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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.

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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.

DSS NEWS QEII Conference Centre in London: The proceedings began much as everyone expected with Lord Chilcot giving Blair direct questions about the legality of the war. Blair put up his usual admiral defence rebutting all of Chilcot’s accusations:

Blair: Look, you know Saddam Hussein was a nasty terrible man. He was a threat to the region. He used WMDs on own people….you know, he…. he was not a pretty straight sort of guy.

Chilcot: But the argument you made at the time Mr Blair was that Saddam’s possession of WMDs was the reason for war not only because he was evil.

Blair: Look, President Bush and I both thought that if we did not take him out now he would be just sitting there making WMDs day in and day out. We could not allow this to happen. I mean after threatening to remove Saddam for having WMDs we could not then just sit there. Now…come on lets be honest, we really gave him the impetuous to have WMDs because, you know, we are not going to go removing Dictators that could actually deploy weapons that can, well, cause mass destruction. I mean that would be stupid.

Both the panel of members of the inquiry and Blair went back and forth on the arguments for and against the war in painstaking detail. Neither side was really showing any progress. The tension of the inquiry was lapsing into boredom. Then after 45 minutes Blair appeared to undergo a sudden change:

Blair: Look mistakes were made. That is clear. I mean I really pushed George to get that second resolution to make it OK. He did’nt want to but it was I that convinced him. We really had a strong moral argument for the war. We were the good guys. … Saddam was a really really evil horrible man. He used WMDs on his own people! I had to get rid of him. His time had come. But then everyone kept on talking about the legality of the war. But we could build a democracy could you imagine a democracy!  I know people told me it was risky. But he who dares wins, right? But then we invaded and it went so wrong. I did’nt listen to those that warned me. They told me how this would be a disaster and now thousands of people have lost their lives. And it was supposed to Saddam that was the mass murderer not me! …[Blair looks up and Chilcot] Oh Chilcot what have I done. Is it possible that I was the evil one? Is it really? Am I the criminal? Forgive me! Forgive me! Iraq Britain the world forgive me and George for what we have done! Please please Lord Chilcot arrest me!

Chilcot: Come come none of that now. Seriously Mr Blair please get back in your chair. [Chilcot clears his throat] Well lucky for you Mr Blair this is not a court room just an inquiry. [Again Chilcot clears his throat] So it does not really matter…urm if [Chilcot looks at Blair who now looks as if he is about to cry]… if you are a criminal or not. Tut tut now, theres a good chap, stop crying. Come come, its OK…. Yes Mr Blair, well. Urrm I think a cup of tea for Mr Blair? Someone? Thank you. Ok now. Now come Mr Blair be a good sport. Yes yes SILENCE everyone. I think we can concluded that…. well…I think it is clear that this inquiry has learnt the way decisions were made and actions taken, we have establish as accurately and reliably as possible what happened, and also identified lessons that can be learnt. So bravo everyone. Well indeed, thank you everyone inquiry closed.

The startling scenes left everyone quite bedaffled at the inquiry. Alistar Campbell who was at the back of the gallery lost complete control when Chilcot brought proceedings to a close. He was heard shouting as he was dragged out by police. “You fucking English bastard, you fucking pussy. I knew you were’nt a real fucking Scot. But we got that evil motherfucker and I proud. You here that you fuckers I am really proud! And Blair you fucking morally grey bastard you better learn what I taught you. You have to pick sides in this world. You are with the fucking good guys or the fucking losers.”

After the hearing, Jack Straw issued a press release saying that he had been duped into the whole thing and it was not his idea to begin with anyway. Lord Goldsmith announced that the war did not after all have any sort of legal grounds and he was forced by Mr Blair to say that a war would be legal. Elizabeth Wimshurst stated that she would be running for parliament under the slogan “I told you so”.

Iraqis in Baghdad were shown pulling down statues of Blair in Baghdad square. In the US Barack Obama refused to comment. George Bush stated that this was a war between good and evil. “If Tony thinks he is evil now, well shucks this is confusing. Because when I was with him he was definitely good guy but now he says he is evil and he did evil things like Saddam? Well shame on him. And shame on Saddam. Because you know two evil guys make a good guy.”

Entering the first month of the year and already two major disasters have hit very close to home. Although I  do not know anyone that has died in either Haiti or the Ethiopian airline crash it appears many of my friends did. When disaster strikes nearby it always of course makes it more real. I just cannot image what living in Baghdad is like as yet another bomb explodes and kills 18 people. Disaster continues day in and day out. When will it stop?

Foreign policy by Britain and the US is still mired in confusion, bias and prejudice. It is plain to see that the policy towards the Middle East is fundamentally flawed yet it continues unchanged year after year, disaster after disaster. No it’s not just America’s fault but Administrations come and go; US and British foreign policy in the region stays the same. Who would support US and Britain’s foreign policy in the region at the moment, except for expansionist Zionists and the evangelical right? If you are out there please step forward, would love to hear from you. No really. I want to “get it”.

My previous pessimism regarding Obama and the Middle East strategy is only confirmed by people like Stephan Walt calling for Obama’s Mid East envoy Mitchell to resign:

If Mideast special envoy George Mitchell wants to end his career with his reputation intact, it is time for him to resign.

Walt is very clear and insightful (as usual) as to where it has all gone wrong:

Which advisors told Obama and Mitchell to proceed as they did, raising expectations sky-high in the Cairo speech, publicly insisting on a settlement freeze, and then engaging in a humiliating retreat? Did they ever ask themselves what they would do if Netanyahu dug in his heels, as anyone with a triple-digit IQ should have expected? And if Obama now realizes how badly they screwed up, why do the people who recommended this approach still have their jobs?

The objective was admirably clear from the start — “two states for two peoples” what was missing was a clear strategy for getting there and the political will to push it through.

Clear thinking…if only. Who has a clue what Obama or Brown’s foreign policy strategy is. I can only see policies that are unplanned, reactionary and weak. That will in the end lead to a tide of unplanned decisions creating a whirlpool of disaster.

In Britain at the moment the argument continues as to wether the Iraq war was legal or not. Security council resolution 1441 that passed unanimously by the security council is at the centre of the debate. Did it allow a pre-emptive strike or not? I am not a lawyer but I wonder how much does it matter if it was legal or not. What really matters is why such an obviously disasters occupation was allowed to go ahead regardless of the legal implications. Why is there not a foreign policy enquiry being carried out that analysis why Britain, and the US as well, has continually screwed up and misunderstood this region. The reason of course is that they don’t want to upset the people they support in the region that keep the oil flowing. But there is another way.

I do believe the West can have oil without creating the kind of misguided policies that are in existence today. I don’t believe in a utopia where everyone will be getting along fine after decades of conflict. But the support of the kind of brutal regimes and equally brutal capitalistic models that we would never accept in our own societies does not have to occur. Why are we not looking seriously at ways to create more sensible foreign policies towards Saudi, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and of course Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Israel-Palestine?

Instead the Chilcot inquiry is chugging along, deepening everyones pessimism about the democratic system and foreign policy. There are few sane Kantians left now.

There are some great websites that are painstakingly following the events of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq invasion. And there are even people out there supporting Tony Blair who is due to give his testament soon. This blog that is passionatley for Blair and his invasion makes your stomach turn, here are some wonderful quotes from the blog to get your blood boiling:

THE NUMBER OF DEAD IS NO REASON TO DECRY THE INVASION

The last one makes me want to hit my head on my desk several times. Instead I think of Ghandi and breath:

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?

Bin Laden is back with a new tape. Surprised?

So are commentators calling for an invasion of Iran, worryingly by people who should know better. Surprised?

Everyone is predicting a Hezbollah-Israeli war, which will be the war to end all wars. Surprised?

If there was a firm US policy that matches action with words and is more responsive to the justifiable grievances of the region, I personally believe that Bin Laden would be reduced, Hezbollah-Israel tension would be reduced and those calling for war would be marginalised. Instead all three remain on the front line.

A politician that has actually seen active combat, set up his own organisation, is a Harvard professor and likes talking to ordinary people is the image that Rory Stewart has carefully constructed (see this great profile by the Guardian as well). He likes to call himself the “walking politician”. He walked some 5,000 miles through Afghanistan, Iran, India….Brad Pitt has apparently bought the movie rights to his life and he is creating a sensation in the various magazines in the US (a profile in the National Geographic, articles in the NYRB and a profile in the or THE New Yorker). Now Stewart is bringing the show home. Standing as a Conservative MP in Bracknell and the Border.  Arise “Rory the Tory”.

Almost everyone in Britain (including myself) is gulping it down. I never thought I would want to see an Etonian educated Tory get elected or someone Craig Murray the activist and former British Ambassador has described as: “the crusading neo-Conservative Rory Stewart.”

This however, is where the crux lies for the Tories. Stewart is going to attract a lot of attention for the party and may even win votes from unlikely quarters. But he is no doubt a sword with two very sharp sides and my guess is that “Rory the Tory” may not roll so easily off the tongue for the conservative elite when they get into power.

Stewart is a big intellect there is not doubt about that. His articles on Afghanistan in the London Review of Books and more recently the New York Review of Books have been devastatingly insightful and visionary. I am gutted I cannot see his profile of T E Lawrence which from the reviews was a sensation. His critique of the current strategy in Afghanistan is masterful and his solutions refreshingly sensible sticking closely to common sense and the art of the possible:

The US and its NATO allies would be able to survive withdrawal from Afghanistan but it would be damaging to their reputations. While we cannot write a blank check to Afghans, we would like to prevent their country from falling into civil war, which would probably result in tens of thousands of deaths. It makes sense to stay, if we can maintain a realistic, affordable, and legitimate presence in Afghanistan and do some good.

As others have noticed Stewart is remarkably humble in his foreign policy outlook for one who is so ambitious.

If allowed to have any say in foreign policy issues “Rory the Tory” could drastically change the Britain does this most tricky of dark arts. Imagine a British Foreign Minister that said things like this:”… we should trust Iraqis and Afghans more; that they were much more competent than we acknowledged.”

But Foreign Minister to be William Hague will surely not appreciate the smooth talking Stewart one bit…nor for that matter will Cameron either. “Rory the Tory” will do his upmost to force himself onto the Tory stage and is already subtly showing the sort of pressure he is going to apply:

“I wanted to help change the culture of government. So I put my name forward, after the expenses scandal, when David Cameron said he was prepared to have candidates who, like me, had never been involved in politics before.”

Cameron maybe more fearful of Stewart than he is of Brown. Quotes like that must keep Cameron up at night…especially when none of Stewart’s foreign policy positions line up with the Tories at all! Not even close…the hilarious question on Newsnight when Stewart was asked straight up how he will line up his views with the party he bluntly said he did not know! For a man that likes to walk as much as he does though something tells me he knows where exactly where he is going! Revolution did I hear?

I would describe Stewart as almost a classical realist, with a sprinkle of  liberalism, E. H. Carr comes to mind. That should makes Tories shudder. Surely this is an accident waiting to happen for the Tories? A battle between Stewart and Cameron/Hauge is surely an inevitability?

At last Britain has the possibility of having a foreign policy and I for one am going to enjoy the political bloodbath that Stewart will no doubt create trying to achieve it.

P.S.

Stewart is obviously loving being the centre of attention and is already slipping into the old political paths where reality and rhetoric run alongside each other.

Rhetoric = “I applied for Penrith and the Border in part because I found it the most beautiful place in England.” (especially love the cheeky “in part”)

Reality = Penrith and the Border is one of the safest conservative seats in the country and I am almost guaranteed to get elected.

When George Mitchell was appointed Middle East envoy by Obama there was a lot of rice and flower throwing by those who felt finally the US has a envoy that can shift the deadlock between Israelis-Palestinians. Mitchell it was said did wonders in Northern Ireland, he is the best of the best, he can really get the Israelis to stop settlement building and create a Palestinian state. It definitely did have  those on the Israeli side worried claiming that a “fair” diplomat like Mitchell was not what the Israelis expect of a US Mid East envoy.

When Mitchell/Obama got going they looked like they were really going to do something about Israeli settlements and their “natural growth”. The ending was not however, something out of Walt Disney…it was instead closer to the grimy reality that goes on in making many of these enduring spectacles.

Since the bump of the US and Israel over the settlement it looks like Clinton and Dennis Ross are calling the shots on Middle East policy that is slowly returning back to the status quo. Clinton and Ross are taking over policy so much so that there are rumours, that should be treated with more than a health inspectors recommendation of salt, that Mitchell may resign.

However, even if he did who would notice now? I mean where has the man gone….where have the loft days of hope that was created by Obama’s Cairo speech? The heady days of change in 09 seem far away now and Mitchell is certainly not attracting the attention (adulation/nervousness) he once did.

But now there are the rumblings that Mitchell is trying to re-start peace negotiations. Mitchell went to France and is again starting to talk tough to Israel saying that the US could withdraw loan guarantees. But now there is not even a hint of seriousness in the Israeli response. The Israeli Finance Minister responded with a big….shrug:

“We don’t need to use these guarantees…We are doing just fine. But several months ago we agreed with the American treasury on guarantees for 2010 and 2011, and there were no conditions.”

Something tells me the Old George will soon go Missing In Action again….as will any serious change in Middle East policy by the US and stagnation will be the flavour of the year. The Israelis have won there battle against any change in the direction of US policy…but they did’nt really even have to fight.

Entering the new decade many new year resolutions have been passing through my head and it will remain to be seen which ones will be held there. However, one of them I am actively implementing and that is blogging more regularly! I have set a minimum target of two a week!

The idea of new year resolutions of course it to improve yourself from what has been missing from the year that has gone by all too rapidly….at least that is what i think they are for!

Looking at current affairs at the beginning of this year the big men will be making a lot of new years resolution. Obama’s, Brown’s and all nations that have troops in the Middle East should all make a new years resolution to come to terms with and understand the Arab and Muslim world.

Obama and Brown have already caused Middle East commentators to shudder with their hubristic comments on Yemen. Military aid to the country is being doubled by the US and it looks like the US and Britain are repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Creating strong centralised militaristic states ruled by despots is not the way to reduce terrorism…yes thats right it is the way to increase it. Yemenis need support not their despotic leaders. I just want to slam my head against my computer when I hear these announcements! A great article by Brian Whitacker of the Guardian who has written extensively on Yemen gives a commentary on what should be the way ahead.

Obama should also be making a new years resolution to sort out his Middle East Policy…which like Turkeys at Christmas has disappeared…where the hell is George Mitchell? What happened to peace in the Middle East? As he said in his book Dreams From My Father when talking about black nationalism: “It was the distance between our talk and our action, the effect it was having on us as individuals.”

While Brown is thinking of supporting the Yemeni government though it looks like he should really be concentrating closer to home. It is fascinating the openly Machiavellian nature of British politics at the moment. For the third time Labour MPs have tried to remove their own leader. Two Labour MPs Hoon and Hewitt tried to remove him as leader of the Labour party through a secret ballot only to fail…all this as Britain slowly grinds to a halt in the snow, as reports of gas shortages hit the headlines!

With the British election coming up later this year and Cameron of the conservatives expected to get in it is going to be a bumpy ride for Labour. After all they can’t get support their own leader they are fighting a lost cause.

So the same issues continue to haunt the big men and not many different solutions are being proposed. So on that note hope everyone has a good year!