Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: sykes-picot

The dash to beat Daesh

Its been quite a week. The talk of war and then a notional declaration of war, but the reality is somewhat different. The fact that the UK, along with other international partners, has been bombing ‘so called’ Islamic State/ISAL/IS/Daesh in Northern Iraq for over a year and is now doing the same in Northern Syria should come as no surprise to us or them. It is exactly what they wanted and we have given it to them. David Cameron has delivered a victory to Daesh.

From the foundation of Islam, the Crusades, the rise of Wahhabism in the 18th Century, the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire, Sykes-Picot in 1916, the rise of House of Saud and foundation of the Islamic State of Saudi Arabia in the 1932 all combined with our various 20th and 21st Century attempts to ‘deal with the Middle East’ the west has never got it right. Now we are facing all those failures and potentially creating more. We have more often than not backed the wrong camel.

Daesh want war. They crave it. They need it. It is what they are all about. Without war they are nothing, where as we are if we choose not to fight. Europe has seen relative peace in the last 70 years, with the notable exception of the Balkans and Bosnia. There we got it wrong before we got it right. Know thine enemy and this is where we are failing again. Pacifism is no the answer either. It might be wonderful and Christian to turn the other cheek but sometimes you must use all four cheeks, face thine enemy and fight.

So what do Daesh want? Simply, they want to harm us, kill us, destroy us and they want to impose their own twisted version of Islam on the world. This version of Islam was born in what is now Saudi Arabia in the mid 1700’s as a fundamentalist branch of Sunni Islam. It is used by the House of Saud to run their country and, by default, run the world’s oil. The problem is that Saudi Arabia don’t run world oil any more and the low oil prices OPEC that Saudi Arabia are trying to use to destroy the USA’s fracking industry (America is all be self-sufficient in energy now thanks to fracking) by making Arabian oil cheaper than U.S produced oil is not working for them. A war suits Saudi Arabia now. If they are really worried about Daesh why aren’t Saudi Arabia using all those lovely planes, bombs and missiles we’ve sold them on Daesh? That is the biggest unanswered question. But lets be clear; Saudi Arabia is an Islamic State and there is nothing ‘so called’ about it. Amnesty International estimated last month that the Saudis had executed 151 people so far this year.

The West getting involved in the Middle East is never going to work any more than Jeremy Corbyn’s political settlement mantra. Daesh are not going to sit around a table and talk to any political conclusion but if Corbyn wants to try let him go there. It maybe prudent not to waste the money on a return fare.

The solution, if there can be such a thing with over a thousand years of none, must come politically and military from those Arab, Islamic countries along with our very distant support. It is for Saudi Arabia and Iran (and they are far from friends) to lead the charge to take on Daesh. If we continue on the path started this week it will be our war with a very long future and an uncertain outcome. To solve the Middle East it must be of their doing.

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War BUT is there something more to believe in?

So the UK is at war, notionally and actually. It was a decisive vote for the Prime Minster. Our Parliament, our MP’s and our democracy showed us and showed the world how the United Kingdom does business and means business. You may not like the outcome but democracy was served.

We have joined the 40 or so other countries who are completing air strikes against Islamic State, I S or ISAL. Two things on this. They are not Islamic as any scholar of Islam will tell you if you ask and listen and they are not a state, nation or country. They are an idea, a belief.

This is THE issue. How do you bomb an idea, a belief, a version of a religion? ISAL do have a flag, always something that has been fought over throughout history. You take the flag and you win. With the flag comes the castle, the country and the spoils but there is none of this to win. If ISAL are bombed to oblivion Iraq is still as failed state that the west created and Assad is still president of Syria, spported by Iran, China and Russia. This is going to be a long process and it will cost many lives. It has already been a long process from the birth of Islam and its divisions into its various forms and the conflict resolution by the hands of the British and the French at end of the First World War. The Sykes Picot agreement at the fall of the Ottoman empire created the division of the Middle East regardless of tribe or creed. The division of the Middle East then are the lines on the map we know today. Division; never has a single word meant more as the world lines up to fight the idea and belief that is ISAL.

Wars based on ideas or beliefs and their execution are flawed. History is replete with those failures, the most recent of which being the War On Terror. You can’t win against an idea because it is not a castle to be won any more than you can wage a war against a belief because you can never kill every believer. It is just not possible. You have to marginalise the belief and give those who harbour the ideals of their belief something better to believe in. Nor can you just tell believers they are wrong, that you are right and bomb them into agreement.

Here is reality. Bombing ISAL is right because the Gulf States are part of it. It is they who can show ISAL they are wrong in thier ideas and beliefs. They can show them that there is something better to believe in, the real Islam and not some crack pot, nutty, vile version of a faith that has no place in a modern world. The Gulf States, these Muslim states have a duty to their faith, their God, their Prophet and what they believe in, especially this week with the Hajj beginning on Wednesday. The greatest enemy to Islam is ISAL.

The beliefs of the Gulf States, the ones we like, the ones we do’t like and the ones that don’t like us need to get through to those who have chosen ISAL. ISAL can’t seem to see any other way than their warped version of Islam, which we in the west find abhorrent. It is vital the Gulf States make this clear having got ISAL’s attention through force, with our help.

Islamic State bares no resemblance to any decent Shia, Sunni or Sufi. This needs to be as clear and loud as the bombs we drop, for all our sakes and for Muhammad, peace be upon him and on us too.

Oh, those Russians…

Summer holidays are about the sun, the sea, getting away from it all or, in the case of Russians, getting away with it. This year I have spent two weeks with my family in the hot African sun, surrounded by Russians both big and small, but very Russian. The following became quite clear from being with them, closely watching them and talking with them.

1. They are locked into the 1980s like a Hazel Dean Greatest Hits collection. (There would be only five songs on that album and if you can name two you win a prize.)

2. They really can drink a lot.

3. They like to take pictures and pose in those pictures, a lot. The sort of poses that would grace the catalogues of the very companies that would sell you the clothes you used to buy in the 1980s.

4. They have money. A lot of money.

The Russians I shared the sun with were not oligarchs who were handed a state-run monopolies by a pissed president to do with what they willed. These are Russians who work for these oligarchs. They are middle class Russians mainly and they are happy, not just because they were on holiday.

When you probed a little deeper, they were happy because they love and are proud of their country and their leader, one V Putin.

The world, geopolitics and the media love a bogie man. Nothing sells a news bulletin or a newspaper more than a bad guy to point at and say ‘it’s his fault’, or ‘her fault’ for that matter. Think of the names that have been used for that very purpose over the last few years; Saddam Hussein, Col Gaddafi, Mohammed Morsi, Jimmy Saville, Sharon Mathews, Maxine Carr, Angela Merkel. The media love the binary world of the old Hollywood Western where the good guys wear the white hats and support their gun slinger against the black hats and their gun slinger.

Vladimir Putin has a very big black hat. He would not be out-of-place in a hollowed out volcano lair, sitting in a high back, black swivel chair. You can picture Putin stroking a white cat while surrounded by Ninjas in orange boiler suits turning nobs and flicking switches, tapping on computers and watching security screens. But it’s not as simple as this Bond image and the media in general is doing a disservice for making it so, much like the coverage of Gaza and the continuing ripples and waves of Sykes-Picot a century on from the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Take Crimea. Putin has. Bad joke. But Crimea is more Russian that Ukrainian, indeed if you look at the history of the region Crimea is more Russian than Moscow. Is it wrong to cede to the will of the people and take control of what actually wants to be yours? Putin did not seek a war, conflicts or even a spat with the west, but it has done him no harm. Quite the contrary. Putin needs us to be his black hats and we need him and his people to be ours. Putin also needs the west to be strong too in turn make him look and be stronger and he needs the West, especially the EU to buy Russian gas, oil, coal, wheat.

History is replete with lines drawn on a map as a result of war, dividing lands and people. The effects of this from the First World War are still being felt today thanks to the afore-mentioned Sykes-Picot plan for the Middle East.

Putin is a leader, not a manager and the world needs leaders as it does have too many managers. Look at Barrack Obama. The world thought they were getting a leader but they got a manager. Margret Thatcher was a leader, John Major was a manager. Tony Blair was a leader, Gordon Brown was an unmitigated disaster. The jury is out on David Cameron but I think we all know what Ed Miliband will be, and so do his party.

So what has this all go to do with my holiday in the company of Russians? Well they are happy, they have a sense of nation and purpose and, even with their economy going into recession, they are bound together and even if they struggle they will struggle together and be stronger for it. History should teach us that a strong leader, who knows the people and their history needs watching very closely. That leader also needs our respect, our admiration and our caution.

One last thing. Can you think of any other flag of the world that could be turned into a bikini without it causing offence? Well the Union flag and the Stars and Stripes makes an excellent two piece swim wear ensemble. Maybe the flag of Saudi Arabia could be next? Maybe not.

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