The west loses its way in the Middle East

Mr Obama dithers and changes his mind too often on foreign policy. He now watches as Russia moves in to fill the vacuum where the USA once was the dominant influence on  Syria and Middle East policy. The present situation is full of both danger and opportunity.

Russia’s relationship with the Obama regime was badly damaged by the annexation of Crimea. The West condemned Russia for an illegal occupation. Russia condemned the USA and EU  for helping destabilise a Ukrainian President who just about held the country together only  to see him replaced by a new President who could not get on with the Russian speaking peoples in his own country. The West imposed sanctions on Russia, and turned its attention to the deteriorating situation in Iraq and Syria. Russia sought to build its long standing diplomatic and economic links with the Syrian regime of Assad and with Iran as a prelude to possible intervention of its own. Russia offered sufficient help to the rebels in the east of what remained of the Ukraine to keep the Ukrainian civil war going. Both the rebels and the Ukrainian government used military means to extend their dispute, killing civilians caught in the crossfire.

President Obama came to power implying he would withdraw from Afghanistan and seek diplomatic rather than military solutions to Middle Eastern problems. He was talked into augmenting the military presence in Afghanistan and fighting for longer before withdrawal. He promised to end detention at Guantanamo Bay for suspected terrorists and others who were not put on trial, but was talked into holding people for longer who subsequently were not accused of any offence in a court. He was contemplating removing Assad from Syria by force, but did not do so. More recently he says he wishes to defeat ISIL, but will not use ground troops to do so. It is no wonder Russia sees weakness and uncertainty in these changes and attitudes.

Russia now sees an opportunity for a win/win. Russia would probably on suitable terms settle Crimea and join a joint action against ISIL, as long as Assad’s regime was not the target as well. If the West will not accept Russian terms for collaboration, Russia thinks she will get away with military intervention in Syria to weaken both ISIL and other enemies of Assad, strengthening Russia’s position as an ally of Syria and Iran with an important place in the region. I understand Russia’s strategy( I do not of course support it), but struggle to understand the USA’s reply. The USA says she welcomes help with tackling ISIL though it needs to be co-ordinated, but condemns attacks on some other forces fighting against Assad. What is the USA going to do about it if Russia does bomb non ISIL opponents of Assad?  Will the USA help Russia identify who they do want to kill?

Having both the USA and Russia intervening with  bombs in a highly unstable country with no clear agreed political strategy is dangerous. Involving Russia and Iran in a solution to Syria’s problems might be helpful, if it were done by talking. It is high time there was an attempt to get serious talks underway between the interested parties on the future of Syria. At some point war war has to give way to jaw jaw. Does Syria have a future as a unitary state? What happens after Assad? How will the expectations of the Kurds be handled? Can Sunni and Shia find a way of power sharing in a unified state? There are many questions to tackle. Bombs will not provide an answer to most of them.

 

 

 

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66 Comments

  1. margaret
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 5:40 am | Permalink

    The moves you have mentioned and Obama’s charge of weakness may be in the best interest for everyone. It could eventually be who can say that this is the worst.

  2. Antisthenes
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    I toyed for a while with the idea that Obama was a good choice to be president as it would help race relations in the US and he would bring a new refreshing approach to US foreign policy. I forgot that he was a Democrat and the considerable downside of that.

    It did not take long to realise that Obama was going to be a disaster for the US and so it has proven. Race relations are much worse now than they have been for a long time, domestically he has moved the country considerably to the left, has implemented policies that will in the long run impoverish Americans and the world is in a mess that he helped to create.

    If the next president is a Democrat then I fear America will never be able to undo the damage Obama and preceding Democratic presidents have done to that once home of the free, land of opportunity and glorious country.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      Indeed he has been a disaster with both his home and foreign policy. The trouble with the left is their policies never work, they also harm the people they claim they want to help the most. It is wishful thinking, appeals to childish emotions and zero brain activity every time.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted October 3, 2015 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

        It seems much of it was down to Global Warming according to Charlotte Church on any questions! Is there nothing the left will not blame on this religion?

        Perhaps we should blame all the green crap indoctrination so rampant in our schools and exam system?

    • Tad Davison
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      Anti,

      I’m inclined to agree. It was the Democrat, Bill Clinton, who tore up the guarantees the previous Republican administration gave to Russia, not to expand NATO up to her borders. And that is part of the present problem. But I wouldn’t mind betting (if I could find a bookie to take it) that the next administration will be with Republican or Democrat. Other more representative parties have effectively been priced out of the presidential race and never get a look in. The rich and powerful Lobbyists effectively choose who becomes president in the so-called ‘land of the free’.

      Many would disagree with me, but by that same token, many would also agree that the USA is really just a fascist state in everything but name, and controlled by people with a deep and dangerous ulterior motive.

      Tad

    • graham1946
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      Well, the last Republican wasn’t exactly a great success was he? He and his poodle Blair mucked up the world just about more than anyone else in recent history. Look at the state we are in now, due to those two clowns. We certainly don’t need another one from that mould, Obama is a dud, it is true, after so much was promised, but that’s the way politics is. It always ends in failure, it’s just about the level of damage they do and Bush did plenty.

    • zorro
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      Indeed, they are bringing in 25-40% cuts in budgets to help faciltate border defenses and help you sleep safely at night….

      zorro

    • Bob Nozhitch
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      A different viewpoint, and as plausible as some of those presented here was given by Thomas Friedman, in the New York Times, on 02.10.2015.

    • yosarion
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      Best Park one in Calais, and send its Marines ashore to guard the Channel Tunnel then.

  3. alan jutson
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    I certainly agree that the situation is both complex and worrying.

    The big concern should be if Russia continues to attack US supported rebels, will the US get involved directly to help support those rebels, and thus escalate a possible US/Russia conflict.

    Once again the United Nations seems to have failed to resolve, or even mediate in any sort of helpful manner.

    We should tread very, very carefully with any involvement at all, other than diplomatic and localised humanitarian aid.

    Perhaps Mr Corbyn would have a sensible proposal/solution/answer !

  4. Mike Stallard
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    You have described the present chaos. I want to make just two addenda:
    1. Baroness Ashton deliberately encouraged the Ukraine to revolt against its elected president. There are pictures of her in there with the rebels cheering. The EU assumes that the Ukraine is the same as the other ex-USSR states. It is not. It is an integral part of Russia and slipping it into the EU was bound to upset Russia. Now they are really upset, just when we need their co-operation. And Russia will always be Russia.
    2. President Obama assumed that oppressed people over the world were just like the American founding fathers. All they had to do was to throw off their yoke of slavery and – bingo! – there would be America everywhere! His policy is in tatters because the Middle East is full of people with a very different history and a very different religion. In no way are they Afro-Americans!

    We, the Brits are unarmed. We were trounced in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now we cower in the corner. There is no world policeman as the street gangs of the Middle East fight it out.

  5. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Somebody said that Russia will make things worse in that region. How many shades of “worse” are there? If it looks like a terrorist, talks, walks and acts like one…

    America fails and just won’t let go and along with NATO seems to think its right all the time. That region needs to be put back to what it once was, Assad or not.

    RT last week interviewed Jozsef Toth, President of the World Petroleum Council and asked where ISIL oil is being sold and who to. Toth chuckled and claimed to know nothing about that.
    http://www.rt.com/shows/sophieco/316461-oil-prices-gulf-states/

    Simple and obvious things missing here?

  6. mickc
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    The West lost its way in the ME many years ago. The Iraq War was catastrophic.
    It is past time the UK ceased being a streetwalker for the USA (hat tip John le Carre…) and formulated a foreign policy which benefits UK interests.
    I should also mention that Fallon parrotting the US line about Russian action only encouraging extremism makes him look an utter clown. Western “intelligence” is regarded by any thinking person as probably wrong at best, and outright lies at worst.
    The UK is not a great power, it is foolish for our rulers to pretend we are.

  7. The Prangwizard
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    The biggest danger to stability is extreme Islam and its fanatical proponents. The whole of the Middle East is full of madness which we will never understand – it is pointless to pretend we do – and which we must protect ourselves from. As I see it we should not get on our high horses about what Russia is up to.

    Putin is acting in what he sees as his best interests and from what I can see it is not overtly and principally anti-Western. We will benefit if he knocks back ISIS. The plan to preserve Assad is sensible, if he falls so does Lebanon, and Israel will be in severe danger in the longer term. Present Western policy seems to be prepared to contemplate both.

    I have written before that it could be foolish to judge Russia harshly and out of habit as we are doing, as they are on the right side. They know what terrorism is and they have seen and fought it with far more vigour than we have, inside their country and nearby. We need their help in this war and it is stupid for the US and ourselves to allow our media to embark on the usual anti-Russia tirades, as we have with stories that they are killing civilians etc.. Ironic of course and laughable as usual as the US seems to have bombed a hospital in Afghanistan yesterday. I think this proves the inadequacy of much western leadership. There is something rotten at the heart of our politics, a sick weakness of mind.

    None of this should be taken that we should continue to cut our armed forces, the Navy and RAF in particular just now – these cuts are dangerous – as we must counter more strongly Russian testing of our resolve around our own shores.

  8. Douglas Carter
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    As has been commented by others elsewhere, I’m surprised Putin did not fill this obvious vacuum two years ago. It’s opportunistic, but who can blame him?

    Putin has now closed down one major option frequently mooted by some anti-Assad coalitions that there might be a ‘no-fly zone’. I’d say it’s likely that Putin will respond to that by ensuring Russian Warplanes fly missions alongside those of the forces still belonging to Assad. The possibility of accidentally shooting down a Russian aircraft would be sufficient to preclude that kind of operation at inception.

    Not that the West had much of a lexicon of options at the beginning anyway.

  9. agricola
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    An opportunity lost due I imagine from lack of cooperation/vision from Obama. As ever the UN prove themselves useless and as far as I can tell the EU with it’s world diplomatic ambitions and none existent military are marked by their silence. As ever it is left to individual nations with a sense of responsibility to do something.

    We should resolve to tolerate, Assad but more in a symbolic capacity as president of Syria. We should be in constant contact with Russia having decided what we are trying to achieve in Syria and agreeing to it. Setting up an air traffic control for air strikes should be fundamental. The threat to Russia and the western world is ISIS, they are the target. Any other fighting groups should be forced to disengage and remain where they are until a western /Russian military government is put in place to return the country to some form of normality. It could take ten to twenty years, but is a worthwhile aim if it gives all the Syrian refugees somewhere to return to. Like it or not it means putting boots on the ground.

  10. Ian wragg
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    As Mike says we are unarmed due to the rank stupidity of Cameron and Clogg. We don’t have the hardware to make any difference and as it says in yesterday’s paper. Soon the army will only have enough men to troop the colours.
    Where are the rest of Daves EU military.
    My BAE colleage tells me the navy can’t crew the latest Type 45 destroyer as all the sailors are appointed to the new carriers. You know the ones with no planes.

    Reply We are building two new carriers which will have planes. We have one of the strongest militaries outside the USA, with formidable firepower.

    • JoeSoap
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      Reply to reply
      And yet when faced with a random invasion from Calais, all we can do is put up a wire fence?

      • JoeSoap
        Posted October 3, 2015 at 9:20 am | Permalink

        I just can’t believe that would be Putin’s reply to an invasion of people from a satellite state.

    • agricola
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      How many ships do you think we need on and below the surface to protect just one operational carrier. It was very much touch and go in the Falklands since which our fleet has been depleted. Defence requires a radical re-think because all the informed comment suggests that it is totally inadequate in all three services at present.

    • Ian wragg
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      Rubbish John. We have no maritime reconnaissance capability since you chopped the planes up and I repeat. Latest Type 45 destroy being mothballed do to lack of staff. We don’t have enough ships to provide carrier escort.

      Reply I have been assured by the military high command that the carriers will have fleet protection. Remember the defence budget is growing again in real terms.

      • Ian wragg
        Posted October 3, 2015 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        Then the defence chief is being very economical with the truth as we do not have enough ships or men to provide carrier escort. I served in nuclear subs in the 60’s and know just how much effort is required to protect carriers.

        • Ian wragg
          Posted October 3, 2015 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

          There’s a Type 23 frigate docked in Portsmouth with a defective gearbox and the Admiralty don’t keep strategic spares anymore due to cost cutting. We are totally unprepared for any combat missions. Let down by stupid politicians and left wing Prime Ministers.

      • sm
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

        Fleet protection by the rest of the EU navy? or the RN?

    • agricola
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      To add to my earlier comment and after investigation, the Royal Navy has a total of 76 ships,
      6 Guided Missile destroyers
      13 Frigates
      4 ballistic Missile Subs
      6 Fleet Subs
      1 landing Platform Helicopters
      2 Amphibious Transport Docks
      15Minesweepers
      4 Survey Ships
      1 Icebreaker
      22 Patrol Vessels
      No doubt a few Tugs and other craft

      How many of these are fully operational at any one time is any bodies guess.

      The US Navy recon that one carrier needs a battle group consisting of,

      2 Cruisers
      3 Destroyers
      2 Subs of the seek and destroy type.
      2 Supply Ships
      4 Mine Sweepers.

      The Air Wing requires an
      Air to Air combat capability
      Air to Ground combat capability
      Anti Enemy Shipping capability
      Airborne Early Warning Cover
      Air Sea Rescue
      Communications
      Anti Submarine warfare capability.

      This is a considerable number of varying aircraft.

      We apparently have two carriers on order so double up the above figures. If one assumes that the Royal Navy as it is has plenty to do with what ships are serviceable at present then where are the battle fleet ships coming from. On the face of it there has to be a question as to whether this has all been thought through or are we assuming that our assets will only be deployed where there is no serious opposition.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted October 3, 2015 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        Good points

        Tad

      • DaveM
        Posted October 3, 2015 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        I could write for hours about RN capability but I won’t.

        You missed off all the RFA ships which provide a crucial part of any amphibious or carrier group. And most of the tugs and other “admin” ships are now run by Serco.

        The RN’s strategy (and please remember the RN has to provide similar capability in spite of savage cuts – there is not the luxury to wave placards and cry about austerity) is to have a “golf bag” of capabilities which can provide a bespoke number of task groups centred around a LPH or carrier. As people here routinely point out, there is currently a capability gap regarding carriers and planes; that’s why we have a world class diplomatic service and good friends abroad. The RN’s D-class destroyers, the new carriers, and the new Type 26s are light years ahead of foreign ships – a single D-type could hold back a US carrier group for a long time. More importantly, the people that crew the ships and determine concept and doctrine are world-leaders.

        If you don’t have carriers, planes, tanks, nukes, and subs, you give up your seat at the top table. Simple as that.

        The RN will be ok. It’s the army which is being messed up by weak policy making based on economics.

        The real problem we have, though, is the lack of direction in terms of foreign policy.

    • yosarion
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      We now only have three Main Battle Tank Regiments, how do you propose to hold the ground, or will you just give the hard won ground up like we did for the last twelve years.

      Reply We had large tank formations when we thought there might be a war on the Notth German plain where tanks could deploy. That is not the current likely threat.

  11. Denis Cooper
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    There seems to be a lack of any strong national identity in Syria, as in many other countries which are torn apart by internal dissension. People living in Syria may say that they are “Syrians”, but in many cases that national identity takes second or third place in their order of loyalties, with religious and/or tribal loyalties taking precedence.

    Moreover there is a great readiness among some to resort to violence to get their way, whether it is a majority crushing minorities or a minority seeking to throw off the domination of a majority. You cannot expect a normal democratic system of government to work unless those who are outvoted in elections are prepared to accept that outcome, and furthermore those who have numerical superiority are cautious and restrained about imposing their will on the minority or minorities.

    So perhaps the best thing would be for Syria to be broken up so that each of the mutually hostile groups can have their own territory where they can have their way rather than being subject to other groups. But I doubt that any such territorial rearrangement would be feasible without fragmenting the present country into a complex patchwork of small states, with enclaves and/or exclaves as constant potential sources of friction.

    However I am quite certain that in that event Islamic State should not be one of those new states, on the contrary for the safety of the world as a whole it must be destroyed, and that should be the top priority for foreign powers intervening in the region. And as the most powerful military opponents of Islamic State in Syria are the forces of the Assad regime, which as I understand is the officially recognised government of Syria notwithstanding its brutality, I can understand why the Russians may see attacks on any armed opponents of the Assad regime as effectively equivalent to attacks on Islamic State itself. If it gets up the noses of the US and UK governments that the Russians are attacking groups which they have armed in the expectation that they would act as local proxies on their behalf, well, maybe they shouldn’t be so stupid as to think that they can impose western style national democracy on people who don’t want it and won’t accept it and will have no hesitation about repeatedly committing mass murders of innocent people to overthrow it.

    There are complaints that the Russians may have killed or wounded civilians in their air strikes, but barely a day goes by without reports of terrorist atrocities somewhere in that region, so many that after a time they hardly register on the mind any more.

    • forthurst
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      “However I am quite certain that in that event Islamic State should not be one of those new states”

      Denis, how would you propose to arrange that? Syria had existed for nearly a hundred years before being riven by civil war. It is certainly true that it was not a democracy; it was however, a secular state ruled not by the Shia as such, but by a clan, as was the case with Iraq and Libya. The states in the ME which are inherently intolerant of those who are not members of the official religion are the most objectionable by far and are very hostile to their neighbours who are not of them.

      The divisions in the ME which erupted during the ‘Arab Spring’ were as spontaneous as the those that occurred in Ukraine; in other words, they were stoked up by neocons who now prefer to bankroll and train and arm ‘oppositions’ to engineer regime change in other peoples’ countries.

      The idea that people of different variants of the same religion in the ME or anywhere else cannot find a common interest and a common identity is exactly what the neocons would like you to believe and it was generally not true until the neocons started fomenting trouble as they have been in Iran for some considerable time.

      We, being a democracy, instead of being ruled by one clan are ruled by two who alternate. One group lives in large houses in West London, profess Christianity, attended Oxford where they belong to esoteric societies, interacting with comestibles in various ways which they susequently disavow, whilst the other group live in large houses in North London, do not profess the Christian religion, attended Oxford where they belonged to revolutionary Marxist societies which they subsequently disavow.

  12. Lifelogic
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    I tend to agree but I, rather like most people in the UK I suspect, know very little about the reality of this situation.

    Still it seems some in the state sector are still providing vital public services. Mugging two pensioners for £80 each for dropping a few cherry stones under a tree where they were sitting eating them. Clearly they have no shortage of time to waste harassing & mugging the public.

    I assume there were no a cherry trees nearby or they could have fined all the squirrels too.

  13. JJE
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Is Mr. Cameron still proposing that the UK starts bombing in Syria?

    Does anyone have the first idea what to do when the Saudi regime buckles under the pressure of the current oil price that is nowhere near the level they need to balance their budget?
    Their need to repatriate their investments in the West to balance their books is going to be a major drag on share prices for the foreseeable.

  14. Iain Gill
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Some Western pronouncements are clearly silly, Russia was never going to let its main naval bases out of its control for instance. We have failed to speak up for democracy and supported one dodgy regime after another.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      It’s a part of a dangerous and flawed geo-political strategy Iain, that ought to have been consigned to history long ago. The motive for which, as far as I can see, is that Russia has vast natural resources coveted by others who want political control over them, and their slow encroachment upon Russia’s borders gives the game away.

      Tad

      • Mitchel
        Posted October 3, 2015 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        Relations with Russia have been poorly handled right from the start of its emergence from the Soviet Union.In his excellent “Putin & the Rise of Russia” from 2008,the German historian/political scientist,Michael Stuermer made the following astute observation :

        “Russia clearly has the potential to act one way or the other to be a force for stability or a force for turmoil.So far it seems that the leaders of Russia have not yet decided;which way they go depends,in no small degree,on the west,its cohesion,statecraft and understanding of Russia……The greatest of all challenges for the former antagonists was to create together an equitable and fair system in which Russia would be part of a new world order-as promised by the elder Bush in the aftermath of the 1990/1 Gulf War.This opportunity was missed during the decade when the west was strong and Russia was weak.Do we today have the Russia we deserve?To be torn between a resurgent Russia and a declining Pax Americana would be divisive,indeed fatal for today’s Europe and an enormous burden on the Atlantic alliance.”He also quotes Mr Putin’s observation that “Between Western Europe and Russia there are only a few dotted lines while between Europe and America there is an ocean”.

  15. Atlas
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    As you eloquently say, John, it is all a disaster area, which looks like getting worse and so will drive even more to the ‘Gates of Rome’. Perhaps Boris, with his classical education, understands the historical parallels better than the present incumbent of No. 10 ?

  16. Peter Stroud
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Obama’s indecisiveness became apparent during his first term, yet he was reelected for a second term. Frankly, his second term has been a disaster, with more mind changes. However, one theme has not changed: his determined, almost fanatical support of catastrophic, anthropogenic climate change (CAGW). I remember him boasting that he would ruin the USA’s coal industry. He has all but succeeded in this. He will, no doubt, attend the big CAGW, international meeting in Paris, in December. I fear that to ensure his green legacy he will attempt to push the West’s industries into more expensive, ineffective regulations: and that our government will embrace his ideas.

  17. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Perhaps in a few centuries most English people will find it a great historical wonderment and actually funny in a macabre way that people here should be talking in tremendous detail , the amount of detail adding to the whole strangeness, of what WE should do in Syria, over 2.500 miles away and what the WE in Russia should do in Syria. over 3000 miles away. And why the WE in Mexico, the WE in Sweden, the WE in most places mind their own businesses but primarily at least on the “issue” of Syria behave in a grown-up manner.
    I believe Mr Putin has actually used a bicycle on a road but it was far away from what even Russians would call major traffic. His adversaries, in the form of Mr Cameron, Mr Boris Johnson, Mr John Kerry ride bicycles ( completely vulnerable to heavy machines moving past them driven by persons unknown ) and, advise children to do the same.

    The great topic of late in this little boys’ world where Mr Putin and his Foreign Secretary Mr Lavrov appear to be the only adults, and the only ones capable of making personally safe decisions, is…..ties….neck ties. Mr Corbyn often is seen without one!!!!!! Sometimes it is not tied properly!!!! And of course he rides a bicycle in London traffic as any naive very little boy would who did not have an adult at any stage in his life to point out the dangers. Tut tut no tie!!! What is the world coming to???Before WE know it there’ll be people actually not tucking their tee-shirts into their jeans.
    So these our our leaders.
    On balance, aside from childish political thought, Syria if it is to be influenced by anyone not Syrian then perhaps a big person in the form of Mr Putin is preferable.

  18. Tad Davison
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Not just the Middle-East, the West looses it’s way – period!

    And Polly Toynbee was falling over herself on the BBC recently telling everyone how great Obama is!

    I would sum up Obama’s presidency as a gigantic missed opportunity. He could have been the much-need instrument of change, but I feel the behind-the-scenes powers are far too strong, even if he were disposed to a more equal domestic policy, and a more ethical foreign policy. They took over years ago and turned the United States into something the founding fathers would barely recognise. Indeed, many early US presidents warned against the country becoming what it is today.

    I carry no brief for Russia or for Mr Putin, but when it comes to leadership, the Russia president is way out in front. And if he can provide a foil to the expansionist ambitions of a bully of a country that treats its own citizens so badly, and has caused so much trouble, death, and misery across the globe, then he has my blessing. And of course, the UK is right there behind the USA.

    Thank God for the internet and the freedom of information it currently provides, otherwise, these evil beings who seek world domination might have succeeded. The only thing that might yet go in their favour is the ignorance of the masses who are forced to swallow the propaganda that is put out as fact by ‘trusted’ broadcasters.

    I caught the good old BBC at it yet again yesterday and made my displeasure known. They covered the Syrian Ambassador’s speech to the United Nations, but as soon as he mentioned the word ‘Israel’, they cut to a so-called ‘expert’ in the studio who then proceeded to give her take on the Syrian position, when it would have been better to get it from the horse’s mouth. I like to make my own mind up, not get something spoon-fed to me because the BBC wishes to control the message and not upset certain powerful lobby groups. That is shoddy, biased journalism of the worst kind.

    John Whittingdale needs to sort these people out good and proper, and not let them waste our licence fee on such deplorable chicanery. With a good broadcaster, many would not be so quick to meekly accept what is going on in the world, and would learn to question more. For evil to triumph, good men only need to do nothing.

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

    • mickc
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      I strongly suspect Obama’s foreign policy is not, in fact, “his” foreign policy. He has succeeded in that few full bodybags have been sent back to the USA; I imagine that was his main aim.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted October 3, 2015 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        mick,

        Just look at Obama’s impotence on gun control. He stands up and complains, but can’t do a damned thing about it because of the power of the lobbyists.

        I sincerely want the best for the American people, but to say they have been badly led is a massive understatement. Levels of third-world poverty and 46 million people in receipt of food stamps, in a country with the potential to lead the world in almost everything, and give a great standard of living for all, is a travesty. The American dream is in fact a nightmare for millions of their people.

        They narrowly avoided a revolution in 1933 to get the country back from powerful vested interests. If they’d killed them off then, and not elected FDR, some would say the whole world would be a different place right now.

        Tad

  19. DaveM
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    If we forget the paranoia about Russia for a minute, and remember that they had a pretty rubbish experience in Chechnya, let’s look what they’re doing in Syria.

    They are trying to destroy all anti-govt factions so the established govt regains control of the country. The majority of Syrians would rather have stability under a shi’ite leader right now. Don’t think for a second that once that mission is complete that they wouldn’t effect a change of leader, maybe giving Assad a nice house on the Black Sea. If they have expansionist ambitions it would be fairly hypocritical for the US and EU to condemn them.

    I don’t think they will achieve victory without ground troops, but that’s because I’m a ground troop. They are at least doing something which might lead to peace and the destruction of IS. The US and European countries have just dropped bombs thus making the eventual reconstruction and subsequent repatriation of refugees more expensive and more difficult.

    As for Ukraine and Crimea, has anyone in the EU asked the russian-speaking ethnic russian majority in those disputed areas what they want? Because from where I’m sitting it looks like another Merkel-led EUrocrat sponsored disaster.

    Why on earth do economists acting as politicians think they can out-do someone as shrewd, determined and decisive as Vladimir Putin?

    • Tad Davison
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      ‘As for Ukraine and Crimea, has anyone in the EU asked the russian-speaking ethnic russian majority in those disputed areas what they want? Because from where I’m sitting it looks like another Merkel-led EUrocrat sponsored disaster.’

      You are so right there Dave! And I note from listening to broadcasters other than the ideologically-led BBC, that there are many Germans who are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with Merkel’s lefty leadership. She’s changing the complexion of Germany, and causing much disaffection in the process. The BBC might show Germans applauding migrants, but they are much slower and less inclined to show the growing numbers of people who are demonstrating against them.

      Tad

    • stred
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      I think I suggested the EU or OSCE should offer to organise a new referendum in Crimea to see whether the claims of 95% on the one hand or a complete fraud on the other could be resolved. But this would be the last thing the EU/US would consider, as they must know what the result would be.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted October 3, 2015 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

        If I were an ethnically British Falkland Islander, and had the choice between becoming a part of a virtually bankrupt and debt-laden Argentina with a different currency, a different language, and a poorer standard of living; or belonging to the UK with the same common language, a good pension scheme, and a better way of life, I think I’d vote to stay with what I had.

        That’s pretty much what The Falkland Islanders did in their own referendum, so it should come as no surprise that the people of the Crimea voted the way they did.

        It’s a pity that the very slanted domestic broadcasters in the UK put a totally different slant on the Crimea, when the two scenarios are very similar. Such inconsistency should give us the clue that our most trusted broadcasters aren’t quite as even-handed as they would wish us to believe. I therefore urge people to view them with the utmost suspicion, and don’t swallow the guff they put out without question – especially the good old BBC!

        Tad

    • Mitchel
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      @DaveM,it was probably rather more rubbish for the Chechens!…still they were so grateful that when the ruined capital,Grozny,was rebuilt,they re-named the main street…..Prospekt Putina.

  20. Roy Grainger
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Now Russia is involved in bombing in Syria I wonder how many refugees they will take ? I genuinely don’t know but I would guess none ?

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Why would they need to when they know the likes of Merkel and Cameron will take them all eventually? No wonder so many youngsters these days think it’s not worth having kids. What kind of future is there for them? Certainly not one of stability even in their own country. It’s a complete shambles brought about by incompetent governments who seem to take note of celebrities rather than people who have knowledge of the problem. Charlotte Church should stick to ‘singing and entertaining’ and not pretending she has the answers to all the problems of the world. If you want to listen to sanity then go onto YouTube and listen to Farage. He’s the only one telling the truth and has any idea how to rectify the mess we find ourselves in.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      I don’t suppose that many of these migrants would even want to go to Russia.

      They turn their noses up at Finland because it’s cold and the restaurants are no good, they only want to pass through Denmark to get to Sweden where the benefits are better, and as we know France is such an awful country that they are willing to put their own and other peoples’ lives at risk, and use violence, to get to the UK.

    • forthurst
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

      “Now Russia is involved in bombing in Syria I wonder how many refugees they will take ?”

      The Russians have been attacking both Daesh and al Nusra/al Qaida/moderate rebels/neocon proxies etc, the latter, not Daesh, being responsible for creating most of the refugees. By using Daesh as a distraction, the neocons were hoping that their own murderous proxies would quietly get on with destroying the Syrian Army and the Syrian State; the Russians sensibly recognised that all those fighting Assad are by definition, terrorists and therefore scheduled for eradication.

    • waramess
      Posted October 4, 2015 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      How very sensible and that is precisely the number we should take.
      If we are not very careful we will have achieved the total Islamisation of Northern Europe without understanding how it happened.

      We in the West have very little understanding of the moral values of the Middle East and what drives their progress.

      words left out ed

      Probably to late for these firebrand politicians to consider a complete withdrawal from the region but not too late for them to reflect on the new strategy introduced by Russia that you cannot pick and chose which terrorists you would like to support; they are all terrorists and they will all destabilise the region.

      Unfortunately Assad is the only option and if supporting him is distasteful then a withdrawal from the region is the only alternative to a decisive defeat.

  21. Tad Davison
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    ‘What is the USA going to do about it if Russia does bomb non ISIL opponents of Assad? Will the USA help Russia identify who they do want to kill?’

    I know that was written in all innocence John, but how ironic that US military forces should have killed so many MSF workers in one of their ill-conceived operations, so we could turn that question around. What will Russia do to stop the Yanks when they bomb non ISIL targets?

    And we must not lose sight of the fact that the present Syrian government is the legitimate one and despite the complaints and reservations of the West, is recognised as such, so Russia’s actions are legal whilst others who just bomb Syria’s territory without being invited to do so, do not enjoy that same status.

    Nobody wants to see that ISIL trash wiped off the face of the Earth more than I do, but sometimes, those who carry the ‘sword of truth and freedom’ need to look in the mirror.

    Tad

    • Mitchel
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      I rather liked Sergey Lavrov(surely the outstanding diplomat of his generation)’s reply to the suggestion that they may extend their bombing to targets in Iraq:-“We are polite people,as you know,we will not come unless we are invited”.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted October 3, 2015 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

        I’m impressed with Lavrov too, but I get no satisfaction knowing that our own politicians are so weak by comparison. It’s like watching the school whimp in a boxing match with a heavy-weight!

        Where the hell are our own statesmen?

        Tad

    • zorro
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      Putin and Lavrov are head and shoulders above our present crowd of political leaders….

      I see that Hawaii’s favourite son has been doing his regular comic turn. He is claiming that Russia’s very effective air strikes are ‘strengthening ISIS’ by apparently dealing with other terrorists aka ‘moderate folks’ ably supplied by USA to take over from Assad…. Golly, those 6 -9 trained soldiers sure can stretch for miles 😉 when they are not surrendering or handing over their weapons to ISIS. Even the US is admitting that it is a bit of a joke….

      It is, of course, Assad’s fault for starting a civil war against himself and destroying his country so that others could depose him as he was getting bored being in charge of a country with a stablish growing economy and relative stability and thought it would be a good idea to convince the US to plan to take out his country years before. Such are the hobbies of Middle East leaders….

      Of course, Putin has invited the US, as John mentions, to join in a broader coalition against terrorism and a joint ops centre has been set up in Baghdad but the US doesn’t want to play because they are not in control and are not calling the shots…. As some of you might know, the US doesn’t like that.

      I’m afraid that Putin has hoisted them by their own petard and they are running around like wet hens, and their nefarious geo-political dealings are being exposed for all the world to see. As I said previously, Russia will do more against ISIS in a week than the ‘grand coalition’ has done in over a year….

      Oh dear, it won’t be safe for our friendly, neighbourhood white Nike clad, Landcruiser driving jihadis to pootle around in the desert. Hey, maybe they’ll turn off their location settings on their twitter feeds too 😉

      zorro

  22. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    George Galloway might be the leader of the UK if making a clever Speech with a side-salad of facts and factoids were the sole criterion. But he is not Leader and we do not have one.
    In the absence of a Leader who we can trust to tell us the truth irrespective, and a deficit of reliable information about the goings-on in Syria, who can know the whole truth, even from one angle?
    Many things do not add up in regard to Syria:

    Why do we talk of the “Kurds” as one people, one religion, and not living hundreds of miles one group from another but with one variety of politics?
    Why do we think of anyone with a gun in his hand who appears to be attacking generally in the direction of Damascus ( and not ISIS ) as a thoroughly normally law-abiding citizen with a singular clone-like belief in all matters identical to that of a clone-like Kurd?
    Why are none of these people common criminals, burglars, petty thieves, con-men, rapists, drug addicts, mysoginists, Corbynites, sadists, murders and hooligans?
    Why is it only in the UK we have a population capable of criminality and individual diverse views?
    If only we followed ever more closely American foreign policy and hated he who America hates then we could be as good as a Kurd or an American mercenary recently bombed by the Russian Airforce in Syria.

  23. Mitchel
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I’ve noticed that the BBC’s tone regarding Russia has changed over the past couple of days-John Simpson,for instance,reporting from the Paris meeting yesterday sounded in awe of President Putin.Sky,on the other hand,continues with its neo-con driven narrative.

  24. Stephen Berry
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    JR: “Russia’s relationship with the Obama regime was badly damaged by the annexation of Crimea”.

    The failed attempt to bring the Ukraine into NATO’s orbit has seen the clear reassertion by Russia of its position as a major power. The annexation of Crimea informed the West that they would not get hold of a major Russian naval base without a fight. The intervention in Syria is a further reminder that the Yeltsin days of Russian weakness are well and truly over. The American neo-conservative dream of dismembering Russia can be put on hold for the time being. I notice that the French and German governments have got the message. It’s time the British foreign office took notice.

    The Russians joining the Middle East bombing club ought to make the decision of the House of Commons easier if this government ever puts forward a vote for the UK to bomb Syria. No way should we want to get involved in this increasingly complicated mess.

    Finally, a comment on nuclear weapons. Jeremy Corbyn says that they are not relevant to problems of the modern world which centre on terrorism. I have so far, counted five countries dropping bombs on Syrian territory. If Assad had nuclear weapons and an effective method of delivering them, I believe that four of these countries would be behaving in a rather more restrained fashion.

  25. alte fritz
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    If Mr Fallon feels there is a moral imperative to intervene in Syria but feels short of armaments to do the job, perhaps he can ask the Chinese government to whom we recently kowtowed to lend a hand in giving the Syrians democracy.

  26. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    The Russian government has never made any bones about their objective of keeping Assad in power. Furthermore, they said in advance that their air strikes had been requested by the Syrian government and that the strikes would be at targets identified by the Syrian government. Why, then, is anyone surprised at what has happened?

    The Awalites fear extermination by Muslims if they lose power, and there is a vast difference between a dog fighting for its dinner and a dog fighting for its life. To put it mildly, the emergence of ISIS hasn’t helped.

    It has now become urgent for the USA and Russia to broker a political settlement and obtain peace in Syria. My opinion is that only a very long transition period – say 20 years – with the Awalites retaining power while the Muslims steadily gain rights, will do the trick. One man one vote will be the very last piece in the jigsaw, when the Muslims have demonstrated that they can be trusted.

    Right and wrong are relatively easy to establish in the Ukraine. Russia was wholly in the right to seize Crimea – and don’t forget, there was a plebiscite. Russia is wholly wrong to attempt to grab more Ukrainian territory. The rights of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine are easy to identify – recognition of their language, freedom of worship (and non-worship) and some control over their education, particularly regarding the teaching of history. That’s all.

    Again, there is everything to gain from peace – Russia is Ukraine’s main creditor and it makes no sense to inflict the expense of war on such a debtor. Sanctions and retaliatory sanctions are hurting both the West and Russia.

    • zorro
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

      Alawites please, and they are a branch of Shia Islam….

      zorro

  27. zorro
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Probably…. He’s dreaming of cheerleading the EU drive up to and beyond the Urals!

    zorro

  28. zorro
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Who would have thought that the US would support those (or close allies Al Nusra aka AQ in Syria) that they claim destroyed the Twin Towers on 9/11?…Can you imagine the distress that might cause to the families of victims?…. But then again, the US did assist in similar fashion in Yugoslavia…. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/apr/22/warcrimes.comment

    zorro

    • Mercia
      Posted October 4, 2015 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      Who would have thought that the US would support those (or close allies Al Nusra aka AQ in Syria) that they claim destroyed the Twin Towers on 9/11?

      >
      The slow realization of this fact is upsetting a lot of families of Americans whose sons sacrificed their lives fighting the same or similar in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is angering people so much that the American government are afraid of veterans turning on the government so veterans are now seen as possible terrorist threats.

      If we do overthrow Assad and Al Quida affiliates or IS seize power there will be a backlash by veterans in the USA.

      Again, Peter Hitchens sums up by views on the matter this morning.

  • 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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