Posts Tagged ‘UN’

What Chance Russia & US Going To War Over Syria

October 10, 2016


Christopher Lee

New York

8 October 2016

Think about the scenario: Putin needs Assad to win his civil war otherwise Russia will be chased out of Syria. So Putin supports bombing easiest and most telling targets – Aleppo hospitals.

US with help from the UK and France says this Russian tactic amounts to war crimes.  Putin gets mad at that and calls off nuclear warhead agreements.

The next stage? America within the NATO system reinforces that area supporting the Baltic States.  Moscow says that amounts to provocation.  NATO says it amounts to a sensible precaution and shows its Baltic allies as well as Russia that it will not abandon its obligations in the region. In other words: come closer Russia and we will push you back.

The next stage (reached this week)? Russia moves an Iskander ballistic missile battery  with a kilotonage level nuclear warhead capability into Kaliningrad – that is, next to NATO allies Lithuania and Poland.  This, as it is supposed to, raises tensions among NATO states in the region who do not know what next to do and mostly want to do nothing.

Here in New York, to use the diplomatic jargon, Russians and Americans are not nibbling the same canapés.  The negotiations over Syrian peace possibilities are abandoned. Even the never ending margin meetings of low level diplomats are nothing more than individuals reporting back to the Lavrov and Kerry front offices on who is saying what in private.

There was a rare weekend meeting at the UN over the weekend.  The French (one of the five permanent members of the Security Council) tabled a motion to stop the Aleppo bombing and open a humanitarian aid corridor.  It would have gone through if it had not been for Russia.  The Russian delegation had instructions from Moscow to veto any cease fire resolution, whatever the motives. Russia vetoed.

The Syrian ambassador Bashar Jaafari got up to speak and in protest at the whole farrago the British permanent representative, Matthew Rycroft led a largely Western walk out.  Rycroft turned on the Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin and told him, thus Putin, that his veto was a death signature on Syrians in Aleppo.  Churkin did not even look uncomfortable.

Talk to diplomats who spend their lives at this level and they talk in whispers, not to be secretive but to reflect the seriousness facing governments seeking the wisdom for solutions rather than the distinctions of triumphalism.

They talk of miscalculation, not in the UN chamber, but on what could become a battlefield.  A Russian or American aircraft shot down when both aircrews fly with instruction not to back off. An artillery commander unsure of his own rules of engagement and so a calamity occurs, such as the shooting down of the MH-17 airliner.

There are two truths whispered in the UN corridors: the Russo-Syrian offensive will succeed without hindrance from the US because no President is likely to commit a military action just as the nation goes to vote and anyway, no Congress would support it.

Secondly, Putin’s shifting of the Iskander launchers into Kaliningrad will frighten most European members of NATO into taking no action.

They say here that Putin can no longer be stopped in his Tsarist ambitions to have the fear driven respect of all the so-called world leaders.

There is a third truth: tsarism, historically, was so very vulnerable to miscalculation. Putin on the edge could turn miscalculation into determination and yes that is when the extra step that Lavrov, Kerry and the Security Council try to avoid will lead to confrontation.  The weaponry of war is this week in place.  The diplomacy appears very fallible.




Give UK Reserves a Proper Job-Blue Berets & Putin

June 6, 2016


Christopher Lee

6 June 2016, London

The Polish government is recruiting a 35,000 paramilitary force because of tensions with Russia.  The force will be a hybrid military operation largely with civilians ready to deploy if Russia does what it did to the Ukraine.

By this time July, Polish plans will be finalised and announced at the Warsaw summit of heads of NATO governments and a further reinforced Alliance battalion attached to what will be a rotation brigade.

That is the very military position and should knock on the head any half-baked ideas for a European army – an unsustainable concept that would be nothing more than NATO less Canada and the US.

The people who should quickly learn from the Polish idea are the British.

Undoubtedly the British have probably the best, certainly one of the most reliable military systems in Europe. There are two weaknesses: manpower and a failure to build a volunteer reserve – the old Royal Navy Reserve (RNR), Territorial Army (TA) and Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR).

The purpose of the new style Polish militia is something needed by the British and a concept that would work.  The concept would be simple:

Any military set-up needs above everything else, an identifiable purpose.  The modern post-Afghanistan war volunteer reserve lacks vision and purpose. Recruiting is no where near the figures that the generals said would be there to reinforce the regular forces, especially the army. Reason? The generals got it wrong living as they do in an utterly outdated belief that if they blow the bugle then well-motivated young people will step forward to the colours.

Two reasons for low numbers: fuller civilian employment and greater employer demands plus the army in particular while not back to the days of driving trucks up and down the M11 as regular and only training has no single and believable purpose.

What would simply work is this: the  reserves need to identify an enemy and have an attractive and not an uncertain role.  Modern young men and women are used to priorities rather than general ideas.

The reserves should be formed in two groups: vocational (medical, engineering etc) and militia.  The militia should be tasked to learn everything there is to know about the Russian operation in Ukraine (as an example), identify and learn off by heart the structure of the Russia militia and regular combinations with weapons systems used, recruiting units, tactics and terms of reference.  In other words go live to identify and get in the mind, the strength and weakness of a potential enemy. The British reserves would become walking encyclopaedias of the potential aggressor. Imagine the senses of achievement and purpose that would bring people in civilian jobs.

There is another but not a lesser role: train the whole of the British army volunteer reserve as UN peacekeepers. Have them identify the job, pre-plan for every country a UN operation is or is likely to occur.  British troops are being sent to South Sudan as UN peacekeepers. No reason why trained reservists should not go.

Neither of the above is to lift the load of the regular forces, although it would have a limited spin-off in that direction. These are major jobs that would give great purpose to the reserves and would have recruits in line down the street.

The main achievement would purpose and identity – something missing in civilian and parts of the military in Britain today where the theme is disestablishment and devolution instead of understood identity of purpose.




ISIS atrocities, Libya feet first, a new President – here comes 2016

December 28, 2015


28 December 2015


2016 will be a sinister affair. That’s what they say in the darker alleys of Whitehall and across the river on the Albert Embankment.

The oil guys in the Middle East say ISIS is working up a nasty. Big hits in as many European capitals as they can manage on the same day. Make Paris look like a hooligan mugging. The Middle East oilmen having the most to lose and twice that to protect have been known to get it right.

They says something like this: four or five organisers with long placed hitters in seven or eight capitals. Museums are easy targets.  Metros have to be quick. Theatres.  Everyone dies in the third act. Yup.  There’s a lot of black humour out there. Why the third act? Security is sharper in Act I and Act 2.  Act 3 has a It Won’t Be Tonight feel.

On the wider screen for 2016, Libya is the hardest one to tackle. The factions are still spilling blood and revenge is easy done.  France and UK are all for getting in there with air support, intelligence gathering and special forces reconnaissance (SAS’s original role) and smart diplomacy i.e. soft and hard power operation.  Trouble is no one knows for certain where ISIS has got to in Libya and most importantly who is running it there.

In the Middle East proper there is every chance of a strong US-Russia partnership developing in Syria.  Give it a couple of months. Russia without a sign of Oooops-sorry! is intent on whacking as many anti-Assad rebels as possible before going the extra distance on some form of election.  Here’s something that is not going to change in 2016 unless Assad is taken down by his own people – palace revolutions will be a general feature through the world of British interests.

Moscow clearly believes that Assad is the best bet in Syria. A lot of people at State Department could copy that but it is never going to be official policy especially as in Moscow Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov could be running Putin.  Watch those two names next year.

Everything is tugging Washington (and the UK) into further involvement in the big places it has failed during the past decade. More troops and close air support in Iraq and Afghanistan has a ring of the military version of American Old Home Week.

The future of Afghanistan is in the hands of Pakistan – always has been. So watch for higher training programmes and arms supplies from Pakistan military to Taliban. Watch also for Taliban’s biggest enemy in Afghanistan in 2016: ISIS.

It is all heady stuff and somehow makes the UK-MOD headaches low budget stuff. But the work is underway to see how much of a battle group or an force projection the carrier programme could make.  One carrier means six or so frigate/destroyer escorts plus a couple of subsurface vessels.

In spite of promises paying for all this is a hard call.  But the toughie for all three services to be sorted in 2016 is manpower. A great tr-service fighting force emerging from the 2015 SDSR – but fewer and fewer people with on-going training programmes to “man” them.

The biggest event of 2016 will be on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November – when the US votes for a new President. On November 9 they will wake in every city anywhere you can name and ask Who Won? They should do.  The new incumbent will be the most important person in the whole world.

On present showing the presidential election will be the most racially influenced presidential election in decades. Latinos, Asian and Black America since Fergusson will pack a  punch this time.

Meanwhile the current tenant on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, the 44th President, will be ending his term by going after ISIS in the biggest way he can: hopeless superpowerdom testing to destruction.

And that is almost it except for the little matter of the election of a new secretary general of the UN. Ban Ki-moon goes on December 31 2016.  Who get’s the job.  No one knows. My money – against all the odds called thus far – is on a Bulgarian, foreign minister Irina Bokova.  But what do I know?


Christopher Lee

May 4, 2013


Iraq: Infant Mortality Up. Killing Up. Why Do The Victors Over Saddam Hussein Look The Other Way?

4 May 2013

Why  don’t many of the UN Security permanent five want to talk about the latest and damning report from Iraq.  They really should read it carefully as it comes from the  United Nation’s own mission in Baghdad.  

Could be of course that it’s a weekend and they want to get away.  That’s good reason to dump anything with an official stamp on the cover.  But given the casualty rate news from that other US led killing ground, Afghanistan these past few days, maybe word from the already forgotten war, Iraq, makes uncomfortable reading. 

The report says that in just last month 712 people were killed in Iraq.  And 595 of them were civilians.  The report says the deaths were caused by “acts of terrorism and of violence” last month, April.

Let’s be sympathetic towards the highly paid and treated diplomats at UN head office – they don’t want to stir trouble. Read the report and even the most look-the-other-way diplomat has to ask questions. The detail is too obvious. Mark that UN figure: 712 people killed.  That’s not an approximate number is it? It’s precise.  They must know something. But the dips don’t want to upset the Iraqi delegation.  But they should, even must, because the Iraqi government is trying to ignore the UN figures.  They say they are not true. The Iraqis are saying it wasn’t 712 killed, it was only 245 killed in April. Oh so the UN got it wrong did it?  No way.  

The UN team has checked out hospitals, mortuary numbers, families and officials and individual reports. In Baghdad alone, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) say that 211 Iraqis perished and 486 were wounded.  Again, very precise figures.  

During the past two weeks alone more than 200 have been killed and a lot of them have been going down in the provinces of Diyala, Salahuddin, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Anbar.  On one day last week, 29 April, at the very least 18 were in southern Iraq, the Shia dominated provinces.

The social and political tensions are obvious in Iraq itself. The Shia-dominated government of prime minister Nouri Maliki is predictably accused by the Sunnis of cutting them out of any benefits of government reforms – such as they are. The Shias were once kept down by the Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein.  The reverse situation now holds. Conflict is and always was inevitable once the Americans pulled out in December 2011.

The British simply ran away – or that’s the way its seen by many in the south.  They handed over responsibility to the militia.  So much for bringing peace and democracy to the Iraqis.  The UN report shows that the consistent rate of killing is greater than it was when Saddam was there.  Another report not talked about at the UN Headquarters says that child mortality is worse than before the US-led intervention in 2003.

Another UN agency says the Millenium Development Goals, the benchmark of post-war benefits, have not been met in key areas, including infant mortality and how many children are being educated.  It makes the obvious point that Iraq is going to need more than ever an educated middle class to run the country.  That is not happening.  Iraq, once the most developed state in the Arab world now has 84 deaths per thousand live births.  Infant mortality is about 32 per cent of those 1000 live births.  Maliki insists that Iraqis are better off than they were under Saddam.  

Maliki’s is a selective judgement that has no relationship to the majority of people working on a simple principle: is my family better cared for and safer.  The answer in too many places is that those families are worse off than they were prior to 2003.

The lesson for the people writing out the notices to quit in Afghanistan are again obvious. Internecine warfare appears with just a year to go before ISAF withdrawal to be inevitable.  The Afghan National Army needs a US led afterguard to  easy them through a transition period of at least five years.  That was not done in Iraq so the Shia-Sunni conflict took off on day one of so-called independent administration.  

Secondly, the US-led coalition failed miserably to provide the template for political stability as well as the military structure to preserve that civilian institution of government and a recognizable operational council of the three principle interests, Shia’s seeking revenge, Sunnis seeking to bring down that which replaced its authority and Kurds with the very real opportunities of quasi-autonomous control of the richest part of the re-emerging economy, the oil business.

No wonder UN delegations know that many of their governments, especially the closest supporters of the legally questionable war of 2003, have marked the documents For Your Attention and sent them home in their diplomatic bags.

The truth is hard to chew on. Almost every government that took part in the Iraq War now wants nothing to do with the consequences and the reality of the aftermath: the Iraqi people lost the war; the allies simply got out.  The same result looks very much on the cards for Afghanistan. So why should permanent representatives in New York want to be reminded that Iraq was a failure and Afghanistan is heading that way?  Mind you, it does explain the never-again factor in President Obama’s assertion that he isn’t about to put boots on the ground in Syria.