A Simple Graphic

This ‘simple’ graphic created by Charles Lister highlights how complex and mind boggling the conflict in Syria has become:8773-1y8pyeb.jpg

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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.

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.

 

ISIS Fighters get a Pay Cut

It seems the coalitions’ air strikes and fighting being carried out by ground forces are starting to take a toll on ISIS. At least, on their source of income.

A document produced by the vicious terrorist organisations financial arm, says that it has been forced to cut the salaries of its murderous fighters by 50%. With indications that the group is struggling to make ends meet after losing territory and oil revenue.

It is reported that Islamic State generates around $80 million dollars a month through tax, oil sales and trading illegal drugs.

The US-led coalition has been mainly focused on targeting the Islamic State’s oil income – which makes up about 43 per cent of overall revenue, alongside this RAF air strikes have significantly degraded the group’s refining capacity, and ability to transport oil via tanker convoys. These tactics are now beginning to show signs of fruition.

A “cash distribution centre” reportedly used to pay fighters was recently bombed by the international coalition in Mosul, destroying millions of dollars stored there.

According to the document released by the Treasury Ministry of ISIS, fighters will now get just £100 a month because of these “exceptional circumstances”.

 

The news that ISIS is beginning to show struggle over it’s finances is a small, but important step to suggest that the attacks on the death cult are working.

Cuts to fighters’ salaries, price hikes on electricity and other basic services, and the introduction of new agricultural taxes will surely start to harm the groups influence and popularity as it attempts to establish itself over it’s claimed territories.

 

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”.