First, the good news. After months of dithering, the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has given his approval for America to use the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey to mount air strikes against Islamic State (Isil) positions across the border in Syria.
Nearly a year after coalition planes began bombing Isil forces in Syria and Iraq, there is already much excitement being expressed in Washington that the Turkish decision could prove to be a game-changer in the campaign to defeat the Islamist menace. It will allow coalition forces to monitor more closely Turkey’s 500-mile border with Syria, which has been the main conduit through which Isil has smuggled arms and recruits, as well as enabling American warplanes to respond more quickly against likely Isil targets.… Seguir leyendo »
Peter Kassig, the former American soldier whose beheading by Islamic State (Isil) militants was shown in a propaganda video released yesterday, had, like Alan Henning, given up everything to deliver aid and assistance to the Middle East.
Having previously fought with the 75th Ranger Regiment in Iraq, the 26-year-old decided to leave the military so that he could devote his life to helping others, particularly in the Arab world. After visiting Beirut, Mr Kassig became “consumed”, as he described it, by the Syrian crisis and the huge humanitarian tragedy it had spawned, and set up his own aid outfit to provide medical training and supplies in areas deemed too dangerous for other Western organisations to operate in.… Seguir leyendo »
No matter how hard Vladimir Putin tries to persuade us otherwise, there is no escaping the fact that the proposed annexation of Crimea by the Kremlin constitutes a blatant violation of territorial sovereignty that the Western powers cannot afford to ignore.
Moscow claims that 97 per cent of those who participated in the referendum voted to join Russia, and there is no doubt that its outcome was popular among local Russophiles. No sooner had the vote been counted than the Crimean parliament declared independence, and voted to change its clocks to Moscow time and adopt the rouble as its currency.
But if the referendum’s outcome satisfies Crimea’s pro-Russian majority, no one else should take its validity seriously.… Seguir leyendo »
There is something rather laughable about the fugitive leader of al-Qaeda railing – as he has been recently – against the violent tactics employed by a new generation of Islamist militants.
This, after all, is an organisation that is no stranger to committing wanton acts of unprovoked violence, such as last year’s assault on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall. Judging from reports this week, it may also have radicalised the first British man to carry out a suicide bombing in the Syrian civil war.
But what really seems to be bugging Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s ideological linchpin, is not so much the violent methods being employed by militants fighting in Syria and Iraq, but the fact that they are no longer prepared to take orders from him.… Seguir leyendo »
It is now more than 40 years since Denis Healey, the Labour defence secretary at the time, ordered the withdrawal of British forces located east of the Suez Canal in a futile attempt to balance the government’s books.
If few could dispute the economic imperative that necessitated a dramatic reduction in Britain’s global presence, the decision came as a particularly cruel blow to the Gulf Arabs, most of whom cherished their long-standing ties with Britain which, in many cases, dated back to the early 19th century.
With London no longer able to protect them, the Americans quickly filled the void, and the arrival of the US 5th Fleet – which today has more warships than the entire Royal Navy – to take over the Bahrain naval base vacated by British forces in 1971 aptly symbolised our humiliating retreat from empire.… Seguir leyendo »
In Yasser Arafat’s long and eventful life, during which he managed the unlikely transition from infamous terrorist mastermind to Nobel Peace Prize recipient, it would be an understatement to observe that he made a fair few enemies along the way.
So we should hardly be surprised that, following the less than convincing conclusion reached by a team of Swiss scientists that he was “probably” poisoned with polonium-210 – the same material used to murder the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 – the conspiracy theorists will now have a field day advancing their fanciful theories about how the Palestinian leader really met his end.… Seguir leyendo »
When, back in August, the Assad regime in Syria killed hundreds of civilians in a sarin gas attack on the suburbs of Damascus, it seemed hard to believe that the crisis could get any worse. Within hours of the rocket attacks on eastern districts of the city, dozens of videos had been posted online showing in appalling detail the final convulsions of the victims, who included a large number of women and children.
The images of the distraught and the dying were every bit as harrowing as the beheading videos David Cameron is trying to get banned from Facebook. After two years of largely impotent activity by the West, it seemed that world leaders would at last be galvanised to hold President Bashar al-Assad to account for the worst chemical weapons attack since Saddam Hussein’s mass murder of Kurds in Halabja in 1988.… Seguir leyendo »
As charm offensives go, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s carefully orchestrated effort to convince sceptical Western leaders that his country has no intention of posing a threat to world peace is proving to be a roaring success.
Having become a regular pen pal of President Obama, Mr Rouhani’s declaration on American television this week that Iran would “never” develop nuclear weapons has raised expectations that three decades of hostility between Washington and Tehran could be drawing to an close.
As if to reinforce the message that a new spirit of reconciliation has taken root in Iran, Mr Rouhani ordered the release of several prominent political prisoners who had been detained without charge for upsetting the ayatollahs.… Seguir leyendo »
At last, leaders of the world’s major powers have found some common ground about how to deal with Syria’s bloody civil war. After two years of fruitless and often acrimonious exchanges at the United Nations, the five permanent Security Council members now appear to be in agreement that the best course of action is to place Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons under international supervision.
It says something about the dramatic shift taking place in the global balance of power that this groundbreaking proposal should have emanated from Moscow, rather than Washington, London or Paris. Since the end of the Cold War, the UN agenda has been dominated by the major Western powers, with Russia and China obliged to play a secondary role.… Seguir leyendo »