The UAE helps the Great British war juggernaut keep on rolling

The great Middle East politics expert, Neil Partrick, shared the following with us. It is his article on the DSEI defence/arms fair in Docklands this week. You can either read it below or find the original (with far more pictures) on this link to his “Deira Diary” blog:

The first thing that I noticed upon arriving at DSEI was a young mother and baby protesting one of the world’s biggest defence and security exhibitions, or ‘arms fairs’, depending on your point of view. The Excel Centre in London’s Docklands – Newham if you actually live there – played host this week to the biennial defence industry jamboree. The mother and a friend – there were surely many more at a safer distance – chanted ‘arms are for hugging,’ which made the policemen and security guards standing nearby smile.

I entered DSEI in record time, thanks to a very efficient media registration operation, and soon settled in to my usual people and kit-watching mode. It wasn’t long before I wondered what the hell I was doing at this almost absurd spectacle. This was my fourth time of attending; I’ve also been to IDEX in Abu Dhabi and similar events. At the latter, some 20 years ago, I was however speaking at an associated Gulf security conference. At DSEI I was, as ever, unsure of what my role was.

I typically wander around either trying to hook up with existing contacts or just talking to stall-holders about their wares. However there were some undoubted sights to marvel at too. Whether the classic British Centurion tank or a chance for the boys (me included) to play with some guns, there was much spectacle.

I noted that past in-theatre deployments of Russian ultra-babes had been forsaken for more conventional ways of promoting the goods. I gawped at the sheer scale of the UK’s state of the art ‘Tempest’ aircraft (see picture below), which had a steady queue of both men and women wishing to clamber aboard. I stepped outside and admired the huge naval ships in the former London canal-way and the small aircraft or unmanned drones taking to the skies above Docklands. Across the way two huge abandoned warehouses stood as stark reminders of what the area used to be.

team Tempest

Having a Gulf interest, I scoured in vain the DSEI guide for any sign that the Saudis’ much-vaunted planned expansion of their limited defence production capacity was reflected at DSEI. The DSEI website did have a brief about SAMI: the ‘Saudi Arabian Military Industries’ company set up as part of the Kingdom’s ambitious Saudi Vision 2030 (SV2030). But there was no DSEI stall number. SAMI, in partnership with GAMI, the overarching ‘General Authority’ for Saudi military industries is tasked with ensuring that 50% of all new Saudi arms are produced in-country within 11 years and that SAMI becomes a significant arms exporter.

More prosaically, earlier this year a former UK official told me that SAMI was making progress because it was producing small and, he admitted, basic engineering components. ‘Widgets’ was the word that came to my mind. Either way, this is seemingly not enough to warrant hiring a DSEI stand.

The contrast with the UAE was striking. Perhaps having a ‘UAE Pavilion’ wasn’t that surprising as the Emiratis own the Excel Centre in which DSEI is held. However the UAE seems more serious than the Saudis about developing a domestic defence industry. This effort essentially revolves around Tawazun, the state-founded company that since the early 1990s has been promoting in-country defence industry capacity. EDIC, the ‘Emirates Defence Industry Company’, was founded more recently as the country’s overall defence industry platform, but Tawazun has the majority stake in it. Someone on the Tawazun Economic Council (TEC) stall told me that TEC’s focus since 2017 has been on using ‘offsets’ (a de facto Gulf tax on western defence companies who commit to developing local know-how as part of an arms deal) to assist defence and non-defence industry development. TEC is also using its remit to develop local capacity in order to shepherd ostensibly private Emirati companies such as Halcon (part of the Al-Yas Group), who were right next door in the Pavilion. In February 2019 Halcon got a large TEC soft loan as part of the TEC policy to either fund or co-opt local defence businesses[i]. I was told that Halcon employs about 150 people, over half of whom are Emirati and are typically engineers who come to the UK for a post-graduate education. About 30-40% of the components in Halcon’s missile guidance and control systems are imported apparently. This is the all-important electronics component; the rest is done in-country.

On the other side of Halcon’s stand was one belonging to ‘Al-Hamra’, whose smart promo publication boasted of them “Addressing Tomorrow’s Threats, Today”. Their emphasis it seems is on assisting private and public organisations with counter-terrorism and ‘intelligence’ work, something they do across the Middle East and Africa according to their glossy brochure. Sadly there was no one on the Al-Hamra stall to comment further. In fact this was a depressingly familiar experience from past such encounters of mine. It belies the UAE’s go-ahead attitude that seeks to match its regional and extra-regional military ambitions with a greatly expanded supply of domestically produced kit that by definition isn’t beholden to western political sensitivities or technology embargoes. I spoke to the former Tawazun press spokesman who told me that his successor, Mohammed Ahmed, was the only one who could make any comment to me, whether on or off the record. However Mohammed Ahmed had been called away from DSEI on business and would, I was assured, contact me when he returned. He didn’t.

I am ambiguous about missiles. However one that caught my eye was QinetiQ’s ‘Banshee’, which is actually an aerial practice target. Perhaps it was the name that appealed to me, making me think of Siouxsie Sioux’s band, or perhaps it was its attractively bright red colour-scheme and the free key ring.

I wandered into a talk by a representative of Oxford Space Systems who addressed punters on her company’s contribution to the ‘miniaturisation’ of space communication. She mentioned that her company had a UK Ministry of Defence contract for aspects of this work. On my way out I noted that the use of canines in war zones was taking on a very hi-tech dimension (see below).

dog of war

Oman was out in force at DSEI, commanded by Sheikh Badr bin Saud Al-Busaidi, officially known as ‘the minister responsible for defence affairs’. When I spotted him and his large retinue of unformed Sultanate officers, they were surrounded by UK military and defence industry people. He went on after DSEI to meet with the UK’s new defence secretary Ben Wallace, and to visit Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre.

Oman hosts a new UK naval base and, separately, an army training base. The former, located on the Arabian Sea, is designed to accommodate the UK’s one and only aircraft carrier which is still undergoing operational trials before being scheduled to form a ‘carrier group’, with a still to be trialled second carrier, sometime in 2021[ii]. This intimate British role in Oman’s security was arguably unaffected by our ‘pull-out’ East of Suez in 1971. However its stepping up in recent years has made the UK even more central to the Sultanate’s security, including the highly tense Gulf littoral [i].

Before leaving DSEI, I met with an ex-British military friend. He told me that coming in to DSEI on the DLR that morning he had felt disconcerted by man who sat right next to him. The man in question started wheezing before my friend asked if he was ok. He noted that the man was wearing a ‘Veterans for Peace’ t-shirt and was obviously about to join a protest outside DSEI. An understanding passed between them. ‘Have a peaceful day,’ my friend said at their parting.


[i] February 19 2019, Dania Saadi, https://www.thenational.ae/business/tawazun-to-invest-up-to-dh193m-in-uae-defence-company-halcon-1.827609
[ii] ‘UK carrier begins ‘Westlant 19’ operational trials’, Richard Scott, Jane’s Defence Weekly, September 4, 2019.
[i] See my article for the University of Kingston’s History Department blog contrasting Harold Wilson’s decision to end the UK’s formal defence presence in the Gulf and commitment to defend the Gulf rulers, with the so-called return ‘East of Suez’ under PMs Cameron and May

The USA throws Tehran into the arms of China – Big Big Big Time

This excellent, indeed earth-shattering (if you care about Chinese moves to world hegemony) article is sent us by the author, Najam Abbas, PhD, Non-resident Senior Research Fellow EastWest Institute, (Eurasia Energy Affairs): 

Failed by USA and left aside by Europe, Tehran has eagerly embraced China’s ‘One-Belt-One Road’ plan which will connect Asia to Europe with new sea and road and rail and pipeline infrastructure. China will be obliging very generously. “This plan is one of the great turning points in modern geopolitics”, predicts Juan Cole, adding “it is the first such highly significant development since WW II to leave the United States completely on the sidelines”.

According to the details, the plan for the reinvigorated partnership envisages China investing $400bn of investment unfolding over a 25-year period. The deal a material shift in the global balance of both oil and gas sector noted Petroleum Economist reported that $280bn will be allocated to Iran’s oil, gas and petrochemicals sectors and $120bn invested in upgrading Iran’s transport and manufacturing infrastructure.

The plans were firmed up in late August when Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister, visited Beijing for presenting to his Chinese counterpart Wang Li an updated roadmap for the strategic comprehensive partnership agreement with China which was concluded in 2016.

“This is a major shift not only in terms of economic support for Iran but also in challenging the present global balance of power and the geopolitics of the Middle East”says Iranian expert, Dr. Massoumeh Tourfeh, who lists the advantages this plan could bring to Iran .

Although Iran will need to sell its oil to China at a discounted rate, it will still brings several benefits to Iran:

  1. Allowing Iran to expedite increases in oil and gas production from three of its key fields, notably the giant South Pars gas field;
  2. China will continue to import Iran’s oil in exchange of “soft” currencies, including those of African and Central Asian countries to avoid dollars;
  3. The deal will help Iran’s economic and diplomatic standing, allowing it to benefit from the backing of Russia and China, two permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The huge infrastructure and energy projects will be guarded through the deployment of up to 5,000 Chinese security officers in Iranian territories. Deploying such security in Iran “will be as big as the US military footprint in today’s Iraq or what the Pentagon plans for Afghanistan in 2020. It is likely meant as a deterrent to US adventurism (visible in Iraq and Afghanistan), inasmuch as any major US military strike on or action against Iran, Cole noted.

OPTIONS FOR GCC STATES:

  1. This may well provide opportunity for both China and also for GCC States to explore a range of options which may serve to protect their shipping interests through the Hormuz Strait in a much safer way far from uncertainty.
  2. GCC States may plan media, diplomatic and academic meetings to welcome China’s forays into Iran which will serve as a pacifying factor towards cooling the current tensions down.
  3. In the long run, the plan will contribute towards improved connectivity and bigger trade relations, all cooperation priorities promoted under BRI. It will help create a multifaceted role for both Iran and GCC States based on economic and strategic interests. Offering trade and development opportunities will make Beijing an especially reliable partner vis-a-vis India. In the West Asian context the initiative will indicate a sophisticated long-term approach to Sino-Iranian ties.
  4. Such initiative can bring new opportunities for GCC States to seek a new alignment as streams of Chinese investment will create a multiplier effect for both recipient countries and a calming and reassuring factor for other neighbouring countries in the region.

 

In Arabic: Saif al Islam’s confidante talks Libya

Osama Mohamad, a loyal supporter and friend of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, talks in Arabic to Lina Kay and William Morris about Libya’s future prospects, Saif al Islam’s chances of ever being elected, the processes of living in peace, and the difficulties that face the many groups involved.

Boris and Brexit and Halloween

A narrow margin of just under 52% of the British population voted leave. The majority of those who voted leave appear to want a no deal Brexit:

38% of the British population support no deal
44% of the British population oppose no deal (the balance are don’t knows / don’t cares)

However 73% of those that voted leave in 2016 support no deal. And by contrast but similarly: 76% of those who voted remain in 2016 oppose no deal (source the BBC poll).

People like Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, who say “Nobody wants no deal” are clearly completely out of touch with reality and live in cloud cuckoo land. They must not even read the newspapers. Meanwhile, the Labour Party has no clear position on the leave / remain divide beyond saying that they prefer a second referendum.

The next general election will therefore be a clear choice between Brexit Tories and Remain Liberals. Traditional Labour voters will be confused. As a consequence the Remain vote will be split, much of it going to the Liberals. The Labour vote could even collapse. The Conservatives will have a slim but solid majority. But it is tenuous. The Sun poll on the 7th September gave the Conservative Party a 3% lead over Labour whereas the Sunday Times poll the day before gave the Tories a 14% lead over Labour.

The British Prime Minister has been constrained by parliament to ask for an extension if he cannot get a deal but has said:

  1. He will not ask for an extension
  2. He will not resign as premier
  3. He will not break the law

Which means he must successfully either:

  1. Bring a new deal before parliament
  2. Challenge the law in the courts (e.g. on the basis that it was illegal for the speaker to take control of parliamentary business)

Or he will after all have to resign as Premier but could delay his resignation until the last minute which could be just before the UK is due to leave the European Union at 23:00 GMT on 31 October 2019.

These are uncharted waters. Only two things seem likely in my view. Not certain but fairly likely:

  1. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will leave the European Union with or without a deal on Halloween
  2. Boris Johnson will win another term as Premier of Britain with a slim but working majority

Kashmir comes to Birmingham

A meeting convened jointly by the Association of British Muslims and the Next Century Foundation on the Kashmir issue was put together by NCF intern Maariyah Rashid. The Chair was Reverend Larry Wright of Kings Norton Birmingham, Convenor, The Religious Affairs Advisory Council and the speakers were: Dr Kurshid Ahmad, The Association of British Muslims; Dr William Morris, Secretary General, The Next Century Foundation; Mr Michael Macy of the Next Century Foundation, formerly US State Department. The Next Century Foundation is in Consultative Status with the United Nations and their current submission to the UN Human Rights Council, was to raise awareness on Kashmir.

The meeting discussed the lack of international engagement on the Kashmir issue, the question as to whether a three way referendum on the status of Kashmir was credible, the possibility of the demarcation of the line of control as the international border, and the acute need to encourage Kashmiris to stand in local elections in Indian controlled Kashmir, because the current boycott was (in the view of two of the speakers) severely counterproductive in so much as it was dissempowering the local community.

The following notes on feedback from the floor are from William Morris LLD and are his personal record and possibly may not be endorsed by all present, let alone by the ABM or NCF as a whole:

  • Concern was expressed about the loss of contact with families. The comment made was that, “The onus is on India to be peaceful”. It was and is the view of the Next Century Foundation that the use of violence in response to violence has been counterproductive throughout the modern history of Kashmir and has exacerbated the misery endured by the people of the valley.
  • The suggestion was made that, “The elections are corrupt”. This, felt the NCF, may be true but policy of non participation adopted by the politicians of the valley (many of the seats were not contested and a very substantial number had no candidate at all) has severely failed the people of Kashmir.
  • The question was raised as to why Kashmiris were not listened to. The response from Michael Macy being that the international community was not interested and the response from William Morris being that the expatriate Kashmiri community were ineffective in their approach, often failing to engage effectively with the key forums available to them such as the British Conservative Party and the United Nations in Geneva.
  • The Good Friday Agreement was put forward as a model for reconciliation. The NCF acknowledged the fact that there was something to be learnt from the Good Friday Agreement, though the circumstances were different. None the less if the objective were independence for Kashmir, that was and is unattainable at this time in history given the stubborn resolve  of the Governments of Pakistan and India to oppose any such outcome.
  • The comment was made that there was no clear demarcation for the line of control. Most attending were very strongly opposed to the demarcation of the line of control as the international boundary as such a move would severely hamper the aspiration for independence. The NCF felt that the aspiration for independence was  impractical despite being the avowed objective of most of those present. However in view of the opposition to the demarcation of the line of control as the border, the NCF will try and help look at alternative ways forward.
  • A call was made for a “space for dialogue”.  The Association of British Muslims and the Next Century Foundation both said that was at least one aspiration that they could help fulfill.
  • One speaker from the floor said that in view of the opposition to making the line of control the border, and the perennially unfulfilled nature of the aspiration for independence, there was a need to think outside the box. He said that in view of the framing of this problem in religious terms, nationalism does not work. He said, “I say no to nationalism”. He said a fresh look at the situation was needed to provide a solution that was both viable and acceptable.
  • Another speaker suggested passionately, to the disquiet of many present, that a bloody struggle was inevitable. On the other hand a speaker from India stated that the situation was not as bad as many present perceived it to be, that life in Azad Kashmir was far from perfect, that there were other groups such as the Kashmiri Pandits, who were also having a hard time, that the people of the valley were desperately concerned about the absence of tourism, and that he was concerned that violence might come home from Kashmir to the streets of Birmingham. The NCF for its part acknowledges that there is anger at the lack of a UK response to the Kashmir issue but does not feel that is likely to result in greater extremism in Britain – thank heavens.
  • One speaker asked how best to mobilise the world to take a greater interest in Kashmir. Both the ABM and NCF said that a series of working group meetings to develop an acceptable objective for the status of Kashmir and a strategy to attain that objective might be a solid initial step that could be undertaken.

Moving things forward on Kashmir

The following is a written statement on Kashmir to the Human Rights Council Forty-second session 9–27 September 2019 Agenda item 3 submitted by The Next Century Foundation, a non-governmental organization in special consultative status:

The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.
[22 August 2019]

The Next Century Foundation notes that the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Idriss Jazairy, asks, in his report before the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council, that the Secretary-General appoint a special representative on unilateral coercive measures with a remit that would be broader than that of the Special Rapporteur and that would include facilitating a dialogue to solve the underlying causes of such measures.

The Next Century Foundation supports this request. We think this would be of particular importance in regard to the Kashmir issue. We especially note the concerns expressed in the report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), released on July 8, 2019, raising serious concerns about abuses by state security forces and armed groups in the parts of Kashmir administered respectively by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Republic of India. We would add our own concern about the persistent failure of local politicians in Indian administered Kashmir to engage adequately in the forums already open to them at local level.

We would further state that now is the very best time to start taking measures to facilitate an amelioration of the longstanding misery of the people of Kashmir and would suggest that the very best first step to be taken at this point in time would be to appeal to both India and Pakistan to make the line of control the international border.
Once the international border is in place perhaps India might be in a better position to withdraw India’s Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act (AFSPA) of 1990 which effectively stops all permission to prosecute any security force personnel in civilian courts.

Also, as highlighted by the OHCHR, we would hope that India would amend its Public Safety Act of 1978, the administrative detention law that allows detention without charge or trial for up to two years.

However, the Next Century Foundation also shares the concern of the OHCHR that Pakistan address its strategic deficiencies in so much as Pakistan has a history of providing arms and training to militant groups.

The Next Century Foundation is also deeply concerned at human rights violations in Pakistan-held Kashmir most particularly the threats against journalists for doing their work. We also share the UN human rights office’s concern over the enforced disappearances of people from Pakistan-held Kashmir.

We also note with considerable concern Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s actions on August 5 of this year over Jammu and Kashmir. Some argue that he was prompted to take the action he did in response to the offer by the President of the United States of America to intercede on the Kashmir issue. If so that is doubly saddening. We understand how frustrating outside interference can seem if it is unasked for. But we would point to the experience of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland which was, in the end, grateful for US intervention in the pursuit of peace in Northern Ireland, a contributing factor in regard to the Good Friday agreement which is so sadly under pressure at present because of the unforeseen factor known as Brexit. However, the point is that outside actors can be helpful, especially in longstanding issues like those of the disputes in regard to the future of Northern Ireland or Kashmir.

Article 370 of the Indian Constitution had of course effectively given semi-autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir in the aftermath of India’s partition in 1947. Premier Modi’s abrogation of this essential constitutional principle is distressing.

Premier Modi’s actions may be partly due to frustrations over a lack of leadership in Kashmir, and that frustration we understand. The people of Kashmir must engage better in the forums available to them. Policies involving the boycott of political forums are almost always, in the view of the Next Century Foundation, self-defeating.

That said, these measures, notably the removal of article 370 of India’s constitution, have been greeted by an absence of concern from people other than Kashmiris themselves.

Where is the strong concern that should be expressed on the part of the British government, the former colonial power? Britain has the largest number of expatriate Kashmiris (as British citizens of Kashmiri origin) in the world and yet has utterly failed to take a strong stand in regard to recent events. Perhaps that is in part a shortcoming on the part of Britain’s citizens of Kashmiri origin who are good at crying crocodile tears but seem unwilling or unable to garner action from their own political representatives.

The United States of America has been equally unforthcoming despite the fact that it is a nation perceived by some as having acted as a catalyst in fomenting recent events.

Similarly, the People’s Republic of China, though arguably a nation with a considerable interest in the region, has remained silent.

So too Europe and indeed the entire international community, much of which seems uninterested in the issue despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers.

Article 51 of India’s constitution commits the Government of India to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations and, encourage settlement of international disputes by arbitration. Hopefully Indian will revise its current position in due course.

Pakistan for its part has actually called for UN intervention. If Pakistan is genuine about finding a resolution through the UN, it should show meaningful progress toward effectively dealing with the problem of that part of the militancy in Kashmir that is generated within its own borders.

United Nations Resolution 39 (1948) gives the UN authority to investigate any dispute or any situation which might, by its continuance, endanger the maintenance of international peace and security.

UN Resolution 38 (1948) calls on both India and Pakistan to refrain from doing or permitting any acts which might aggravate the situation.

The UN can and should play a role as mediator. Furthermore, the Next Century Foundation would also like to see the facilitation by the UN of dialogue between Kashmiris from both sides of the Line of Control, supported by both India and Pakistan.

And we should all, all of us concerned about the future of Kashmir, help identify an effective leadership among Kashmiris, both within the region and among the diaspora. An empowered Kashmiri leadership that is taken seriously by the international community would encourage all parties to this dispute to behave differently.

We therefore endorse the Special Rapporteur’s request that the Secretary-General should indeed appoint a special representative on unilateral coercive measures with a remit that would be broader than that of the Special Rapporteur and that would include facilitating a dialogue to solve the underlying causes of such measures. And the Next Century Foundation further ask that one of the first issues to be addressed by the new special representative, if indeed such a representative is appointed, be that of Kashmir.

On minorities in Iraq – and what we should do

This first broadcast in a series of three on minorities in Iraq was prepared as a radio broadcast for the Hala London radio station. It is on the Yezidis. William Morris talks on Hala London radio with Mizgîn Êzîdî on Yezidi religious beliefs – click on this link:

Yezidi Religion

This second is a video in the series and is on Christians in Iraq:

Finally this third broadcast is on the Western response:

Tlaib and Omer / Trump and Bibi

Paul Scham submits the following to the NCF. Paul Scham is a scholar at MEI and the executive director of the Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies at the University of Maryland, where he teaches courses on the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The views expressed in this article are his own:

The current Rashida Tlaib/Ilhan Omar debacle has received more attention from every quarter than virtually anything other than a war. All the usual suspects have weighed in with (mostly) predictable comments, generally in the context of the long-running “special relationship” between Israel and the U.S. The two domestic political contexts are often mentioned only in passing.

With all respect to those who have tried to take a longer or strategic view, I would suggest that it really boils down to the political calculations of just two men, President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, each of whom is adored by the other’s base voters, and the desperate (yes, desperate) attempts by each to use the other to burnish their right-wing credentials. The resulting media storm was likely welcomed by both, as neither has much interest in what the writers of The New York Times or Haaretz — and all their ilk — have to say.

Bibi Netanyahu is the most desperate, and his actions can only be understood with reference to the current Israeli political scene and the Knesset election coming up on Sept. 17. His Likud Party has been running virtually neck-and neck in the polls with Kahol Lavon (the hastily-organized Blue-White Party) at about 30 Knesset seats each, out of a total of 120. The party with the most seats — no party has ever won a majority — is normally invited by the president to have first crack at forming a government, and Bibi needs that to be the Likud. His calculation is that the only place to get more voters is from those to the right of Likud, who may currently be planning to vote for one of several ultra-nationalist parties. He needs to burnish his nationalist credentials to attract them, and he is doing everything he can to get them to take notice. Allowing Tlaib and Omar to visit — something he would probably have routinely approved at any other time — would be seen by them, exactly as President Trump tweeted, as a show of “weakness.”

The fact that Trump clearly advocated that they be barred also represented a further chance for Bibi to identify himself with the American president his potential voters regard as the best friend Israel has ever had. By contrast, there would be no political gain where it counted to turn down the president’s advice, and every reason to tie himself to Trump’s coattails. It was a no-brainer.

AIPAC — very unusually — criticized Bibi’s act, because it undercuts the bipartisanship it has attempted to maintain since its founding. But Bibi has no use for bipartisanship when it may chip away at his electoral prospects. Just as important is the fact that he — at least if he wins — will have to help energize Trump’s base for 2020, since he is a hero to most of it. Trump also has no use for bipartisanship, something he has made clear time and again.

This is not a political “mistake” as many have termed it; rather, it is the result of cold political calculation. Bibi’s desperation is largely based on the fact that he not only wants to hold onto his office, but also that he has every expectation that he will be indicted on corruption charges shortly after the election. As prime minister, he can ram through a bill giving himself immunity, and then neutralize the Israeli Supreme Court when it declares the immunity unconstitutional. As leader of the opposition, he is powerless.

Trump likewise needs Bibi to be prime minister, though not so desperately. As prime minister, Bibi can energize Trump’s evangelical base, likely unconstrained by any of the usual non-interference norms of international relations. That would be a lot harder to do if he is fighting to stay out of jail. He will owe Trump big time — and will be more than happy to pay off.

Nor is Bibi truly afraid of what Tlaib and Omar might publicize, as Peter Beinart suggests. I have no doubt that Bibi genuinely believes in the righteousness of his cause. Moreover, the situation of West Bank Palestinians has been publicized innumerable times, so that there is little new that they could say. In any case, Tlaib and Omar have been so tarred with anti-Israel and alleged anti-Semitic prejudice that no one except their existing supporters will regard them as impartial.

This event is not a watershed and will likely only rate a footnote — if that — in any history of Israeli-U.S. relations. It is a sign of the times and the current trends, including diminishing Democratic rank-and-file support for the close relationship with Israel, will continue. But this affair is at base a tawdry political drama in which Tlaib and Omar are pawns, orchestrated by two men whose own political goals trump any considerations of statesmanship or national interest.

 

 

 

Cutting Knife Crime – the way forward

By William Morris, Secretary General of the Next Century Foundation, formerly candidate for Police Commissioner, Devon and Cornwall

Knife crime is the scourge of British cities. Violent crime in general, including rape and family abuse, and knife crime in particular, has had a steady year on year increase since 2014 and is now at previously unimagined levels. Never at any time in our modern history has cruel, brute violence been such a feature of British society. And much of it is perpetrated by young people, some of whom are disadvantaged by poverty and poor levels of education. Our children need hope, and their lack of a sense of belonging in our modern multi-faceted world is a disease we have all allowed to fester. We have nobody to blame but ourselves.

The solutions to the symptoms of societal breakdown reflected in greater knife crime are:

  • Reduced school exclusions
  • Community Service delivered in place of arrest
  • Targeted zero tolerance policing

Then there is the catalyst that alcohol represents which is an issue that also must be addressed. But knife crime can be stopped. Of course, much knife and gun crime, especially in London, is often gang related rather than specifically alcohol related. However the culture of violence must be addressed as a whole.

Could we reduce school exclusions, and would doing so matter, would it impact knife crime levels and the “school to jail pipeline”? Here the evidence is simple. Just compare cities. A mere ten years ago Glasgow was the murder capital of Europe.  Now the famous Glasgow Violence Reduction Unit has slashed these levels of violence with measures which range from better police liaison with hospitals to placing chalk outlines of bodies in streets where knife crime was prevalent. And note that effective liaison between the emergency services means real liaison in which the emergency services meet – not a mere instruction to report incidents as per the latest UK government instruction. There is another factor however. A quarter of those who commit knife crimes have been excluded from school. Scotland had its fair share of school exclusions. But through concerted effort by all concerned these have dropped from a high of 292 in 2003 to a mere seven pupils in 2017. Compare England with its ongoing exponential rise to 7,720 school exclusions in 2017. Why for heaven’s sake? Well much of the blame rests on the shoulders of “academies” who can improve their rankings if they get rid of unruly pupils. How to deal with that? Simple. Regard academies that exclude pupils as failed schools. Reduce their ranking by 10% for every child permanently excluded. They would soon change their current practice. And knife crime figures would fall. Especially if we also deal severely with the associated and abysmal practice of ‘off-rolling’ where secondary schools use measures other than exclusion (e.g. encouraging children to “home school”) to try to remove pupils with challenging behaviour, or whose poor exam results might damage league table performances.

We next need community service dealt out at grass roots level – a very different sort of restorative justice. Countries like Holland and Bahrain, nations not noted for the most harmonious community relations, have made giant strides by adopting this approach. Indeed, Holland’s jails are so empty now that they rent space to neighbouring Belgium. We have experimented with this approach in Britain but have never adopted it fully. There was a little-known experiment conducted by a woman police constable in Brixham for a year or two. She coordinated with a local community project. Her approach was to say to the tearaway caught making mischief, “OK, your choice. Go and serve in the community project for a fortnight and we’ll say no more about it. But if you fail to turn up you will be charged and proceed through the criminal justice system.” And it worked. Youth crime was reduced.

Essentially, that is much the approach being adopted in Holland. And it has worked. Note the difference here. We have community service in the UK but it is doled out by the courts. What we need to see is community service given before and in place of entering the mainstream criminal justice system.

And what about Targeted Zero Tolerance Policing? Distasteful? Too American? Well it has worked where it has been applied. And surely if it works elsewhere it needs trying here. This is a way forward. In cities like Birmingham, paramedics are going to the same areas, the same streets, the same estates, day after day and night after night. The same applies to London, as highlighted by a group of Cambridge criminologists who have recently released a study confirming this is the case. As a consequence there are moves to target police resources to statistically more vulnerable areas. However, I want to suggest a very slightly different approach here. I would suggest increased levels of saturation zero tolerance policing in areas with the highest levels of all violent crime, that includes rapes, domestic violence, knife crime, everything. And zero tolerance means zero tolerance, yes including very high levels of stop and search under section sixty of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act – but not just targeting minorities as has been the case in the past. Or else you can end up criminalizing a social issue. Zero tolerance in a high violent crime area means zero tolerance of all criminal behavior, right down to the city slicker that cycles through a red light – the lot. The policy has to be seen to be nondiscriminatory. Would it help? Of course it would.

Then there is the alcohol issue. As a young man I served for more years than I can remember as a volunteer prison visitor in Swansea jail. The prisoners I visited were Category C prisoners in for violent crime (category C prisoners being those held in closed prisons who do not need maximum security). I would go in every Wednesday night and visit half a dozen prisoners in their cells. Rapists, people in for GBH, all sorts. And in all the years I visited, I never visited one prisoner who had not been tanked up on alcohol when they beat someone to a pulp – not once. Dr Christine Goodall of Medics Against Violence claims that more than 80% of assault victims in hospital emergency departments have been drinking, as have the people who assault them. You may dispute those figures. But that alcohol fuels violence including knife crime to some degree is a given. What can be done? Well minimum pricing for alcohol would be a start. These days a pint of beer costs about the same as a double whisky in many a pub. When I was a boy – Ok that’s a long time ago – drinking shorts in a round was severely anti-social because it was so blooming expensive. Another thing that needs dealing with is preloading. Kids tank up with cheap drink at home before their night on the town. One approach that has been piloted in parts of Devon is the breathalysing of people before they enter clubs and the refusal of admission to those over the limit (the #RU2Drunk scheme). At least some of the clubs seemed happy to cooperate. After all – more revenue for them if the drinking was done in the club rather than before people arrive. More thought must be given to the alcohol issue.

Does the above address drug and gang rivalry related knife crime which is often though not invariably conducted by people who are stone cold sober? Yes. Reducing our culture of violence does help. And alongside targeted zero tolerance policing, it makes life difficult for the gangs that are the scourge of some of our major cities. There is more to do. But we have to make a start.

Calling for an end to the “Pervasive horror” of knife crime as Prince Charles has done is exemplary. But now action is needed to respond to that call. We must give the next generation greater hope. We can do so. And to fail to do so is nothing short of a crime in itself.

The Colonised become the Colonisers

“Nations are born in the hearts of poets, they prosper and die in the hands of politicians” – Muhammad Iqbal.

India was once a country at the mercy of British rule, a profitable part of the British Empire and subject to Britain’s colonizing tactics. India like a good student absorbed these tactics and added them to their playbook, later to implement their own version of settler-colonialism. In 1947, the dissolution of the British Raj happened and with it twelve million people were displaced as abstract lines were drawn creating the self-governing countries of Pakistan and India. However, the contentious issue of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) was also born and still remains part of the political landscape. The fraught battle between the two nations over who should assert authority in the region created tensions which reached boiling point as India removed J&K’s special status last Monday. The issue of India taking control of Kashmir sits in a nexus of state power, nationalism, and colonialism and should be analysed as such.

The crisis unfolded last week when Article 370 was withdrawn from the constitution by the Indian government. Article 370 was integral to keeping some kind of peace in the region. It allowed J&K to have special status within India. Provisions such as outsiders not being able to buy land or property were in the agreement meaning a certain level of autonomy was afforded to J&K.  Article 370 was viewed as an important tenant in maintaining stability and was entrenched in the constitution and thus theoretically could not be removed. The Narendra Modi government itself said in 2018 in a written reply in Parliament that there was no proposal to remove Article 370. Furthermore, the Supreme Court refused to accept that Article 370 was temporary in nature as sometimes argued by politicians. The importance and permanence of Article 370 is clear. On removal of the article, the BJP announced a ‘reorganization bill’ which bolsters the ideological nationalist belief that India should be a unitary and centralized nation-state. India is what the political theorist Hannah Arendt terms ‘seeing like a state’; specifically a hyper-nationalistic state.

When we allow fascism and hatred to take root in a political system in such a way, terror unleashed onto those most vulnerable in the guise of ‘democracy’ is inevitable. This issue of taking control of J&K is intricately interlinked with Modi’s campaign of hyper-nationalism.  As Hannah Arendt, who herself experienced fascist terror, theorised, to establish a totalitarian regime, terror must be presented as an instrument for carrying out a specific ideology. The ideology must win the hearts of many and even gain a majority and then terror can be used to stabilize the totalitarian state.  In India, terror imposed on J&K has become the vehicle to carry out Modi’s ideology of hyper-nationalism and the masses have come on board in the hopes of creating a greater India. The first step in justifying this terror is to rectify what Modi views as the wrong of the ‘Muslim-appeasement bill’ which is Article 370.  This move shows India is happy to rule in an authoritarian fashion to expand its power and territory whilst ignoring international law and its own constitution.

India having learnt from its previous masters set out a carefully designed plan to dish out imperialism. Kashmir was already described as ‘the most militarised region on earth’ with 700,000 soldiers, paramilitary and police patrolling it. The Indian military are the architects of this prison. As Hafsa Kanjwal reports for Al Jazeera, “In the days leading up to the announcement, the government inflicted a series of psychological trauma on the local population”. Leaders of Kashmir were put under house arrest. Communication was cut off, with phone signals and internet blocked, thus worried people could r not each family or friends, this coupled with the increased deployment of troops. It could well be there may be some people of Kashmir who may not even know of the change in legislation. Journalists in Kashmir are reporting and printing newspapers by hand in order to keep the people somewhat informed.

As India took control by isolating Kashmir from the world they added more brute force to the picture. They took their next steps and began to shape the narrative, another trick learnt from the British as they try to abandon their image as colonial masters and rebrand themselves as a soft power. The state in India has ironically been the one to do outsourcing – they lent on the Bollywood industry to sell a happy go-lucky narrative of the events in Kashmir. As Bollywood buys titles, ‘Kashmir humura hai’ which translates to Kashmir is ours, now we face the future of state propaganda being outsourced to the clutches of capitalism with a catchy ‘item song’ playing in the backdrop.

Where do we go from here? – As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” The lack of an international response is deafening yet predictable. However, if we do not speak of these events they will go down in history as a victory for fascism and we become the supporters of the oppressors.

NCF researcher Maariyah Rashid