Gordon Brown sent shivers down the spines of many ordinary citizens. Yes, in reaction to Israel abusing British sovereignty by using British passports to assassinate a senior Hamas official Brown is going to set up a inquiry.

Taxpayers all over London could be heard collectively groaning as another inquiry gets added to the “Load of old Chilcot” and “Have you seen my Butler?” inquiries.

Yes, an inquiry. Brown did not think it was suitable to call the Israeli ambassador to Downing Street. After all just because many Israelis are all saying it is Mossad and the Israeli government has not denounced it does not mean it was Mossad! Obviously there are thousands of people/organisations/countries with the desire, capability and technique to assassinate a senior Hamas official with a team of operatives with European passports.

Brown has already made sure that an escape route is well established:

“The evidence has got to be assembled about what has actually happened and how it happened and why it happened, and it is necessary for us to accumulate that evidence before we can make statements.”

The reality is that clear evidence will never be obtained, it never is in these types of operations. So knowing this the Guardian reported:

Earlier, the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, broke his government’s silence saying there was no proof that Mossad was behind the killing. However, he did not explicitly deny any Israeli involvement, saying his government had a “policy of ambiguity” on intelligence issues…Lieberman said he believed that relations with Britain would not be damaged. “I think Britain recognises that Israel is a responsible country and that our security activity is conducted according to very clear, cautious and responsible rules of the game. Therefore we have no cause for concern,” he said.

Lieberman said it: no cause for concern.


Eleven European citizens, six of them British the rest Irish, French and German passports enter Dubai and assassinate senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Of course they were not European citizens, they were Mossad agents.

Such is the murky world of assassinations in this ravaged region that the Dubai police will no doubt not find out who did it conclusively. But all fingers point to Mossad.  Haaretz Correspondent, Yossi Melman has argued that the operation was done Mossad style:

The bits of information and the camera images suggest methods used by the Mossad that Mishka Ben-David wrote about in detail in his novel “Duet in Beirut.” Ben-David, who served as the intelligence officer for the Caesarea operations branch of the Mossad, insists that his novel is a work of fiction. However, it is obvious to all that the experience he accumulated in the Mossad over the years appears in his book.

There are those of course that will try and state the weak arguments that it was not Mossad. Like the appalying commentary by James Hider that suggests there are plenty of “red herrings”. But then changes his mind and that no it must be Mossad, Hider argues: “First of all, there was the professionalism of the 11-strong hit team, whose movements were revealed this week by the Dubai police.” (My emphasis).

Well yes, Mossad’s wonderful professionalism. They have done some pretty spectacular acts over the years. But they have also been caught red handed a few times trying to steal passports. New Zealand imposed diplomatic sanctions against Israel and suspended high-level contacts in 2004 because of two Israeli citizens trying to obtain fake New Zealand passports. Helen Clark, then Prime Minister, stated that it was a violation of New Zealand sovereignty.

Britain will not do the same. They will bury this issue, as in 1987 when a similar incident happened. In 1987 as many reports from Britain are pointing out Israel also forged British passports. The Associated Press reported at the time:

Britain said today that Israel had admitted using fake British passports, and a newspaper said the documents were intended to help agents of the Israeli secret service attack foes abroad. … a ”furious” diplomatic argument between Israel and Britain, with Israel at first refusing to apologize.

The last sentence says it all. There is no doubt a similar stage show will again be put on by the foreign office. Despite the flagrant abuse of British sovereignty and an act that only endanger British citizens, nothing will be done. Israel will not be messed with. Such confidence is illustrated by the fact that Israel would use British passports in such an audacious attack.

British officials will again view this issue  one dimensionally: through Israeli security and Israel protecting its citizens.

The “Israeli security” doctrine is again making British citizens less secure.

Yemeni fever is everywhere at the moment and while there is a lot of reactionary talk there is also a lot of great commentary being written so here is a short list of some of the stuff that I have recently come across:

Sean over at the Human Province has produced some great posts on Yemen lately (see here and here). He created a list of fantastic articles on Yemen ; I particularly recommend the articles by Fred Haliday who I am a huge fan of. The article that Sean links to is about his book Arabia Without Sultans that he wrote in the 70s and although not really about Yemen it is a article on the essential issues of the region. Haliday has written elsewhere specifically about Yemen: Yemen Travails of Unity. This is a fantastic article that he did in June 09 that pretty much predicts the fever pitch over Yemen that has occurred over the recent weeks:

Barack Obama – and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton – may at present think that they have no reason to think about Yemen. But it has held surprises before: for its Arab neighbours, for America, and for the world. It may well do again. Indeed, it has. Yemen is in trouble, and needs the world’s constructive and engaged attention as never before.

Marc Lynch has written a extensive piece on his blog warning the public  not to get too excited over Yemen. As he puts it:

Direct American military intervention in Yemen is so obviously ludicrous that it shouldn’t even need to be said.

Even the usual imperialist war mongers in the US are not beating the drum for war at the moment but it could of course start at any time. Lynch also has a series of great links in the article. In particular the horribly titled think tank The Centre for a New American Security (I cringe every time I say that title so writing it is painful!) has done an extensive briefing paper on Yemen that is worth a dip into but far to military heavy for my lefty heart. Lynch also links to Joost R. Hiltermann of the ICG who writes an interesting piece on Saudi’s war on Yemen. The best bit of the piece is the hip-hop inspired title “Disorder on the Border”! But Hiltermann also makes some beautiful rhetorical sweeps that get right to the heart of the problem:

The conflict can only be permanently solved by addressing the social, political, and religious grievances that motivate the rebels — not by defeating them on the battlefield. In fact, sending soldiers (whether they be Yemeni, Saudi, or even tribal) and opening a new front would likely further destabilize Yemen, causing chaos that would be costly for all: al Qaeda would find fertile ground, and hundreds of thousands of refugees would put pressure on the borders of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, risking a humanitarian disaster. Many Yemenis resent the Saudis, whom they often portray as opportunistic and corrupt, and the more Saudi support the Yemeni government receives, the more domestic legitimacy it loses. Foreign backing only makes Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Salih’s government appear more incapable of effectively ruling the country.

Kuwaiti TowersArriving in Kuwait I am taken on a ‘visit’ of Kuwait which consists of touring the Scientific Center, with Aquarium. Not to be condescending but on walking into the Science Center, which is a very clean glass and steel contemporary building, I am confronted by a, Jaws style, great white shark smashing its way through a concrete wall. In many ways this view captures my preconceptions of Kuwait. As a desert they should be fascinated by water so it should not really come as a sup rise that the first part of “Kuwait” I am shown is the Aquarium. As for the Jaws style great white shark the colonisation of American culture of the Arabian desert city could not be better articulated. The American style highways, with American cars, are lined with American chains such as McDonalnds and 7Eleven. For a country whose Parliament is dominated by Islamists there can be no doubt where the real power lies. The Islamists have however, been able to make sure that Kuwait is T-total. Thus, foreigners are forced with the indignity of having to hold debauched house parties that Kuwaitis can also attend without the inconvenience of getting caught, as in Saudi and Iran.

I was in Kuwait because Al Wataniya a new Kuwaiti airline flew me to Kwuait City from my home in Beirut to review their new airline for Executive Magazine. The trip was probably the quickest trip I will ever experience in my life; leaving on the Saturday and returning the next day in the afternoon. Thus, what I learned about Kuwait was extremly superficial but interesting nonetheless.

Currently Kuwait is experiencing quite a storm internally; Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah recently dissolved parliament on the basis of national unity and called for new elections for May 17th. The Kuwait political system is interesting, for some background see the estimate (a bit outdated but very informative). Kuwait has the oldest elected legislative body in the Gulf and has a thriving parliamentary system that is  elected but subject to the emir’s quite frequent decisions to dissolve parliament. Recently the urge to dissolve parliament has been particularly strong for the Emir as parliament has been dissolved twice in the past year. Kuwait’s current political dead lock has been becuase of the strong Islamist factions, with some liberal and tribal leaders, pushing for Ministers to be called to account over their practices. However, the Ministers have preferred not to be scrutinised and resigned. This led to the Emir dissolving parliament, in part also becuase of the need to inject $5 billion into the economy as a stimulus in this period of low liquidity.

Kuwait also has a thriving media with 17 daily newspapers, the reason for this being every ‘big man’ in Kuwait wanting his own paper. Those in Lebanon will know all to well the Kuwaiti media with one paper Al-Seyassah being particulalry active on Lebanese politics. Al-Seyasseya articulates the strange regional game that occurs in the Middle East with sometimes Lebanese breaking stories of vital importants appearing in the Kuwaiti paper.

Geographically Kuwait is a small country that site vulnerably between Saudi Arabia and Iraq, on the Persian Gulf. Relations with Iraq have always been tense. The Iraqis have historically laid claim to Kuwait as being a part of the Ottoman province of Basra and unjustly severed from Britain from the main body of Iraq in the 1920s. Britain protected from ‘Kuwait’ from Iraqi claims in the 1960s and  then in the Gulf War but of course the superpower of the day the US really protected Kuwaiti sovereignty. The Gulf War is still very much a raw subject in Kuwait and even in my brief stay I saw pictures in the Kuwaiti towers of the destruction wrought on Kuwait with a sign stating how the barbaric Iraqi invaders destroyed everything. Charles Tripp, in his History of Iraq, details how Saddam invaded Kuwait basically becuase he wanted to extort money from the vastly wealthy Gulf country to help with the vast Iraqi debt that he was pilling up. When Kuwait was not really willing to had over the money he decided to invade on the 2 August 1990 and completed the occuption in 24 hours. The ruler of Kuwait Emir al-Sabah left with 300,000 other Kuwaitis and Saddam announced Kuwait as the 19th province of Iraq. This of course as we all know was not to last and Saddam did not find a “supine Arab world or an acquiescent international community,” as Tripp states he expected. It was the Gulf war that caused the US to station half a million American troops in Saudi and this led to the rise of Bin Laden and Sept. 11. Coming from Lebanon that has such a pivitol role in the history of the region, Kuwait shows how another tiny state has formed the history of the contemporary Middle East and shaped Western-Middle Eastern relations.