23 October, 2010

Iraq: the War Logs

On 19th August 2010, the last US "combat brigade" withdrew from Iraq though about 50,000 US troops remain in the country in what is described as "an advisory capacity." According to the US, they will help to train Iraqi forces in a new mission - "Operation New Dawn" - which will run until the end of 2011.  The mission that ended on 19th August 2010 was known as "Operation Iraqi Freedom," and cost more than $900 billion and saw 4,415 US troops die.  100,000 Iraqi civilians were estimated to be killed, according to the Iraq Body Count website.

Following the withdrawal, there seemed to be a political vacuum which may have enabled Iran to broker a deal which could see a pro-Iran government installed in Iraq.  The Guardian 17th October 2010

The latest major story is the leak of numerous documents which raise major concerns about the behaviour of coalition forces in Iraq.  The Guardian 23rd October - "Iraq, the war logs."  It appears that United Nations officials are calling on President Obama to investigate the allegations - The Guardian 23rd October.

Meanwhile, back in the USA - Obama is fighting mid-term elections.  Viewed from the UK, despite hopeful beginnings in 2008, his administration does not appear to have proved all that popular with many Americans and he has demonstrated a certain hostility toward Britain over the Deep Horizon oil incident when he appeared to lay the blame entirely at the door of BP.  It seems likely that the Republican Party will make gains in the mid-term elections and this will further weaken Obama's position.  All seats in the House of Representatives; one-third of the Senate and 36 State Governorships are on the line.  The ruling Democrats are likely to lose Senate seats and perhaps control of the House of Representatives.

The growth of so-called "Tea Party" candidates is also interesting.  These people are pushing for lower taxes, lower government spending, cutting the deficit and "smaller" government.  Ordinary Americans are fearful for the future: threatened with unemployment.  Retired people are receiving almost nothing on their savings and that has resonance in the UK.  Nevetheless, Americans continue to consume some 400 million gallons of gasoline daily and at prices which, in the UK, would amount to about 40p litre.  Typical UK price is £1.18 litre with further rises on-going and VAT increasing to 20p in January 2011.  If ever there was a way to plunge the U.K. into further recession this is it.

Nevertheless, despite the massive economic mess, it would be ironic if the USA returns to the Republican Party which, in the Presidency of G.W. Bush, embroiled that great nation in the Iraq War and which led to western governments forgetting the fundamental values which they are supposed to stand for.

See also "Frago 242 - a licence to torture"

Why the US has truned against Obama - Telegraph 25th October

Addendum 26th October:  It appears that the Chilcot Inquiry may be recalling former Prime Minister Blair to give further evidence - Guardian 26th October.    When called previously, he was allowed to make "speeches" including warning of the threat posed by Iran which was not germane to the Inquiry's remit.  This demonstrated that Chilcot probably needed a skilled lawyer as counsel to conduct the examination of witnesses.

Further revelations about alleged British interrogation methods have also been revealed - Guardian 26th October

19 October, 2010

The Strategic Defence and Security Review and Spending Review

The government has announced details of the Strategic Defence and Security Review in which it has been engaged since taking office.  The 75 page document may be read here.  This is an important review which will, when implemented, make far reaching changes to Britain's Armed Forces and also to the management of U.K. security in the wider sense.  The outcome of the review is also likely to affect Britain's wider influence in international affairs generally.

The government's spending review (announced Wednesday 20th October) may be read at H.M. TreasuryThe Guardian published their summary of it.

The Defence Review makes it clear that Britain will maintain a military presence in Gibraltar, Cyprus, the South Atlantic (including the Falkland Islands) and Diego Garcia.  It is planned to remove British Forces from Germany by 2020.

Addendum 3rd December:  HMS Ark Royal sails home for the last time. 

The Fighting Temeraire - JMW Turner (1775-1851)

12 October, 2010

A brave rescue attempt which, sadly, went wrong.

There should be no doubt that the attempt to rescue Linda Norgrove was the right and proper thing to do.  No government worthy of the name should abandon its citizens to their captors.  Lessons will be learned but the U.K. and U.S. authorities should not blame themselves for trying.  See The Guardian 12th October.

The Guardian 29th October reported that Linda Norgrove's parents refused to blame the Americans.

See Statement in Parliament by William Hague - Foreign Secretary - 2nd December 2010.

05 October, 2010

Philippe Sands QC makes a submission to Chilcot

Barrister and Law Professor Philippe Sands QC has made a submission to the Chilcot Inquiry - it may be read via The Guardian 5th October 2010.

Addendum 14th October:  A further submission by Alexander Orakhelashvili (University of Birmingham) may be read at The Guardian 14th October.