Who are the West’s enemies in the Middle East?

I have read enough to know how little I understand about the complex theological and political struggles within Islam, and about the large number of differing terrorist groups operating in the wider Middle East. I do not speak or read Arabic and have not read enough  of the literature or history of these  very different countries. I have read enough to be suspicious of simple solutions seeking to elevate just one group into a position of being the only or main problem. I wish in this blog to pose some questions to those who do know more, and to those who seek to frame our strategy towards the region.

Time was when the enemy of the West was the Taliban. Today they have been brought into Afghan society and  form part of the democratic dialogue. Then the enemy was Al Qaeda. They have not gone away and still exercise considerable influence in a range of countries. Now the evil one is ISIS.

Recently news came that 7 people were brutally beheaded in Afghanistan by Uzbek fighters. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has taken territory in Yemen and has a presence in Aden. Do these  present a threat to us? What should be our response?

Meanwhile Jabhat al Nusra seek to extend their influence  in Syria and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb increase their activities and smuggling profits in Libya. Does this concern us, or do we wish to co-operate with them because they are against ISIS?

Are we on the side of the Sunni or the Shia factions fighting the Syrian civil war? Or do we believe it is possible to form a Syrian democracy that can hold the peace between these two and offer decent civil rights to all?

The UK government accepts that it will need a political strategy for Syria to run alongside any bombing attacks. It seems to be seeking a new government of the whole of Syria, based on the military elimination of ISIS and the voluntary surrender of power by Assad. Does it wish to help a coalition remove Assad after the removal of ISIS? Does it believe Assad will go voluntarily? Who are the moderates and where are their forces who will fight for a vision of a united Syria under democratic rule? Who in Syria has the belief in toleration towards Christians, Sunnis and Shias and has the force to establish such a society? Will the West end up accepting the Russian view that Assad is the least bad option in an all too violent society?

By encouraging the Kurds to take action in the north of Syria we are encouraging them to gain and hold territory that they think should be part of a Kurdish state. What do we say and do if they want to extend that into Turkey against our wishes and against our Turkish ally in NATO? Who could establish a government for all of Syria who would have the Kurds confidence and persuade them to give up territorial gains they have made?

Is the West clear that it can help establish a united Syria at peace, or does the West think now there has to be partition between a Kurdish Syria, and a Sunni and a Shia one? Or does the West now accept that the days have gone when great Western powers could draw lines on a map of the Middle East to conjure states out of the rival tribes and the desert?

Either way, knowing who  our enemies are is crucial, and knowing who we might inadvertently help if we intervene on one side or another is important.

 

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80 Comments

  1. Horatio
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Middle East. . I think you have to look at Turkey. Shooting that plane down when, as US satellite imagery shows it was in Syrian airspace, not the Turkish airspace it had been in for 17 seconds, was reprehensible. Smug under the Nato umbrella and comforted by Obama’s dislike of Putin and benevolence towards ISIS, Turkey have been behaving terribly for months. Until last week when Russia and France launched 2000 sorties on ISIS oil infrastructure and lorries, Turkey had been enjoying the cheapest of oil, never mind filling the coffers of its terrorist ally against Assad.

    Turkey has additionally been bombing the kurds and refusing to allow western powers to arm them properly, despite the fact that they are the only real boots on the ground we have. I havent even got round to the issue of terrorists waltzing through Istanbul on the way to the major cities of Europe or the deliberate policy of state supported Turkish Airlines in offering ultra low cost flights from Eritrea, Ethiopia et al to Europe’s borders.

    Erdogan is an Islamist in all but name and one hates to see what else he I’ll sanction while protected by nato. I note that Turkey’s large and western funded army has made no attempt to take the fight to isis at all.

    When we tried to impose western style democracy in the middle east and deposed all the strong men, who had spent decades imprisoning and removing these Islamist nutcases, we opened a rather large, fetid can of worms. . We should give the kurds a state, as they are relentlessly bullied by turkey and are so courageous in the fight against isis. The only Christians now left in the middle east live in Israel and so protect that last surviving democracy.

    Let us stay out; let them all kill each other and let us inact proper borders and kick out all the malcontents, fifth columnists and illegals.

    • Tom William
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      It now looks as if the Russian aircraft was actually in Syria when it was hit, which is not surprising as it was only 17 seconds in Turkish airspace. While it was absurdly dangerous to fly towards Turkish airspace, and irresponsible to ignore Turkish warnings to turn away, it looks pretty obvious that the Turks were waiting for an opportunity to shoot down a Russian aircraft, even if it was obviously no threat to Turkey in any way. At 20,000 feet it is very likely that the pilot thought he was just outside Turkish airspace.

      I agree that Turkey is both a key factor and a weak link in Middle Eastern and European problems. They must NEVER be allowed into the EU.

    • stred
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      Yesterday, Presidents Obama and Hollande were together telling us that there was no place for Assad in any peace process and that the Russians had been bombing ‘moderates’ in the area where the plane was shot down. The Turks claimed it was done by their F16s and the Turkmen claimed it was by an American ground fired missile. Then they showed the Turkmen’s video in which they shot the pilots, yelled the used Al stuff and as an afterthought suggested another method of execution, al la IS. Very moderate.

      I like Turks, but yesterday really put me off their country. By the way, the Sunni versus Shia may be a bit more complicated. Assad is married to a Sunni and his army is largely Sunni. It would be a good idea to get a UN backed poll in the areas they control as soon as possible. The idea that they would welcome help from Obama, Cameron and Hollande after their record of interference on the side of chaos is laughable.

      • stred
        Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:25 am | Permalink

        ‘used’ should have been-usual.

    • Timaction
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      It is indeed a complex mix. I too heard and read the conflicting reports. Then we had “Turkmen” (hadn’t heard of them before) added to the mix. Film of them using weaponry to fire an American made rocket into a Russian rescue helicopter. Who are the good and bad guys? I’m not sure that anyone knows or has any public knowledge of who is supporting who or what or why. Having travelled to the Middle East on many occasions the assumption of the West is that local people think and act as we do. They do not. They have a culture and history very different from our own and little concept of freedom that we once took for granted. Look at our own fast disappearing culture and outlook that is evolving at a pace never witnessed before in our own history due to imposed mass migration, against the will of the indigenous population.
      As is now being pointed out, your leaders should be looking closer to home for actions against an enemy they have allowed to flourish before looking to act beyond our shores. France and Brussels have shown who are acting against them having returned from Syria. What are our Government doing about those people? Is this talk of action in Syria a means to give an impression of action whilst impotent at home?

  2. sm
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Perhaps we all must stop thinking we can literally solve such complex and interlocking problems and consider far more how they can be adequately contained?

    The West must protect itself from outside threats, whether from terrorists or Russia, and should surely learn lessons from the greatest of 19th century diplomats – Metternich and Castlereagh – in establishing a balance of powers.

  3. Bernard from Bucks
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    There are about 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Of these around 87% (1.39 billion) are Sunnis and 13% (208 million) are Shiites. By bombing Sunni ISIL we’re putting ourselves on the side of the 208 million Shiites against the 1.39 billion Sunnis.
    I personally don’t think we should intervene in what is basically a civil war …but to ‘take sides’ and alienate the 1.39 billion is maybe, not a good idea?

    • Iain Gill
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      Isil picked a fight with us not the other way round.

    • Richard1
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      Why if it’s all a Sunni-Shia civil war did 130 French people get murdered – or more than 3,000 Americans on 9/11? This is wishful thinking. These maniacs hate the west and our values of freedom and democracy. One thing we need to get rapidly more intolerant of is tacit support for Islamic extension, whether from ‘allies’ like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, or whether amongst Muslims here in the UK. Those who incite or fund violence against us must be hunted down relentlessly and, if in the UK either prosecuted or thrown out.

      • Richard1
        Posted November 25, 2015 at 9:48 am | Permalink

        Correction above: extremism

  4. mickc
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Why are we concerned with the Middle East? We have no national interest in the Middle East whatsoever.

    We need to buy oil, there are many willing sellers, not just in the Middle East.

  5. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    “Who are the West’s enemies in the Middle East?” Could not be a short article. Some good questions JR.

    A relatively friendly response by even “our friends” ( behind our backs ) in the Middle East might be “Oh people in the West shouldn’t bother their lovely tiny heads with our problems.”

    Our perceptions might be improved if we stopped thinking of the peoples and forces in the Middle East as fixed entities, their opinions, allegiances ,real and pretended, as super-glued into position. It may be convenient to think of say “THE Kurds” as a statue without factions based on particular territories, contending “parties”, inner jealousies and rivalries, and indeed individuality. But they in-fight, and like the SNP only have a veneer of unity that will shatter as soon as they can’t blame someone else for their clumsy self-destructive failures over the centuries.

    President Putin’s comment on Turkey’s recent shooting down of a Russian plane is instructive. He looked genuinely hurt, somewhat surprised and said it was “back-stabbing”. Yes, because Russia supplies Turkey with massive amounts of oil and gas, buys and sells huge amounts of food with Turkey. Not to mention sending hundreds of thousands of Russian tourists there. He only spoke personally to Turkey’s leaders last week in Ankara.

    Again, “Who are the West’s Enemies in the Middle East? ” Answer: All of them. And we must too look to our backs. There is America.

  6. MickN
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    It seems what is needed here is a Middle East Peace Envoy……….oh wait a minute we tried that. Can someone remind me how THAT worked out.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 8:12 am | Permalink

      Wasn’t Blair such a successful middle East peace envoy.

  7. Antisthenes
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Overthrowing Middle eastern and other regimes however despicable they have been has proven to be a mistake. It has only brought instability and with it conflict, misery and barbarity. Good intentions as usual not having the intended outcomes because proper consideration was not given to the consequences because of misguided moral thinking and grandstanding by Western leaders . This was a case where good men should have done nothing and let evil be. Perhaps Afghanistan was an exception but then the real reason for going there was not to stop terrorists and it has not but for revenge. In all probability the Taliban will eventually gain control there again bit by bit they are gaining ground already. Will we be going back there again to boot them out. I think not so we will have to find other ways to mute them and their fundamentalist ways.

    The West has helped in destabilising the Middle East and that cannot be undone. So now you ask what should be done and the answer to that is as unfathomable as how to untie the Gordian knot . Alexander’s solution was to cut it open with his sword and that appears be everybody’s preferred solution to the currently conflict in the Middle East .

    It seems to me that all Middle Eastern participants in the conflict are unsavoury people by Western standards except ISIL and other terrorist groups of the same ilk who are far worse than unsavoury and there is no dilemma as to what to do about them and that is to defeat them utterly. Even Turkey is becoming a state with the potential to ferment future instabilities. It is moving away from secularism and democracy and the Kurds could become the modern equivalent of the Armenian problem.

    As for the rest we should learn how to work with all of them even Assad and Iran although how considering that most have harmful thoughts towards us and Israel and give support to the very terrorist groups that wish to bring their terror to us.

  8. Iain Gill
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Why is Turkey allowed in NATO when it does so many unsavory things.

    You miss the main point though that our leaders are just posh boys worried about their image wanting to look tough with little real world experience. They blunder from one mistake to another.

    • bigneil
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      “wanting to look tough ” – the other day there was a photo of CMD with his sleeves rolled up, stood in front of a helicopter – – must have scared the hell out of the IS supporters here in the UK.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      NATO was set up as a military alliance for the collective self-defence of its member states, unlike the EU it was not intended to bring about improving domestic reforms within its member states. It was enough if they could and would meet their commitments under the treaty. Turkey was not one of the original NATO allies but in view of its strategic position they wanted it on their side tied into their alliance.

  9. Jumeirah
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    We must get away from the idea that we need to impose Democracy on the arab world – they simply will not tolerate it because they have Islam and that’s all they will accept. Support niether – one doesnt take sides Sunni nor Shia. On a different point Al Assad warned when the Syrian turmoil first began that intervention in Syria would risk foreign insurgents/factions operating in that Region but we didnt listen -we never do. His Intelligence Service at that time has proved him right. We are so busy playing the role of Crusader (and the arabs are right to call us that) and saving the world that we smash everything and leave leaving behind death, devastation, bewilderment, fear, misery and worse tyranny and barbarism than hithertofore. USA & Russia need to work out a plan of action which both agree to and wholeheartedly support and then bring KSA and Iran to the table and have a very intense discussion to resolve all the flashpoints. KSA and Iran can turn off what they originally turned on and stop it now. Brinkmanship bedeviles an understanding between the US & Russia and both KSA & Iran know it and not forgetting Israel who would not want it either because it would not be in their National interests.
    Our role and that of the other EU Countries is to protect our homeland and remove those that plot to do us harm and that includes Islamic radicals and spiritual leaders who incite hatred from their mosques. To do that we need first to REMOVE ourselves from the EU.

    • Dan H.
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      I agree; Sharia Law has a lot of fairly major flaws in it as a way of running a country, not least of which being the way it tries to preclude debate on most topics. Countries run to Sharia law generally end up discovering (as Iran has) that quite a lot of priests tend to have feet of clay when exposed to sufficient temptation, especially when it is obvious that becoming a mullah is the path to wealth and luxury.

      Democracy is a poor way to run a country in many ways, but it has the great advantage of letting failing regimes bow out gracefully without penalty. Sharia law doesn’t permit this; violent revolution is the only option here.

      Our best option is to work in what might be termed “wrath of god” mode; we attack any regime or state which is currently causing us a problem, having first made it clear what the problem is, why this is annoying to us, and what remedy will cause us to cease our attack.

    • graham1946
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      Can’t find much to disagree with there.

  10. Alan Wheatley
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    And when the answers come we look for decisions from the politicians, particularly political leaders who are in such positions because that is the role they have sought for themselves. I do not envy them their task.Where on earth do you start?

    The nation state could be a good place. At least we understand the concept of nation and know how to deal with nations that do us harm, and can isolate nations that are thoroughly bad but do us no harm. The self determination of peoples is a good, liberal ideal, but what if people and national boundaries are not the same?

    All national boundaries are imposed, usually by war. Sometimes boundaries are imposed with the best of intentions and sometimes they are not, and what may have been judged to be best may not survive the passing of time. Even island nations, which have boundaries proposed to them by nature, are not immune from people conflicts, as we in the UK know only too well.

    There is one category of people to whom we need not offer any sympathy and accommodation, and they are the violent, fanatical idealists. There is no prospect of reasoned debate with such peoples, and if we can not isolate and contain them then we have to destroy them lest they destroy us.

  11. Lifelogic
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    I too have read enough to know how little I understand about the complex theological and political struggles within Islam. But bombing will surely achieve nothing and make things worse.

    • b
      Posted November 26, 2015 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      They are idealogical extremists determined to shape their countries in favour of an elite few and their factional supporters by the use of bigotry and dogma mixed in with religious beliefs on law and economics, often with no basis in the real modern world and at no matter what the cost to the rest of the population or their neighbouring countries. No amount of reason or education can change this in the short term.
      Its funny you do not understand this as I would have though it quite close to home for yourself and number of others..

  12. Barry Sheridan
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Agreed it is complex, but the first issue the west faces if one of denial, the problem first and foremost is Islam. Historically, or at least in recent times the schism between Sunni and Shia has been opened up by the Saudi’s. It is their money that by and large funds the factions that have set their own house ablaze. There is no resolution to this that can be imposed, the urge for a better way of life must come from within the Islamic world. I do not see this happening.

    Instead, if the UN and the rest of the world want to create greater stability in this region then they are going to have to let go of their fixation with the multicultural. Just as Europe once defined new nations in the Middle East, the UN needs to do so again re-drawing boundaries and moving populations about to give nascent countries a chance of internal harmony and a with it a future.

    This means the following; the division of Iraq into three, the north becomes Kurdistan, the south Shia Iraq and the west Sunni Iraq. Christians need to be moved out and into a Lebanon purged of its Moslem populations, here alongside Yazidis they may create a defensible future. Syria faces permanent division with Shia elements settling the west and the Sunni moving east to live adjacent to the Sunni dominated western Iraq. There is no place for Mr Assad, but the Alawites future has to be considered.

    Turkey, which is turning away from the achievements of Ataturk towards a radical terrorist supporting Islamist state needs to face certain facts. If it continues down this path it must leave NATO and forego any future relations with Europe. Instead Europe and the US must seek more reliable allies in the Kurds and of course Israel, Jordan and Egypt.

    The Palestinian question must be resolved as part of this major adjustment. They need to moved away from Israel and Jordan, either north to become part of Syria or south into Saudi Arabia. There are vast monies available to the Arabs, they should start using it for practical long term purposes for all the peoples of the Middle East and not just buying flash cars and weapons.

    The chances of this of course are nil, so there will be no resolution of the upheaval until it exhausts itself in blood letting. One thing is for sure, western interventions in this area are disastrous because we have no vision. WE cannot even support the one true democracy, instead we support terrorists activities by Palestinians who have long realised how gullible westerners are. Not that I expect western vision, we have none here either.

    reply. The UK supports a negotiated solution and condemns violence by both sides in the Israel/Palestine dispute.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted November 26, 2015 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      And Cameron and Co. cannot wait to get Turkey into the EU. They either know something we don’t and aren’t telling us, or they need to see a shrink post haste.

      Tad

    • anon
      Posted November 26, 2015 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

      Would need the UN and a lot of money.A grand vision.

      It could be pragmatic solution. e.g. India’s partition.

      Also energy politics, oil & gas pipelines, need to be addressed by the UN urgently. Perhaps setting out guidelines how competing interests can share infrastructure or markets and gain market based compensation for their production.

      The proceeds of which should be the rebuilding of this area of the world and resolution and possible relocation of populations into more cohesive areas. Then build trade and hopefully trust on that.

      We should not in the West undermine our own culture and cohesiveness by following untried and foolish mass immigration of intolerant and competing cultures or governing systems at odds to our own existence.

      More labour = cheap wages. Division means more central control , spying etc and its dangers. Who gains from this constant war?

      Our MSM seems very poor, and the internet is the last frontier of free press. We are all probably very uninformed.

      Perhaps we should look closer at the West’s actions and those who decided them ?

  13. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    You could bring the elder ex-Ambassadors for that region together. Get a wide piece of education and experience on the topic…if possible? The tribes are going to fight on any side that pays/arms them. Delete the word “moderate” from the debate.

    It is very noticeable that many males from the region are running away from their countries. That should be reversed because they are the very people that hold the future of the region. Turkey could have trained them to fight back, but Turkey is near useless, having sat on its ar*e and watched killing while pursuing same.

    We should support Russia and retain Assad currently, so stop the arguing please. If there is to be a fight let them fight with S. Arabia and the rest in the south. Most rich Saudi’s have residences outside the region and don’t want to know…except those who do of course! Putins list of 40 names.

    Turkey has emerged as an unreliable country and I would prefer they were suspended form NATO and reverse Merkels mad idea(s). Germany is our current near problem.

    Egypt might be useful and Israel might be all too willing.

    Get rid of the current weak/wicked USA management and work with Russia asap please.

  14. Bert Young
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Everyone is confused about the Middle East . The 1000+ years that have existed since the West became involved have failed to find a solution, so I don’t see why we should expect to pull one out of the hat now.

    Off the cuff it would seem that tough and unrelenting leadership has been the one and only way to keep the opposing factions away from each others throats ; in this case – as far as Syria is concerned , Assad (or someone like him) might produce the magic ; but why anyone would want to assume this mantle of responsibility is beyond me .

    I concur with the criticisms made about Turkey . There is nothing in their history to align them with the West and their method of dealing with the Kurds is shocking . They have allowed many thousands of migrants to leave their shores knowing full well it would only compound the problems in Europe .

  15. Bob
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    It now appears that the Russian jet was actually shot down over Syria, after what at most would have been a momentary overflight (10 – 17 seconds) if you believe the Turkish version of events.

    Having made thousands of incursions into Greek airspace and illegally occupying Northern Cyprus for 40 years it is apparent that Turkey has no respect for international law. Is this the kind of govt that should be part of NATO (or the EU come to that)?

    The NATO should stay well clear of this – Turkey fired the first shot, and they were not under attack.

  16. oldtimer
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    You raise relevant questions. My view is that UK should only act to defend and protect its national interests. That does not include imposing systems of government or beliefs on others. Self determination works as much for them as for the UK. The defeat of ISIL is in the UK`s national interest because of the declared nature and observed behaviour of its regime. It follows that the UK should work with those who share that objective.

    Morality, often invoked by pressure groups and indeed by Prime Ministers (Blair and Cameron for example), is an uneasy bed fellow for the national interest because it presumes or asserts the “morality” of their values over the values of others. This is especially the case where political systems or religious beliefs are invoked. Missionary zeal neither was nor is the exclusive preserve of the many branches of Christianity. In the UK we broadly accept the idea of “live and let live”. The UK government should be very careful in departing from such an idea in its foreign policy initiatives.

  17. CdBrux
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    We talk about the various countries in the region, but isn’t one of the issues that the borders between them were drawn up rather randomly around 100 years ago?

    But the nub of the issue is we really haven’t a clue who the best people are to support so we’d be better off keeping out, recognising we got it wrong before, and concentrating on containing the issue. But this does not appeal to the politicians sense of needing to be seen to ‘do something’.

  18. JJE
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Wrong question. I would instead extend de Gaulle’s maxim and say that nations don’t have friends or enemies, they have interests.
    What are the UK’s interests in the Middle East and what should we do to further them?

  19. adams
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Or to put it another way . The middle East is a crock of you know what .
    lets do what we can control . our failed electoral system . FPTP has to go and the sooner the better . Let us improve the governance of our own country . That is within our scope .
    Cameron hates Isis and Assad . Not nice having an incoherent man as leader is it John ?

  20. agricola
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Well you seem to suffer the same doubts and confusion as do the rest of us. I am not surprised, the Middle East is a multi layered trifle made from the foulest ingredients and then there are the vast majority of their peoples who probably just wish to get on with their lives in peace ,but cannot.

    The only person I know who speaks their main language and has a vast experience in the area is Frank Gardner, journalist and victim of Al Qaeda. Why not ask him out to a lengthy lunch and glean as much background as you need to form some idea of what is going on. Not only will it give you some confidence in how to vote, but you can then pass on enlightenment to the rest of us. It might take more than one lunch.

    The only comment I can make is that ISIL are not our friends, nor are they friends of the people within whom they reside. Beyond that the area is a bucket of worms.

  21. majorfrustration
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Lets just stay out of it – what’s the point in trying influence things whether diplomatically or through force. Trouble is our politicians and foreign office think they can make a difference. Leave Islam to fight it out between the various factions – eventually they might realise that its pointless. Lets use our limited money to protect our shores

  22. ian wragg
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Our two biggest enemies are blues brothers CMD & Gideon. Scrapping the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean is an act of vandalism. Is there no end to this pairs stupidity. Probably the most useful ship we have and it will go to some third world country who can appreciate its value.

    • Iain gill
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

      Ocean has a lot of problems, mostly caused by the politically correct need to house female sailors on board. Real significant function destroying problems. And our idiot politicians are doing the same to submarines. It’s a complete and utter shambles. Like getting rid of harriers just before they would have been useful in Libya. Eton combined cadet force must be really crap.

  23. Tad Davison
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I suggest a lot of politicians don’t know very much about the various and disparate groups either, of which there are hundreds if not thousands, and that makes the practise of arming them seem idiotic and crass. The enemy is an ideology, and every single person who subscribes to it. It isn’t a state, but a state of mind and that is far more difficult to deal with.

    The Pope’s recent visit to Washington was very revealing. He said he believed all weapons are bad, and that received much applause from the attendees. But to justify the arms industry, numerous US politicians then made the fatal error by saying it is OK to sell arms, so long as they aren’t used offensively. In an ideal world, where no-one has any aspirations of conquest, that might seem fine, but all an arms seller has at the point of sale, is an assurance these weapons will not be used for offensive or expansive purposes. And as we know, these things soon find their way into the hands of people who care not for the consequences of their use.

    I am all for deterrents, but there has to be a better way than arming each side to the teeth for short-term profit. Diplomacy is the key, but in this instance, we are dealing with brain-washed people who know only one way – theirs – and will not entertain or accept an alternative!

    By filling our country, and indeed the European continent, with people who do not rationalise in quite the same way as the rest of us by lending themselves to negotiation, compromise, and the accommodation of a different point of view, we are sowing the wind and will ultimately reap the whirlwind. I curse the United States and her puppets for arming insurgents either directly or indirectly and helping to fuel this mess in the first instance.

    We in the UK are far too cosy and blissfully unaware just how serious this situation really is, as were the French until recently. We have lost control whilst we continue to have these dangerous people in our midst.

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

  24. Gary
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    The subject is too vast to encapsulate, at least for me it is. Lots of reading required.

    I know you don’t like links, and I understand if you don’t post this, but voltairenet comes from Thierry Meyssan who lives in the area and ties up many loose ends as well as makes perfect sense to me over the years.

    his latest is a bombshell IMO

    http://www.voltairenet.org/article189385.html

    also the finance (and everything related) website that dares to examine at a sophisticated level what the mainstream media won’t touch, Zerohedge.com

    F. William Engdahl out of Germany has a long and distinguished career as an alternative geopolitical and economic analyst

    http://www.williamengdahl.com/

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      Well, it’s a bit odd and unconvincing for Turkey to claim that it is only exercising its right to defend its borders when it shoots down a Russian military aircraft which apparently spent just seconds passing through its airspace on its way to attack some group in Syria which is being supported by Turkey, while at the same time Turkey is signally failing to defend the same border against smuggling not only of oil and weapons and other goods but also people, many of whom it then permits to risk their lives travelling on to Greece as illegal immigrants into the EU.

      • Monty
        Posted November 26, 2015 at 1:13 am | Permalink

        How is that ISIS oil getting onto the market? It has to be coming through Turkey. The decision to shoot down the Russian plane might have been a warning that Erdogan is determined to protect his oil convoys.
        That man is as straightforward as a nine pound note.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted November 26, 2015 at 9:59 am | Permalink

          It’s alleged that some Assad supporters are also buying oil from IS.

    • Javelin
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Zerohedge is an excellent website for breaking news. I would recommend it for a counter opinion to mainstream media and you should make your own mind up.

      For example today they showed the letter from Turkey to the UN explaining that the Russian jets flew 1.2 miles across their territory in 17 seconds – and calculated that to be 250 mph – for a jet that flies at 1200 mph. It contradicts the statement from Turkey that they warned the Russians numerous times. It also asks questions about how the Turk Rebels could shoot the plane down so quickly and from where the missile was shot.

      I think the Russians did over fly Turkey – but I think Turkey was responding to Russia bombing Turk villages in Syria 4 days ago.

      Turkey is a loose cannon that can’t be trusted and will drag us all into a war.

    • Mitchel
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      The lead article “Russia debates unorthodox Orthodox financial alternatives” in the Engdahl link is also very interesting in the light of Russia and China’s avowed objective of challenging the dollar’s global hegemony.

    • oldtimer
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      The comment, in your links, that the oil tankers destroyed by the US and Russia were owned and run by Erdogan`s son was particularly interesting (and news to me). If indeed true and Turkey helped to ship ISIL oil this way through and/or to Turkey, it puts the shooting down of a Russian jet in a new context.

  25. Bill
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    As I understand it, Israel is the only functioning democracy in the Middle East and for that reason deserves our support.

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali has argued at book length that Islam needs a Reformation now (which is a title to be found on Amazon) and presumably some of her views have found their way into Niall Ferguson’s analysis since she is his wife. Ferguson has written several recent trenchant and clear-headed columns in the Sunday Times and I would listen to what he says. However, Asquith’s policy of ‘wait and see’ is not entirely dishonourable in circumstances where we cannot control events.

  26. yosarion
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    The English have a good Idea who our enemies are at home and abroad, they are EVEL politicians who bang on about democracy then deny it to the English at home. We should concentrate on not creating yet another bunch of disgruntled EUSSR passport holders by jumping into bed with an EUSSR not NATO led action. Whoops to late, already sent a type 45 and given over the dry dock carrier in Cyprus.

  27. Denis Cooper
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    “Now the evil one is ISIS.”

    I don’t regard Islamic State as the evil “one”, with the others no longer evil, but I see Islamic State as the greatest threat at the moment, and one which can be and should be snuffed out before it gains any more power to inflict harm.

    I certainly do not regard Assad as more evil or more of a threat to us than Islamic State, whether or not he resorted to chemical weapons against his own people.

    As far as I’m concerned the greatest threat to us generally comes from religious or ideological fanatics who are determined to impose their extreme ideas on the whole world, which naturally means us sooner or later, and who are willing to use all possible means to achieve that end including brutal and often indiscriminate violence.

    I’m honestly not bothered whether they happen to be violent and brutal Islamic fanatics, or they are violent and brutal Christians or Hindus or Marxists or whatever else, and even less am I bothered which of the sub-divisions of Islam they may claim to follow.

    I am certainly not going to take sides in a …… dispute over who was the legitimate successor to Mohammed in the seventh century, any more than I am going to get wound up over a Christian king of Northumbria being defeated in battle and killed by a pagan king of Mercia at about the same time that Mohammed died.

    etc ed

    There are often attempts to depict this as a struggle between Muslims and Christians, as well as those of other religions, which Christian leaders in this country try to defuse by organising inter-faith groups so that people can get together and learn about each others’ religions and come to respect each other and live in peace and harmony.

    But that is missing the point that the real conflict is between religious fanatics and the great mass of the population who have no strong religious belief, and who do not want any group of religious fanatics to be allowed to destroy what has gradually become a relatively civilised and tolerant society based on the secular law of the land.

  28. John Wrake
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Dr. Redwood,

    Thank you for the first rational statement by a member of the House of Commons acknowledging the profound ignorance of this and previous governments of this country over the realities of Islam and the Middle East.

    I hope that you will be able to make the point plain to the leadership of your Party and make plain the damage being done to world peace by interference in the affairs of those about whom they are ignorant.

    “Better to remain silent and be thought stupid than open your mouth and prove your stupidity”.

    John Wrake.

  29. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Admittedly an unusual way of looking at it,- but we could judge a possible future ally (quintessentially “The Imaginary Friend” of child-psychology ) as peoples or forces which stand their ground irrespective of whether we agree with their principles or views, as they are likely to prevail in the long-term..
    Well umpteen Syrians run away from battle and break into our countries even though they outnumber at least 10 to 1 their adversaries and sometimes 100 to 1 . So we cannot build our house of state on the shifting sands of Syrians and Syria.

    Egyptians change and execute their governments democratically elected or not with too great a frequency. Libyans actually as one people do not exist. Kurds are fractitious and are not actually one people. Same with jordanians, Lebanese; Saudi Arabians are a chopped up people and who knows how long the family firm in power will survive.
    Turkey as a nation has managed to survive in some way or other for quite some time. Iran has been strong enough to withstand years of economic sanctions and wars.
    So Turkey and Iran, though perhaps not our friends are the people with whom the West must deal in the long-term.
    ISIS appear to be the only force which attracts support from all over the world; never runs away from a fight and has, (however perverted and evil) principles. So, ISIS, Iran and Turkey are the school playground bullies who anyone who wishes to survive must endeavour to get into one or all of their gangs.

  30. Javelin
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    It’s become very clear to anybody who has looked into this that Saudi has funded arms to ISIS and helped export the oil. Oil has been sent to Turkey where it is sold to European oil brokers and banks who give the terrorists money.

    It is clear that NATO was hoping that ISIS would beat Syria but that has not happened. NATO has seen ISIS as a strategic asset to be contained rather than removed. ISIS eyes are however too big for their stomachs and the attacks on Russia and France clearly brought the Europe and and American voters to examine what exactly has been going on for the past year. Clearly the ideological drives of ISIS to kill are going to damage their strategy. The voters are now realising that Saudi money has been used to pay politicians and civil servants to protect their interests through various contracts.

    Obama on TV looked possibly the most uncomfortable politican I have ever seen trying to talk about what was happening. Clearly he does not have the same skills as Bill Clinton at deception.

    I posted on this site several months ago about what I had presented to the company I work for on the future of the Gulf. I believe my predictions are even clearer. The Shia Muslims will create a “cresent” across the Middle east from Iran to Syria. The Shia Muslims will gain control of a lot of oil. The Saudis have been badly damaged by the cheap price of oil forced on them by the U.S. Shale oil industry. The Saudis are having problems paying their bills to oil contractors. Their cushy life of low taxes and immigrant labour is unsustainable. The North African Arabs want to raise the price of oil.

    Once the Shia Muslims settle into their crescent they will start to attack Saudi via Rebels in Yemen. The west will be reluctant to supply weapons as the Saudi’s money is running out. The small population of Sunni Arabs in the gulf will lose out to the Shia armies. The western voters will turn against Saudi and western technology will gradually replace oil.

  31. graham1946
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    This is an insoluble problem and will be for as long as mankind has the need of the fairy tales of religion. Religion has been used down the ages to keep people down. How else does a ruling elite keep its people in poverty, whilst racking up untold riches for itself, other than promising them that if they behave, they will get all they want in some afterlife? Fear of death is the most powerful, so thinking they will live for ever is what appeals. Been going on since time began.

    We should get out, stay out and let them get on with it. We should boost our own defences to protect Europe and the USA and Israel and be less tolerant of the religious nut jobs.

    Of course we need oil but the oil producers need to sell it equally as much, so it will always be available. Proof is that ISIS sells the oil they produce without any problem at all, even though it may be notionally banned. Greed will always find a way. What else do we need from the Middle East, other than sell them arms so they can eventually attack us?

    Sorry this is not some labyrinthine expert thesis on the middle east, but we have plenty of those and look where we are.

  32. Mactheknife
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    As one who has lived in and worked in numerous Middle East countries, what became apparent to me was that ME politics is a minefield – quite literally in some cases. There are many factions, some country based, some regionally and these have been formed over millennia based on religion, tribal roots, historical conflict, land, power grab, criminal activity and territory.

    The so called ‘Arab Spring’ promoted and supported by the west was a massive mistake. To assume any of these countries (Libya, Egypt, Syria etc etc) would somehow transition to a democracy was just sheer folly.

    As for Syria, again a massive mistake in trying to destabilise Assad and what we are seeing now is a proxy war between Iran and Saudi fought out by various groups within Syria. The remedy is to form an agreement with Russia and back Assad’s and his troops. But would the western governments eat humble pie and go back to Assad? Bombing as we have heard directly from those in Syria has little or no effect, so if we don’t want ground troops there then we need to support those on the ground and do so with one voice and co-ordinated action.

    As with the most of the toppled dictators we have left a void which has been filled with something more evil. A lesson to all western government is be careful of what you wish for.

  33. ian
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    The people of this country have no enemies, it the establishment and government who have enemies not the people.
    The last three government have made a habit of going round the world making themselves enemies and using the people money to do it with and leaving the people to deal with refugees and oversees people also out of there money and now the people of this country have a housing problem a low wages problem and a NHS problems all to deal with because of big business the establishment and government all run by the elite who pay next to no tax.

  34. Anonymous
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    They are all enemies in the Middle East. In most cases they have good reason to be and the internet has enabled them to see why.

    We had to be selfish and pragmatic in the region but dealt with it like a bunch of idealistic sixth formers – supposedly intelligent politicians celebrated the Arab Spring and could not forsee its consequences as the rest of us did.

    It is a really big problem for us now because of the jihadists in our own country and growing sectarianism in Britain.

  35. ian
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Its the enemies within the people should be worried about, ie big business establishment and government, they and ones who are trying to make a gain out of all this trouble.

  36. Kenneth
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    “Who are the West’s enemies in the Middle East?” No idea, sorry.

    Yet again we are intending to impose artificial nation(s) on people who are part of a delicate tribal structure. What is more is that we arrogantly want to create these nations in our own image.

    The best thing we can do is stay away and look after our own borders.

    To those who say that inaction will bring violence to our streets then I say don’t let them into our country in the first place.

  37. Francis Lankester
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    The ME is an area where nation states-necesssary for a firm grounding of democracy, don’t really exist no matter what lines there are on a map. IS, al Nusra & the rest are only a major threat if they succeed in collapsing the whole setup in the region and are able to build a large trans-border Caliphate. Containment ‘works,’ therefore, of course at the price of suffering.

    Re the Taliban, it’s necessary to tease out (with difficulty) what motivates its fighters: Islamism or Pathan interests, and how Pakistan in the shape of the ISI still intervenes in Afghanistan. We should remember that the Taliban did not spring fully-armed from the head of Zeus, but fully armed by the machinations of the ISI-whose head was one Pervez Musharraf. He then played both ends against the middle posing as our ally in the War on Terror.’ a terror he helped to create. With Erdogan it’s the same thing; he’s our ‘ally’ (but doesn’t have our interests at heart. He is, after all, a man who started a war to win an election.

    Where can we actually help positively to sustain stability? Perhaps Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt-rather than Syria and Iraq.

  38. lojolondon
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Have we learnt nothing from the last 10 years?? Assad is the only hope of keeping the fundamentalists out of power in Syria, the fact he is fighting Al Qaida and Daesh is good enough for me. We should shut borders with Turkey who are openly supporting Daesh to the point of attacking Russia while under the protective umbrella of NATO. The very thought of bringing Turkey into the EU is another very good reason for Brexit!!

  39. LondonBob
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Will we reverse course if Donald Trump becomes US President given his desire to tackle IS in conjunction with the Russians? What concern is it of ours whether Assad stays or goes? Surely the stability of the region should be our priority and that would indicate that the Assad clique needs to stay on? Would Assad now win a free and fair election? Should Syria actually be a democracy? IS looks to be crumbling in Syria so why the focus on Syria when it is Iraq that is their power base? In what sense are some of the regional players friends let alone allies?

    If only we had left well alone in the first place.

  40. LondonBob
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    No chance of introducing a bill like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), two House Armed Services Committee members, did last week with a bipartisan bill to “end U.S. efforts to overthrow the Syrian Arab Republic led by President Bashar al-Assad.”

  41. Ken Moore
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    If a veteran politician like Dr Redwood from an academic background has just a vague understanding of the history of the middle east..I’m pretty sure David |Cameron and his cronies know even less. Like their ‘master’ Mr Blair they are not particularly concerned by history…just inflicting their own naïve politically correct view on the world.

  42. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Lavrov having a long and easy chat with the press:

    https://www.rt.com/news/323404-lavrov-syria-s24-turkey

    Turkey the added problem, and they are no doubt exporting much more than ordinary “goods” into the soft end of Europe. Guess its all soft now under the weak EU?

    Russia will eventually perform if Turkey continues the “lets pretend we are good members of NATO” approach and the fools in the US follow it.

    Its interesting (not) that the Turkish Air Force having US weaponry has to ask permission to fire it…nobody else in that region does?

  43. Stanley Cook
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    So much blood has been spilt that it will surely be very difficult to persuade Sunni and Shia to live together peaceably again. Perhaps in the end both Syria and Iraq will have to be carved up into autonomous Sunni and Shia states, even at the cost of large population transfers (for which there is the precedent of India’s partition).

  44. hefner
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Whoever the person at the lectern, the bleating MPs are just a pain!

  45. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    I’m listening to Rt Hon Mr Osborne Chancellor of the Exchequer on “BBC Parliament ” on TV as I type.

    Again the non-Conservative idea of putting people into economic dependency by not allowing them to rent a home at a reasonable rent ; not by giving them a home, but by facilitating their getting into debt as in “buying a home.”

    “Buying a home” is not the same as owning a home; not the same as having the ability in all circumstances in selling your home for a profit or even breaking-even. It is economic enslavement for decades of the gullible Young to State and Corporate UK Big Business. And, inflating the housing bubble for future economic disaster.Just the sort of thing you would expect from Socialists, Communists and Statists of Right and Left DNA.

    I hear the Labour Party is waffling on in daft and unlearn-ed “opposition” through their Shadow Chancellor Rt Hon Mr McDonnell, the Impoverisher of Worlds.
    Bad Business as usual in the Cinderella Step-Mother of all Parliaments.

  46. Dennis
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Who are the Middle Eastern enemies of the countries of South America/Latin America, Cambodia, Vietnam etc.?

    None – ‘cos they are far away (though Aussy has been hit) or perhaps there are no (or very few) Muslims living there? I haven’t heard that Costa Rica is quaking in its boots ‘cos it has no army,navy, airforce, Trident etc. Why is that?

  47. ian
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Worst government in the history of this country.

  48. Edward.
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    We have no allies in the Middle east, we have shared and mutual interests with some NATO allies, Australia and the USA. In common with the Russians we are all threatened by the cult of death. If it wasn’t before, it should be by now clear, that, the Turks are no friends of the west.

    Britain, should always be calculated, should be dispassionate in all dealings with any ME state and be neutral in all manoeuvrings between the Arabs and their neighbours. Middle eastern chaos, the witless Arabists sitting in the FCO are the problem and it has been a thorn in our side for far too long ‘they’ [the FCO] have placed our eggs in the wrong bloody basket.
    This one sided fawning tryst, an accommodation we’ve had with the Saudis dating back to the 30’s all the benefits accrued are only one way, where Britain has been the loser and at every turn.
    For Gods sakes, whatever happened to diplomatic nicety and perfidious Albion?

  49. ian
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Your government funds isil with aid budget.

  50. ian
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Everyone is everyone elses enemy, everyone becomes everyone elses friend under this government, assad is the target and isil al Qaeda and rebels are there friends and if assad go they will change again.

  51. bluedog
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    Good questions, Dr JR, and perhaps they should be categorised into possible internal and external threats to the Realm.

    As this writer has suggested before, with a large Sunni population, the UK is by default a participant in Muslim politics on the Sunni side of the conflict between the two Islamic sects. It follows that the UK’s position will favour Sunni rather than Shi-ite factions in any Middle Eastern disputes. This has the benefit of aligning the UK with the largest Muslim faction. The announcement that the British Army will form two strike brigades to protect us from British citizens highlights the risks of alienating those elements in British society who may object to an alignment with the Shia.

    In the meantime within our own Sunni faction there are elements who seek to kill and destroy the kuffar, as we seem to be called, and these elements were formerly the Taliban, previously Al Qaeda and currently IS. That the Taliban are now part of the political process in Afghanistan is a clear success of Western policy and shows that the campaign to degrade and moderate the Taliban has succeeded. The same can be said of Al Qaeda, where a US campaign to decapitate the leadership has been a huge success with the trophy killing of Bin Laden and others.

    There is no reason at all why the tactics successfully deployed against the Taliban and Al Qaeda will not work against IS. Success never comes overnight and is dependent on first class intelligence work and analysis, things at which the West excels. In the short-term, the Russo-Turkish spat complicates matters and is of great benefit to IS. If things settle without further distraction, it should be possible to resume the campaign against IS, who are unambiguously a threat to the UK. Note that the Russians are offering the formation of a general staff to manage the situation in Syria, to include Turkey. This is a very positive development and would enable the various external parties to work towards an agreed solution in respect of their competing interests.

    The flow of Syrians and ‘Syrians’ in to Europe could well be reversed if a safe haven could be established within Syria as some commentators in the US are now suggesting. It seems that the US is becoming concerned by the impact of the migrant flow into Europe, although Frau Merkel remains insouciant. But for how much longer?

  52. Maureen Turner
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    “Will the West end up accepting the Russian view that Assad is the least worst option in an all too violent society.” Let’s hope so.

    Having destabilised Iraq and Libya by removing two ghastly dictators are the people of these countries better for our meddling? Doubtful. The main tribes Sunni, Shia and Kurds have been warring for centuries over territory and the West’s idea of bringing some type of democracy to their lands has created a vacuum that we haven’t a clue how to fill so let us leave Syria to find its own salvation.

    Good piece Mr. Redwood with all your permutations of possible solutions. I hope our Foreign Sec. reads it.

  53. Jumeirah
    Posted November 26, 2015 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    John Redwood: to gain a proper unbiased factual perspective and clearer understanding of the GeoPolitical turmoil which is the Middle East/Near East from the present engagement between Iranian backed militia fighters in the Yemen and the forces at war with them namely the Saudis, Emiratis and Qataris; the ACTUAL situation in Syria ; how Daesh came about and who supports them; what is happening in Libya and who is fighting who and why? How secure is Tunisia and Morocco and indeed Egypt? Why is Kuwait still so unstable and has been for years although nobody is supposed to know/talk about that? and come to that what actually is the ‘shelf life of Bahrain? Sometimes one has to call upon alternative sources of information not just perhaps a ‘jaundiced’ view trolled out through Government sources so that one can look at both and have a better understanding of the situation and that source is Robert Fisk and I would think that contact would be easy for you or your PA to make that contact.

  54. Mark
    Posted November 26, 2015 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I think David Davis MP offers some sensible advice:

    The lesson is clear. Military action alone, no matter how successful, is futile by itself. We must create a political settlement that does not create fertile ground for a new IS, once we have destroyed the old one. The political settlement in both Iraq and Syria must first and foremost protect the rights of every group, Sunni, Shia, Alawite, Kurd, Christian or whatever. This may involve a solution that could fall anywhere between strongly decentralised states and full partition. In achieving this the major states are going to have to face up to the ambitions of the regional players, from Saudi Arabia through to Iran, and make it plain that we will no longer tolerate their mischief making that has been such a driver in destabilising the region for so long. America and Russia are also going to have to realise that both of them have strategic interests in the area, and both will have to accept the other’s interests being protected, something that they have not done so far.

    If we are willing to undertake this programme, and deliver on it, with an attention span greater than any of the Western States have managed so far, then military action is worthwhile. If not, then military action, particularly air offensive only action, will be as useful, and as comfortable, as poking a hornets nest with a stick.

    http://www.capx.co/beating-is-wil-a-proper-plan/

  55. Jumeirah
    Posted November 27, 2015 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Who is supporting who in the Middle East/Near East? Read Robert Fisk writing in the Belfast Telegrapf today 27 Nov.

  56. Ian B
    Posted November 28, 2015 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    I never thought I’d agree with Jeremy Corbyn on anything, but I think he is right to oppose British involvement in this. We dodged the bullet two years ago when Assad was the Big Bad, now Mr Cameron wants to intervene again, this time against ISIS (or whatever they are currently known as, I lose track) apparently with a rather obvious subtext of, er, getting rid of Assad. Why he is obsessed with Assad is hard to fathom.

    By Western standards, Assad’s regime is not pleasant, but then he does not govern a Western country. In the 1940s Britain was allied with the revolting Stalin regime in the USSR for practical reasons, and if Churchill had been mad enough to decide to remove Stalin for not being a nice man, the Nazis would have won in the East, and then where would we have been? The point of this poor analogy being, that so far as I can see the removal of Assad will inevitably by some route end up with an Islamist regime in Damascus (which historians may note is a former capital of the caliphate under the Umayyads).

    I do not know what Mr Cameron thinks he is up to. There appears to be a wave of emotion in Parliament that we should be seen to be doing something after the Paris attacks. But it is often the case that “something” is not the right thing, and I fear that this is the case here.

  57. Elliot Kane
    Posted November 28, 2015 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Sorry I’m so late to this one, John. Hopefully you’ll find my thoughts of some interest, anyway.

    The situation as I understand it is this:

    First of all, the main problem in the Middle East generally is the same as used to be the case in Europe up until the end of WW2: it’s a massive struggle for power/dominance/control of resources between nations who use religion, amongst other things, as a reason/justification for what they do.

    The strongest powers of the Middle East right now are Iran (Majority Shi’ite) and Saudi Arabia (Majority Sunni), who seem to be fighting a proxy war in Syria, with Iran supporting Assad and Saudi seeking to bring him down. If Assad remains, Iran gains a potentially strong ally against Saudi, and the reverse is true if Assad is overthrown.

    This helps to explain why the response of the West has been, to put it very nicely, a complete and utter shambles. If we support Assad we annoy Saudi Arabia, but despite the fact that he is accused of doing some pretty terrible stuff, he is probably the most moderate potential Syrian leader.

    The position of the West right now is ‘We don’t really want any leader on offer, but we should drop a few bombs to show willing’ which is both politically and militarily imbecilic. We have no idea who we want to be leading Syria, have never successfully identified a truly moderate opposition and seem to have no plan whatsoever.

    What we should be doing is what Russia has done: identify who we want to win, then support their ground forces. As anyone could tell you, air strikes alone accomplish nothing. They are only truly useful in support of ground forces.

    At this point, our best bet is to join with Russia and declare a common front against the one enemy we genuinely care about: ISIS. We would undoubtedly have done this long ago if our leaders were not too busy blustering and also too fearful of the Saudi response to our backing Assad.

    As to what makes ISIS an actual enemy: they are aggressively expansionist and genocidal and wish to destroy anyone who does not join with them in order to raise up a worldwide Islamist empire based on their interpretation of the Koran.

    The root of the current problem with Islamist aggression is a branch of Sunni Islam known as Salafism or Wahabism. Or, most particularly, a branch of a branch:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salafi_jihadism

    Neither Sunni nor Shi’a (Not most other Muslim groups I am aware of) are actually enemies of the West. Most ordinary Muslims are just like us, in that they want to live in peace and just get on with their lives. They are not and hopefully never will be a true enemy of the West.

    Salafi Jihadism is something else. They believe they have a religious duty to convert the rest of the world by armed force. Think of what The Spanish Inquisition would’ve been like if they actually ruled Spain and you probably won’t be too far off the idea.

    The most sensible thing we could do is to join with Russia and work together to defeat a common enemy who threatens us both. We don’t have to love Putin, nor does he have to love us, but we should at least recognise that right now we have far more to gain by putting aside our differences and working together than by stupid macho gestures on either side.

    Just my thoughts 🙂

  58. Jumeirah
    Posted December 1, 2015 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Why and how do they have Brimstone if indeed they have it? To give such an ‘offensive’ (as opposed to Defensive) piece of sophisticated firepower to KSA is brainstaggering stupidity and irresponsible in the extreme. The only person in the whole Region (GCC) whom we can trust and truly call a friend and whom we know is not duplicious, doesn’t have a ‘hidden agenda’ , who is a staunch ally and who will never let us down is Sultan Qaboos of the Oman. Neither he nor his Country has ever forgotten our support to them in the late 60’s early 70’s and like a true Arab he and his Country respect and stand by us. Yes perhaps Oman is the weakest of the GCC but sometimes you need a friend whom you can count on and he is that.

  • 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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