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

A day of peace

Today, 21 September, is the UN International Day of Peace. It’s a day to think about how peace is achieved, safeguarded and built. It is, of course, not the work of a day. Think of Syria, and how much rebuilding of all kinds will be needed when the opportunity of peace arrives. Or think of Rwanda, 19 years on from the genocide, and how it is still recovering and building a peaceful society. Here’s a brief video of (some of) my thoughts about it.

War, peace, truth, images and the news

As Syria stays in our news, every day we can have access to new imagery – visual or verbal – of what is happening there. And from these images come discussions and positions that fuel our views in the controversy about what to do and what not to do, about how to help and what kind of assistance (and to whom) might be effective for the common good in Syria and the region.

Against that backdrop, International Alert organised a discussion – one of our series of PeaceTalks – in partnership with the University of Sussex, hosted and recorded at the Frontline Club in London on Wednesday 18 September. Our panel was almost uniquely qualified to discuss the issues. It comprised Martin Bell, renowned former reporter on war and peace; Timothy Large, Editor-in-Chief at Thomson Reuters Foundation, responsible among other things for the AlertNet news service; and international relations Professor Cynthia Weber of Sussex University, who is also a documentary film-maker. I was chairing.

In our wide ranging discussion we covered how stories are selected and shaped, why some imagery works and some doesn’t, the use of social media, what we want from journalism and whether news organisations are providing it, whether there is such a thing as peace journalism or really there’s just good or bad journalism, what we mean by truth and whose truth we mean. Take a look.

Syria – what role for diplomacy?

In the course of little more than a week, the idea that diplomacy could achieve anything to prevent the war in Syria escalating yet further fell off the international agenda as arms supplies became the dominant theme and returned to head it following the G8 summit at Enniskillen’s Lough Erne resort in Northern Ireland. Here’s my quick take on what seems to be going on. Continue reading

Syria: intervention – or the great power game?

Syria – the death toll reaches 93,000, the US administration says it has firm evidence of nerve gas use by the Syrian government and further says it will supply arms to the opposition. Things are moving – but towards what? The debate is focused on the arguments for and against armed intervention. I think that may well be very misleading. Continue reading