Monday, 20 October 2014
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Neil Thompson is convinced that the West should not involve itself in those states where political Islam is a major force. As he sees it, religious groups should be left to expose their own shortcomings, which should then help revive the local spread of democracy in the Middle East.

When many Westerners think of the Middle East today they tend to see a region gripped by religious and sectarian violence. Within Sunni Islam there is a struggle over religious authenticity, while secular governments in places like Egypt, Algeria and Syria face armed opposition to their rule by Islamist extremists. Meanwhile, much of the violence in long-running civil wars has taken on a sectarian nature, both between different strands of Islam and against religious minorities. Sometimes this has been encouraged as a deliberate divide-and-rule strategy by embattled regimes and, as in the case of Syria, the categories often overlap. What all the conflicts are perceived to have in common is the participation of inflexible and fanatical groups of fighters dogmatically opposed to the further modernization and Westernization of their home countries.

Marking the passing of previous generations who have served this country. Contributions from comrades and families welcomed.


'71 is a compulsive thriller movie set in Belfast as the city tips from civil unrest into the all-out horror of The Troubles. In the confusion of a riot, Hook, a young British squaddie (Jack O'Connell), is cut off from his unit, beaten, and barely escapes an execution. Disoriented and traumatised, Hook, barely out of boyhood, is caught between local warlords, psychotic gangsters, and the deadly agendas of his own side's undercover operators. "One of the most extraordinary films I've seen this year, a knuckle-mashing, head-smashing, Tommy-bashing tour de force" (Camilla Long, The Sunday Times).

Hook battles to stay alive on these treacherous city streets, but every safe haven he finds collapses in the rot of terror, mistrust and the ruthless momentum of civil war. If we struggle with the complexities of the sectarian politics and uneasy alliances, our bewilderment is identical with that of O'Connell's raw, untested Hook. As in all guerrilla wars, the enemy is hidden among the people, because the enemy is the people. Families live in ignorance of what is happening to their own. This is beautifully illustrated in this film, when a teenage assassin arrives home with the blood of a young soldier still wet on his clothes, to his mother's cheery enquiry, How was college ? Elayne Jude reviews the film.

As the Westminster world returns to begin another parliamentary session after the party conference (and by-election) season, and edges towards the stautory General Election in May 2015, so the policy world is stepping up its debate ahead of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) which will follow. Examining 'Global trends and their implications for British security' the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has got the think tank world off to a good start - one which the U K Defence Forum will be following up in briefings and papers in the months to come. Our DDG Nick Watts was there.

A menu of perils was addressed last week, ranging from Great Power conflict, the changing ideological landscape and organised crime. Additional elements such as the impact of Information and Technology as well as resource competition and the impact of urbanisation were examined. Given current events it was also very timely to examine the impact of pandemics.

Should President Obama trust the Mullahs of Iran, asks Nehad Ismail?


A year or so before becoming president, Barak Obama indicated to the New York Times that he would seek co-operation with Iran as a way to extricate the US from the quagmire of Iraq. No such substantive agreement has yet been reached, but with a change in control in the US Senate at the mid term elections possible, pressures are building up rapidly. (Treaties have to be ratified by the Senate)


Iran has been called out by the American liberal press for stalling progress in recent nuclear talks involving Secretary of State John Kerry, Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and Catherine Ashton, the European negotiator, who are due to resume negotiations within a week. 

 
The past year has seen several significant challenges to global stability, the nature of which have coincided to challenge what many regard as ‘the post-Cold War’ settlement. The annual Strategic Survey published by the London based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) occurred on the day Scots were going to the polls to decide the future of the United Kingdom.
 
The most immediate challenge is the emergence of ‘hybrid warfare’ which has been seen in the Middle East with the rise of Islamic State also known as ISIS or ISIL (The U K Defence Forum terms it ISIS). A different kind of hybrid warfare has been witnessed in the eastern Ukraine. Here Russia has sought to advance its aims through the agency of proxy forces, but the level of activity has been kept below the threshold required to invite intervention by external peacekeeping forces. Both of these challenges have presented challenges to the west as to its response.

Promotions, reassignments and retirements in H M Armed Forces. One stars on next page

Cdre A D Radakin to be promoted Rear Admiral, succeed Rear Adm D L Potts as Rear Admiral Surface Shiops wef 18 September 2014

Cdre R Stokes to be promoted Rear Admiral, succeed Rear Admiral I M Jess as ACNS (Support) wef March 2015

Cgre K E Blount to be appointed Read Admiral, succeed Rear Admiral Russ Harding OBE as ACNS (Aviation & carriers) wef May 2015

Thinking the unthinkable: create Kurdistan, suggests David Hoghton-Carter, UK Defence Forum Research Associate

With the continuing advance of ISIS, both Syria and Iraq are destabilising further. Here in the West, there's an ongoing and significant debate about the efficacy of US-led intervention based primarily on air power, and with Turkey beginning to look to a military role, it's time to consider novel strategies. There's an approach which could contribute to debilitating ISIS and stabilising the region, and the thinking behind it. Put simply, it's time to for the Western allied nations to help create a recognised nation-state called Kurdistan.

Prime Minister Cameron was right to rule out any co-operation with Assad in the fight against ISIS. He was also right not to seek Parliament's support for possible action in Syria, writes Nehad Ismail.

In the House of Lords, former Chief of the General Staff Lord Dannatt warned that "attacking ISIL in Iraq but not in Syria is dealing with half the problem".
"How the hell can you win the war when most of your enemy can end up in a country you can't get involved in?" Another former CGS, Lord Richards, was quoted in The Sunday Times. "Islamic State cannot be defeated by airstrikes alone and boots on the ground are needed to take them on."

But the UK position's is problematic. Having secured a majority in favour of air-strikes in Iraq, David Cameron has indicated that there is "a strong case" for extending air-strikes against what he calls "psychopathic" ISIS from Iraq into Syria. The UK is prepared to intervene to avert a humanitarian catastrophe without prior Parliamentary approval. Ed Miliband, who thwarted action against Assad last year, is again demanding a UN Security Council Resolution to validate any military action. His disingenuousness is transparent. The Russian veto would inevitably scupper any proposed Resolution, and he knows it.

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