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,
[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

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.

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.

Is Corbyn an anti-Semite?

The following comes from Dr Neil Partrick, one of the Senior Fellows at the Next Century Foundation. Neil’s article is contentious but interesting. You may find the original on his blog at

Anti-Semitism is not as big a problem in the UK Labour Party as it appears to be, judging by the amount of British media coverage of the issue. Nor is anti-Semitism as widespread in the party as some allege. It is true that the accusation of it against some on the pro-Corbyn left of the party, made most strongly by anti-Corbyn MPs, is in part a politically-motivated attempt to damage Mr Corbyn and his leadership. This can have the effect on the Corbynite Left of encouraging them to defensively kick against the hostility of the Labour ‘Right’, and maybe, just maybe….repeat, maybe….this explains the comments of pro-Corbyn MP Chris Williamson, for which he has today partially apologised.

To some it might seem that anti-Semitism is simply being confused with anti-Zionism. Sometimes it is, and that I too have a problem with. However it is actually, and increasingly, hard to separate the two issues. If Zionism is always unacceptable, in any form, to some on the Left, then it should be no more a concern to them than any kind of nationalism/national aspiration that is ethnically or religiously exclusive e.g. the aspiration for ethnic Kurdish nationhood (very popular among Kurds in parts of Iraq, Syria and Turkey, and supported by some in the west); the agitation for, creation of and maintenance of Pakistan, a self-defined exclusivist Muslim state. Or Arab nationalism, a banner that Nasser and others got behind in the ambition to mobilise one ethnicity, ostensibly on behalf of the Palestinians, against Israel (or rather ‘the Jews’ as their propaganda referred to) and in the process disregarding a whole host of Middle Eastern, non-Arab, minorities.

The same could be said of the official ‘Arab Ba’ath’ ideology of present day Syria and of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq: Arab chauvinism expressed via an ethnically exclusivist politics i.e. ethno-nationalism. The Muslim Brotherhood – recently in power in Egypt and still popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa, including in Palestine – is committed solely to establishing a form of political rule that unites Muslims under Islamic law (regardless of Christian Arabs et al). However I never hear people on the Far Left, or Jeremy Corbyn specifically, talk critically about them. In fact he has praised and shared platforms with the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas (whose charter still contains reference to the widely recognised anti-Semitic forgery, ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’), and shared platforms and praised Hizbollah (a Lebanese pro-Iranian group solely interested in advancing the interests of Shia Muslims, in Lebanon, Syria etc).
OK. Maybe this is just inconsistency, or (wilful) ignorance, or both. Maybe this isn’t cast iron proof of anti-Semitism. I really cannot see Jeremy Corbyn going home at night and sticking pins in a doll depicting a pot-bellied, bespectacled, gold chain-wearing, big-bearded, big-nosed, archetypal ‘Yid’. Yet he praised and defended an infamous mural with more or less this exact depiction of a Jew on it, even when this specific aspect was pointed out to him. In response to criticism of some young Leftist Labour activists who had referred to the power of ‘Jewish capitalists’/’Jewish capital’, he said that they’d let their anti-capitalist enthusiasm run away with them. Perhaps he would be as indulgent of Ernst Rohm and his anti-capitalist Nazi Brownshirts whom Hitler had purged. In a fairly recently unearthed clip of Jeremy speaking (prior to him becoming party leader) on a pro-Palestinian platform about Israel, he was found to respond to a critical question put to him by a British Jew, whom he presumably recognised, by saying that ‘they’ should have more of a sense of humour, and that ‘by now’ ‘they’ should know this country better. When some his followers in the party target anti-Corbyn Labour Jewish MPs and councillors with strongly pro-Palestinian messages on social media, they are choosing to focus on their ethnicity and to link that to a foreign issue. In doing so they are in effect portraying these British politicians as foreigners in their own country, just as Corbyn did when responding to an audience member in the clip I refer to above. Would they – do they – ever target non-Jewish political opponents (who’ve sympathised with Israel) in this manner?
The hostility to Israel easily overlaps on the left with hostility to US foreign policy and perceived disproportionate US armed action on Arab/Muslim states/targets. If Israel and the US are deemed to be wrong, then some on the Labour Left find it hard to be critical of a Middle Eastern enemy of Israel and the US. In the case of Iran, which in its most senior office of state institutionalises exclusive Shia political and spiritual authority, this reluctance even applies when some of the Iranian working class are striking over pay and conditions. It should also be noted that the Labour Party has long had a significant representation among Muslim Asians in the UK, usually, but not exclusively, of Pakistani heritage, among whom strong and sometimes highly conservative Islamic assertions can sometimes be found that hardly fit with the apparent politics of middle class socialists enthused about Corbyn.
Anti-Semitism, perhaps ironically, literally means to be an anti-Semite, a loose ethnic term, using perhaps spurious ethno-genetic classifications, that includes Arabs as well as Jews. In common and widespread parlance however, it means to be anti-Jewish. What is it to be ‘Jewish’? It is ostensibly an adherent of a particular monotheistic religion. However Jewishness plainly has a wide set of cultural identifiers, and to some extent ethnic identifiers, that apply to Jewish atheists too. It obviously isn’t the same thing as being ‘Israeli’, which is actually not a totally ethnically exclusive nationality, even if political and constitutional realities mean that it is very close to being so.

So, are Jeremy Corbyn and some of his allies anti-Semites? Well, the blithe and knowing disregard for causing collective offence, the prioritisation of factional political advantage over addressing such offence, and hostility to any territorial expression of Jewish national identity, but acceptance of other ethno or religious nationalisms, comes pretty close.



Countries urged not to strip terror suspects of citizenship

THE HAGUE – Stripping terror suspects of citizenship does not increase national security and may even make it worse, legal experts told a conference on ending statelessness.

They are particularly concerned over the increasing use of the measure by Britain which this year revoked the nationality of “Jihadi bride” Shamima Begum who left London to join Islamic State (IS) in 2015 at the age of 15.

Britain is also considering the case of British-Canadian Muslim convert Jack Letts who joined IS as a teenager and is now being held in a Kurdish-run jail in northern Syria.

“Stripping nationality is a completely ineffective measure – and an arbitrary measure,” said Amal de Chickera, co-founder of the Institute on Statelessness, which is hosting the conference in The Hague.

He said countries should retain responsibility for nationals accused of supporting IS and ensure they are prosecuted.

“Stripping nationality when people are abroad merely exports the problem to other countries,” he said, adding such measures were also likely to have a serious impact on families back home.

Countries should recognize that women married to IS fighters, and their children, may have been victimized, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s conference.

The conference heard that Britain stripped nationality from more than 100 people in 2017, compared to a total of 12 people between 1950 and 2002, but most cases were done quietly.

De Chickera said it was crucial that all countries’ counter-terrorism policies should not result in more people becoming stateless – which means someone is not recognized as a national by any country in the world.

To avoid making people stateless, Britain has focused on dual nationals. But Audrey Macklin, a human rights law professor at the University of Toronto, said if all countries had laws to revoke citizenship from dual nationals then you would get a race to see who could do it first “and to the loser goes the citizen”.

“Is this a policy that makes sense as a global practice directed at making the world more secure, at reducing the risk of terrorism? To my mind, not so much,” she said.

She said citizenship was a right rather than a privilege, and described citizenship deprivation followed by expulsion as the “political equivalent of the death penalty”.

The conference comes midway through a U.N. campaign to end statelessness in a decade. An estimated 10 to 15 million people are stateless worldwide, often deprived of basic rights.

UK Foreign Office promoting Media Freedom again

Jack Pearson of the UK’s Foreign Office shares this with the NCF as part of their new Media Freedom campaign. They are being selective though – criticising countries who are perceived as enemies or who can’t hit back. Some of the worst offenders in the world – like Turkey – seem to escape the FCO’s criticism. Still, the NCF backs this British government initiative for which we are grateful:

Extinction Rebellion: a new form of governance?

This comes to the Next Century Foundation from Evelyn Hull:

Extinction Rebellion, a civil disobedience group, demanding immediate action to address our climate emergency, has gained both attention and support over the last few weeks. Starting on the 15th of April, the group organised 10 days of protest in London, causing disruption through, marching, blocking roads and even gluing themselves to the entrance of the London Stock Exchange. Their extreme measures have sparked debate and some have condemned their actions as causing too much disruption, and even as counter-productive. However, the group’s message that the real disruption will come if we fail to make drastic changes to address climate change, is compelling. Extinction Rebellion, by name, comments on a seemingly taboo subject; the reality of climate change and, as one of their demands, challenges politicians to face the facts and tell the truth.

Indeed, the group has shifted the boundaries of debate, demanding representation and forcing politicians to engage in the conversation. Serving as a wake-up call, the protests have, for the very least, sparked unprecedented levels of discussion about climate change. In a very short period of time, their first demand, has on paper, been met. After deliberations in parliament, led by the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, the UK Government has declared a climate emergency. This could be seen as a ceremonial response and is not legally binding, thus its significance depends on sustained political will. However, the progress made is impressive and discussions with Michael Gove, the Environmental Secretary, even suggest a relative openness to the idea of developing citizen assemblies, the second demand of the group.

Perhaps the most interesting impact of Extinction Rebellion is the way in which it is questioning the legitimacy of our current democracy. The movement calls for democratic evolution through the creation of collective decision making facilitated by citizen assemblies. The group uses a crowdsourced strategy to brainstorm ideas and offers an environment to promote open and inclusive discussion. Many have commented on the way in which the group has served as an emotional outlet, giving legitimacy and empathy to their concerns and further providing practical means of initiating change. The group has engaged many people because it offers a feeling of hope and allows citizens to feel the importance of action. This feels particularly pertinent at a time when political disillusion is high.

UK government backs Media Freedom – genuinely?

Can a government that imprisons Julian Assange really claim that it backs Media Freedom when this amounts to the bludgeoning of freedom of expression in one fell swoop? That said let’s hope the FCO’s forthcoming media conference actually makes some real difference beyond merely punishing failed third world governments:





World Press Freedom Day gets UK government backing

This has just been sent us for World Press Freedom day from Sue Breeze at the UK Foreign Office. We share it with you given that today is indeed Press Freedom Day:




Threats and Challenges in Post Brexit Britain

The following text is of a speech by Sir Mark Justin Lyall Grant GCMG, previously the United Kingdom’s National Security Adviser and Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations. It was given to us by Lady Olga Maitland, President of the Defence and Security Forum and was delivered to the DSF yesterday:

I saw my Dad at the weekend. He is 103. He still reads the paper every day and said ‘Mark, I am very worried about the state of the country and the state of the world’. I wanted to cheer him up, so I replied: ‘Dad, you were born in 1915, one year into the Great war – compared to that, surely 2019 does not look so bad!’ I am not sure that he was convinced.

With you this evening, I can be more honest. In many respects, the world is in a bad state. For a start, all the major threats to the UK identified in the 2015 National Security Strategy that I oversaw have become more acute in the intervening 4 years.

Take State based threats and instability. Russia has become more aggressive and nationalistic – and Putin sees his aim to ‘make Russia great again’ in purely zero-sum terms – that the only way to compensate for Russia’s relative decline is to weaken his neighbours and perceived enemies, whether that is NATO, EU or UK. In the absence of soft power and allies, Putin uses the hard power tools he knows best. Hence the destabilisation of Ukraine and Georgia, the almost-daily testing of NATO’s air and sea defences, the cyber attacks on Estonia and Denmark, the interference in Western elections and the targeting of individuals who fall foul of the Kremlin, such as Alexandr Litvinenko and Sergei Skripal.

There is also conflict and state instability in every region of the world from Venezuela in South America, Sudan, Somalia and Algeria in Africa, India/Pakistan in South Asia, North Korea in the Far East, not to mention all the conflicts in the Middle East – which Binyamin Netanyahu’s return as Israel’s PM is unlikely to dampen.

And, despite the defeat of ISIS on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, the terrorism threat remains ever present – as last weekend’s horrendous attacks on Christians in Sri Lanka demonstrates. Who now doubts that Christianity, not Judaism or Islam, is the most persecuted religion worldwide. But there is an increasing threat from right wing extremism too, fuelled by Islamophobia – most recently the deadly attack on worshippers at 2 mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. And Lyra Mckee’s killing in Londonderry is a reminder that there is still a residual threat from dissident republicans in Northern Ireland.

In one sense, the terrorist threat is not strategic – 10 times as many people have been killed by lawnmowers in America as by terrorists in the last 10 years, not to mention the 10s of thousands killed by other forms of gun crime. But terrorism has increased our sense of personal insecurity – not to mention significantly affected the way we travel – with the enhanced security measures at airports and other public buildings, restrictions on liquids, special treatment for laptops all resulting directly from past terrorist plots.

Terrorism is of course not a new threat, but Cyber certainly is. The internet did not exist 40 years ago – today every country, business and individual is dependent on it. That dependence has opened up huge opportunities for both hostile states and criminals to exploit. The scale is enormous: More than 200 billion emails sent every day, of which more than 1bn contain malware. Lloyds of London reported this year that the potential cost of a global cyber attack could be as high as 190bn dollars. Russia, China, North Korea and Iran have all aggressively used offensive cyber capabilities for everything from stealing money, secrets and intellectual property to damaging critical national infrastructure of another country, and sowing divisions through misinformation campaigns.

There are two interesting aspects that the terrorist and cyber threats have in common. The first is that, in both cases, offence is much easier and cheaper than defence, and this imbalance is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

The second is that (partly for that reason) Governments alone cannot keep their citizens safe from either threat – even though that is often said to be the first duty of government. Yes, there is a lot they can do, with the right resources, law enforcement and intelligence assets.

But, take terrorism for instance. The harsh reality is that the simpler the attack and the fewer the number of attackers involved, the more difficult it is to prevent. If a terrorist takes a knife and attacks innocent bystanders in a public place; or hires a car and runs down pedestrians, there is little Governments can do to prevent that. But if there is a wider conspiracy, and terrorists talk or communicate with each other, the opportunities to detect and disrupt become much greater.

Individual vigilance is therefore increasingly important – from the simple ‘see it, say it, sorted’ on the underground to tip offs of suspicious behaviour, families/friends – or doctors/teachers through the PREVENT programme reporting on individuals at risk of radicalisation. Governments are also relying on the big American tech companies to prevent their platforms being used by terrorists to communicate, or to spread extremism (as the terrorist in Christchurch was clearly trying to do by live-streaming his attack). You won’t be surprised to hear that some of the tech companies are rather more willing to cooperate with Government agencies than others.

The same limitation in the Government’s ability to protect applies to the cyber threat. Government systems are of course targeted by hostile states – when I was Ambassador to the UN, all 15 members of the Security Council had their communications networks attacked – but (wikileaks not withstanding) Government systems are relatively well defended. Companies and individuals are much more vulnerable. Technology and data are so business critical these days that companies have to spend hundreds of millions on their own cyber security. And it is up to individuals to look after their own passwords and avoid being taken in by scam emails. Governments cannot do that for them.

And this sense of greater personal insecurity will only increase the more that we rely on technology in our daily lives – the 4th industrial revolution that Sir Christopher referred to. Smart devices in our homes, commercial use of drones in our skies and driverless cars on our roads will all make us more vulnerable to cyber attack in the future.

Threat to RBIO
In my view, however, the biggest strategic security risk we face today is not the threat from military conflict, terrorism or cyber attack – it is the erosion of the international rules-based order that was built up after WW2.

It is worth recalling that, when the victors of WW2 set up new organisations and norms in the 1940s/1950s such as the UN, NATO, IMF/World Bank, WTO, the universal declaration of human rights, they did so – we did so – in our own image. It was therefore a liberal vision based on values of open trade, the rule of law and human rights. It is hard to overestimate the benefit that the UK – as a medium sized, democratic, open trading nation – gets from that rules based order. It is the sea in which we swim and we have invested more heavily than most in it.

But that order is now under severe threat. After a short 25 year ‘golden period’ from the end of the cold war, we have seen a systematic push back against this liberal international order. Why is that? A number of reasons, but I would highlight 3 in particular:

With the military interventions in Iraq and Libya, some nations felt that the West exploited new concepts such as humanitarian intervention and R2P to encroach on sovereignty and even to promote regime change;
The Financial crisis in 2008 undermined faith in the elite’s ability to manage global capitalism;
More fundamentally, geopolitical shifts have been significant, especially the rise of China.
Now, in addition to blatant violations of the international order, such as Russian annexation of Crimea and China’s militarisation of disputed islands in the South China Sea, we are seeing a rise in populism and authoritarian governance in every region of the world from Argentina and Tanzania to Turkey and the Philippines – indeed Freedom House reports that 2018 was the 13th year in a row where democratic norms have been going backwards – and it is worth recalling that, at a time when India, the world’s largest democracy, goes to the polls, only 39% of the world’s population lives in a democracy. So far from the end of history, as Francis Fukuyama put it 30 years ago, we are entering a period of great uncertainty. Indeed, I would argue that, for the first time since the end of WW2, the ultimate triumph of democracy and economic liberalism cannot be taken for granted.

At this critical time, it is therefore very unfortunate that the traditional champion of the liberal international order (POTUS) does not himself believe in it. When he spoke at the UN in September last year, President Trump attacked what he called the ‘ideology of globalisation’. He has pulled America out of the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Paris agreement on Climate Change, the INF treaty and the Iran nuclear deal; he has blocked the appointment of judges to the World Trade Organisation and now recognised Israel’s illegal occupation of the Golan heights – not to mention pull out of various UN bodies.

At a strategic level, Trump has made clear that he plans to challenge China on the military, economic and technological fronts – the last is important because China has set itself the aim of becoming the dominant player in emerging technologies, such as Artificial intelligence, robotics, genetic engineering, and other bio technologies; not to mention space exploration. Technology is therefore likely to be a key battleground of the future. But a trade war (or at least a trade skirmish) has already started, and some US generals predict a hot war within 15 years. If there were such a conflict, it would certainly push all the other threats I have mentioned into the background.

So, if we want to preserve the RBIO, then those who believe in it will need to champion it – that means in the short term pushing back against the most egregious violations of the international order, while mitigating the current US administration’s disruptive approach; and in the longer term finding a way to adapt the international governance structures in a way that accommodates China and other geopolitical shifts, without undermining the core UN and Bretton Woods institutions. To my mind, this means not compromising on the key values that underpin our own democratic traditions, whilst recognising the fact that there are limits on our ability to impose those values on others. We have to win the struggle by positive example, not by force.

The UK needs to play its part in this vital endeavour. Brexit (whenever it happens) should not prevent us from doing so. Many commentators have argued that the UK will be a diminished force in the world after Brexit. Unfortunately, that is indeed the case during the tortuous process of Brexit (one reason why a lengthy extension is undesirable) but I see no reason why it should be the case thereafter.

Britain’s international standing in the world does not depend on our membership of the EU. It is a factor of our economic weight, history, democracy, culture, English language, the excellence of our institutions, including armed forces and universities, the royal family and other aspects of our position – confirmed once again in the latest Softpower30 index – as the number 1 soft power nation in the world. Recent polling undertaken by the British Council of young people around the world confirms that those outside Europe do not see EU membership as being a key part of the UK’s identity. Even after Brexit, the UK will be a member of more international organisations than any other country.

Indeed, it was clear to me as Ambassador to the UN that Scottish Independence would have been much more damaging to our international status than leaving the EU. Quite apart from reducing our economic and political weight, that would have required changing the name of the country and called into question our permanent seat on the UN security council.

But that influence and standing cannot be taken for granted. It needs to be nurtured now more than ever. The slogan of ‘global Britain’ needs to be backed up with resource and action. Some positive decisions have been taken since the 2016 referendum: to extend our nuclear deterrence into the next generation, maintain the 2% commitment on defence and 0.7% commitment on overseas aid, double the number of British UN peacekeeping troops, deploy forces to Eastern Europe to help deter the Russian threat, increase the number of training troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and extend our diplomatic network.
But a lot more will be required to strengthen our international links. We should make more use of other key international groupings such as the Quad, NATO, the G7 and the 5 eyes community; we need a major effort to reinvigorate the Commonwealth.

But we must also establish the closest possible links to key European partners after Brexit. No amount of global blue-sea linkages can substitute for that. On the security side, despite all the media froth, I am confident that agreement will be reached – even in the event of a no-deal scenario – which will ensure that neither UK nor European security is endangered by Brexit, including by negotiating UK access and input to practical enablers and key information data bases owned by the EU, such as EUROPOL, the European Arrest warrant and Schengen information system.

That is because our EU partners have at least as great an interest as us in continuing to benefit from UK defence and security cooperation. Our intelligence services are recognised as the best in Europe, we have the largest defence budget, our military engagement is highly prized and we arrest and send back to their own countries 8 times as many EU nationals under the EAW as we get back from the continent. In that sense, we are in credit on national security – which is not the case for many other areas of the Brexit negotiations. I know from my own time as NSA that this reality is fully recognised by key European leaders.

I hope, however, that, in addition to agreement on maintaining these current close links, the Government will look to develop new joint projects with our closest European allies, France and Germany. There is already a productive Lancaster House Treaty with France, which covers defence cooperation on nuclear issues, joint project work on air to air missiles and a future unmanned fighter aircraft. But something more iconic on the scale of Concorde, the channel tunnel or the Eurofighter would send a signal of our intention to remain joined to the European continent long into the future. We need to use the latest 6-month Brexit extension to come up with some concrete ideas to put to our European partners.

So whatever we think of the wisdom of leaving the European Union – I personally think it a strategic mistake for economic reasons – we should be confident that, with the right ambition and leadership, neither our security nor our influence in the world need be adversely affected.