Not Saussure

December 19, 2006

Chatham House verdict on Blair as international statesman — not wholly encouraging

Filed under: Chatham House, EU, Foreigners, Politics, UK — notsaussure @ 9:58 pm

Heard Margaret Beckett on the radio — you know, the Foreign Secretary, that one — this morning, being ever so irritated about what she refused to call a ‘report, but preferred to characterise as ‘a series of remarks.. observations… not of the kind one tends to assume or expect of Chatham House’ from Professor Victor Bulmer-Thomas, the outgoing Director of that institution, on the subject of ‘Blair’s Foreign Policy and its Possible Successor(s)’. Bit rich coming from someone who’s open to criticism as not being quite up to scratch herself, but there you go.

Update:  Morningstar’s Cynical Chatter From The Underworld reminds us that Mrs Beckett made the remarkable claim during the interview of the notorious 45 minute claim that

“That was a statement that was made once and it was thought to be of such little relevance — and perhaps people began quickly to say, ‘I’m not sure about that’ — that it was never used once in all the debates in the House of Commons.”

Says Morningstar,

Tell that to Dr. David Kelly who died because of that statement, but you can’t tell him now can you, because he is dead, thanks to your government not just failing to look after him, no, you threw him to the fucking dogs.



November 20, 2006

Nigerian Scams

Filed under: Chatham House, scams — notsaussure @ 10:17 pm

Chatham House has turned its attention to Nigeria-Related Financial Crime And Its Links With Britain. The report contains some alarming statistics; while the best known scams are the Advanced Fee frauds, familiar to all of us from those emails from generous bods who want our assistance in smuggling vast amounts of money out of the country, these are apparently dwarfed by more traditional types of fraud involving forged cheques, postal orders and financial instruments, fake passports and the like. (more…)

October 11, 2006

Gordon Brown at Chatham House

Filed under: Al-Qaeda, Chatham House, civil liberties, UK, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 3:34 pm

Gordon Brown’s speech at Chatham House yesterday has been widely reported, primarily for his plans to use

Intelligence from secret sources … for the first time in freezing financial assets as part of a crackdown on terrorist financing designed to prevent a repetition of the 7/7 attacks,

and his renewed backing for ID cards and 90 day detention.

It’s a lengthy document and I’ll be writing about it in more detail over the next few days, no doubt.

I must say, though, that the idea of the government being able pre-emptively to freeze financial assets on the basis of secret intelligence — thus, I assume, denying those whose assets are thus frozen both access to the evidence they may wish to challenge in order to get their money back and the wherewithall to pay lawyers and accountants to challenge the forensic accounting analysis on which Mr Brown will base these seizures is pretty scary. I’m sure Gordon Brown wouldn’t abuse such powers, but what could be done with them in the wrong hands really isn’t pleasant.

At first glance, the speech seems depressingly to focus on Al Qaeda and, in effect, to ignore the sort of points made only last month by Chatham House; that Al Qaeda isn’t a monolithic organisation and that, in any case, its star seems to be on the wane in the Muslim world but, unfortunately, the grievances on which it feeds won’t go away. Gordon Brown says,

Al-Qa’ida’s message – its single narrative – aims to have global resonance – from Afghanistan to the streets of Britain, from the huts and slums of Africa and Asia to every one of the richest cities in every industrial country – a narrative that purports the West is waging a war on your religion, seeks to murder your people, steal your resources and corrupt your culture; that it is your duty and noble cause to defend your people against this attack.

However, as Chatham House put it,

While the re-education of Europe’s Muslim youth in the tenets of traditional Islam might convey the message that the use of terror is unacceptable, thus countering sympathy for al-Qaeda, the problem for European governments remains that a segment within the Muslim community is both politicized and angry at the conduct of foreign policy.

and that

If we were to assume, for example, that in the Middle East secular attitudes prevailed over religious ones and that in place of radical Islamist opposition groups a secular oriented opposition came to dominate, we are still likely to have seen the emergence of terrorist groups to counter prevalent feelings of injustice and powerlessness

Anyway, more later. However, one delightful absurdity has already struck me in the speech; Mr Brown informed his audience,

I believe all who live in this country should learn English, understand our history and culture, take citizenship tests and citizenship ceremonies.

Does this mean that, for example, sitting Labour MPs have to take these tests and go through citizenship ceremonies to celebrate passing? He did say ‘all’, after all.

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September 27, 2006

US Intelligence Report on Iraq

Filed under: Chatham House, Iraq, Israel, usa, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 3:35 pm

The White House has now released the declassified sections of the intelligence report, leaked to the New York Times about how, in the words of one anonymous official “the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse”.

Tony Blair clearly wouldn’t agree; he protested in his farewell speech yesterday that ‘This terrorism isn’t our fault. We didn’t cause it.’ And, to be fair, he knows better than most about the problems you can run into if you rely overmuch on a dodgy dossier from the intelligence services.

The report, however, makes somewhat depressing reading. It reckons

We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.The Iraq conflict has become the “cause celebre” for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight. We assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities and are likely to do so for the duration of the timeframe of this Estimate.

In other words, bad news for us generally if the terrorists win in Iraq, but it unfortunately looks as if that’s what’s going to happen despite our best efforts.

It continues, very much echoing the recent Chatham House Report on Al Qaeda, that

Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement: (1) Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; (2) the Iraq “jihad”. (3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and (4) pervasive anti-US sentiment among most Muslims — all of which jihadists exploit.

All very true, no doubt, but , unless it was in, but remains classified (which would be understandable) — why on earth doesn’t it mention — other than possibly by alluding to it in the phrase ‘underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement’ — what is clearly, rightly or wrongly, the most obvious ‘entrenched grievance’ and cause of ‘pervasive anti-US sentiment among most Muslims’ ?

As Chatham House put it,

While Muslim anger was galvanized around Iraq it hardly ever lost sight of the Palestinian cause which could always be conjured up by any radical movement, whether religious or secular, to rally support. If there is one area of general consensus among Muslim majorities over the West’s double standards and the justification for the resort to suicide bombings, it would be in the case of Palestine. While the US and UK governments continued to deny a linkage between regional crisis and terrorism, not only al-Qaeda but also Muslims who condemn al-Qaeda continued to stress the connection. Even Muslim governments acknowledge it exists, particularly with regard to Palestine, and more recently the EU has acknowledged an implicit link between the two.

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September 25, 2006

“The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror”

Filed under: Al-Qaeda, Chatham House, Iraq, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 8:51 pm

The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We have removed an ally of Al Qaida and cut off a source of terrorist funding.

President Bush, May 1, 2003

The news that America’s intelligence agencies apparently now believe the invasion of Iraq has boosted the threat to the West should come as no surprise to anyone other than, obviously the Prime Minister — on whom see A Big Stick and A Small Carrot — and some of his apologists such as Will Hutton, who apparently can’t tell the difference between incite and excuse, when he refers to (more…)

September 17, 2006

Krauthammer vs Chatham House

Filed under: Chatham House, Iran, Neo-conservatives, Politics, usa, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 2:47 pm

The Tehran Calculus — not, as I initially thought, a thriller by Robert Loodlum, on the lines of such works as The Moscow Vector, The Maltarese Circle and The Bourne Trajectory, but a Washington Post article by a gent — rather an influential gent in the US, it seems — by the name of Charles Krauthammer has been causing some comment in the American neo-conservative blogosphere (quite why they call themselves ‘Conservatives’, I do not know, since they have even less to do with what I understand by Conservatism than does David Cameron… splutter… where was I?)

I apologise for the length of this piece, though there is an entertaining movie buried inside it.


September 10, 2006

Chatham House (inc. Martin Amis-watch)

Filed under: 9/11, Al-Qaeda, Chatham House, hubris, Martin Amis, press, Uncategorized, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 1:55 pm

Reading Martin Amis, in today’s Observer, on

The age of horrorism (part one) I was struck by the following

Until recently it was being said that what we are confronted with, here, is ‘a civil war’ within Islam. That’s what all this was supposed to be: not a clash of civilisations or anything like that, but a civil war within Islam. Well, the civil war appears to be over. And Islamism won it. The loser, moderate Islam, is always deceptively well-represented on the level of the op-ed page and the public debate; elsewhere, it is supine and inaudible. We are not hearing from moderate Islam. Whereas Islamism, as a mover and shaper of world events, is pretty well all there is.

Hmm. I thought; not quite what Chatham House had to say in their report a couple of days ago. There, I read that

The question remains whether al-Qaeda can ever regain the sympathy it seems to have generated in the Muslim street in the days following 9/11 and somehow build on that to create a more solid longterm popular appeal. It does not seem capable of doing so, not so much because of extensive security measures against it, but primarily owing to three important factors. (pp 4-5)

These, apparently, are unhappiness at the bloody effects of Al-Qaeda’s interventions in Iraq and elsewhere in Arab domestic problems; the

heightened radicalization of the middle ground in the Muslim world. A growing number have embraced Islamist politics but will not sanction al-Qaeda’s tactics and will pursue democratic avenues when they are made available. This radicalization may itself be a worrying development for the West but it is also weakening al-Qaeda, whose legitimacy and ambition rest on approval from the Muslim masses – and these are essentially saying opposition can occur within an alternative framework that may be Islamist and uncompromising but should be non-violent;

and the fact that

traditional religious establishment (long seen as the enemy by al-Qaeda) has, by repeatedly arguing the theological case for its long-held beliefs, substantially shifted opinion against the resort to violence on religious grounds. This has been particularly evident in Egypt, Saudi and Yemen and has created a backlash which has in turn helped emphasize the polarization within Muslim communities over who has the right to interpret Islam.

This, as the report argues, may well be an uncomfortable development for the West in many ways, but, at least it seems to me, to suggest a bald statement like

The most extreme Islamists want to kill everyone on earth except the most extreme Islamists; but every jihadi sees the need for eliminating all non-Muslims, either by conversion or by execution. And we now know what happens when Islamism gets its hands on an army (Algeria) or on something resembling a nation state (Sudan).

needs to be better supported, as the comments on my undergraduate essays used to say when I’d made a particularly stupid assertion.

A stupid assertion, indeed, like ‘we now know what happens when Islamism gets its hands on an army (Algeria). Well, erm, actually, Martin, we don’t. Because it didn’t quite happen that way.

What did happen, however, is that the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) won the first round of the Algerian democratic elections in 1991 and that this caused the army to step in and cancel the elections to stop FIS governing the country. This led to a continuing low-grade civil war, which both sides prosecuted pretty horribly.  Two minutes with Wikipedia would have clarified the matter for Mr Amis.

Loud cries, I think, of ‘Don’t these people have editors?’ (© Tim Worstall).
I’m sure he could have chosen other, more apposite, examples, but that he apparently just pulled one out of the air that, as it happens, was the opposite of what he wanted, doesn’t give me much faith in either his attention to detail or his grasp of the situation.   I think, on the available evidence, I’ll stick with Chatham House for the time being.

September 8, 2006

Al-Qaeda — the good news and the bad news

Filed under: 9/11, Al-Qaeda, Chatham House, UK, usa, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 9:54 pm

Chatham House, one of the world’s leading bodies for the analysis of International Affairs, has just published a paper on Al-Qaeda Five Years On (pdf).
The good news is that

the US-led globally coordinated security measures have seriously undermined Al-Qaeda’s communication, finance and recruitment networks

while the bad news is that

Al-Qaeda’s image as a global player has been unintentionally enhanced by the US and its allies

The report’s bullet point summary reads:

• Five years on, the challenge to al-Qaeda is coming from within as traditional Islam attacks the use of terror as un-Islamic and popular support wanes as terrorist attacks target Muslims.

• Nonetheless, there has been an increased radicalization of the Muslim street but this seems to be finding expression in Islamist groups who are keen to use democratic channels.

• Al-Qaeda’s main success has been to highlight the link between the West’s policies in the Middle East and terrorism.

• Despite its religious rhetoric, al-Qaeda’s strength lies in its political message which resonates with many but whose tactics have attracted only the fringe.

• The West faces a terrorist challenge that comes from within its borders and which impinges on community relations and civil liberties.

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