Archive for the ‘world affairs’ Category

Why are we so badly governed?

October 21, 2018

22 October 2018

Westminster

Every sensible and sound financial, economic and forensically political global organisations in the world discusses with enormous caution the plus side of the UK leaving Europe. That’s almost every one and every organisation we have considered Okay during the past 50 years. That’s about every one we should be listening to telling the UK not to leave Europe.

But we are going to leave. Each British politician who says stay is seen by the majority, maybe a slight majority of the public as well as a fool.  O let’s just get on with it it.

This weekend I spoke to a member of the Bank of England who said the evidence of the bank is horrifying to read. He said even the arch Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg believes there will no benefit for half a century.

 

And yet, our Prime Minister (suffering too much judgement failure because her Diabetes?) plus the majority of Cabinet and God help us if we have to fathom the leadership of the Opposition, have all failed to argue any case with any intellectual persuasion and have simply assumed the biggest decision since 1939 for the British can be pursued with little no depth.

Why are we so badly led? Why is the political set at Westminster so dismal in its own debate and almost corrupt in its public reasoning? Why does the country have so little confidence in the way it is led?

 

I ask this as a Brexiteer of sorts who has been convinced by people in other European institutions, plus the World Bank, that there is no sound argument for going. But the frightening aspect is that we are badly led, by people of no political nor intellectual depth.  Please someone tell me why.

 

 

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Why Bellingcat is Purring

October 14, 2018

 
Christopher Lee, London W1
All Intelligence Officers are first trained to read newspapers and magazines. This training is especially important to Military Intelligence because most, perhaps 90 per cent of what an IO desk officer is looking for is freely and constantly available if you know where to look and listen. Today, it is the stagecraft of the Bellingcat reporting group in London that is working on the same guidelines about the same subjects as MI6 and the CIA.
It is a tried and tested system with 3,000 years history. Moses used it. So did the Greeks.
The earliest Intelligence was found in how to read the weather and how to listen to travellers’ tales.  A nomad telling a market trader that a small army was camped 600 miles away and ships were being built in a foreign port was the first hints of the 13th century BC Trojan Wars to come thousands of years ago.
The same techniques are used today. The job of a Russian military Intelligence Officer in Washington is to report each fortnight snippets from the defence magazines and papers – the back pages of Aviation Week is a good example where a one line comment may not make the on-line edition read back in Moscow. Most of what he send back is new to Russian Intelligence (not so informed as some people claim) or it confirms what they knew – an equally important aspect of Intelligence gathering (as any office gossip would agree).
A complete example of this simple building of the Intelligence Plot is Intelligence reporting on Syria based on deployment of troops from four nations (Syria, Russia, Turkey and Iran), on what readiness state they are; where are supporting elements such a fuel, ammunition and medical; at what leave are forces on readiness to return to units; where are the major force commanders (in HQ or on leave) and how consistent are media reports on troop movements, readiness of sea, land air and who is commanding what.
All this can be found in open sources – newspapers, news letters, traffic reports, railway station requisition notices, 90 minutes satellite passes, border queues and even full or empty car parks.
Into this equation has come citizen reporting – published in all forms from print to international electronic mediums.  Citizen reporting is by people not tied to a major news organisation such as BBC of New York Times but in something as simple as blogging.
There are many organisations and a lot of them are not reliable. They are too keen to get information on line without double checking content and sources. Others have achieved standing of investigative reporting to such an extent that they are read every day by national Intelligence agencies, military, civilian and Homeland plus political and military desk officers who include what they present in official briefing up to heads of government level. One such is Bellingcat.
Bellingcat’s main office in in London’s Leicester Square alongside glamorous first night cinemas that thrive on playing the thrillers that Bellingcat reports for real. The distinction of Bellingcat as a blogging and news service is that everything comes from open sources – that is, sources open to everyone to read if they know where to look.  Bellingcat knows where to look and then knows what it is looking at.
It was started in 2012 by Eliot Ward Higgins who had been laid off from the civil service and was still out of work when using a lap top and his dining table as a note desk he started analysing what was going on in the Middle East and Ukraine.  He cannot speak languages other than English and so concentrated on visuals; in his case identifying weapons systems. From this he extended his library to open sources on military options – the craft on spotting anything new and importantly, spotting trends. For example he was the person who noticed that the Syrians were using barrel bombs.
Bellingcat gathered top analysts and would-be Intelligence officers who want to show what they knew and how to get what they knew. Today, you will go on the web site and get everything from what they claim is the full story behind the Russian military Intelligence operations from Salisbury, the Ukraine to Syria to South America. Using open sources they can look at a weapon, identify its stock numbers, show who is using and for what and through back tracking, demonstrate on whose authority that weapon is being deployed and in what numbers and therefore the operational plan.
But this is not a one man band. The citizen reporters are often to be found in the most sensitive posts and mainly defence institutions like the RUSI in London especially among young, recent graduates who want to flush out big stories and make their reputations. Retired Intelligence Officers are lining up to take part in this unpaid adventure. Even the editor of the whole organisation is paid no more than a local newspaper rate. But unpaid, citizen reporting given a platform that otherwise they’d never see or be seen is getting its own publicity.
The guide lines are simple: trust, check and double check.  The television station France 24 does this same all over the world with its 24Reporters. So nothing new, but one trip to Salisbury with a bottle of Novichock has Russian Intelligence and Bellingcat in the world spot light. Only Russian Military Intelligence has President Putin asking what the hell is going on. The guys in Leicester Square have no worries yet. They just keep their eyes and ears open and, unlike the Russian intelligence officers, stick to the guide lines. Success?
 Bellingcat has shown that it was not difficult to reveal to a wide audience what has been going on in Russian intelligence operations from open sources (one paragraph, one driving licence number, one school photograph, one grandma’s mantelpiece newspaper curtain etc) that all lead to the main story from bits of stories in newspapers in 20 languages, official reports, weather forecasts and asides about cars trapped and all checked, rechecked and checked again until the stream of titbits becomes a major international event. Bellingcat 2018 is the gossip in the global Intelligence market talking to the unsuspecting nomad of today. So far, 10/10

Lord Carrington & Mr Lee

August 17, 2018

 

 

Lord Carrington 6 June 1919 – 9 July 2018

We became friends about 40 years ago. After ten years he told me so. The postcards signed Peter Cin his cramped fist became Peter. Everything in Lord C’s life was explained.

He with three centuries of recorded history. Pitt the Younger’s banker; Uncle Charlie in the playroom of the future Edward VII; he, Leader in the Lords; Knight of the Garter; three jobs as Secretary of State; chairman of the Tories; High Commissioner Australia; chairman the V&A, Christies; Secretary General NATO.  Gainsboroughs on the walls.

Me? Conceived aboard a Thames sailing barge. First job £90 a year deck boy plus a shilling washing allowance in a rusting tramp ship ticking off every port and most bars in a two year circumnavigation.  No history further back than a grandpa whose name I never heard.

The rest, plays, books, university was catch-up. Carrington’s life was pre-ordained.

His background said there would be what he called big jobs. When Churchill telephoned to invite him to join his government, PC’s butler told WSC that his Lordship was shooting partridge. Could he phone later? When he did so, Churchill asked him to “join my shoot.” Macmillan liked that style. He said if all else failed, Carrington could always go back to his estates.

Two people quite different but we had in common, a belief in what we wanted from leadership and for society. Bobbity Salisbury meets Rab Butler: sometimes it’s better to do nothing. That, was true power. Thatcherism meets Tocqueville – democracy challenges liberty. The institutions, guardians of the former.  We the people uncertain about the latter.

All this over lunch at White’s or The Athenaeum where he complained about too many bishops eating too well in that place although he liked Norwich.

Lunch was always at 1245 and always done by 2 and he asked questions to see what I knew. We always ate the fish and rice pudding. He because it was nursery food. I because I thought it was.

I told him what I’d heard and he sometimes told me the truth of it. Carrington kept his secrets well. Yet, he bruised easily.

Over one rice pudding (no jam) he said how Mark Thatcher, was one of the few people he would detest for ever. It was a puzzle. Thatcher’s son declaring he had nothing much to do that day had gate crashed a lunch party for his mother at the Carringtons. Surely there was always room for one more? No. Cook and the butler were preparing. They were not to be messed about.

It was not a question of enough chops to go round. What would be discussed at the table was a matter of State so Carrington was annoyed at the PM for allowing her son, whom Carrington thought a shallow fellow anyway, to attend a sensitive meeting.

A failure of protocol and, perhaps worse, bad manners. Carrington never forgot.

Lessons of what was done and what was not done had survived the Carrington Code for decades as well as furious time keeping and grooming at Sandhurst. Curiously, from our totally different backgrounds, the ground rules were the same. The social distinctions were different, the reasons were not.

Strict and First Baptist Reform Church of Nuxley Road ruled that you were there on time, you said nothing unless it pleased, rudeness was as unforgivable as unwashed hands and minded manners kept your peace and encouraged the truth. Similar values. Different nannies.

Carrington in difficulty from Arnhem to the Falklands would always ask himself what nanny would have done. I, with fewer and lesser responsibilities, always wondered in fear what the Reverent Clifford would have said.

Thus we so different in origins acted out codes under the cover of at least half truths. The best half truth is in Limericks. A Limerick, he said, never fibbed.  Even recently, he was still at it. Strictly AABBA

 

A Remainder named May

changed her mind one day

And said Brexit was easy

And not at all sleazy

Even though Brussels said Nay

 

And just April past Carrington wondered why there was no political authority in the country. No true political leadership on either side. Where, he asked, were the heroes, the lions the big beasts of politics. Thatcher’s first Cabinet had five MCs with minds of their own. But no more.

 

A Knight of the Garter going grey

Asked where were the big beasts today

Told the Commons are empty

When once there were plenty

Said, only Ken, only Clarke, and he’s soon away

 

I sometimes thought Carrington only knew big beasts. I knew all his friends but mostly had to be introduced. Looking at me very carefully over a recent bit of fish he said it was not who you know, but who knows you. Carrington never had to say who he was.

In the early days he would introduce me to someone with “Do you know each other” – in other words, you will not have met before. On the other hand, except for the statutory three months silence in the Mess for an ensign in the Grenadiers, Carrington had never walked into a room without everyone knowing who he was.

There is of course here another Carrington protocol to master. I once failed to introduce him to a distinguished writer assuming they knew each other. They didn’t. He made it clear he was annoyed. I apologised.  Mm, he said.

The step change in our friendship came when I became his biographer and therefore everything I noticed inspired a question.

A new photograph or an obscure sporting print appeared in the boot-room. Why? Family connection? Had to go somewhere therefore not unimportant. An ordinary friend doesn’t have to think like an MI5 officer. A mannerism becomes, for the biographer, a motive. An aside from him is followed by “And then what happened?  When was that?” from me.

A friend doesn’t plunder private correspondence.  Friends leave skeletons unrattled. Casual friendship becomes redundant.  The rules change.

When we agreed I should write the Carrington biography he insisted it should never be published in his lifetime. That way, he said, you can write what you like, I shall never have to read it and we can still be friends. It meant of course one of the social protocols being abandoned.  I could never ask when we met, “How are you?”

Now the book is published.  Neither good friend wanted that.

 

Trump 1 Putin 1 (After extra time)

July 16, 2018

The guy who used to sweep the yard outside our Sadova-Samotechnaya apartment in Moscow would listen to the news on the portable I gave him, shake his head and mutter Nichevo, nichevo, nichevo, spit into the leaves and carry on sweeping. Best hear nothing then there’s no need to believe.

Nothing nothing nothing. I got through to his son (who now employs 200 to sweep) and asked him about Putin and Trump. That’s right: before we stumble across all the experts, analysts and think tankers let’s put a bit of Russian realism into Helsinki: Nichevo, nichevo, nichevo, he said.

Great story about Putin being late. Great story about Trump dumping on his Intelligence people. But just think about it. Putin keeps everyone except the Chinese waiting and Trump has been fanging his Intelligence people on a regular basis for months.

And we all know Trump does it differently. So nothing, nothing, nothing new.

Then how come the news analysts wont sleep for days. How come grizzled correspondents are putting that news conference close to the end of the Jurasic reel? They are, we are, because we still find it difficult knowing Trump (rubbishes NATO, bad mouths May but doesn’t mean it – but of course he does) and not clear about Putin (says nothing but does it – ask the Syrians).

In other words, we are still looking for the predictability we were used to in Clinton-Bush (1&2) -Obama decades. In times past we were predictable because they only talked nuclear warhead numbers and verification processes. These were the processes of the Cold War. Today even the concept of war has changed. We go to other people’s wars.

Thus, a whole lot of issues that once were urgent, are no long so important. You can go to a bi-lateral Helsinki and all the issues on the editor’s desk are no longer important. They become less relevant when the American President no longer sees them as issues and doesn’t understand what the hell they’re about anyway.

Supporting Russia’s re-entry to the G7 is all that is needed for everyone to smile when the deal is tied.

A done deal is when you’re making 2 cents on the dollar said the New York numbers man, Willy Griesman. In other words, try for too much and the whole street wants some. And as his great buddy the Yankees catcher Yogi Berra joined in with a hotel story “The towels were so thick I could hardly get them into my case.” Meaning? Everyone on a trip gets something different out of it.

That’s what’s happened this time. Trump should have stuck to another round at Turnberry and Putin just went home – he’s already got a 86% rating.

What they said in Helsinki was gosh and golly stuff. When these two guys who run most of the world got home what was said did not change the world, did not explain anything about anything. Nice cars. Putin needs a new suit. And what was with the football thing? Nichevo, nichevo, nichevo

The North Korea Nuclear Launch Sites are Closed – But Kim Keeps the Key

April 21, 2018

Christopher Lee

21 April 2018, London

Kim Jong-un says North Korea has developed ‘weaponisation” so from this passing weekend, North Korea will stop testing.

Nuclear weapons engineers will say this is nonsense. The job of being a nuclear weapon state has only just begun.

But for the moment at least, North Korea has reached the goal of its leader, that of a state able to put even a small nuclear warhead on a long range missile, fire that missile into outer space and then guide its return into the earth’s atmosphere, release warheads and direct each one onto targets that include the United States, certainly China and certainly Japan.

That makes North Korea a member of an exclusive club that somewhere has a technology base that can return to production and ever be in scientific and technological research state to bring the missile and the guidance and launch systems to a longer range and higher readiness, the re-entry process more reliable and the delivery systems more accurate and threatening.

President Trump should not need to be told this.

The series of North South and East-West meetings begin this coming week. North and South Korea meet openly, US-Korean officials meet quietly and then, perhaps as early as June, President Trump meets President Kim.

At that point, Kim Jong-Un achieves that which has eluded himself, his ancestors and something which is not always understood in Western capitals. President Kim has yearned for respect as a ‘proper’ leader of an important country. He reads the progress in international recognition achieved by Pakistan when it became a nuclear weapons power and immediately a state able to kill millions of its decades old enemy India at the press of half a dozen buttons.

In just a decade of fast technology he’s made the US take him seriously. Rocket Man is not a joke Trump lyric.

He may tell us that North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions are over, but like the rest of the black mushroom growers, the genii is out of the bottle. His people know how to do it and, who knows when the disappointment of international treatment and recognition will mean a return to the test sites.

And to test the value of his new position, remember that Mr Kim will be receiving Mr Trump, not the other way round. Mr Trump has to go to him. Mr Kim will step his own higher ground.

What would they want? An official end to the Korean War. That is an easy found formality. A recognition that North Korean is an equal partner in the strategic balance of the Korean Peninsular, Eastern China and Japan for starters. That is status worth having. It will also be a process that leads to the true lessening of conflict: sign a contract with a potential enemy that boosts its economy and allows the country to grow for a fat enemy rarely goes to war.

The bringing about of this summit, if it happens, will be largely the work of President Moon of South Korea with the nitty sorted by the three heads of Intelligence of America, South Korea and North Korea.

Mr Kim will get his respect and will settle some of the uncertainties of the ruling North Korean families who are saying the Mr Kim must change his ways if the country is not to fold economically and collapse. Mr Moon will sweep aside the continued feeling that he could fall at any moment. And Mr Trump?

In America, even senior politicians have never heard of any efforts other than the tough-talk of their President. If it works, he will be the man who brought 60 years of crisis to an end and made Kim Jong-un close down his nuclear threat.

The tailpiece in Washington to this is an irony: undoubtedly, if a June meeting is the type of success we imagine, then there will a strong movement for a Nobel Peace Prize. So? So there is no way the FBI could file against a Peace Nobel Laureate Trump.

Could anything spoil what is possible? Yes.

Whatever agreement between North Korea and the US, it is extremely likely that Congress will not ratify any treaty on the grounds of it being impossible to verify North Korea keeping the test sites closed.

In other words, June’s not far but there are years to go before Mission Accomplished make sense.

 

Libya: The Forgotten War

April 20, 2018

Christopher Lee

London 20 April 2018

Libya: Yet another forgotten war

Was a time when every think tanker and foreign affairs journal spent a week telling us how to fix Libya. British forces still have a handle on Libya, but the place is no closer to a stable security platform that it was a year ago. It was the last place that Britain, France etc decided to help on its way to peace by giving it a mini-bombing. It’s still a mess. So what happened?

Firstly its state institutions — the vertebra of any nation’s stability — are corrupted and fearful of their values and inability to exercise any authority in case they have damned and worse beyond by the militias and competing military and political groups.
So many different groupings, all of which are uncompromisingly armed, fail to allow these institutions to cross fertilise and so they have little value. The first consequence of such naked corruption of power is the country run on violence, a mini economy of its own. War has its own economy and in Libya it becomes an industrial employer of corruption, exploitation of resources — including oil – and the continuing if mostly now internationally ignored lucrative mini economy of human trafficking.
In short, Libya has developed violence as a convertible economy in a society that should be living of oil dollars. Corruption as an economy in itself sets the values of most of Libya and therefore any conflict breeds further and wider spread violence.
The ultimate horror is that the economic values of corruption and violence are too powerful to resist and thus functional government has no attraction.
The reality is that Libya is a black-market where every concession has a price and the line to set that price changes hands many times.
There is of course a UN negotiator to resolve the problems of this oil state and to bring warring factions together. Ghassan Salame works at fruitless chores. The UN says the single incentive that may bring some ground rule for a stabilised state is an election. In spite of the rubble of democracy in that place, some 2.3 millions Libyans believe in elections even if the country is run by hoodlums and gangsters who keep in some form of power the two rival groups of authority. Thus an election would be fought with gunfire at the order of the two main characters in this black opera, Fayez as-Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar. The libretto of change is through the emergence of a charismatic figure, in Libya’s case the son of Colonel Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. How long would he survive?
This then is the pitch and roll of Libya. It is rich and corrupt. If it ever worked as a state, it would need a vicious grip of figure who would never again sleep in the same bed every night. The Son of Gaddafi? It is an irony that one day the United Nations will have to accept and leading the praise for it would be the same people who ordered air attacks to bring down his father. In some deeper moment, the moral distinction is blurred and that corruption that is an economy of its will fail and another will take its place.
A hopeless concept? Look around the Middle East since the Arab spring and rest finally on Syria. How soon before President Assad will once more be the undisputed President. And that is the lesson of Libya, yet another forgotten war. It is a place of stenching moral high grounds – partly manured by the actions of friends who went to help and then left when it all became too difficult. A conveniently forgotten war.

Korea: A Nobel for Trump?

April 18, 2018

by

ChristopherLee

http://www.foreignpolicy.org.uk

 

For those who said a meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un was straight out of the La La Land handbook of the pursuit of dreams, then maybe a re-read of the script is worth a while.

 

President Trump this morning Tweeted in his own La La manner that his CIA director Mike Pompeo was back in Washington after a trip to North Korea during Easter for a meeting with Kim Jong-un. The idea is to fix a summit meeting between Trump and Kim Jung-un, probably in June.

 

Why would the director CIA be used in this role? Answer: he is Mr Trump’s choice as his next Secretary of State, his foreign minister.

 

The published hope is to get some deal whereby the North Koreans will give up their nuclear weapons programme in return for a treaty officially ending the 1950-1953 war between North Korea supported by China and South Korea supported by a UN force led by the United States. When fighting stopped, an armistice was declared not an official end to the conflict. Under a new agreement, North Korea would expect sanctions against its economy to be lifted.

 

This sounds and is all too simple a way to resolve a 65 year-old strategic conundrum that could even now lead the world into nuclear war. A few months ago Trump and Kim Jong-un were openly insulting each other in some Mediaeval pre-war pageant. Trump was threatening to rain down fire and fury. Kim was telling the world Trump needed a brain fix. Today the two men are clearing the diaries for what would be one of the most significant political summits since Reagan met Gorbachev in 1986.

 

Given this importance, there’s more to it that time clear up a bit of history with a wrong ending and, it goes much wider than Trump doing business his way and Kim Jong-un wanted the status of an international leader with an arsenal of nuclear warheads. It is the story of three, not two ambitions. For Europeans keen to live in a world without black mushroom clouds, then the political tact of Moon Jae-in, the South Korean President should be understood.

 

Mr Moon is the person who has persuaded Kim to at least publicly murmur that getting rid of nuclear weapons is in the deck of negotiations the three leaders are now shuffling. Six months ago when North Korean were doing a missile or warhead test every couple of weeks, such language was unknown never mind expressed. Moon moved on the real politik. While most watched Washington and Pyongyang for signs of coming together, it was Moon who spotted hesitations and repeats of key words in statements and knew when to nudge the discussions into apparently harmless areas of agreement that a meeting might be possible. There is no point in a meeting unless agreement is possible, otherwise it is a major failure of diplomacy.

 

Moon became the arch diplomat in praise of famous men only. He said Trump deserved huge credit for almost everything. Mr Trump was pleased. He said Mr Kim was wise. Mr Kim was pleased. So this week the two Korean leaders meet for the next move towards a summit and the CIA director reports back to the Oval Office that everything looks in good-fix mode. June could be summit month.

 

Or could it? Kim Jong-un is likely to be playing a harder game. Above everything he wants to be treated with respect. He could blow the world in half and would be willing to do so his people in the alleys of South Korea say. Trump could fires someone and pull out of a summit on instinct. Moon could loose his own people in the dangerous political gambit he is playing. But if they pull this June meeting and with it the nuclear agreement and the distinction of affording respect then the most dangerous arc on the globe could become something quite different.

 

And here is something: if the trio hold this together, what’s the betting there’s a joint Nobel Peace Prize. Who would have thought that in January 2017.

How Russian Cyber Warriors Can Bring UK To Standstill

April 16, 2018

by

Christopherleesays.com

London 16 April 2018

Russian cyber teams could create chaos in the UK within 3 days and to a standstill in under ten days. News reports suggest that cyber attacks into essential social and government systems are a result of the US coalition attack on Syrian chemical warfare units. This is not so. The UK Intelligence assessment is based on analysis long before the attacks.

Russia has a Cyber Warrior Command within the state military structure that launches attacks and exercise against Western systems and infrastructures and for the past six months, a new cyber protection unit protecting it from attacks from among others, American, British and Chinese cyber units.

Interestingly from the Western cyber defence units when attacking Russian systems to test cyber defence is the existence of irregular and highly intelligent and motivate Russian youth groups – top end IT students kicking over rules and anti-cyber restrictions at will.

In Moscow, the nashi organization controls and directs many youth groups.  But others operate on their own picking targets at will.  A further threat is already identified by what Western Intelligence people refer to RBN, Russian Business Network – the criminal-owned cyber systems that are in many cases more advanced than the government teams.  Some of the criminal cyber individuals are being hired by there Russian military to fill gaps in expertise.

So, what would the Russian or any other enemy cyber warrior teams do in times of tension, including TTW, the crucial Transition to War hours and days?

The key is DDOS – Distributed Denial Of Services.  As the name suggests, this is the capability of disrupting or freezing infrastructures upon which we all rely: medical, energy, communications at every level and even food supplies.

The British NHS relies entirely on computer routines for drug supplies, appointment availability, operation schedules, ambulance coordination (even refilling vehicles and crew availability) and most of all, responses to major events. The NHS could be closed down by cyber warriors in 24 hours.

Fuel supplies could be cut off inside three days and no energy supplies could reach the UK within 9 days. The underwater energy system that connects to 3 million UK homes could be stopped inside two days.

The biggest threat to the UK and one which would stop compensation and alternative systems to the collapse of those above, is everyday communications – for example, the Russians could take out the 97 per cent of UK-Overseas global communications.

In short: cyber warriors could degrade UK civil systems and infrastructure so that they bring to a halt normal living, thus creating panic and divert ground based military capabilities to protect society from itself.

During TTW, the biggest threat to the UK is not bombing but the fragility of its society when basic infrastructures go down.  Cyber Warriors can make that happen.

 

OK Mr Trump Bomb Syria – Then What?

April 12, 2018

Christopher Lee Says – wwwforeignpolicy.org.uk

13 April 2018

Why would President Trump risk starting WWIII because 50 people were killed in a place in Syria most of us had never heard of? The answer is because those men, women and children were killed, apparently, with chemicals.

About every couple of weeks half as many again Syrians – say 75 – are killed when a 500b bomb is dropped on them. Also, the bomb creates more chaos and maims more Syrians. The logical behaviour pattern of war is cock-eyed. Downing Street and the White House declare that the use of chemical weapons in Douma must not go unchallenged.

Chemical weapons kill far fewer than conventional ordnance. The arithmetic of war is unsound this week.

There is too a well-known wonkiness in Trump-speak when maybe emboldened by the consequences of the North Korean affair, he tells Russia and Syrian to look out — the smart missiles are on notice to go.

The rhetoric even winds up America’s allies. The British Prime Minister for example, immediately calls Washington and assures President Trump that she is making sure Britain is right behind him. Alongside rather than behind might be a better reassurance, but never mind. The mood is fine and Mrs May is reassured that the UK and not France is America’s Number One Ally.

More importantly, Mrs May’s reason for seemingly without any strategic military understanding of the consequences proposed by President Trump feels forced into an instant declaration of loyalty to Trump Cause because her single most important ambition is to guarantee special trade status with the USA after March next year. Who would have thought the deaths of 50 in Douma had a Brexit connection?

And then his generals go into the Oval Office and ask him what he plans to do when a miscalculation means one of those American smart missiles kills another 50 Syrians and perhaps does it again and again during the first night’s salvo.

Moreover, what will he do when Russians in an armoured vehicle or a command centre are blown away and Moscow presses the revenge button. And how many letters in his Tweet does he need to explain to even the people of Lake Wobegone Minnesota that rather than pulling out of the Middle East (as he promised two weeks back) America is now in a powerful war that can probably only end in America’s humiliation.

In other words, it’s not the shock’n’awe of the missile strikes but the what-happens-next that matters. Given that the chemical warfare inspectors are going into Syria this weekend an attack is unlikely during the coming 48 hours. Perhaps Trump’s generals can use the time to really get him to answer the question: Okay Mr President we can put 1200 missiles into Syrian by next Friday. But then what would you have us do? Time to Tweet a different crisis Mr Trump?

Could be, the generals might argue with spirit and could be that the Russians are already sending private signals to this end.

Last night, the emergency lines between Russian and American commands were switched on. There are there to avoid miscalculation. They do not always work. Fingers crossed.

 

Syria: Iran holds the answer, not Russia

April 11, 2017

Christopher Lee

London11 April 2017

The White House is confused about Syria. It does not know what it is supposed to think which, is a difficult position for President Trump having ordered the cruise missile strike.

It gives every indication that the President of the United States knows nothing about the Syria Situation and cannot measure up to being a real President – one at whom the buck stops. He can be briefed. But he does not understand power beyond running Trump Property Development.

Here then is a simple briefing for the man who has everything but displays nothing.

The Trump Administration (and it seems the British Foreign Office run by Boris Johnson also) believes that the way to fix Syria is to hammer the Russians and then bring them on board.

Wrong.

The people to be sorted are first the Iranians, then the Saudis. It is true that the Russians appear to be the muscle in President Assad’s punch against the rebels. But the real and long term allies are not the Russians. They could change sides any day. The real war chums are the Iranians.

The Iranians are Shias. Assad through his Alawite family are Shias. Iran is the proxy war fighter of the Middle East. Iran sees the battle with the rebels as a battle with Sunnis – therefore this is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia (Sunni ruled) and Iran.

So how do you fix it?

America has to deal with Iran by saying Assad can stay but must run elections with Iran providing security.

A deal has to be done with Russians to maintain its port, the only constant access it has in Med. That is not difficult. Apart from anything else militarily, satellites can have a permanent watch on the Russians alongside and produce on-the-hour Intelligence of capabilities.

Also, by leaving the Russians in Syrian (they were there anyway) America would be tacitly accept that the theatre map of today is the one to work. A treaty would be produced involving Gulf Council. Syria, Iran, Russia and US and it will reviewed in 2 years.

All sounds simple and of course it is not. It could take another couple of years to fix and the real hope of a solution – a palace revolution in Assad’s own house – has to be hoped for. It is the only chance of a long lasting peace.

There is one simple fact that fed to Mr Trump may give a thought to play with: he believes the sarin attack was bad news. Yes. But every day there is worse. Conventional weapons kill more and maim more than a chemical attack.

Last month the Syrian airforce dropped 495 barrel bombs and killed more Syrians doing so than died in the gas attack. Last year the Syrian airforce delivered 12,958 barrel bombs. Mr President ask why the US (and the rest of us) did nothing.