Sunday, 23 October 2016
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After the Saudi-led airstrikes on Sanaa, Yemen's capital, on October 8, pressure on Western nations selling weapons to Saudi Arabia will be mounting. Recently, the United States Congress passed into law the Justice Against State Sponsors of Terrorism (JASTA) bill, aimed at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). These are two of the latest signs that the KSA is becoming a little more isolated and losing some crucial allies, writes Olivier Guitta on the next page.

On the next page we mark the passing of those who have served this country. Contributions from colleagues and families welcome.

"Where do we stand? We are not members of the European Defence Community, nor do we intend to be merged in a federal European system. We feel we have a special relationship to both...we are with them, but not of them".

Prime Minister Winston Churchill, 11 May 1953.

The defence implications of Brexit are enormous. It is now three months since the Brexit referendum which saw the British people vote 52% to 48% to quit the EU. Since then, and in the absence of firm leadership in London, a phoney war is being 'fought' into which all sorts of nonsense is being injected. However, the defence aspect of Brexit has been by and large AWOL, both in Britain and elsewhere in Europe. Speaking in Riga, Latvia last week the need for Europe's strongest military democracy to remain fully committed to the defence of Europe is as clear to me as ever. That commitment is in danger and here is why, explains Dr Julian Lindley-French.

The post-Cold War consensus appears to be breaking down. Trust in multi-lateral bodies to mediate international disputes is being replaced by assertive regional powers. Developments in Asia, the Middle East and Europe demonstrate the return of 'strong man' politics. The 'Brexit' vote and the possibility of a Trump presidency in the US are seen as evidence of 'nativism'. Internationalism seems to be in retreat. Such is the view of the London based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) at the launch of their annual Strategic Survey for 2016, which Nick Watts attended for Defence Viewpoints.

Across the world, international relations seem to be increasingly influenced by assertiveness; either from regional actors jostling for influence, or Russia seeking a renewal of 'respect'. International organisations such as ASEAN in Asia, the EU and NATO in Europe are all frustrated by an inability of powers to co-operate. The same appears to be the case with the US and its attempts to impose its will in foreign policy.

Churchill said that the truth needed a ‘bodyguard’ of lies. The propaganda campaign which was part of the effort by both sides during World War 2 has been resurrected for the modern era. During the Cold War Soviet propaganda was often clumsy, but a lot of it was very subtle. All that was required was to change the minds of the audience you are addressing. There were many in the West who felt that the Soviet regime was more sinned against than sinning.

The digital era of social media has added a whole new dimension to the meaning of ‘mass communications’. During World War 2 Goebbels understood the power of having a radio in every household; both to control the domestic audience, as well as influencing the minds of the enemy. Autocracies rely on uniformity of thought to sustain their legitimacy. In democracies, so the theory goes, pluralistic media outlets mean that Government cannot control what people think. The rise of social media, bloggers and smart phones has seen a decline in readership of mainstream ‘newspapers’; add to this a plethora of cable and satellite news channels and we are faced with a babel of choices.

A recent gathering of military and media figures took place at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London' including our correspondent Nick Watts, to consider the twin issues of War in the Information age and the role of Strategic Communications (StratCom). Politicians and commanders need to be aware of the changed media landscape when they are considering military operations. Communications has been seen as an add-on to campaign planning. The days when journalists could be corralled into briefings with a junior staff officer are long past. Apart from freelance journalists, photographers and bloggers in war zones, there is the chorus of social media. The advent of the mobile phone means that everybody is now a cameraman. The smart phone made the Arab spring possible, but it has also enabled Da’esh to promulgate its propaganda.

The Afghan elites in 2016 are characterised by magical thinking, of a kind all too drearily familiar to anyone who has travelled in the more hapless parts of the developing world, writes Anatol Lieven. For by far the greater part of them, nothing that has happened to Afghanistan is the fault of Afghans. The Taliban are entirely created and supported by Pakistan, the USA, or some bewildering combination of the two, and have no support among Afghans. The last elections were manipulated by the USA, and the near-paralysis of the resulting "national unity government" is due to a malign American plot to ruin Afghan democracy. Western complaints about corruption, misgovernment and drug dealing in the Afghan state are because since British colonial times, "the West has hated Afghanistan".

By the same token, the solution to Afghanistan's problems is also not the responsibility of the Afghans themselves. Read more below

Marking the passing of those who have served this country in its times of need. Contributions from colleagues and families welcome.

This summer the Wall Street Journal broke news of a secret transfer of $400 million in foreign currency via an unmarked cargo plane to Iran back in January. Subsequently the White House had been forced to repeatedly deny having paid what was a ransom to Iran for the release of American hostages.

Iran has aired a documentary containing footage of pallets of millions in foreign currency that the video claims was part of the "expensive price" the Obama administration paid to free four U.S. hostages in January.

Obama has broken all the rules to appease the Ayatollahs. His administration has misled the public to spin the apparent $1.7 billion ransom payment to Iran.

Republicans believe that President Obama's disastrous nuclear deal with Iran was sweetened with an illicit ransom payment and billions of dollars for the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism,". So, why Iran is still unhappy with Obama?

Professor Malise Ruthven reviews Islamic Exceptionalism by SHADI HAMID. St. Martin's Press, 2016, 320 pp. and Islamism: What It Means for the Middle East and the World by TAREK OSMAN. Yale University Press, 2016, 328 pp.

In January 2015, after jihadists attacked the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo,killing 12 people, European leaders linked arms to lead a procession of millions through the French capital, chanting "Je suis Charlie" (I am Charlie) in an expression of solidarity with the victims and contempt for their killers. Muslims all over the world also condemned the attacks, as did a number of Islamist organizations, including perhaps the most influential one—the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, which posted a statement on its English-language website denouncing the "criminal attack" and stating that "true Islam does not encourage violence."

Not all of the group's adherents approved of that message, however.

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