Category Archives: Britain

The politics of hope over fear

Mehdi Hasan writes: Corbyn has reminded us that a politics of hope can go toe to toe with a politics of fear. Millions of people will turn out to vote for a leader who preaches optimism over pessimism, who offers inspiration instead of enervation.

Corbyn has showed how it is possible for progressives to build a coalition between the young, people of color and cosmopolitan liberals on the one hand and, yes, those dreaded white working class communities on the other.

Here in the United States, meanwhile, the Corbyn-esque Sanders has become the most popular politician in the country and would probably win the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination by a landslide if the contest were to be held tomorrow. Read full article here

Manchester and now London: ‘Prevent’ faces its ultimate indictment

Theresa May tries to shore up a shaky electoral campaign by exploiting the inevitable ‘Islamist ideology’. Her claim that there had been “far too much tolerance of extremism” in the U.K. was an obvious direct attack on the Labour leader during a supposed suspension of election campaigning. Given this, it is worth remembering that the two attacks are actually happening on her watch, both as acting Prime Minister and long-standing Home Secretary.

The Prevent Programme, which she helped launch, was actually founded on the post Iraq War drive of the US, through the concerted campaign of the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Europe (GMFUS), to shift the causal arrow of terrorism from its foreign policy in the Middle East onto ‘Islamic ideology’.

Britain under David Cameron as Prime Minister along with Theresa May was the most receptive of the European nations to this idea. Prevent was launched by Cameron in his 2011 speech at the Munich Security Conference (organised under the aegis of GMFUS) designed to profile non-violent extremists in the political space (i.e. critics of government policy) as potential violent extremists, despite authorities on the subject deeming the link logically absurd.

To hear Theresa May posturing days before the vote, one would have thought that Prevent had at least been a mild success. In fact, it has failed miserably and turned the Muslim community of Britain into the ‘enemy within’. If May does become Britain’s next Prime Minister,  she should be advised to follow more evidence-based counter-terrorism strategies.  Counter-terrorism Intelligence specialist Richard Barrett warns that May’s new policy could easily make things much worse. ‘The prime minister must be careful, he says, not to equate terrorism with Islamist extremism.

The attempt by British tabloids and Tory ministers to stymie criticism of UK foreign policy, especially in Libya, by saying that it implicitly lends succour to terrorists is inane and insane. As Paul Rogers has written’… the links between the attack and the ongoing war in Iraq and Syria must be made. That Britain is still at war after fifteen years suggests that some rethinking is required.’

Furthermore, the suspicious circumstances under which ‘national security’ was recently invoked to stop the trial of the murderer of PC Yvonne Fletcher in front of the Libyan Embassy in St James’ Square in 1984, brings up a different but important point. If the default position of the Westminster foreign policy community is to be uncritical, then such steps will only suffer the worst possible interpretation in the public’s mind. A national security necessary immediately becomes a cover-up. Openness and criticism as the default position actually serves everybody including the security establishment.


YouGov poll nine days before election predicts hung parliament

The survey of voters, commissioned by the Times, predicts that the Conservatives could fall short of winning an overall majority of seats on June 8.

In contrast to signs from a string of opinion polls that have suggested May’s Conservatives will increase their majority, the new constituency-by-constituency modelling by YouGov showed it might lose 20 of the 330 seats it holds and the opposition Labour Party could gain nearly 30 seats, The Times said.

The result has sent Sterling in a steep decline. In 2010, when the Liberal Democrats held the balance of power, markets also reacted to the uncertainty by selling sterling. This time round the choice is likely to be even less clear, with the Liberal Democrats greatly reduced in number and the pro-EU Scottish National Party likely to have more influence.

The Conservative ‘hard’ position on Brexit and, to a lesser extent other domestic issues like austerity, makes it unlikely that it could find a willing coalition partner in those circumstances, making a Labour-led government the most likely outcome from a hung parliament.

J.P. Morgan analyst Paul Meggyesi said that contrary to the 2010 experience, and despite this uncertainty, such an outcome could well see sterling rise: “A hung parliament would in more normal circumstances be viewed as quite a negative for sterling. But in the post-referendum world, all political developments need to be viewed through a Brexit prism and an argument can be made that a hung parliament which delivered or held out the prospect of a softer-Brexit coalition of the left-of-center parties … might actually be GBP positive.”

The sharp drop in Sterling today is probably a buying opportunity.

Watershed al-Jazeera documentary on the Israeli lobby in Britain

The al-Jazeera documentary based on recordings made by an undercover operative working with the Labour Friends of Israel laid bare the machinations surrounding the bogus Anti-Semitism allegations against Jeremy Corbyn and more generally the aggressive and direct methods used by the Israeli Embassy to get results favourable to Israel in British political decision-making by whatever means.

Although this merely confirms everybody’s suspicions about how Israel operates, and therefore hasn’t generated the level of outrage that similar behaviour on the part of a different foreign country would have, the very fact of getting all this down on tape has subtly changed the landscape. The very fact that there is a fight back against the decades of continuous ‘post-truth’ manipulation of British public opinion, is finally denying propagandists for Israel the easy ride they have enjoyed all these years. See the 4 part documentary below:

Part 4: The Takedown; Part 3: The Anti-Semitism battle; Part 2: The Training session; Part 1: Young Friends of Israel

Even its staunchest advocates can see that Prevent is a busted flush

Samayya Afzal writes

The problems with Prevent don’t lie with public perception or resources – they lie within the strategy and the implementation. In 11 years, successive governments weren’t able to convince the public that this strategy works, indeed one poll said 96 percent of the British public believe it is not working, yet historically Quilliam’s support never wavered.

This makes all the more intriguing a recent article in the Times of Israel by Quilliam’s chairman Maajid Nawaz, in which he suddenly appears to advocate reform of Prevent. He has also gone on radio calling the new policy adopted by the Liberal Democrats – his own political party – “a more sensible approach”.

This would be welcome news, were it not that the policy is the complete opposite of what Nawaz has long advocated.

Indeed, Quilliam has long belittled legitimate grievances with the Prevent strategy, whereas the recent policy change demonstrates that the Liberal Democrats have taken seriously and addressed each criticism of Prevent, calling “to scrap Prevent in its entirety” and highlighting the need for any strategy to be based on evidence, transparency and engagement.

Read full article here

Towards proper standards for engaging with ‘political Islam’

The UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs committee has issued a report which considers that using one label to describe groups that espouse “democratic principles and liberal values” and groups that instead hold “intolerant, extremist views” as plain wrong.

It is damning of the previous Cameron government’s approach to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The report also says that the approach of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ‘Political Islam’ should also be informed by the shortcomings of the Muslim Brotherhood Review, which had been led, extraordinarily, by Sir John Jenkins, UK Ambassador to Saudi Arabia,

The report says that this what it calls ‘secretive Review’ sought to understand the Muslim Brotherhood but failed to mention some of the most significant factors influencing the Brotherhood, not least its removal from power in Egypt in 2013 and the subsequent repression of its supporters. The Committee concluded that its scrutiny of the Review was hindered by the Government of David Cameron.

This report on the Muslim Brotherhood follows a merciless report into David Cameron’s Libyan intervention.

In a comment on these developments, Peter Oborne writes that :

“… up until now Cameron’s policy has been informed by neo-con thinking which sees that the Islamic State (IS) group, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb al-Tahrir and so forth are all different manifestations of the same phenomenon: theocratic Islamist politics with a propensity to violence.

Neo-cons view all manifestations of political Islam as dangerous because of what they call the ‘escalator’ or ‘conveyor belt’ theory. Even non-violent Islamism, according to the neo-cons, is dangerous because it can set regular citizens on the pathway to terrorism.

This dogma has been embedded at the heart of British and US thinking about Islam for more than a decade. Policy experts have applied it as much to domestic as to foreign policy: it lies at the heart of Britain’s cack-handed Prevent counter-extremism strategy as well as the Blair/Cameron foreign wars.

One of the most interesting sections of Monday’s report directly challenges the ‘conveyor belt’ thesis. It powerfully argues that, far from being a route to violent extremism, Islamism can work as a prophylactic against political violence. To quote Rifal Salaiman Lebbe who gave evidence to the committee: 

‘Isolation of democratic forces of political Islamic groups by successive British governments will give golden opportunities for the forces of extremist Islamic groups to indoctrinate youth and public in Muslim countries with their radical ideologies and staunch criticism of Western social values and way of life. Extremism grows in [the] Muslim world rapidly due to the fact that moderate voices have been suppressed in Muslim countries by both national and international political establishments.””

Britain, the Emirates and Sisi carving up Libya

Middle East Eye (MEE) published recordings of conversations between Emirati pilots on bombing missions around Benghazi, and the control tower at Benina airport, the headquarters of the renegade general Khalifa Haftar.

It’s clear, from previously released recordings, that the pilots are not bombing IS targets in Sirte. The coordinates point instead to a neighbourhood of Benghazi called Souq al-Hout, the Fish Market, which is controlled by the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries (SCBR), a coalition of forces which includes Ansar al-Sharia, labelled a terrorist organisation by the UN, US, UK and Turkey, but includes also groups which are loyal to the Libyan defence ministry in Tripoli, such as the February 17th Martyrs Brigade.

British, American, French and Jordanian military air traffic controllers are heard on the same tapes. They sit alongside the Emiratis in Haftar’s control room. This means that Britain and its allies are placing an each-way bet on the Libyan war.

As MEE revealed when it published a briefing Jordan’s King Abdullah gave to US congressional leaders this January, British special forces are deployed in Libya alongside Jordanians. We know from on the ground reports in Libya that British soldiers are helping Misratan militias, who are loyal to the government in Tripoli, push the Islamic State (IS) group out of Sirte.

But at the same time as that battle is being waged, British military air traffic controllers, pilots and planes are helping Haftar’s forces prevail in Benghazi. Haftar’s forces are not, and never have been, engaged in the fight against IS in Sirte. His war is with the government in Tripoli.

His actions, like those of the IS, are aimed at telling Libyans that the UN-brokered and internationally recognised Presidential Council and its Government of National Accord (GNA) cannot control key state infrastructure. Two days after his so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) wrested control of four Oil Crescent ports in Ras Lanuf, Sidra, Zueitina and Brega, from militias controlled by Ibrahim Jadhran, commander of the Petroleum Defence Guards, Haftar had himself anointed field marshal.

A stand-off ensued. Haftar demanded the National Oil Corporation (NOC) lift force majeure and allow the ports to export oil, while the Presidential Council, the US, Britain, France and Italy, Spain and Germany reaffirmed their support for the GNA and their intent to enforce sanctions against illegal exports of oil. The export ban was lifted on Thursday after the NOC chairman Mustafa Sanalla “accepted a handover of the ports“ from Haftar’s men.

It is difficult to know what this means as Hafter’s takeover of the ports on Sunday was more a matter of negotiation between militias than actual combat. Sanalla also sowed seeds of doubt about GNA control when he said that the LNA’s seizure could “lead to a new phase of co-operation” between the Libyan factions.

Egypt and the Emiratis are dictatorships with a track record of suppressing political opposition. Each has been highly active abroad, particularly in Libya, in making sure that Islamist governments do not get into or stay in power. The GNA is not Islamist, but the fact that Islamist groups have deferred reluctantly to its authority is enough for the Emiratis to do everything they can to bring it down.

Source: David Hearst