Archive for January, 2016

Terrorism: The UK on Standby as ISIS Plans Hits

January 31, 2016

christopher_lee180-11

1 February 2016

London

British Intelligence believes ISIS is planning to hit the UK sometime soon.  ISIS likes that.  It like MI5, MI6, GCHQ, police counter terrorism groups, Europol and the other agencies working overtime. It says to the people that it is a threat.

Simply warning of an attack when a Minister says the Security State is, say, Severe is part of the deal for ISIS.  Terrorism is about terrorising. A bit of video apparently showing the Paris attack organiser Abdelhamid Abaaod saying “we are already in your lands.  We will slaughter you inside your homes” is terrifying enough for many and therefore is terrorism succeeding in some form.

Even more terrorising would have ISIS saying we are coming to get you in your National Gallery where you show the Christian Adoration of the Magi. Or how about we’re coming to get you in your City of Birmingham Concert Hall?  Or try this: we are going to slaughter you and your Queen on her 90th birthday in April.

All of this is credible because in a generation brought up on IRA atrocities anything terrorism promises often comes to pass in some form. The dark side of that is that a nation like the British recover inside the week.

After 9/11 it was not uncommon for a few Muslim-looking guys, smartly dressed, to pretend they had lost their wallet on a train, then spot it and then tell their clearly English carriage companion that as a thank-you for helping to find the wallet they would break an oath and warn them to stay away from the tube on the coming first anniversary of 9/11. Some probably fell for it.

But what about a Paris-type hit.  Do the British believe it?  Sure they do. The newspapers tell readers this is so.  The reader believes it because there is evidence world wide that it happens. No one suggests that the story  is nothing more than a reporter with “sources who cannot be named” trying to get a page one story under his or her by-line.

The behaviour of the cynical prankster or the reporter maybe using a half truth that Intelligence people really are working overtime to identify an ISIS cell in Birmingham, London or wherever.

The chilling acceptance is that people in major cities and towns now accept that within their societies men and women are planning their worst atrocities.  There is something approaching resignation. There is no great social media discussion. People do not change their work patterns and journeys. Newspaper warnings rarely make Page I. Why should they? After all Paris was a high hit possibility but it did not make the splash until it happened.

Last week with a little knowledge about these matters I did a walk round ten London targets.

I checked CCTV street, approaches and buildings, access in and quick exits, doors front back and side, mobile and radio signal back spots, stairways, getting immediately to crowds in buildings who would by panic trap themselves on which floors, street traffic flows and vehicle congestion that would hold up response teams, street area panic streams – which way, overflow and dead ends.  I added for good measure, symbolism of the building and contents.

Simple really.

 

 

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A Whale on a Norfolk Beach

January 26, 2016

Christopher Lee - photo (1)

23 January 2016

Norfolk, England

We stood around the dead body on the beach.  Thirty and something feet of whale washed through the spiteful North Sea to be left stranded to die on a few yards from the rotting wooden timbers of an old boat wreck.

Hands stuff in pockets and wooly caps pulled down.  Neither of us had seen a beached whale.  In the Atlantic we’d seen one off the starboard bow and laughed nervously as thar she blew her spume into that sea’s miserable mist. Then it was shiny  bible black with a tail that could have touched down a Boeing. Now this one was flat slate grey with the lifeless shape of a giant blubbered harmonica with the slim ten foot jaw line that in all the best pictures was supposed to smile as friendly as a sea life dolphin.

There was a draught of old sea spray and a turning away into its lee and so away from the giant beast when there was something else in the helpless spectacle.  It was as if there was in that unknown creature something else.  It was dead all right but it’s prehistoric form held a live mystery.  Like some unbelievable voice of meaning there is something disturbing in that form as if in the deep dark innards there had to be something that was not dead.  Maybe waiting for another tide. That could not be.  But on that Norfolk beach lies much more than a death in Ahab’s line.

 

Five Years On & Hope Became Terror

January 13, 2016

christopher_lee180-11

13 January 2016

London

Five years ago this week the Arab Spring began in earnest. On 14 January 2011 President Ben Ali of Tunisia resigned. The social media went into fast thumb tap and click. The Middle East began to throw off its identity and took to the streets demanding change.

The freedom squares were full of protest within days. Egypt. Lebanon. Yemen.Bahrain. Jordan. Libya. Morocco. Iraq. Less than a month from the going of Ben Ali Hosni Mubarak was gone as President of Egypt.  On 6 March the first shots were fired in Syria. A week on and the Saudi sent in troops to rescue the Bahrainian leadership in case the anger spread to Riyadh.

In that same March NATO went into Libya  not to support their recent ally Gaddafi but to join the rebels against him. By the summer Yemen was in full fire and President Ali Abdullah Saleh fled for his life.  Five months later, October 2011 a cringing Mummer Gaddafi was assassinated.

The change was all to see and just as predictable.  Libya spilled its blood in political anger and still bleeds. Egypt elected Mohamed Morsi as president in June 2012 and then the army  overthrew him the following year and returned to virtual military rule and in 2014 elected former general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. There was worse, to come

Out of this political and zealous carnage on 9 May 2013 ISIS, IS, ISIL ,Daesh – call this Jahadi as you will – was formed, declared a caliphate and the world quickly witness barbarism that could never have been imagined at the start of the Arab Spring. James Foley was Daesh’s first beheading.

By the autumn of 2014 a token coalition of forces but mainly American went after Daesh with a series of airstrikes into Syria.  The war there had been joined with ‘Western’ nations declaring for the rebellion and calling for the downfall of President Assad.

They are still bombing. Assad is still there.  In 2015 Russia joined in the hopeless of it all and said it was bombing ISIS in Syria but was truly bombing (and not very accurately) anti-Assad rebel positions.

Russia had signed up with Iran to defend Assad and equally to defend his constitutional and international right to rule as an elected leader. Iran, a Shia nation saw the fight for Assad (an Alewife and therefore a branch of Shia) as chance of a proxy war against Saudi Arabia and its Sunni royalty.

As to show this conflict could never be held tight in the Middle East, gunmen attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo the satirical French magazine and then in November of last year other gunmen and bombers killed 130 in Paris.The rest of Europe waits to see who is next.

Where has all this got us? Syria is in ruins beyond its capital. Iraq remains a failed Shia led state with Daesh in its strongholds and moving freely between Iraq and its “capital” Raqqa in Syria. There is hardly a state not spilling over with refugees.

If there is a deep anxiety than this in the region it is in Riyadh.  The ruling royal family, itself born beneath the green flag of Wahhabism and the ruthless of Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, now fears for its own survival. So it should.

There is not a government from Washington to Brussels to the whole of the Middle East that does not fear the collapse of the Saudis.  The manner of its going would be a stage in the Arab Spring totally unthinkable five years ago. The consequences unpredictable and unwanted even among its harshest critics. The ruling family is now unstable in the sense that it is unlikely to be able to defend itself.

Here then the rub of the lamp that whips up the ghoul and not the friendly genie.

If Saudi Arabia starts to go then the United States will have to launch a major defence.  The advanced operation of US military forces are already in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf but not enough to defend the unthinkable. The British are having built (with Saudi money) a new base in the region. London would have to reinforce it if things go the way they so easily could.

Five years ago there was candle lit and iPhone glowing hope in the Middle East especially among the young and the educated longing for new times to come that would give them back their dignity of national identities instead of impossible dictatorships.

Five years ago and Ben Ali went quietly. Five years later no one can go quietly. Before this year is out the US and her allies including the United Kingdom and France could be heading for the biggest firefight since Viet Nam. Hope is done for. Terror has the next move.