Category Archives: Risk and Terror

Iraqis want end to occupation more than ever

iraq pollA survey for the BBC, ABC News and NHK of more than 2,000 people across Iraq shows that about 70% of Iraqis believe security has deteriorated in the area covered by the US military “surge” of the past six months. The relative optimism registered in November 2005 has deteriorated to the gloom of this year’s polls.

Between 67% and 70% of the Iraqis polled believe the surge has hampered conditions for political dialogue, reconstruction and economic development. Only 29% think things will get better in the next year, compared to 64% two years ago. The number of people wanting coalition forces to leave immediately rose since February’s poll but more than half – 53% – still said they should stay until security improved. It also suggests that nearly 60% see attacks on US-led forces as justified, which rises to 93% among Sunni Muslims compared with 50% for Shia revealing a principal finding of the research – the great divide between the Sunni and Shia communities. While 88% of Sunnis say things are going badly in their lives, 54% of Shia think they are going well.

It is clear that a softer approach is needed and further underlies the rationale for investing in social infrastructure rather than spending on armaments. Iraq needs peace makers not war-mongers.

The report was commissioned with the specific purpose of assessing the effects of the surge as well as tracking longer term trends in Iraq. Iraq Poll September 2007    Full Iraq poll in graphics

Baghdad dividing wall counters peace

Construction of another dividing wall in Baghdad between Shula and Ghazaliya districts causes more division than unity. It is another sign of the primitive knee-jerk thinking of an administration resorting to primitive policy.

The wall is an attempt to separate Sunni and Shia districts. But of course it also separates families, neighbours and communities, it consumes vast resources (and will again when it comes down) and it does nothing to resolve the fundamental problems which are a lack of social infrastructure and jobs. Local residents have demonstrated against it at completion of teh first 2km section, even saying it plays to the objectives of al-qaeda. Like the fence along the US border with Mexico, it is a waste of resources and a distraction from real issues.

US changing policy; will reduce troops in Iraq

Over the past month there has been a definite change in the US administration policy of troop levels in Iraq. The surge is over and political pragmatism underpins troop reductions.

On September 13 Bush said that about 30,000 troops might return home by summer 2008 (pre-surge level), starting with 5,700 by Christmas. Then on 14 September Defence Secretary Robert Gates suggested the current level of more than 160,000 soldiers could be cut to about 100,000 by the end of 2008.

While both Gates and Bush stressed that any reduction in troop levels would be entirely dependent on the success of their mission, it appears that troop reduction is also driven by political pragmatism: high troop levels in Iraq are increasingly unpopular with Americans and Iraq solutions are more dependent on regional multilateral cooperation than soldiers. These statements also come as a White House report (Final Benchmarks Assessment Report)suggested Iraq’s government has made little progress in meeting key military and political benchmarks set by the US.

General Petraeus: Report to Congress 20070910

General Petraeus: Report charts 20070910

Ambassador Crocker: Report to Congress 20070910

Ahmadinejad can’t visit WTC site

It is a shame that several authorities have refused permission to the President of Iran to visit the site of the World Trade Center to pay respects. Ahmadinejad arrives today to address the UN general assembly. Permission to visit Ground Zero was requested of and refused by the police department, the US Secret Service and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

There were plainly people of Iranian extraction, if not nationality, who died in the WTC tragedy. It was a tragedy for humanity as well as New Yorkers. And it is only a spirit of peace and reconciliation which will heal the fear and terror in our world. It is better to open our arms than resort to arms …

US waking up to the reality of Palestine …?

It is surprising to hear US Secretary of State publicly announcing that Palestine must be recognised if peace talks are to make progress. Surprising partly because it is the same person that provided much of the authority for invading Iraq and partly because it is against the wishes of the Israeli propaganda machine which has such a strong US lobby.

Condoleezza Rice said there was no point inviting the Israelis and the Palestinians to the upcoming Middle East peace summit, expected in November, just for show. She noted it must address substantive issues and advance the cause of a Palestinian state. Wouldn’t it be great if this is the start of real progress …?

US-Iran tension increasing

Tension over Iran’s nuclear programme is building. While Iran is obviously behaving badly, they have not been given the kind of out required to encourage more conciliatory behaviour. The US continues to pressure a halt to the nuclear programme but has not responded to Iran’s request for an equal policy (which is not actually written in to any non-proliferation treaty).

The war of words continues to escalate with Iran retaliating to threats with threats. On September 18, General Mohammed Hassan Koussechi responded to American threats in an interview with IRNA news agency: “The Americans are around our country but this does not mean that they are encircling us. They are encircled themselves and are within our range. If the United States is saying that they have identified 2,000 targets in Iran, then what is certain is that it is the Americans who are all around Iran and are equally our targets”. America must set an example of putting down weapons before expecting others (weaker nations) to do the same.

Dr Strangelove showed us that the threat of Doomsday does not work.

Turn Iran from a threat into an opportunity

Jean-Pierre Lehmann eloquently describes the opportunity to include Iran in globalisation which would benefit the world, rather than consuming resources needlessly.  The benefits include participation of the nation with the fifth largest oil reserves, access to a great world civilisation and a balance to fundamentalist culture.  We support his suggestions following:

  • Stop treating Iran as a pariah nation;
  • Recognize and apologize for the abuses committed in the past, especially during and in the decades following the 1953 coup d’état;
  • Engage more non-Western actors in the conflict resolution process in the Middle East, with India potentially playing a key role;
  • Lift all economic sanctions against Iran unconditionally, giving strong encouragement for Western businesses to invest in and trade with Iran;
  • Provide Iranian executives with management education — and encourage Iranian entrepreneurs to engage with Western markets; and
  • Accelerate and intensify Iran’s accession process to the WTO.

If this inclusive approach is not adopted, but rather the aggressive stance of western powers is maintained, the costs of a belligerent middle east will remain and probably increase.  Divisiveness in our interdependent world of today has no benefits.

Self-inflicted terror in America

While we have come around to the notion that peace is an appropriate minimum standard of behaviour for developed countries it has never been an easy argument to make in our world today. The difficulty of fighting minds with armaments

George Friedman, eminent strategic analyst, offers a sobering perspective on the fall-out from the American “war on terror”, without having to reveal the awkwardness of embarking upon a virtual objective: to achieve a military victory in a psychological war. The challenge was made more difficult by the complexity and scale of the military objective: to conquer a nation in an unfamiliar part of the world and dictate a completely different social infrastructure and culture. The consequence has been a failure of the military objective, compounded by the terrorising of America by continually bombarding people through media with belligerent language and images of fear, as well as an extraordinary regression of civil liberties.

See Friedman’s piece War, Psychology and Time here. He notes as he sums up:

The effect on the United States is much more profound. The war, both in Iraq and against al Qaeda, has worn the United States down over time. The psychology of fear has been replaced by a psychology of cynicism. The psychology of confidence in war has been replaced by a psychology of helplessness. Exhaustion pervades all.