This Monday morning I am visiting Paris to show our continued support to the French people and to discuss with President Hollande how we can work together to rid the world of this evil terrorist threat.
As the murders on the streets of Paris reminded us so starkly, Islamic State (Isil) is not some remote problem thousands of miles away; it is a direct threat to our security. So I want the British people to know they have a government that understands the importance of our national security and that we will take whatever actions are necessary to keep our country safe.… Seguir leyendo » “We will defeat terrorism, and the poisonous ideology that fuels it”
The future of the city is the future of our society. By 2050, 70 per cent of the world’s population is likely to be urban, with many living in megacities of more than 10 million people. In some countries, the pace of change is extraordinary.
What took Europe 200 years is now taking 20 in China and India. In 1950, the fishing village of Shenzhen in south-east China had 3,148 inhabitants. By 2025, the UN predicts, it will exceed 15 million. Urbanisation has accelerated by a factor of 10, and this has been accompanied by a shift of balance from the so-called “developed” to “developing” countries.… Seguir leyendo » “Megacities will save mankind, not doom it”
Doesn’t the decisive victory of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Sunday’s elections put an end to concerns about the country’s stability? Hasn’t calm returned to Nato’s strategically vital bulwark on the edge of the Middle East after five months of political impasse and growing sectarian violence?
Sadly not. By handing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan such a strong mandate, Turkey’s voters have swung behind a leader whose hallmarks have become capitalising on tension and fear. In the run up to the polls, the president was accused of threatening to come after critical newspaper editors once the elections were over.… Seguir leyendo » “Erdogan’s victory is a threat to Turkish stability”
Last week, we saw very starkly the desperate measures some migrants will take to try to cross the 20-mile stretch of sea between our two countries. As the extra security fencing the British Government has provided for the Channel Tunnel at Coquelles goes up, would-be migrants have been taking ever more dangerous risks – resulting in serious injuries and, tragically, deaths.
We are both clear: tackling this situation is the top priority for the UK and French governments. We are committed and determined to solve this, and to solve it together.
While the situation last week was particularly acute, the pressures in Calais are not new.… Seguir leyendo » “Migrants think our streets are paved with gold”
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 » “Turkey is paying a high price for its double standards over Islamic State”
Shortly after the successful military campaign to overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, US General David Petraeus posed this not unreasonable question to his political masters: “So tell me how does this end?” No one quite knew, and the country was rapidly consumed by violent sectarian conflict.
I’ve seen action in Iraq and Afghanistan, and have worked closely with Gen Petraeus. And today, more than a decade later, it strikes me that his question might be asked again of our own political leadership about Islamic State (Isil). For in the absence of an effective Western response, we can expect a war without end until Isil achieves its ultimate objective of the global imposition of Islamic law, culture and religion.… Seguir leyendo » “Isil’s propaganda machine has to be destroyed”
For Christians all over the world, Easter is a season of hope; Christ triumphant on Easter morning banishes the darkness of sin and death.
Here in Iraq, we have particular reason to rejoice in Christ’s victory over the powers of evil. It is a victory we so sorely need in a land where we are currently walking the Way of the Cross, desperately searching for signs of the Resurrection
As Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, in the Kurdish north of the country, I am shepherding my flock through one of the darkest eras in our long history. Last August, 125,000 Christians on Iraq’s Nineveh Plains fled the forces of Da’esh – so-called Islamic State.… Seguir leyendo » “Easter Reflection: Iraq and Syria’s Christians pray for a new Resurrection”
Things have come to a pretty poor pass when, in a country whose history, landscape, literature and laws is so immersed in the Christian faith, we find that Christian believers feel forced to hide their beliefs in the workplace.
Society is increasingly illiterate about religious faith. Despite the fact that a knowledge of religion is an ever-more important key to understanding the world around us, especially in the Middle East, expressions of religious opinion or practice are often misunderstood or provoke discomfort, anxiety and even hostility, rather than toleration.
A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (Religion or belief in the workplace) has found that many religious believers, and some atheists and humanists, have encountered misunderstanding and outright discrimination in the workplace.… Seguir leyendo » “Christians must learn to stand up for themselves”
As the dust begins to settle on those recent horrendous events in Paris, a clearer sense of perspective is starting to creep in round the edges. The Pope suggests that those who are too provocative to Islam can expect “a punch”. And even a co-founder of Charlie Hebdo says that its murdered editor’s urge to provoke had “dragged the team to its death”.
As the original editor of Private Eye, who over the years has probably contributed as many words as anyone to its “satirical” pages, I’m afraid that I have looked askance at much of what has been said and written about these events in recent days.… Seguir leyendo » “What ‘free speech’ didn’t tell us about Charlie Hebdo jokes”
Workers hide on rooftop from machine gunfire in Paris Charlie Hebdo attack France was yesterday struck by the largest-ever terrorist attack on its soil, the worst in the EU for a decade, and the deadliest in Europe as a whole since Anders Breivik’s killing spree in Oslo four years ago. It was a direct attack not just on democracy, but also one of its central pillars: the right of free speech in a climate free from fear and violence. But, despite the trauma, it’s important to put the attackers’ methods in their proper perspective.
First, the attackers’ level of sophistication should not be overestimated.… Seguir leyendo » “What the Paris shootings tell us about terror in 2015”
The Great War was supposed to have been over by Christmas. Instead, by the end of 1914, it had become a voracious monster, beyond the control of politicians, commanders and kings. All that was terrible in the world was contained within that monster, a beast feeding on nations. Yet beneath the carnage, a tiny flicker of humanity still glowed. One hundred days ago tomorrow, Christmas Day, 1914, that humanity provided a moment of warmth that would live forever.
The Christmas Truce, with its famous football match, is one event from the Great War that almost everyone knows about. Our remembrance has been stimulated by the extra attention paid to the War during this centenary year and by the remarkably accurate Sainsbury’s advert.… Seguir leyendo » “The truth about the Christmas Day football match”
When Sony Pictures last week cancelled the Christmas launch of their film “The Interview” there were howls of anger and anguish around America. Many saw this as a craven collapse in the face of pressure from North Korea and an assault on American values. So it was no surprise that President Obama on Friday stated his view that Sony Pictures had made a mistake. Following the FBI’s conclusion that North Korea was behind the hacks on Sony Pictures’ networks it was no surprise either that he announced a “proportionate” response by the USA.
But the situation is now dangerous. This quarrel is no longer just between Sony Pictures and North Korea, but between the government of the United States of America – at the highest level – and North Korea.… Seguir leyendo » “The Interview is as provocative to North Korea as burning the Koran is to an Islamist”
North Korea is an astonishing survival into the 21st century of 19th century traditions of oriental despotism. Just as the old kings of Korea were demigods, beyond mortal criticism and revered as infallible by their awed subjects, so the present-day rulers of North Korea are presented as geniuses who can make no mistakes. Moreover, in this tradition, the monarch personifies the nation – to mock Kim Jong-un is to mock the proud North Korean people.
So when Sony Pictures trailed their new comedy The Interview (see video below), in which two American journalists are asked by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-un, Pyongyang was bound to react with fury.… Seguir leyendo » “Sony Pictures cyber-attack: A reminder that North Korea is a very real threat to our security”
French politics, never a happy place at the best of times, takes on a special hysteria when Nicolas Sarkozy appears. Just as an otherwise sensible New York friend once told me a decade ago, in all seriousness, that she’d like to kill the then president George W. Bush with a stake through the heart, and anti-Thatcher groups threw celebration parties when the Baroness died, the man some call the “elevator-shoed poison dwarf of Europe” provokes blinding rage in his critics.
Many of them, quelle surprise, belong to the media and chattering classes. Hence headlines on the Left and Right commenting on Sarkozy’s “defeat” as he was elected to the head of the UMP party with 64.5 per cent of the vote last weekend.… Seguir leyendo » “Nicolas Sarkozy’s greatest asset? The hatred of the Left”
As the issue of “Europe” continued to swirl daily through the headlines, two remarkable speeches last week illustrated one of the crucial problems with this “debate”. This is that the labyrinthine workings of the EU are so complicated that few people can really begin to understand them.
The Pope’s address to the European Parliament seemed devastatingly critical. He spoke of how “the great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions”. He described it as looking “elderly and haggard” in “a world which frequently regards it with aloofness, mistrust and even, at times, suspicion”.… Seguir leyendo » “The Pope is not the only one out of his depth on the EU”
After a last-ditch effort over the weekend to negotiate an agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme, diplomats finally conceded defeat today, with hours to spare before the deadline. But instead of choosing to abandon talks altogether, reverting to a dangerous spiral of Western sanctions and Iranian nuclear build-up, the two sides have chosen a wiser course.
They have extended for the second time a temporary deal which was agreed a year ago, promised a so-called “framework” agreement by March, which would formalise the areas of consensus, and a final, “comprehensive” agreement by July, which would fill in the thorniest details. This is a worryingly long timeline, because it allows opponents of diplomacy in Washington and Tehran plenty of time to undermine their governments.… Seguir leyendo » “Iran nuclear talks: why the diplomats deserve a little more time”
When Vienna was an imperial capital, the Habsburgs would occasionally call their realm the “Danubian Monarchy”. In the interests of appeasing the subject peoples, it sometimes made sense to pretend the empire wasn’t an empire after all.
If only the diplomats who are now gathered here in Vienna to settle the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear programme could also avoid calling a spade a spade.
Skilled negotiators often seek to bridge the most unbridgeable divides by the time-honoured methods of fudging and renaming. The IRA never disarmed: instead it “decommissioned” its weapons and put them “beyond use”. The reason why these talks are deadlocked is that America and Iran have both allowed themselves to be impaled on one issue that remains defiantly beyond fudge.… Seguir leyendo » “Iran’s nuclear negotiations have devolved into a numbers game”
In the endless guessing game about what really goes in the court of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, two questions are causing even more intrigue than normal. The first is whether the portly Mr Kim has had to have surgery on his feet, the result of tottering around in Cuban heels designed to boost his height. And the second is whether those same feet are now are now quaking in their boots at the prospect of being referred to the International Criminal Court.
As The Telegraph reported on Wednesday, the human rights committee of United Nations general assembly has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a move to have Mr Kim investigated by the Hague for crimes against humanity.… Seguir leyendo » “If Kim Jong-un won’t face a war crimes court, then who on earth will?”
I’m writing this somewhere over Morocco and my stomach is tied in little knots of excitement and just a hint of trepidation. I’m en route to join the King’s Sierra Leone Partnership which is currently running the Ebola Isolation Unit in Connaught Hospital, Freetown. After a year of happily living in PhD-land, which has mostly involved wrestling with pipettes, I’m hurling myself into the biggest outbreak ever of a virus the very name of which makes people blanch. Bonkers. Clearly.
And yet there really isn’t anywhere else in the world I should be. I’ve always hero worshipped those who volunteered for Medecins Sans Frontieres and similar crisis response NGOs, and wondered if I‘d have the guts to go myself.… Seguir leyendo » “Ebola is not black magic. It is a virus than can and should be contained”
In the wake of Peter Kassig’s beheading, we have republished this piece explaining why Isil carry out their atrocities
As Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria butcher thousands of “infidels” and carry off their women and children into slavery, many in the West are inclined to see this as an unique outcrop of Islamic fundamentalism. Yet after overrunning a Bosnian town on 11th July 1995, Bosnian Serb – ostensibly Christian – forces, cold-bloodedly massacred 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica. Hutu genocide of Tutsi in Rwanda, Khmer Rouge mass-murder of Cambodian city-dwellers, Nazi genocide of Jews, Gypsies and the disabled…. the list of savagery is as long as it is profoundly depressing.… Seguir leyendo » “The science behind Isil’s savagery”