Tag Archives: Middle East

Tony Blair, conflict and religion: a case of Huntington redux

Last weekend’s Observer carried an article by Tony Blair headlined, ‘Religious difference, not ideology, will fuel this century’s epic battles.’ Hmm, really? Continue reading

The sabotage of Geneva II

If you want to achieve a negotiated end to violent conflict, all the parties have to first agree to talk. Seen in that light, rescinding the invitation to Iran to attend the Geneva II conference on Syria is very bad news. Continue reading

Syria: CW disarmament enters critical phase as hell breaks loose

In Syria in the coming weeks, 600 tons of the ‘precursor chemicals’ from which chemical weapons (CW) are made will be convoyed over land so they can be shipped out. The route goes through areas now being fought over. To remove CW from a war zone will be an unprecedented feat if successful – and equally without parallel if it goes wrong. Continue reading

The US-Iranian-Syrian diplomatic dance

The destruction of Syrian chemical weapons (CW) has started. In a breakthrough moment in Iran-US relations, the two Presidents talked on the phone and the foreign ministers sat down to discuss Iran’s nuclear programme. Though the connection has received little comment in the western news media, these two welcome developments are deeply linked and close to inter-dependent. Continue reading

The Review of the External Action Service

When the European External Action Service was formally set up in July 2010, it was agreed that the High Representative Catherine Ashton should present a review of it this summer. As Brussels descended into summer slumber, that is what she did. Continue reading

The UN Peacebuilding Fund – four years on

The decision to set up the UN Peacebuilding Commission, Peacebuilding Support Office and Peacebuilding Fund was taken in September 2005 and bit by bit the new architecture was ready for business in 2006 and into 2007. I have just finished four years on the Fund’s independent Advisory Group, the last two as its chair, so here are my reflections. Continue reading

Libya: the (next) moment of decision is approaching

When intervention in Libya was being discussed in Britain a few months back, the key ethical argument was the dual claim of the urgency of doing something and impossibility of standing by and doing nothing. After the first 2-3 weeks, it became clear even to passionate advocates of intervention that the issue was more complicated than that. Continue reading

Libya and the fog of intervention

The three weeks of what has become NATO’s armed intervention in Libya have generated far more questions than anyone could hope to answer. The uncertainties by no means overwhelm the case for intervention but they do add immediacy to the reservations expressed by the doubters and sceptics. Continue reading

Intervention in Libya? A case of shooting slowly from the hip

Only ten days ago, when UK Prime Minister David Cameron put up the flag for a no-fly zone over Libya, nobody saluted. Now the British and French are drafting a UN Security Council Resolution. After all, you cannot just sit and watch the dictator wield overhwelming force so he and his disgusting son can hang onto power and not think something should be done to stop him.

True enough – but you should think very, very carefully about what can and should be done. Continue reading

Egypt and the outside powers

Now it is clear that Hosni Mubarak’s three decade presidency of Egypt cannot survive much longer, outside powers are visibly positioning themselves for the next phase. Hubristic temptations are clear but not everybody’s falling for them. Continue reading