UK captured sailors, diplomacy and propaganda

The propaganda surrounding the capture of British sailors seems to be going to have ramifications. The British service woman Fay Turner expressed in an early interview with the BBC that she was ready to take full responsibility regarding the risks she could encounter in her job. What is worrying is her being exploited by the Iranian regime on many levels. They singled her out to make a statement “recognising” that she was with the other arrested sailors in Iranian waters. Through her, they wanted to show the world they were treating the sailors humanely and their good faith will be shown to the world by releasing her (which they haven’t done so far. They are just trying to bring the other sailors in a row to make “confessions”.)

One wonders, for whom these confessions are made? Is it to governments around the world? These depend on scientific and documented evidence. Or are they targeting the(naive) public that can be easily influenced by their propaganda? This includes statements, letters and TV footage. (On Iranian TV The sailors appear shaven. Let’s hope they won’t force them to grow a beard as they appear to have forced the British service woman Fay Turner to wear an Iranian scarf. They stripped her of her military uniform. Do they want to make her one of their own or giving her an Iranian dress was a show of hospitality?)

What doesn’t make sense is the content of her letter. How can a soldier turn against his country’s policy overnight (in less than a week) because of being arrested by a foreign power? There are two possibilities for this:

1- the Iranians were miraculously genius enough to brainwash her in a very short time.
2- she was forced to write the stuff that had never occurred to her before her arrest, expressing regret and condemning her government.

A soldier is by definition is a member of the armed forces who carries orders and not link his political views with his duties.

Should UK internationalize the dispute? This seems to be the best answer. It should first take the legal and diplomatic channels before embarking on any “serious” action. This can be an opportunity, if diplomacy works, for both sides to soften their positions and bring this crisis to an end. Mounting propaganda from Iran and escalating declarations from British political circles can just prolong the conflict. It will be like a match ending in a draw and needing extra time for a decisive result.


UK captured sailors and Iran’s isolated diplomacy

Iran is using its capture of UK sailors in parallel with the UN sanctions over its nuclear program to escalate tension with UK, the key ally of the USA over issues in the Middle East, mainly Iraq and Iran nuclear program.

Iran is already getting internationally isolated following the latest UN Security Council resolution, which toughened its sanctions against it. It has nothing to lose by prolonging the UK marines’ crisis, as it will use this incident to watch the world’s reaction and at the same time to show it still has influence in the region- knowing that this triggered, among other things, a rise in oil prices.

This will be an occasion for the Iranian regime to stir the public internally as according to it each action it takes has resonance worldwide. Iran also seeks to sway the public to its side by appearing as defiant and the victim of “unjustified» sanctions and territorial aggression in preparation for a US military strike or invasion. But as things stand a military attempt to free the mariners can be disproportionate as it will fuel undesirable consequences, including an open war with the American and British forces stationed in Iraq.

As for the British troops stationed in Iraq, their planned withdrawal can be delayed and even more troops will be needed to face the current situation.

As it seems the logic of diplomacy dictates that Iran should treat the issue of sailors and sanctions separately. UK, if it believes that sailors were wrongly abducted, should use its international influence to get them out of Iran. It has NATO, the EU (the major military and economic blocs that can practically stand by it side) and also some of the friendly Gulf States that have good relations with Iran. Further escalation will harm the interests of both countries in the Middle East, but it looks Iran will suffer more if this incident will be a prelude for further international isolation .

Al Gore, from hot politics to global warming

Al Gore’s plea for a reduction on carbon emission is just a cry in the wild as the economic and political concerns outweigh those for a radical approach to the environment. He can make a good impression on the academics and scientists whose concern is to help people for an ideal living. The attitude towards the environment is like a chain of events. Business people are to fight competition from other areas. They can’t afford to produce less products or expensive ones to show how friendly they are to the environment. Profit must keep on rise and for that, all sorts of energy should be used as long as it is economically beneficial. Politicians, knowing that business is a strong lobby, cannot venture into taking rigorous decision angering the business community. They seek to show that the economy is booming and roaring to keep a good position in polls.

Al Gore knows this very well. When he was vice president, his focus was on becoming the future president of the USA. His attitude to the environment was reconciliatory as entering into confrontation with big corporation meant losing big support. Now, having made a green comeback, it’s better for him to work out an environment strategy that will bear fruits. Let’s not forget that his 24 years in active politics as senator and vice president put him to square one as he lost the presidency to George Bush, which made him disappear from public view. His most important statement was that he wouldn’t seek to stand for president. If he keeps to his words, he still has the environment to fight for. But he should do so in an attractive manner as one of his flaws in 2000 presidential election was his looking patronizing, contrary to George Bush who looked easygoing, despite his invisible stutters and slips of tongue.

Let’s hope, by the end of the day, he won’t quit his focus on the environment, and that his experience as a public figure accumulated by his past 24 years in active politics, plus the following years of relative political retirement, will make of him a force to change the passive/ careless attitudes towards the environment from producers and consumers alike.

Pessimism and insecurity in Iraq

There is a growing pessimism among the Iraqis concerning the security situation in their country. But it’s up to them to work out a solution for their political and religious differences. No force can stop the daily massive killings if none of the armed factions opt for constructive dialog. This can partly be achieved if countries like Iran stop sheltering armed groups and giving them political support.

Iraqi and American forces can achieve little in a short time as long as insurgents have a surplus of suicide bombers, fearless of death and careless about those who fall victims to them.

The problem the US has in dealing with the security situation in Iraq is that it is facing insurgents whose leaders are elusive and with whom it has practically no direct talks. As it seems the US is in constant talks just with the Iraqi government with which it has differences from time to time. An example of this is its refusal to provide the Iraqi forces with more weapons as it was suggested by Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki.

The US administration is currently turning a deaf ear to international and internal demands about the security in Iraq. From within it is ignoring public protests and calls from the Congress for a pull-out. The complex situation in and around Iraq is making it difficult for the US administration to listen to anyone. It is simply following what its political agenda in the region dictates.

Changing "little three pigs" into "three little puppies"

‘Three Little Pigs’ has turned the little pigs into little puppies. This is what Honley Church of England Junior School in Huddersfield has decided not to possibly offend Muslims.

It seems bizarre to do so unless the pigs are used to spread an offensive message about Muslims. Muslim children are familiar with different stories in which animals are the main characters. So it sounds meaningless to practices discrimination on an animal that is religiously viewed differently or to use it as a possible cause of rift between the Christians who cherish raising and eating it while Muslims consider doing so as a sin.

In Morocco, wild pigs (boars) aren’t consumed but they enjoy protection. Anyone unlawfully killing any of them is subject to punishment. They are, ironically, hunted during hunting season. There are pig toys for children as some child clothes are decorated with puppy pigs. This hasn’t become an issue here to forbid such commodities.

What is feared is that some Muslim extremists view all forms of art as a sin, especially music, singing and the paintings of human portrait. They may argue that children playing the role of animals is a big sin. Watching cartoons like Tom and Jerry will make children learn bad tricks and not grow to be morally straight.

As long as a play has a meaning and with an educative message, it doesn’t matter who or which are the main characters. What matters is how it is interpreted.

Politicising the term pig will make pigs laugh at those who can come to sharp disagreement about them. Children should be helped to use theatre to make sense of what is around them. They’re intelligent enough to sympathise with and love animals. Only adults, because of their ideological views, try to make them see some as the source of sin.

To follow the logic of changing the term “pigs” with “puppies”, some may argue that Hindu children shouldn’t see or play a role in ‘Three Little Pigs’, in which the wolf devours two little pigs, as eating any living creature is forbidden in this religion!

Blood Red And Goin…

Religious tolerance and free speech

The religion of the others should be respected as long as it calls for coexistence and peace. It shouldn’t be satirised. History is full of accounts of religious wars that turned very savage, destroying thousands of lives and hundreds of sites of heritage values, if not whole civilizations.

Today history is being repeated through the different types of religious wars. Among these are satirical portrayal of religions through cartoons and articles. This can have the same devastating effects as a war itself. It just creates a gap between people of different religions or makes them lose respect of religion as a whole.

People are social entities. They need codes to live in peace. It’s true there are laws governing the relationship between the individual and society, which some see as enough to substitute religion with them. But there is the spiritual side that many see as essential for their existence. Their choices should be respected. They shouldn’t be made fun of or attacked simply because they give priority to spirituality over mundane interests. If in free societies people are prosecuted for adapting views contrary to the common law, like racism, the same should apply to those profaning the religions of the others.

Concerning Islam, it’s better for people in the West, particularly, to treat it with caution. Allowing intense public campaigns against it through articles and cartoons will make Muslim extremists have more followers intent on causing more harms through attacks. This will be a security headache for Western countries as well as for Muslim countries seeking to foster moderation.

It’s better for people of different religions or no religion to spend their time working out how to coexist instead of wasting it throwing accusations at one another. It takes just one derisive comment or quotation that can be cited in a minute or less from a prominent source to stir millions and millions from Muslims for days with possible losses in lives and property. The well remembered cited quotation by the Pope about Prophet Mohamed is a striking example of how a faux pas can make all stumble to fall from grace to public condemnation if not, in the terms of religious people, to damnation.

Listen to an extract of the debate on BBC WHYS.

Robert Mugabe, ruling Zimbabwe by stick and iron fist

The shocking photos of Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai are reminder of the brutality of Robert Mugabe’s regime. Since its eviction of white farmers from their land under the pretext of wiping out the relics of colonial masters, things started to get worse. But Mugabe isn’t just against the white minority but against black Zimbabweans. To fight slums, he made thousands homeless. And the situation worsens in face of international isolation.

What is shocking is to see a prominent political leaders with a disfigured face due to torture. Mugabe is symbolically torturing freedom of expression in his country. Super inflation is a daily stick falling hard on the impoverished Zimbabweans because of mismanagement and autocracy.

Mugabe could have become the father of the nation. His name as a hero in the struggle for independence is now marred by enslaving Zimbabweans to his rule and seeking to harshly silence any opposition to his rule. It seems that whatever thanks the Zimbabweans will show him for having freedom from colonialism isn’t enough. He wants from them the land he “freed” for them and to make it his own empire.

Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai can capitalise on the incident to get international support and sympathy. There is little he can do to topple Mugabe from power as long as he has a firm grip on the military and other security forces. Like other dictators, Mugabe doesn’t seem to care about economic sanction or public protest.

Of all the African countries, only South Africa has enough power to put pressure on Mugabe. With the other neighbours using whatever means to impose sanctions on him, this can have enough teeth to bite him with the same strength he is beating hard his opponents. Isolating Mugabe regionally can be a step to weakening him totally. The African Union is playing the conspiracy of silence as a brutally injured opposition leader isn’t yet seen as an assault on the democratic principles it should defend.

Mugabe has got nothing to lose as international measures did little to budge him from power. Nothing will make him step down as international law prohibits toppling regimes or intervening militarily in a country as long as its problems are internal and don’t constitute a threat to international stability. If Mugabe is capitalizing on this, he is a joke among world leaders. Good leaders sacrifice their privileges for the good of their people. They don’t make a hell of their lives to continue living in their illusionary paradise.

Raki « Zimbabwe, A…

What response to Iran’s nuclear programme?

Iran regime is playing a big gamble with its nuclear programme. It seeks to acquire nuclear arms to be feared and to use its huge oil reserves to affect the world market. As there is a tendency for renewable sources of energy, its oil will be of less importance, especially when the US manages to reduce its dependence on the oil from the Middle East.

There is only decisive military option that can dissuade Iran intransigent regime from pursuing its nuclear program as both negotiations with promises for huge aid and threat of sanctions failed to bring effective results.

The Iranian regime has no option but to acquire nuclear weapons to defend its ideology and to have more influence in the volatile Middle East. It has no trust even in its people as it rules by religious decrees, stifling any democratic reform through its repressive internal policies.

Iran regime should get rid of its attempts to develop nuclear weapons as it will be the sword on which it will fall after a military strike coupled with severe sanctions, leaving it more vulnerable than it is now.

Bush-Chavez tours in Latin America and ideological rhetoric

The concurrent tours of President Bush and President Chavez in Latin America must raise the dilemma of which ideological path to follow: capitalism or socialism. The peoples in the region shouldn’t be merely carried by rhetoric as demonstrated by Pt Chavez who has become a magnet for the crowds in the region. They should follow what provides them with freedom and prosperity. The tour shouldn’t be seen as a concentrations on personalities rather than on facts speaking loud. Chavez’s style of rule can return Latin America to dictatorship.

Latin America needs effective leadership. Rhetoric makes things look easier said than done. Fervent socialists failed to bring the promised prosperity and democracy in Latin America. Castro ended having just words for his people without enough bread for their mouth. New socialist leaders are still struggling at home, giving bad impression of what socialism can do to alleviate acute poverty.

Latin America should opt for capitalism. Chavez is giving a bad example of what socialism can bring to Latin America. He is ruling by decree, which is a disguised form of dictatorship. His socialist policy failed to alleviate poverty in Venezuela despite high oil revenues.
What Latin America needs is a patriotic capitalism that ensures personal freedom and open opportunities. Latin America needs transparency at all levels to allow personal initiative be the motor for prosperous democracy. Leaving all initiatives to the state will just discourage investment badly needed.

How relevant is the Commonwealth of Nations

The Commonwealth should be seen as a grouping of state which had a common past as they were all
ruled by the British crown. Most of the countries broke from the direct rule of Britain to become independent in the hope for a better day. But some got independent only to break in part like India which split into three states, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Others fall into internal conflicts paving the way for military dictatorship as it was the case in Nigeria. Many failed to become prosperous. The Commonwealth groups countries of more than 2 billion people,
making only second to the UN in terms of size. Very few still have close ties with UK. Only Australia, Canada and New Zealand are still the major countries still a part of the British monarchy, in addition to other territories, like the Falkland and Gibraltar, which seem to have no option but to remain British dominions as independence will make them vulnerable in a world where alliances are of paramount importance.

Maybe the Commonwealth has significance only for leaders as it gives them the opportunity to meet annually and to share views. But many are looking elsewhere. US superpower has drawn some to it like Pakistan, which has become one of the biggest allies of the US in Asia. Others have pull out like Zimbabwe. As economic ties between them aren’t as strong as they should be, although UK remain a big trading partner for some of them, there must be the sport events which have more popular appeal as they draw sportsmen from all the 53 countries, creating a period of excitement.

Perhaps the success story of the Commonwealth is that it includes many democratic countries like India the biggest democracy in the world and Nigeria the biggest democracy in Africa. It also stood up to countries like Zimbabwe which showed disregard to democratic rules as it suspended Pakistan membership for five years because of the military coup in 2002.

As it seems the economic divide is still apparent among these countries. Some are indulging in affluence while others are still considered among the poorest, especially those in Africa. The question that remains to ask is how to keep the Commonwealth relevant for countries who share the same colonial past under UK, but they are currently looking for ties outside its sphere. What economic and cultural ties should be effective to make them a motor for development for its poorest member countries to concretize the real meaning of Commonwealth?

Listen to the answer of Don McKinnon, the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Nations to my question on BBC WHYS show:
What can the Commonwealth of Nations do to diffuse tension in troubled countries like Sri Lanka?

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