The blade the bullet and the bomb know no morality, they have one purpose only, to kill and injure. Those who wield these weapons of destruction have choices; they are moral beings who have chosen the way of violence. This choice is informed by their beliefs and their beliefs informed by their chosen cause or ideology; or both.

If choosing the way of violence is based upon an extreme ideology then they have adopted an uncompromising  view of the world and how it should be ordered which requires them, and their co-believers, to spare nothing or no one in pursuit of their ultimate aims; barbarity is unleashed, violence spirals and any semblance of humanity abandoned; they appropriate for themselves the appearance of an irresistible force. However, as in the paradoxical proposition “What will happen if an irresistible force meets and immovable object?” nothing in nature is absolutely irresistible and nothing is absolutely immovable. In the gritty realities of power struggles action and reaction happen by degrees and each mirrors the worst aspects of the other and thus violence breeds violence “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” (From the Christian Gospel)

Am I describing Daesh? I could also be describing Cromwell’s Model Army in the England of 1640s or Fascist regimes in Europe in the 1930s and 40s. All believed themselves invincible all were ultimately vanquished. Their legacy was and is more violence. Violence breeds violence.

(Quote)”The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that”. Martin Luther King Junior

Plato said, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

Violence breeds violence and its siblings are: vengeance, reprisal and retaliation. Governments, as well as individuals, adopt these siblings and unleash them at will.  To break the spiral of violence we must contend with these forces of vengeance and violence at their root cause.

All wars end. Either through attrition, intervention, diplomacy or capitulation conflicts cease. But the end of conflict is rarely the beginning of a sustainable peace; too often the end of fighting is merely the impression of peace when in reality it is an armed truce vacillating between possible futures.

For years, America the UK and their allies have appropriated to themselves the mantle of a global, interventionist morality. This policy has been seen by many as either little too late or at worst disastrous for all concerned. For the first time in modern history the consequence of this deeply flawed morality has brought the victims of intervention, in seemingly overwhelming numbers, onto their shores and into their streets. Traumatised, at times half dead, physically and psychologically scarred, starving and despairing they are as much the West’s casualties as any of our armed forces killed or injured in recent wars. Violence breeds violence.

From the violence suffered by traumatised refugees coming to our shores, a new violent reaction is being embodied in the resurgence of reactionary, populist political forces in America, Europe and elsewhere. The populist slogans they scream and chant are a repudiation of the so called liberal, democratic values which have dominated international discourse since 1989. These new forces are indifferent or opposed to any assertion of international morality. They will use violence (rhetorically and actual) to secure their nation’s borders, engender a patriotic siege mentality and practice isolationism from global intervention; rather than try and do intervention better they prefer not to do it at all.

In the Levant, Western influence has waned and is seen as fatally flawed, other regional powers have filled the vacuum but they have historical and ideological agendas which are inimical to the West.

The West, meanwhile, is verging on economic bankruptcy; the UN is also deprived of funds and in thrall to the Security Council, the new American regime is inexperienced and lacks credibility and Europe is fragmenting as a political project. Western intervention seems to be reduced to targeted military strikes in the Levant and anxiety about trade deals elsewhere. The West seems gripped by a moral inertia. So from where will arise new energy for global conciliation and rapprochement come? Russia, China, Turkey, India? Are we in a diplomatic winter?

(Quote from Quran)  “There is no good in most of their secret talks save (except) (in) him who orders Sadaqah (charity in Allah’s Cause), or Maa‘roof (Islamic Monotheism and all the good and righteous deeds which Allah has ordained), or conciliation between mankind; and he who does this, seeking the good Pleasure of Allah, We shall give him a great reward” (Quran, Surah An-Nisaa, 114)

If the Great Reward goes to the conciliators of this world (“Blessed are the Peace makers” Quote from Christian scriptures) then we need an uprising of peacemakers and an army of reconcilers. (The Aramea Foundation, NCF, IoC?). We need a coalition of the willing who will work tirelessly and sacrificially for Peace; demanding a renewal of ethically based foreign policies, a renewal of internationalism, reaching out to enemies and bringing light to the darkest places.

As a person of faith I know faith’s shortcomings but I also know its power to inspire and transform lives and situations and to give vision and hope to humanity in its days of darkness:  “To turn spears into pruning hooks and where people will study war no more” (Quote from Jewish Scriptures).

Faith must play a significant role in post conflict Syria and Iraq, Syria and Iraq will also need all the goodwill that can be mustered and a Marshall type plan of economic and civic reconstruction unprecedented in modern times. This is the cost of the West’s repentance and the East’s intransigence and the Middle East’s incoherence.

Within any plans for the possible futures in the war torn areas of the Levant, their  must be a plan for  the future of Jerusalem, that city set on a hill which is the rallying point for so much human longing for God.

May we find new hope, new vision and new determination to shape a future where it is not the dead who see an end to war, but the living.

 

Fr Larry Wright

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The Next Century Foundation at the United Nations – Intervention on Discrimination and Intolerance against Women

The Next Century Foundation took part in the 36th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. During the General Debate on Item 9 “Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance” the NCF delivered an oral intervention on the issue of gender discrimination in the Arab States urging them to take the necessary steps in order to improve women’s conditions, following the recent example of Bahrain.

Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis

The relentless conflict in Yemen continues to devastate the lives of civilians, following the breakdown of the latest ceasefire between the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition.

The fleeting 48-hour truce ended without extension on the 21st November after both sides accused each other of violating the peace, and failed to reach a diplomatic agreement. This marks the latest in a series of failed UN and US-led attempts to end the violence and destruction that has ravaged the country since early 2015.

The war in Yemen has unleashed a humanitarian crisis of critical proportions, resulting in at least 10,000 deaths and displacing around 3 million people from their homes. Recent conservative estimates suggest at least 21.2 million people, or 82% of Yemen’s total population, are in need of humanitarian aid amid worsening food and water shortages.

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According to UNICEF some 1.5 million Yemeni children are suffering acute malnutrition or starvation, and millions of women and children must walk long distances every day to access the little clean water that is available. On top of this, rapidly spreading outbreaks of cholera and measles have put countless more lives in danger.

The humanitarian situation has been compounded by the imposition of an air and naval blockade by Saudi Arabia. This has restricted Yemen’s regular food and fuel imports, and crucially reduced accessibility for the numerous aid agencies attempting to deliver life-saving food, water and medical supplies.

Meanwhile, Saudi-led airstrikes have repeatedly violated international humanitarian law by targeting civilian infrastructure such as hospitals. A recent World Health Organisation survey found that just 45% of Yemen’s health facilities are fully-functional and accessible, while over half have been severely damaged or destroyed as a result of the conflict. Doctors and medical workers have repeatedly been driven out of hospitals due to safety concerns, and there is a desperate shortage of fuel for ambulances. The conflict has crippled Yemen’s health infrastructure and consequently restricted access to basic healthcare for millions of people in need.

As a consequence of these conditions, despite their best efforts, aid agencies and NGOs operating in Yemen – including the International Committee of the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, Oxfam and UNICEF – have been significantly hindered in their attempts to alleviate the anguish of Yemeni civilians.

Amidst such terrible suffering, it is vital for both sides of the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians from harm. According to the UNHCR almost 181,000 people have fled war-torn Yemen to seek refuge in neighbouring countries; for those who have no means of escaping the violence, the future looks bleak unless a peaceful diplomatic solution can be reached.

Amy Simon 30/11/16

Saudi Arabia ratchets up involvement in the Yemen Crisis

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Damage caused by Saudi airstrikes to a house in Sana’a

 

Saudi Arabia is gearing up for a massive attack on Yemen. Or so it would seem.

A source close to the Next Century Foundation has informed us that Saudi officials asked for towns on the Saudi-Yemeni border to be evacuated last week, meaning there is possibility for further Saudi intervention in the war-torn country.

Sources in the Saudi armed forces indicate that the Saudi Crown Prince issued a letter to the Saudi High Command (the NCF has seen the letter in question) instructing them to evacuate all villages on the Saudi side of the border with Yemen of their entire population.

Subsequent reports from other NCF sources have indicated that Saudi ground forces are engaged in action, crossing the border into Yemen in the North. There is nothing unusual in this of itself, however this time perhaps we are about to see a more significant action rather than a mere skirmish. It is notable that the Kuwaitis have put a deadline on the peace negotiations between the warring parties (i.e. the Saudis and the Houthis) currently taking place in Kuwait. Presumably this is at the behest of the Saudis who wish to bring peace talks to an end and ramp up their attack on Yemen.

Yemen has been engaged in a civil war since March of 2015. The conflict began between forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and a group known as the Houthis, a Zaydi Shia-led movement loyal to former dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Houthis, or Ansar Allah (“supporters of God”), were founded by Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi. They are seen in the West as a pro-Iranian group, and therefore the conflict is perceived as also being between Shiite Iran and Saudi Arabia, which is currently leading an international coalition against the Houthis.

The US and UK are part of the coalition with Saudi Arabia, but with different motives. While the Saudis are concerned mainly with their own influence in the region, the US and UK are concerned with combating Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). This group is considered the most dangerous Al Qaeda affiliate, and AQAP has taken control of entire towns and villages in the south and east of Yemen.

The Saudis have intervened in Yemen through extensive bombing campaigns. Saudi-backed government forces successfully recaptured Aden from the Houthis, who seized the presidential palace and named a Revolutionary Committee to take over the powers of the president after Hadi resigned in January 2015. Because of Saudi involvement, President Hadi was able to return in September 2015.

Saudi involvement in Yemen has gone further than reinstatement of the president, however. News of the Saudi evacuation of border towns comes at the same time as the UK government admits it was wrong in saying that Saudi Arabia has not targeted civilians or committed war crimes. In its campaign against the Houthis, Saudi Arabia has blown up hospitals, schools, and weddings. The UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has said that these appear to be war crimes. The UK has been a supporter of Saudi Arabia, supplying billions in weapons, but is hesitant to take responsibility; the admission that Saudi Arabia may have in fact committed war crimes came on the final day of parliament before the summer recess.

Today, the most pressing issue in Yemen is the humanitarian crisis. The people of Yemen are starving. Twenty million Yemenis are in desperate need of food, water, and medical care; this is nearly 80% of the population. The Saudi-led naval blockade is exacerbating the issue by preventing goods from being imported. The humanitarian crisis in Yemen has received significantly less media attention in the west than the refugee or Syrian crises, as the Saudi blockade is supported by the UK and US.

A solution in Yemen will not be found until Saudi Arabia changes its role in the country. The Saudis are afraid of losing land, and they see Iran as a security threat although it has no real presence in Yemen today. However, the Saudi view of the Houthis as Iranian-backed has become a self-fulfilling prophecy; if the Saudis offered to allow support to go to the population in the Houthi controlled areas they would easily reduce any Iranian influence, but denying them support only pushes the Houthis towards Iran.

The alleged evacuation of the border towns is evidence that the Saudis have not yet accepted a changed role in Yemen, but are continuing with their violent campaign. Retired Saudi colonel, political strategist and commentator Ibrahim al Marie showed that the war is more about Saudi influence than anything else when he stated that while the war is expensive, “If we stop it without getting Sana’a and disarming the Houthis, it will be a historical and military catastrophe.” He continues that “It would be a problem for the confidence between the government and the people, and the decision makers in the kingdom know this very well.”