Billions in Aid, But No Closer to the End

The largest amount of money raised in the shortest time ever for one of the worlds greatest humanitarian crisis.

World leaders pledged more than $10 billion to help Syrians affected by the conflict which has engulfed the nation for 5 years.

This was announced by David Cameron at a Syrian donors’ conference hosted in London, he said that the money will provide Syrians with, “Life saving food, medical care and shelter.”

The gathering of 70 nations was described as a great success by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and said, “Never has the international community raised so much money on a single day for a single crisis”. Among the Countries and organisations to commit to the fund included, UK, Germany, France, USA, Australia, Belgium, Italy, Poland, Japan, the UAE, Austria, Switzerland, Estonia, Denmark and Finland, along with the World Bank and the European Investment Bank.

Loans to neighbouring countries Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan would also be given in order to support the governments and also to allow the refugees jobs and access to education in those nations.

However, despite the success of the conference, it is still an incredibly dangerous and implicated problem being faced by a country ripped apart by conflict.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said: “After five years of fighting, it’s pretty incredible that as we come here in London, the situation on the ground is actually worse, not better…If people are reduced to eating grass and leaves and killing stray animals in order to survive, that’s something that should tear at the conscience of all civilised people and we all have a responsibility to respond to it.”

The war is no closer to coming to an end and it is only likely to get worse before it gets any better.

The regime of President Bashar al Assad has used the last 10 days of London talks and diplomacy aimed at ending the conflict, to intensify air strikes by its Russian ally against rebel-held areas.

The effects on the rebels have been catastrophic. Their main supply route from Aleppo to Turkey has now been cut.

Blame for this turn of events has been laid towards the Kremlin.
David Cameron said: “We must urgently redouble our efforts to prevent the intolerable levels of violence against civilians, ensuring all parties in the conflict bring an immediate end to the ongoing violations of international humanitarian law… And we look to Russia to use its influence with the regime to end indiscriminate attacks, especially barrel bombing…Russia should support steps towards a ceasefire as envisaged by the Vienna process and mandated by the UN Security Council”

But this is only part of the bloody tapestry of Syria’s complex conflict.

Russia would be critical in bringing the Assad regime to peace talks and to getting a ceasefire ahead of effective diplomacy.

But Turkey has been blocking Kurd participation in the political process.

The Kurds are one of the most reliable partners for the American-led coalition fighting  Islamic State, and yet they are being bombed by Turkey – which is pledged to fight IS, too.

Gulf nations have given substantial humanitarian donations – yet they continue to sponsor extremist militia like the al Qaeda-affiliated al Nusra Front which is both fighting Mr Assad and seen as a terrorist group in the West.

 

The complexity and confusion regarding the war and conflict with so many different angles and perspectives is why there are no signs for an end to the conflict. Despite the generosity in funds and donations, if there can’t be a diplomatic solution then Syrians and the following refugees will continue to suffer.

ISIS are Planning more Mass Strikes in Europe

The terrorist group ISIS are planning more mass strikes in Europe and according to Europol, the law enforcement agency for the EU, Isis has set up secret training camps across Europe to prepare fighters to carry out “special forces style” attacks in the UK or other EU countries.

The international police agency said that the barbaric organisation had “smaller scale training camps in the EU and Balkan countries”. They would include survival training and sports activities to help jihadists prepare for “combat and interrogation resistance”.

And ISIS could be looking to recruit refugees who have fled to Europe to launch terror attacks in the countries that have given them shelter, the agency said.

It emerged last year that remote villages in Bosnia were being turned in to terror training camps by ISIS.

Furthermore, the threat assessment also warned that ISIS has developed a new specialist style”external actions command” to plot and carry out attacks in the West and around the world. The ‘special forces’ style means attacks in the future could be more like the kind that took place in Mumbai in 2008 and also similar to the attacks seen in Paris last year.

The terror group released a new video on Sunday which indicated the UK would be the next target because of its decision to join air strikes in Syria.

The Europol assessment said: “In selecting what to attack, where, when and how, IS shows its capacity to strike at will, at any time and at almost any chosen target.

It also suggested that, after the Paris attacks- where 130 people were killed, there is “every reason to expect that Isis will undertake a terrorist attack somewhere in Europe again… intended to cause mass casualties amongst the civilian population”.

President Putin “probably” approved murder of ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko

Alexander Litvinenko was a former officer of the Russian Federal secret service, who specialised in tackling organised crime. In November 1998, Litvinenko publicly accused his superiors of ordering the assassination of the Russian tycoon and oligarch Boris Berezovsky. Litvinenko was arrested the following March but was later was acquitted and then re-arrested before the charges were again dismissed in 2000. He fled to London and was granted asylum in the United Kingdom, where he worked as a consultant for the British intelligence services.

He wrote two books in which he accused the Russian secret services of staging the Russian apartment bombings and other terrorism acts in an effort to bring Vladimir Putin to power. He also accused Putin of ordering the murder in October 2006 of the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

At a central London hotel on 1 November 2006, he took tea with Mr Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, who was also a former Russian agent. Mr Litvinenko fell ill soon afterwards and spent the night vomiting. It was established as a case of poisoning by radioactive polonium-210 which resulted in his death on 23 November. It is alleged that prior to his death Litvenko was investigating Spanish links to the Russian mafia and had planned to fly to Spain with former agent Andrei Lugovoi – the main suspect over his murder.

The UK demanded for an investigation, which the Russians denied- resulting in a thawing of tensions between the two countries.

A British public inquiry into the death of Aleksandr Litvinenko, was realeased in which it has accused senior Russian officials of “probably” having motives to approve the murder

The chairman of the inquiry, Sir Robert Owen said, “Taking full account of all the evidence and analysis available to me, I find that the FSB operation to kill Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev and also by President Putin.” Sir Robert also added that Litvinenko’s cooperation with the British intelligence services may have been a factor

The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the report, blaming London for politicizing the “purely criminal” case of Litvinenko’s death.

According to a foreign ministry spokesperson, the inquiry was “neither transparent nor public” and resembles a “shadow play” because it was “conducted mostly behind doors, with classified documents and unnamed witnesses contributing to the result.”

The public inquiry into the case was launched in January 2015. The case cannot face a formal trial in Britain as the main suspects are not in the UK.

Russian officials, as well as the two men suspected in Britain of killing Litvinenko – Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun – have always denied the accusations.

Commenting on the publication of the report, Lugovoy reiterated his innocence and said, “It happened as we expected it, no sensation here. The result of the inquiry voiced today just confirms the anti-Russian stance of London, the bias and lack of determination to establish the true cause of Litvinenko’s death.”

The enquiry has once again bought to light potential conspiracy theories and accusations surrounding the death of Litvinenko and the involvement of the Russian government. The diplomatic fall-out from the enquiry could derail international co-operation as well as relations between the UK and Russia.

 

How the UK is Helping Saudi Commit War Crimes in Yemen

In just three months last year the UK sold more than £1 bn worth of bombs, missiles and rockets to Saudi Arabia. In comparison, during the previous three months only £9 mn worth of sales were made, which shows more than a hundred fold increase in the amount sold- according to an official record of arms export licences quietly released by the Government this week.

This was despite that there are clear indications that the weapons and arms would have been used by Saudi forces in their battle in Yemen. The Saudi Arabian led coalition, aims to push back Houthi rebels and reinstall the exiled government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi in Yemen. The campaign has been condemned by the United nations who said the region is facing a  ‘humanitarian catastrophe’.

The campaign in Yemen has raised concerned that war crimes are being committed and that it violate human rights. Reports also suggest that civilian targets and aid hospitals, including those ran by Medicins Sans Frontieres, have been targeted.

The UN says more than 7,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s war, including nearly 3,000 civilians. The international body has reported that more than 80 percent of the country’s 24 million people require some form of humanitarian assistance.

However, disregarding the evidence, David Cameron has defended the arms sales to Saudi Arabia, describing the kingdom as a key ally in the fight against terrorism.

“Our relationship with Saudi Arabia is important for our own security,” he told BBC Radio 4 . “We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure that the work done by Saudi Arabia is properly targeted and it’s right that we should do that. We’re working with them and others on behalf of the legitimate government of Yemen.”

Human rights groups have condemned the UK’s role in the Yemen war, and in December, it was found that Britain’s exports to Saudi Arabia was breaking national, EU, and international law and policy. Supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia, who are using them in military intervention and in a bombing campaign is violation of the laws. The UK government, however, insists it is not taking part in the campaign.

Amnesty Internationals head of policy and government affairs Allan Hogarth said., “These figures are deeply worrying, showing that the UK continued to dispatch huge amounts of weaponry to Saudi Arabia despite overwhelming evidence that the Saudi war machine was laying waste to Yemeni homes, schools and hospitals… As officials were signing off these sales, hundreds – possibly thousands – of Yemeni civilians were dying in a terrifying barrage of indiscriminate Saudi air strikes in the country.”

In total British weapons companies have sold more than £5.6 bn worth of arms, fighter jets and other military equipment to Riyadh- according to the Campaign against Arms trade.

For the full analysis by Amnesty International describing the laws being broken by the UK click here.

 

Iran is back in Business

The International Atomic Energy Agency has declared that Iran has met its side of the nuclear deal, which will see huge economic sanctions lifted from the Islamic Republic.

The head of the United Nations’ nuclear agency confirmed that Iran has curbed its ability to make nuclear bombs, and as agreed with world powers in July last year, in return would mean that the nation would be able to gain hugely from the sanctions being lifted.

The sanctions imposed by the European Union, United Nations and U.S.A included the freezing of billions of dollars of assets, disallowing Iranian oil to be sold internationally and trading on global financial markets. The sanctions have cost the country more than $160bn in oil revenue since 2012.

After a decade of unprecedented economic sanctions, which has crippled their economy, Iran, the holder of the world’s fourth-largest reserves of crude and largest of natural gas, is about to be back in business.

The announcement will trigger a financial windfall for Iran, as it stands to gain access to more than $100bn in assets frozen overseas, and will be able to resume selling oil on international markets and using the global financial system for trade

The director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiyo Ama said that “Relations between Iran and the IAEA now enter a new phase. It is an important day for the international community. I congratulate all those who helped make it a reality.”

 

 

 

A new beginning for American and Iranian Relations?

10 American Sailors had been detained on the Iranian Farsi Island by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard after what they initially accused them of spying. However, after spending a night there being interrogated the 9 men and 1 woman have been released back into international territory.

The sailors had accidentally strayed into Iranian waters, after their boats has suffered a mechanical problem. This was confirmed by General Ali Fadavi, Navy chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, who confirmed a “broken” navigation system caused the boats to stray into Iranian waters. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, also credited newly developed ties with Iran in helping secure the quick and safe release.

After successfully avoiding an almost identical situation in 2007, where UK sailors and marines were captured for similar reasons by Iran- but for almost two weeks, is this a new beginning for American and Iranian ties?

This was a hugely important test to pass, just days ahead of the implementation of the Nuclear Deal which will see international sanctions being lifted from Iran. It’s a landmark deal which will allow Iran to access international oil markets and operate on the global financial system for trade. But, it is equally important for Barack Obama and his administration that tensions do not escalate, as it could become a stumbling block for the nuclear deal and future relations.

The relations between the two countries are softening, and it is deeply important for both nations that they continue to do so.

John Kerry also said that this was a “testament to the critical role that diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe”.

£100k Missiles?

Brimstone missiles, the jewel of the RAF.

Cost: £100,000.

Times Used in Syria: 4

The targets: Cranes and a truck…

The Brimstone missile is ‘the most accurate, precision strike product on the market’, it is one of the RAFs most prized assets, with only Saudi Arabia being the other country to have them in their arsenal.

Having a greater degree of accuracy, especially when aimed at moving targets, as well as having a low risk of collateral damage, these missiles were one of the key arguments as to why the UK should be involved with other countries in air strikes on Syria.

However, so far in the air strikes in Syria they have only been used against a few cranes and trucks, and this to me is not enough justification of dropping £100,000 each time.

I am 100% for using these in the battle to fight ISIS and extremism, however I feel the use of Brimstone Missiles should be reserved for more high profile and ‘rewarding’ targets…

 

Hebdo, A year on.

JE SUIS CHARLIE…

This phrase was one of the most symbolic and unforgettable of verses that was repeated in an act of solidarity in the aftermath of the attacks on the satirical magazines headquarters.

Today, marks the anniversary of those horrific events, where 11 employees of the company were killed, plus a policeman, and then 5 more over the next two days.

The deadliest attack on French soil for 50 years, at the time, marked the start of a kind of ‘new era’. A time where hatred began to stir and fear was beginning to creep in. And perhaps for the first time, the values of the west were being undermined by Islamist extremists.

However, there was something different about this attack. And something particularly different in comparison to the Paris attacks in November. Usually, it seems when a terrorist attack is carried out, the victims are not specific and the violence is indiscriminate. Yet, there was a specific purpose to this act, to seek out and kill those who publicly defame the image of Islam and the Prophet, in this case in the form of satire. The attackers, in their eyes, were protecting their faith.

Since then it has been ISIS who have sprung into their step and now dominate international affairs, a year on from those attacks, and it seems to me that it is this new age of extremists who have emerged stronger and more defiant, and not the rest of the international community and the West.

 

 

IS Has Bombs, NK Has Bigger Bombs

Yesterday, ‘Footage Exclusively obtained by Sky News’ depict the potential and capabilities that IS has in terms of armed weaponry and extremist attacks. With a so-called ‘Jihadi University’ training jihadists on how to carry out ‘professional’ and ‘sophisticated’ attacks on the west. And scientists and experts who have the ability to develop and create weapons and missiles, like no other terrorist group before them has been able to.

And today, it has been claimed by North Korea that they have managed to successfully trial a Hydrogen bomb, a bomb with a potential strength 5000 times greater than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. If these claims are true then this could be one of the most defining, and significant moments in the nuclear development programme of the state, and perhaps across the world. It would put North Korea amongst the most advanced nuclear states. It must, however, be noted that these are claims from a state known for its empty rhetoric.

These two news stories which have surfaced over the last two days pose a potentially significant threat to populations across the world. These are two very different, yet very real developments in international affairs.