to the lessons, such is the hubris of great power and authority the mighty have over the majority.

    • acorn
      Posted August 8, 2014 at 6:49 am | Permalink

      There is a brilliant set of maps at . They illustrate JR’s text perfectly.

      Reply Yes, very interesting

      • APL
        Posted August 8, 2014 at 7:25 am | Permalink

        Map 5 “of the world at the Caliphate’s height”

        Is simply the expansionist Islamic empire filling the void of the collapsing Roman sphere of influence.

        By the way, to all those ‘progressives’ that claim the West is wrong and that we should dismantle the institutions, customs and practices that have evolved to support it, just reflect that you are not guaranteed to be replaced by something of a similar civilised bent. Just look at ISIS.,

      • Mark B
        Posted August 8, 2014 at 8:04 am | Permalink

        Yes, very good. I have bookmarked it and will look at it later today. Thank you for sharing.

      • lojolondon
        Posted August 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

        Very good – map 8 is most topical and video 9 gives the best background IMHO.

        • stred
          Posted August 10, 2014 at 10:44 am | Permalink

          The link at the bottom. How Valdimir Putin sees Europe is also well worth a look. Especially if feeling depressed about the situation.

      • forthurst
        Posted August 8, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        A map that might add to understanding shows the adminstrative provinces of the Ottoman Empire, with which Mr Sykes and M Picot obviously did not avail themselves.

    • stred
      Posted August 8, 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      You saved me making this observation. Just when the Middle East is dissolving into conflict with new states threatening Europe and causing horrific suffering of minorities, the EU/US decides to make a land grab and upset the Russians by NATO expansion. Up to then we seemed to be be coming around to their view that the status quo was preferable to what we now have.

      Russia has never said it wishes to incorporate Eastern Ukraine but that that Kiev should negotiate and allow a regional government. But the new president would not have it and tried to crush resistance using heavy weapons and air attack on civilian areas. We now have another civil war which was avoidable, just when we need to have a common approach to help the non- fanatics in the Middle East. But we can’t accept the separation of states because their referenda were not carried out by legal norms.

      And what have we got out of it? The vice president’s son on the board of Ukraine’s gas company and the possibility of buying de-nationalised agricultural land. Ukraine’s economy is half wrecked and they will need bail outs, paid for by us. And now our farmers have lost an important market and our airlines have to fly longer distances to the Far East and Australia.
      And thousands are dead or in refugee camps in Europe. As Mrs Newland said – **** the EU. Job done.

      Wasn’t the disaster in the Middle East enough after interfering in Libya, Syria, Egypt and Iraq. Try having a referendum there.

      • stred
        Posted August 8, 2014 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        And now the NATO head is telling Russia to pull back from the brink, because it has Russian troops on its own soil.

        • zorro
          Posted August 8, 2014 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

          Hilarious – at least it’s all in plain sight now, so even the dimmest can see the real agenda….


  3. alan jutson,
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    As you say John, worrying times.

    Should we get involved ?

    With our small overstretched armed services, absolutely not, unless it starts to spread very much nearer to home and affects us directly.

    Should we be taking in refugees from all of these states. No, not because we lack compassion, but it is they who have to resolve these issues with their country’s problems, we have spilt enough blood of our own people over the decades.

    Can we help at all. Only by taking a sensible line, and by attempting to help negotiation.

    Once again it shows there is no substitute for attempting to be self sufficient in both energy, food, and water production.
    The more who reside here, the more difficult that is, simples.

    Selling off major utilities to private companies based abroad is simply daft.
    Scrapping our own energy production facilities here at home, to purchase from abroad is daft.
    Pushing water storage into the long grass is daft.
    Leaving fields which could produce food in favour of set aside for use by the birds and nature reserves is daft.

    Will we change ?

    I doubt it, those in power cannot see the wood for the trees.

    • alan jutson,
      Posted August 8, 2014 at 6:40 am | Permalink

      Almost forgot.

      Allowing hundreds of thousands more to come and reside here every year, also just adds to our problems in taking corrective action to all of the points mentioned above.

      • Mike Stallard
        Posted August 8, 2014 at 8:22 am | Permalink

        If only the Green Lobby in the EU and over here too would allow us to get on with fracking in UK, the Middle East would go back to being what is was when Messrs Sykes and Picot were alive.

        • Bazman
          Posted August 8, 2014 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

          Any evidence of this great viability Mike? Most would be sold abroad anyway even if this were true. Interesting that one of the main fracking bosses in the USA has stopped any fracking near his land. Yeah right.

          • libertarian
            Posted August 8, 2014 at 9:43 pm | Permalink


            Yup here some reports for you on the success of shale gas and fracking . Oh and one of the reasons that nuclear is no longer as financially viable as it once was is because the price of gas has reduced significantly due to fracking.



            Those two things above are called links Bazman, they lead to sources of articles about the issues you’ve raised and provide some data on the topic under discussion. Try providing some for anything you post

          • Ted Monbiot
            Posted August 8, 2014 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

            Still reduced gas prices in the usa by half and set the usa to meet their Kyoto targets, (had they bothered to sign up) and set the usa to be self sufficient for energy in a few years.
            But other than that its had no positive effects as you say Bazman.

          • Mark
            Posted August 9, 2014 at 10:17 am | Permalink

            JR: You have allowed links to Dr James Verdon’s site which is by far the best informed on issues (and debunking falsehoods) concerning fracking in the past. It is important that half truths and lies are properly countered when this technology is so vital to our energy future.

      • Bob
        Posted August 8, 2014 at 9:04 am | Permalink

        Reported in the Guardian

        “A black flag with white Arabic writing, similar to those flown by jihadist groups, was flying at the entrance of an east London housing state near Canary Wharf.

        In a highly provocative gesture, the emblem was planted on top of the gates of the Will Crooks estate on Poplar High Street, and is surrounded by flags of Palestine and slogans……

        …. When the estate was approached last night, a group of about 20 Asian youths swore at Guardian journalists and told them to leave the area immediately. One youth threatened to smash a camera.”

      • Anonymous
        Posted August 8, 2014 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

        Alan – we have imported all of the world’s conflicts.

        Those of us who predict that we will see civil war in Britain once more – in the form of tit-for-tat terrorism and extreme gang violence – are not exaggerating.

    • APL
      Posted August 8, 2014 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      alan jutson: “Should we get involved ?”

      A little too late to ask that question, Alan.

      • alan jutson,
        Posted August 9, 2014 at 7:18 am | Permalink


        “a little too late”

        Yes I guess it is given our past involvement.

        So perhaps I should have said, again or further.

        Recent reports look like we are being sucked in once again.

  4. The PrangWizard
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Historic mistakes there may well have been which need putting right but they do not justify the terror that is being perpetrated by ISIS leaders and followers in the name of their religion and politics – theirs is not a ‘religion of peace’. This is a time to condemn and blame those responsible for religious murder and genocide. They are more than ‘militants’ as the BBC calls them.

    Because our governments have depleted our armed forces and claimed credit for it, we as the UK no longer have any muscle to intervene with any kind of force as we had in the 1930’s so we must leave that to the US, and I see President Obama has spoken today about what is happening to Christians and the Yazidis. It remains to be seen if he does enough, it is going to need firm and determined action. Will those who have condemned Israel for the use of ‘disproportionate force’ in Gaza use the same argument against the US, maybe it is fearful of such criticism – we shall see. Maybe they should use it against ISIS. But in the meantime men are being brutally murdered and women taken as sex slaves and the rest driven out in their thousands simply because of their faiths. The remaining men women and children desperately take refuge on a rocky mountain with no food and water. Children and the old are dying first. The rest will follow. Those who rush to condemn Israel for acting against people who wish to kill all Jews should reflect. The followers of the same ideology in the IS state wish kill all Christians, indeed they will kill anyone and everyone who does not follow convert and give in to them. Do they wish to allow this slaughter, perhaps their ideology can excuse it. It is time the Western liberal Elites threw off their blindfolds are realised what their perverse values have allowed to take hold. And we’ve just seen the remnants of Pol Pot’s regime sentenced. We should start to make comparisons, and put an end to it, but will the Left allow it?

    If ISIS is now a state, how is it being administered? Is the West taking steps to ensure it and its criminal friends have no access to any world systems? The US and the EU sanction Russia for next to nothing compared to this, but where are the voices, where are the calls for action? Where are the calls for action against real war criminals? Are all our leaders and opinion formers, in the media for example, and the rest who lecture us and condemn us for defending our values hypocrites and moral cowards?

  5. APL
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    “Are the states created by the 1st World War in the Middle East now collapsing?”

    Oh, look there is another Arab state collapsing. How did that happen?

    Iraq was destroyed by the West in a belated fit of vengeance*.
    Libya was destroyed by the West in a fit of petulant vengeance.
    The Western Political elite wanted to destroy Syria, too but democracy got in the way.

    The middle east just collapsed, nothing to do with us ( The western political elite). [innocent face].

    *When will Blair be indicted for his crimes?

  6. DBC Reed
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Since Cameron decided to help the trapped Libyan rebels in Benghazi and then widened the rescue into a regime change operation, there is a precedent for going in to rescue beleaguered minorities: not a very good precedent what with Libya descending into chaos with the oil refineries on fire while Cameron looks the other way.
    Although a leftie , I would support what I would consider the cynical conservative policy of keeping military hardmen in place in the middle east: to keep a lid on the violent mutually anatgonstic populus, now inflamed by some kind of religious revival. Saddam Hussein had people who prayed to much arrested.Getting rid of him looks like a mistake.
    Mr Redwood’s historical sketch misses a key clumsy intervention: by the ever stupid up-himself Churchill who with Jackie Fisher transformed the Royal Navy practically overnight into oil-firing without thought where the oil would come from. The transformation of the Anglo Persian oil company into a British State entity upped the ante and got us roped into continual police duties in the Middle East. As the new oil-fired ships which went through several design changes before 1914 played virtually no part in WW1 this is one of Churchill’s list of significant and wide-ranging disasters.

    • APL
      Posted August 8, 2014 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

      “As the new oil-fired ships which went through several design changes before 1914 played virtually no part in WW1 this is one of Churchill’s list of significant and wide-ranging disasters.”

      Wrong. We would have had to compete with other Navies that were more modern and used oil. Coal is bulky to load onto a ship, needs to be transported and stored around the world, and is very difficult to destroy if your strategic base is overrun by the enemy.

      Converting to oil was a sensible decision.

  7. Excalibur
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    “…I had no idea how serious it might become.” This is probably the most momentous turn of events since the Second World War, JR. It is happening with breathtaking speed and it is not overstatement to say IS is a threat to Western civilization itself. I do not believe we have either the will or the ruthlessness to deter it. But sooner or later we are going to have to act in our own defence against these barbarous killers.The idea that events will remain confined to the Middle East is fantasy.We should be planning now for events of calamitous proportions. Yesterday, the authorities would not apparently act to obtain the removal of the IS flag from a London street (see today’s Guardian). So I am not hopeful of a happy long term outcome.

  8. Martin
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    For decades US/West’s policy in the Middle East was to support to the hilt any regime that was anti USSR. So as well as Israel regimes such as Iran under the Shah and the very socially conservative Saudis were supported.

    The penny didn’t drop even after the Ayatollahs took over Iran and backing any mob who were against the USA’s enemies continues to be the policy.

    Iraq and Libya’s hard men get booted out and replaced with anarchy. Syria’s hard man had Putin to help so he is hanging on.

    The USA suffers from the strange delusion that if you get rid of a hard man such as Saddam that democracy as in Kansas is going to spring up with two parties that have (in the grand scheme of things) only slight differences.

    A failed foreign policy has lead to Hamas, ISIS and the Ayatollahs.

    Still you are we to lecture? I watched History of Britain last night about Cromwell. His goings on in Ireland and his repression of religious/political opponents elsewhere are not unlike things that are going on parts of the Middle East today, albeit with 21st century killing systems.

  9. John E
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    “Ministers have rejected calls to subsidise new gas storage facilities, insisting Britain has plentiful gas supplies and that subsidies would be an expensive waste of bill-payers’ money.”
    Daily Telegraph September 4th 2013

  10. MIke Stallard
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    I want to question the basic assumptions here.
    The American/EU idea seems to be this: have a revolution and overthrow the dictator (regardless of how loyal a friend he has been to us). Introduce a practicing democracy with elections and a parliament. Bingo! You have a wonderful new ally who appreciates what we have done for the world.
    Islam is a desert religion which depends on personal discipline, appreciation of a society which worships in the same correct way and which is ruthless in condemning and punishing sin of all kinds. It is a society which is made up of religious warriors under a Commander. Honourable, hospitable, knightly even.

    Result: dictator overthrown – revolution – chaos – new Commander put in.
    Boundaries? M. Picot is long dead…

    Mr Obama, by going round preaching the American Revolution, has merely replaced a Western orientated lot of Dictators (even Mr Assad worked in London) with a lot of religious and fanatic dictators. And a lot of children lost their mothers too.

  11. Ale Bro
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    I have a lot of sympathy for the idea of creating an independent Kurdistan. Since the Iraq war, the Kurds have demonstrated that they are able to run an effective state without the strife that has visited other regions of Iraq. Clearly, this would not be popular with the existing states, but if people have an inherent right of self-determination it is hard to deny Kurds this opportunity.

  12. oldtimer
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    The emerging Caliphate is a serious threat for three reasons. First it promotes a powerful idea with wide appeal across current borders in the Middle East and elsewhere where there are Islamic communities (such as the UK). Secondly it has, apparently, managed to arm itself with significant quantities of modern weapons abandoned by the Iraqi army. Thirdly it has, apparently, acquired substantial assets, including cash and oil, to lubricate its ambitions. Arguably the power of the idea is capable of toppling existing regimes in the Middle East. Depending on their reaction to this threat, we could see some new, unexpected alliances forming in the coming years.

    For the UK two things matter. The first is to attempt to understand and not underestimate the threat so that appropriate political and diplomatic responses are developed. The second is to accelerate the developments of the UK`s own energy resources as a hedge against disruption in the Middle East. The idea that any UK military involvement would make a difference is fanciful.

    • acorn
      Posted August 9, 2014 at 7:43 am | Permalink

      According to the Washington Times, Over the past decade, the Pentagon has provided, what the report describes as, more than 747,000 weapons and auxiliary equipment to the Afghan National Security Forces at a cost of $626 million. Small arms, such as rifles, pistols, machine guns, grenade launchers and shotguns, account for the majority of those weapons. 43% of those weapons are missing and can’t be otherwise accounted for.

  13. Antisthenes
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    As Iraq demonstrates getting rid of unpleasant dictators does not good consequences make. Western interference in the Middle East and North Africa has lead to the Arab spring and civil wars and in only a few rare instances has this improved the lot of inhabitants of those regions. And the question has to be asked has it in anyway been of any benefit to us in the West. In the short term undoubtedly yes as while there is serious conflict in those places it must divert terrorists from our shores. In the long term however I suspect replacing Saddam, attempting to displace Assad and supporting the Arab spring is going to eventually put in place regimes even more hostile to the West than they are now and Iran will just be one of many hostile states.

    History appears to be on the point of repeating itself yet once again. During the time of the crusades initially they were successful and only because the region was in disarray. Once unity had been restored the crusaders were kicked out of the region and arguably the cause of the enmity that we experience today between Christian West and Islamic East began. Perhaps that enmity would not have grown to the proportions that it has done if we had not foisted on them the borders that we did or a nation that in their eyes stole a large chunk of their land and displaced so many.

    Two wrongs do not make a right so now we are stuck with having to fight against terrorism home and abroad and defending Israel’s right to exist. It does not matter that it was our incompetence in the first place that caused the terrible problems in that region because for our own security sake we have no choice.

  14. Bill
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    A great post!

    I am sure you are right in your analysis. As I understand it Henry Kissinger, who knew of the chaos in post-war Europe first-hand, would always prioritise support for order rather than anarchy and for this reason US policy over the years accepted some unpleasant dictators in Africa and elsewhere. Better stability under a dictator than uncertainty – that was his view.

    My understanding of Assad is that he would be the lesser of two evils in Syria because what began as a liberal revolt against him has been hi-jacked by hard-liners.

    If the Caliphate is restored that must be bad news for all non-Islamic groups in the region because the Caliphate supports a doctrine that is the exact opposite of multiculturalism or religious diversity. What can be done about this? One suspects that only the USA and Russia acting together could make much difference to the current trajectory of events. And how likely is that Obama and Putin will see eye to eye on anything?

  15. Denis Cooper
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    “It is difficult to see how the west can make things better.”

    I don’t think a policy of pandering to Islam is much help.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted August 8, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      Like allowing this to happen:

      “The black flag of ISIS is flying in London”

      “At the entrance to a council estate near Canary Wharf, amid the banners of the hilariously misnamed ‘Stop the War coalition’ (‘End the Siege on Gaza’) the Black flag of Jihad is flying. Yes, that’s right, at a major council estate in the East End of London the black flag of ISIS is flying.”

    • Mark B
      Posted August 8, 2014 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      No, but it helps pay the bills and make an awful lot people in the city very rich.

      Or am I be typically cynical ?

  16. ian wragg
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    I think we all now realise that the Middle East and Islamic countries cannot live in a democracy. Adherence to the Koran means the State comes a poor second to the written word.
    As someone who lived and worked in the Middle East for 20 plus years, I find our politicians very naïve when they talk of moderate Muslims.
    If push became shove then the Koran rules. They like the Irish Catholics believe they will out breed us to gain supremacy eventually and it is in their DNA to infiltrate Western society to eventually take over. You think I’m joking……….

  17. Larry Bennett
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    The case for further military intervention as the middle east reasserts itself, politically, would draw very little support from a public disillusioned with past interventions by western governments. The perpetration of genocide by organisations like ISIS, and threatened by Hamas from Gaza, is a very different matter and requires urgent attention and decision.

  18. English Pensioner
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    For some reason, politicians and civil servants seem to prefer huge countries whilst most individuals would prefer small countries.
    Hence the huge states that followed the Sykes-Picot deal, where lines were simply drawn on a map regardless of religious, ethnic or tribal territories.
    I will probably be considered racist in my views, but the fact is that I’ve never met anyone who would not, if he had a totally free choice, prefer to live amongst his own kind rather than people of another race or religion. But this was not understood by those who split up the territory and loftily believed that everyone should get on together.
    This attitude has been the cause of numerous wars in the past and will no doubt be so in the future; Libya was, for example, two separate countries prior to WW2, split along tribal lines. The on-going conflict there is surely testament to this failed policy of merging small countries into single large states.
    To me, the only solution is to split up Iraq into a number of smaller states along religious/ethnic lines, so that each group can govern themselves and not be a minority in a larger state. But no doubt our politicians & diplomats will continue to press for huge unified states against the wishes of most of the population and conflict will continue for the years to come.
    The same argument can be applied to the EU, where people prefer to have their own government, and even within the individual countries where the Scots and Basques would like independence

    • stred
      Posted August 9, 2014 at 6:13 am | Permalink

      Exactly. If we backed the Kurds, they would put a limit on the expansion of the savagery. And why not a regional separate state for eastern Ukraine. In WW2 the Ukranians were fighting on both sides and their NAZIs were worse than the Germans. Not to say the Russian military were exactly ethical when moving west.

  19. Bert Young
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Turmoil in the Middle East is beyond the capability of outside intervention . Whether Obama bombs or nor , whether troops are on the ground will always leave the problem of tribal warfare afterwards ; outside intervention simply switches and prolongs the hatred and forms of response elsewhere . It is a very sad situation to witness the cruelty of the tribal factions in the Middle East and the extent to which it has already spread , but whatever the feelings we have , we cannot provide the solution , only those born and bred there can through their own resolve . Our need and interest in the oil from this region does not mean the West should supply it with arms and the means for destruction ; those countries capable of these supplies should be made to cease them immediately . We had no right to split up and divide the Middle East 100 years ago and we have no right to interfere now . History has shown how futile it was for the Crusaders – can we never learn ?.

  20. John Hardman
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    It is a pity we cannot have a common line with Russia on this. Whatever we do has to be sustainable in the long term.The USA caused this mess by having no long term plan for Iraq. The USA had better fix it.

  21. zorro
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Interesting to see that the US qualified that statement about using military action by saying that they would do so if it was in their national interest bearing in mind recent history. Rather touching when talking about a country thousands of miles away…. But let’s face it, if it was in the US’s interest to do anything about ISIS, they would have been ‘in like Flynn’…… which might then suggest that they do not consider it to be in their interest to do anything about ISIS but are playing to the gallery…. You would think that they would want to get some of that money and arms back which might have been diverted from Syria or ‘stolen’ from the Iraqis…..


  22. Tad Davison
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Well put John.

    Can anyone else see the perfect storm that is World War Three, looming on the horizon?

    Boy has the West made some crazy myopic foreign policy decisions in the past! And these pigeons now seem to be coming home to roost in a flock rather than singly.

    So let us suppose the middle-east goes up in flames yet again. Obama is more of an isolationist (although that is a relative term) than his predecessors, and last night he indicated he doesn’t want to re-commit US troops to the region. So oil and gas supplies to the west could be restricted or stopped altogether. The US won’t bother too much about that because they are now largely self-sufficient, but it could be catastrophic for Europe.

    The extraction of our own natural resources face vehement opposition from environmentalists. It seems to me not to be a very good time to make enemies with a country that has those much-needed resources in abundance, but alas, that is what all the anti-Russian rhetoric is geared towards.

    David Cameron should have made you Foreign Secretary John. I did try, not that my own words carry a lot of weight. I just hope for all our sakes that Mr Hammond is up to the job, because given what has already been said and done on our so-called behalf by previous governments, this is not an easy situation from which we might extricate ourselves.

    Tad Davison


  23. majorfrustration
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    To paraphrase from a 1914 report by T.E.Lawrence – “to establish a homeland for the Jews will require the sword – and to maintain it will require the sword. And so it goes on. Perhaps we should just leave this region to sort out its problems. Having caused the problems in the first place I hardly think Western politicians have the skills to resolve it – after all democracy has never been a strength of the Arabs – its only Westerners that think its important when it effects them.

  24. ian
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Politics, politician, whitehall, arm forces and the elite are all taking the piss, you should not being paying any tax. They make you pay tax to in salve you and then give you the for god queen and country BS and willy nilly signing agreements behind your backs for you to pay for and worry about. They sign so many in the first world war second world war and still signing them today all for you to pay for It alright for them they can afford them and can get around the tax”s. Wet&mad off to a meeting soon in nov 2014 to sign you up for bank bail-in at your banks and you can forget the 80.000 pound limit that just buys you worthless shares in a broke bank. If still going to the polling stations after that then they have got you right 100% thick. They are just walking all over you and do what like with your tax”s as you can see.

  25. BobE
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I think we should evacuate, by sea, any of the people that want to leave. Im unsure where to take them though, perhaps Iran. But we will have to allow the middle east to find its own way, however dramatic. Just as we ourselves did with the barons and kings, was that 16th century?.
    — On the other fear…
    If we go to war with Russia over Ukraine should we wait until spring because he will cut off the Gas. Oh, and lets quickly rebiuld didcot power station so that we have a reserve coal fired power source.

  26. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    We need to intervene in any humanitarian effort to help the children and women This is not tantamount to strikes. We need to look at oil reserves/ wells and help the people around these areas , where the serious aggression and capture of territory is obvious. The USA have similar thoughts.

  27. ian
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Moody”s down grade UK banking sector to negative

  28. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Blair was appointed Middle East Envoy, working on behalf of the US, Russia, the UN and the EU, seven years ago. Since then the situation has deteriorated with increasing violence across virtually the whole of that region. Why was he ever appointed? What does he do? When will he be removed?

  29. lojolondon
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Along similar lines –

    After blindly doing the US’ bidding over all propaganda matters Ukraine-related, and following just as blindly into round after round of US-inspired sanctions, sanctions to whose retaliation Europe would be on the frontline unlike the largely insulated US, Europe appears to be absolutely shocked and is apoplectic that after several rounds of sanction escalations, Russia finally unleashed its own round of sanctions and yesterday announced a 1 year ban on all European food imports, something which will further push Europe into a triple-dip recession as already hinted by Italy yesterday.

    In fact, Europe is so stunned by this unexpected “politically-motivated” retaliation by Russia, it issued a press release.

    Statement by Commission spokesman on the announcement of measures by the Russian Federation
    The European Union regrets the announcement by the Russian Federation of measures which will target imports of food and agricultural products. This announcement is clearly politically motivated. The Commission will assess the measures in question as soon as we have more information as to their full content and extent. We underline that the European Union’s restrictive measures are directly linked with the illegal annexation of Crimea and destabilisation of Ukraine. The European Union remains committed to de-escalating the situation in Ukraine. All should join in this effort. Following full assessment by the Commission of the Russian Federation’s measures, we reserve the right to take action as appropriate.

  30. ian
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Immigration driving UK house prices, forecast for 2018 average price 270,000 UK population growth by 2030 71.000.000. Hows that for government policy. So while your happy buying more cars and shopping on your credit cards on the back of your house prices going up, they will be signing away what ever they want like last time cos your be there to pick up the bill like last time so you only got your selves to blame.Your so easy lead they rely on your greed. Future no water no any thing and all the rest. hospital waiting times 3 years. That is a extra 8 million people with english people leaving at the same time.They have rename it the land of the foreigners. Happy voting.

  31. forthurst
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Czar Nicholas had already resigned in response to the February Revolution; it was the Bolsheviks who seized power in a coup in October, that murdered him and his family as they went onto murder millions more.

    What we are seeing in both the Middle East and in Ukraine is the dismal consequences of Neoconservatism and the Brzezinski doctrine; a world ‘safe’ for Israel and Poland may be purchased at too high a price for the rest of us, quite apart from the millions more that have to die to achieve it; it is time for Western leaders to start acting pragmatically in their own countries interests, which means the employment of mentally stable and patriotic advisors and the promotion of peace and trade.

  32. Anonymous
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Removing Sadam and Gaddafi were disasterous mistakes.

  33. APL
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Are our Western Politicians the most blood soaked wicked people in history?

    The lot of you in Westminster disgust me. Believe me that takes some doing.

  34. zorro
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Here is your ‘devout’ ISIS member along with the mysterious ‘Al Baghdadi’….sound familiar like the supposedly devout 9/11 attackers who were trained to fly on US air force bases and liked consorting with all sorts of characters….? They don’t sound like devout Muslims I know, they sound like something else to me….


  35. Stephen Berry
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Wars and revolutions, though often enthusiastically supported by a section of a population, rarely deliver the goods. Conservatives have traditionally and correctly been suspicious of revolutions.

    The ‘Arab Spring’, in line with past revolutions, is developing a wintry hue. Far from leading Arab countries towards Western secular democracy, it is causing economic breakdown, a major Sunni-Shia split and, as John suggests, the destruction of states formed a hundred years ago. Civilians and minority religious groups have to run for the hills.

    What should the West and the UK do about this? Some think it has done quite enough already. From the toppling of despots who were holding their countries together, to the wild cheers which first greeted the Arab Spring, we can now see that the liberal interventionist foreign policy so beloved by the Blairs and Camerons of this world has been a total failure. Western interests in the Middle East are in a far more parlous state then they were 10 years ago. I don’t think that this country should have chosen a side in the Syrian civil war, but a good case could be made that it has chosen completely the wrong one.

    If the French and Russian revolutions are anything to go by, we are in the midst of a process which will see the rise of new rulers who will finally bring order to the Middle East. These are the people with whom Western countries will have to deal in the long run. It’s time to finally take a back seat in the Middle East and let the cards fall how they will. After all, do we really want to get bogged down in both Mesopotamia and the Ukraine?

  36. Max Dunbar
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    You say with regard to the Caliphate that ‘I had no idea how serious it might become’.

    You may soon be uttering the same words about your own country before long unless drastic action is taken very soon to reassert the primacy of the native population, what’s left of it in places like London that is, and the rule of law.
    The current thought crime legislation which has been used mainly to suppress and intimidate anyone who questions the tenets of multiculturalism and to imprison those who are more vociferous, has led to loathing and contempt rather than respect and acceptance of the law by some people. And the police, now heavily politicised and used as agents for social change, have also lost the trust and co-operation of much of the public.
    Let’s concern ourselves with our own country before worrying about the plight of the people in the Middle East. The enemy is here and getting stronger very quickly.

  37. Mark
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    What is to be done?

    Firstly, humanity demands that we should use our capability to provide aid to the oppressed fugitive populations of Christians and Yazidis – the sort of project that that widespread public sympathy, rather than the dahs to spend money mindlessly to fulfill the 0.7% pledge.

    Secondly, we need to consider what we should do to ensure our safety and liberty at home. We should not forget that we have already seen a similar atrocity on a small scale that acts as a warning against those who say such things cannot happen here: the murder of Private Lee Rigby. We need to take steps to exclude jihadists and their cheerleaders – stripping them of UK nationality if they have it. We need to try to ensure that violence is not echoed onto our own streets as the consequence of our foolish immigration policy and historic foreign policy mistakes. I have been encouraged to see Mohammed Amin, the new Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum openly criticise both Hamas and the desecration by ISIS: he sets a brave example that one wishes Warsi would have followed.

    Thirdly, while we clearly do not have the military resources to intervene (nor can we afford it), we need an urgent diplomatic re-appraisal of foreign policy. We need to dissuade the funders of ISIS and Hamas. Qatar’s al Thani is an Old Harrovian and Sandhurst graduate. King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia is now 90: the next succession may not be so easy without turmoil, and he is said to have less than six months to live. It is possible that once again Iran may be persuaded to be a foil for an ambitious tyrant in Iraq. Both the Chinese and Russians have had to deal with violent Islamic extremists in their own territories. Turkey is the NATO country on the border of the conflict – yet it seems to allow some permeability for rebels, and is moving away from being a secular state. Would an attack on Turkey by ISIS provoke a NATO response? To ask that question shows how close to home the issue is becoming. Of course, Incirlik is a key location – as is Ceyhan, at the terminus of the BTC pipeline from Baku, Azerbaijan (and on to Kazakhstan) and the Kirkuk line from Iraq, in the very Northeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea. This merely scratches the surface of the issues for the more immediate future.

    Longer term plans for containment, and for better military preparedness also need to be developed.

    • stred
      Posted August 9, 2014 at 6:50 am | Permalink

      At least the West and Russia still have control of the air and is capable of obliterating any threat if it chose to.

    • oldtimer
      Posted August 9, 2014 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      You make compelling points, especially with respect to Turkey and the vulnerability of the pipelines not already closed. And as you point out, many states have reasons to contest extreme Islamic fundamentalism.

  38. Alan Wheatley
    Posted August 9, 2014 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    It is an easy call to be against “an unpleasant dictator”. It is also simplistic and unrealistic.

    A more reasoned and balanced call is to contrast the current “unpleasantness” with that which would replace it. A more difficult call because it needs a sound understanding of all the issues and the wisdom to predict the future, a call which in my judgement with regard to Syria Russia got right and the west got wrong.

    And it is not as if we did not have the benefit of previous, worked example from which to learn; the Shah in Iran.

  39. Terry
    Posted August 9, 2014 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I have no idea of the practicalities but why haven’t the UN Doctors moved their field hospitals further west towards the Egyptian border and away from the fighting? Likewise, all of the Palestinian refugees. Why do they remain in the firing line?

    Are Hamas forcing the innocents to stay and be sacrificed for the sake of good PR? It’s about time the world’s media realised just who the bad guys really are, down there. In fact, not just in Gaza but the whole of the Middle East inferno.

  40. Robert Taggart
    Posted August 9, 2014 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Only the indigenous people of any part of the world should draw lines on the map in their area.
    Sykes-Picot be a continuing sore from another age and alien people.
    The only question has to be – can it ever be done painlessly ? – time for the United Nations with help from the Arab League to step up to mark and put their reputations on the ‘lines’ !

  41. Kenneth R Moore
    Posted August 10, 2014 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Conclusive proof we are led by those that have no sense of history or common sense, blinded by a naive and simplistic political correct view of the world.

    IS are using American supplied guns and vehicles – extreme violence sponsored by us…who would have thought that sending in millions of dollars of state of the art military equipment into one of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world would end badly.

    Some of us saw this coming…ofcourse the Tony Blair tribute act most probably did no – t he wanted to arm the Syrian ‘rebels’. Mr Cameron is paid 100 grand a year to make these sorts of judgements and made a complete mess of it. How can anyone consider voting Conservative when they are endorsing a man who would potentially put lives in danger for want of an ounce of sense and judgement ?.

    How can such an unwise head be allowed anywhere near the levers of power ???.
    Perhaps if the Conservatives discovered a backbone and booted Cameron out a leader could have helped shape events in Iraq better.

  42. APL
    Posted August 10, 2014 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    It has been put forward in the press, that some so called ‘radicalised (men ed)’ have been travelling to Iraq and Syria in support of ISIS.

    Given that we have the ‘war crimes’ legislation on the statute book, what assurance can you give that if or when these people return to the UK, they will be apprehended and prosecuted for any of a number of likely crimes that have been committed for example, genocide of the Yezidi, persecution of Christian minorities?

    Reply If there is evidence they have committed crimes and they are allowed back in then of course there should be proceedings.

  43. Kenneth R Moore
    Posted August 10, 2014 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    America is now using air strikes to destroy the very same weapons that it supplied to the Iraqi defence force. The short sightedness and naivety of these people astonishes me.

  44. Eddie Hill
    Posted August 14, 2014 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Whilst the history lesson was interesting, all of that happened 100 years ago. Surely they can’t still be blaming us for it, as others do with the slave trade and the colonial era? At what point does it become their responsibility to sort out their own problems?

    Yes, maybe the borders that the West artificially created did not delineate Shia from Sunni, or Kurd from Muslim, but given the seemingly inexhaustible appetite these people have for killing each other over their religious differences, surely the whereabouts of arbitrary national borders is irrelevant?

    This happened in Yugoslavia too, and they had a civil war, but they didn’t actually have to fight each other; they could try solving their problems in other ways, as could the Israelis and Palestinians. They do have choices in the matter!

    The sad fact is that these people are trapped in a mediaeval time warp and until their civilisations match those of the West, we should close the borders and leave them to it. By continually claiming we have a “moral responsibility” and continually getting involved in saving them from themselves, all we do is create more anomalies and increase the problems we’re then expected to resolve.

    As you suggest, we need either energy self-sufficiency or secure energy supplies, because the $billions flowing into the Gulf States are just fuelling Islamic strife and fundamentalism. The West can really do without either. I have personally had enough, and I’m sure everyone else has.

    I was amused to hear a political pundit say on the news last night that it’s a disgrace that our MPs are slapping on the sun-tan lotion while people are being killed in the Middle East. People are always being killed in the Middle East – why is it always our responsibility to stop it?

    Reply I set out some of the historical background because people fighting in Iraq do think it is relevant. IS forces have made clear they wish to overthrow Sykes-Picot and have said so expressly. I agree with you that the current borders have been endorsed by successive generations of Middle Eastern governments and peoples. If they wish to change them they are free to do so, but it would be best to do so peacefully and democratically.

  • About John Redwood

    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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