Archive for: July 2013

History in the making; past lessons for todays diplomats

As the situation in Syria escalates, international diplomats have to decide what to do. Indeed, Syria was discussed in depth at the recent G8 summit. Apart from showing the deeper divides between the US and Russia on this matter, it seems that little was actually decided as regards a response to the ongoing civil war.

 

As the fighting in Syria continues, bringing more devastation and human suffering, at some stage the international community has to take action.  The  difficult question here is what realistically can be done? As several nations are considering a more muscular and military response, will entering the conflict actually do any good? There is also the concern that President Assad might use chemical weapons- the international community has to decide how to act if that happens.

 

In deciding and implementing a response, history is full of case studies and examples that a diplomat considering this matter should look at. The first and major lesson is quite clear: appeasement does not work. Giving in to dictators or authoritarian regimes in the hope that they will be satisfied, and stop being a nuisance quite simply does not work. Munich 1938 is a very good example of this; the agreement signed between Adolf Hitler and Neville Chamberlain quite simple had little value. Diplomats and international government officials should never concede any ground when dealing with such regimes.

 

Leading on from that, history shows that negotiations, peace treaties, diplomatic agreements and such niceties will only both sides so far, as the Abyssinia Crisis of 1936 shows. It is perfectly possible to arrive at a diplomatic solution that is acceptable to both sides, and end the crisis there. Such a solution is to be strived towards, as it is morally the best outcome for both sides. Unfortunately, such a resolution is relatively rare. If  negotiations show no signs of working- then diplomats should be prepared to consider alternative and tougher measures (such as Margaret Thatcher’s decisive and bold stance over the Falklands). Negotiations will only get so much progress- often, dictators will only respond to threats or tough measures, and will carry on unmoved by polite diplomatic rhetoric, or endless rounds of conferences. Diplomats and politicians should enter discussion hopefully- but be prepared to apply tougher measures if those talks break down. The stalemate between Iran, the US and the West perfectly illustrates this; the last few decades have been punctuated by talks, hopeful diplomacy, and aggression and threats when such diplomacy has broken down.

 

Worse than making the wrong decision, or making the wrong move, is doing nothing at all. This allows the situation to escalate, unchecked, and gives rogue dictators a sense of security and arrogance. They get the impression that it is okay to continue their oppression, their fighting, even their genocides, as the international community is standing by idly and doing nothing. In a sense, they have got away with it. In an international community that champions human rights and decency, to accidentally give that impression by a non- interventionist approach is morally wrong. Even if unwilling to use force, action of whatever sorts (be it sanctions, statements, UN resolutions, etc) must be taken by the international community. In this instance, a policy of doing nothing is the worst possible response- and actually can cause more harm than good by allowing rogue regimes to flourish unchecked or un-criticised.

 

If, however, a nation or coalition decides, upon considering the facts, that the only possible response is a military response, make that decision carefully. Before sending in the army, be prepared for a long and bloody war. This is especially so in the case of guerrilla warfare or civil wars;  essentially, where the sides and participants are not so certain. As history shows, fighting in those arenas can be particularly bloody, and also very protracted (Northern Ireland being a good case in point here).

 

Above all, if history has taught politicians and diplomats anything- consider the endgame. Before even committing troops, consider how and when a likely troop withdrawal will occur- and the consequences. Consider that reconstruction will be necessary- especially after a brutal war. After the CIA funded campaign which saw the the USSR leave Afghanistan, nothing was done to rebuild the country. Having successfully and covertly overthrown the Soviet forces, the good was undone by a failure to consider the endgame, and set in motion plans to effect reconstruction.

 

Education and rebuilding the morale and hopes of a nation will be essential; if not now, in 30 years time when those children who lived in fear during war will be business, social, and political leaders.  Infrastructure might have to be repaired, cities might have to be rebuilt. The reconstruction and the endgame will be as daunting, problematical and demanding as the war and fighting itself. During the war, it is essential to build and strengthen long term relationships with local, social, and business leaders; their  support will be invaluable during the long endgame. Additionally, the endgame could last for  many years- so even before inviting battles plans from senior military chiefs, seek the advise of foreign affairs and economic advisers as to the reconstruction and what happens after the fighting.

 

History is full of examples, from classical Rome to the Cold War, of lessons in international relations and diplomacy. History shows what has worked, and what doesn’t. History also shows, with monotonous regularity, that leaders often don’t learn from history.

 

However, it seems that, by mixture of international condemnation of Syria, the determination to intervene, mixed with uncertainty as to the best way to intervene, and the reluctance to commit troops, international diplomats have finally learned the lessons of history. Only time will tell, as tougher measures are discussed, to what extent those lessons have been learned.

Syrian State Media Accuses Rebels for Killing 123 Civilians

Syria’s state-controlled media had accused the opposition rebels of killing civilians during an offensive in Khan al-Assad. The state news agency said that majority of the 123 killed in action were women and children, adding to the total deaths of 100,000 in the 2-year Syrian civil war.

International human rights groups accuse both sides of the Syrian Civil War. Syrian state news said tha the rebels mutilated the bodies of soldiers and civilians. It also claimed that the rebels burned the bodies of their victims.

Currently, the Syrian Rebellion is not unified. Several splinter rebel groups have committed terrorist activities. Rebel in-fighting have also been reported by observers.

A rebel group calling itself the Supporters of the Islamic Caliphate posted a video in the Internet showing 30 bodies of what they claim to be pro-Assad militiamen.

As the rebels continue to lack unification, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continued to gain support from Iran, Russia and Hezbollah to aid the regime’s military campaigns against the rebels.

According to political observers, the feared sectarian-fuelled war had already arrived in the Syrian Civil War. On Saturday, 29 civilians including 19 children died during a Regime air strike in major cities.

Gigantic Earthquake Shakes New Zealand With No Casualties

A 6.5 magnitude earthquake in New Zealand leaves many homes, buildings and windows shattered into Wellington’s downtown streets but produced no casualties on Sunday. Aftershocks had people fearing for their lives thinking that the city has now finally experienced the biggest earthquake it had for years.

New Zealand Authorities said that the earthquake had many buildings crack. Road sections near the harbours and beaches have fallen into the sea. Yet, authorities said these damages were only superficial in nature.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said that most of the earthquake buildings only suffered minor injuries. Wellington did not have any grave structural damages and is “relatively unscathed” from the earthquake. The earthquake happened beyond office hours, as the business district had no bustling activity on Sunday.

Emergency workers launch a major clean-up operation to clear the streets of debris on Sunday. Road blocks were set as workers cleaned up. Wellington’s residents and workers feared for the worst after the earthquake. They remain on-guard against other aftershocks.

New Zealand has its own share of earthquake horrors. The city of Christchurch had a devastating earthquake in 2011 that killed 185 people in the island city.

According to experts, Wellington lies within five major fault lines. Seismologist Stephen Bannister said that the earthquake’s epicentre was not the city, allowing it to escape Christchurch’s fate.

Juvenile Suspect Involved in New Delhi Rape Case Gets Decision Today

The New Delhi gang rape case involving a 23 year old paramedical student named by the public as “Damini” who was raped by four men with two more as accomplices shook the entire world. One of the accomplices, a 17 year old boy, will get his fate decided by the Juvenile Justice Board today.

The court had concluded the inquiry against the juvenile on March and he is considered the most brutal of the six accused on July 5. Under the Juvenile Justice Act, the maximum punishment the juvenile could receive is a three-year sentence to a reformatory home.

The juvenile is accused of gang rape, murder, kidnapping, unnatural offences, attempt to murder, destruction of evidence and conspiracy. The victim’s male friend and a carpenter who was robbed in the bus where the December 16 rape took place provided their statements as evidence that the juvenile was involved in the case.

However, the juvenile’s lawyer told the court that no medical evidence involved the client to the rape charges. No fingerprints were also detected in the bus that showed he took part with such offenses. The juvenile claimed innocence.

Damini’s rape case last year inspired many Indian men and women to protest against the lax women and children’s protection laws in India. In New Delhi alone, around 700 reported rape cases exist. The world also turned their attention to the patriarchal environment that abused women in India.

Minbar Ansar Deen and Boko Haram blacklisted

In a continuous effort to keep radicals and extremists outside the UK borders, Home Secretary Theresa May has drafted to parliament t ban the two extremist groups. This comes after radical Abu Qatada has been deported yesterday to Jordan to be trialed for acts of terrorism. It seems as if Theresa May has made a top priority to rid the country of such folk and the people seem to love her for making UK a safer, terrorism free country.

Minbar Ansar Deen and Boko Haram

The two extremist groups instigate violence and promote radical beliefs against the West; Minbar Ansar Deen operates from within the UK while Boko Haram promotes its teaching from Nigeria, all through the means of their websites. Should the draft pass, anyone offering support to one of the two groups is to be considered a criminal offence and could receive up to 10 years in prison or fines up to £5,000.  The two groups are also linked in one way or another with dangerous individuals or terrorist groups and as a result pose a threat to the national security. Asking to ban these two groups is a clear message that the British government condones their activities and wants them out of Britain.

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Posing a real threat

Minbar Ansar Deen even goes that far as to recruit people on their website and to send them overseas in order to train them to become real terrorists. On the other hand Boko Haram targets poor Muslims from central and northern Nigeria. Should the act be given the green light, police authorities will be given the required tools to handle these groups and the support networks and perhaps giving them the change to discover more such groups.

Government officials have not given any particular reasons as to why they have chosen this course of action but the message is clear, namely the government regards them as a potential threat. Furthermore, some voices claim that these actions will surely work in favor of Theresa May should she officially announce her candidature of PM if such a vacancy occurs although no officials statement have been made. As a conclusion, Theresa May’s actions help UK citizens sleep better at night and help the country to be ever more safer and in the end that is what matters.

Radical Abu Qatada at deported at last

For those of you who do not know, Abu Qatada is a Jordan citizen who for the past decade has been living in Britain despite the government’s efforts to deport him. He ended up in the UK with his family after using a fake UAE passport. After reaching UK territory he requested asylum on grounds of religious persecution. After 10 years the British government succeed and signed a treaty according to which evidence obtain against him through torture will not be used in the upcoming trial.

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Abu Qatada – the terrorist

As soon as his plane touched the Jordanian soil he was instantly accused of terrorism in relation to cases dating from 1999 and 1998, namely related to plans to use explosives during Jordan’s millennium celebrations. For the next 15 days he will be held in a state of the art prison located somewhere in the Jordanian desert. He is also suspected of having links to Osama Bin Laden and he has even been called by some “the Osama of Europe”. His departure was not without risks and UK officials are relieved that he is no longer in their custody. According to Abu Qatada’s father, he was optimistic and received good treatment.

Official reactions

Many are appalled by how long the process lasted and even more due to the 1.7 mil pounds spent from the taxpayers’ money to carry pout the deportation process but in the end it was all worth it according to Home Secretary Theresa May. Even British prime minister, David Cameron said that the matter made his “blood boil” but that he is content with the result, a feeling shared by most. This event marks a great success which may also open the road in the future for fewer deportation appeals.

Due to his beliefs, Abu Qatada has been viewed as a threat to the country’s national security and to its citizens. The question remains though if other people who shared his views and beliefs are still located in the country and if yes what can the government do to find them. Unfortunately radicals will always exist and until the UK will not get a firm grasp over who comes and goes within its territory there is no telling where radicals or extremists are located within the country.

Undercover operations should be tightly controlled

Whenever I hear the words “undercover police operations” I instantly imagine good cops making a personal sacrifice in order to catch a drug lord or any type of criminal. However recent events have exposed some awful truths related to undercover police operations and triggered the need of a more firm control over these operations. Undercover operations play a crucial part in the process of catching international criminals, pedophiles and even exposing terrorist plans.

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Good cop – bad cop?

According to Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper a considerable number of victim, 11 women and one man have expressed clear intentions to sue the police department due to the shameful activities conducted by the undercover officers. One of the undercover officers allegedly fathered a child after which he went off the radar while other officers have tricked several women into having sexual relationships. The government defends the actions of the undercover officers claiming that any activities they conducted during the undercover period were done in order to conserve their fake identity and for the greater good. I believe it is very hard to draw a clear line and to say if those actions were absolutely necessary or if they just fell victims to their own desires.

Any compensation for the victims?

There were no official statements regarding compensation ad as a result each victim will find justice in the courthouse. Even so, Home Secretary Theresa May stated that any officer found guilty of abuse in the line of duty will face the consequences of the justice system. Government officials claimed that these situations are regrettable yet they are a necessary evil in order to preserve the public safety.

In light of these events, the government requires stricter control over what undercover officers do during that period and 0 abuses will be tolerated. In a way it is justified and it is similar to the conditions during a war. In order to keep British citizens safe appalling acts had to be carried out. The only problem is that during the undercover operations superiors will have to second guess the undercover officers decisions in order to minimize the abuses. Nobody is arguing the need for these operations as they have proved time and time again that they are a valuable source of information. Hopefully in the future such situation could be avoided and to end such operations with as little as possible collateral victims.