Tuesday, October 18, 2016


"A 72-hour ceasefire in Yemen will go into effect starting Thursday, the United Nations announced on Monday. A cessation of hostilities that first went into effect in April "will re-enter into force at 23:59 Yemen time on 19 October 2016, for an initial period of 72 hours, subject to renewal," the UN's special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, said in a statement. The ceasefire opens the door for negotiations to find a political solution to the conflict. April's truce was followed by repeated rounds of talks in Kuwait between the warring sides, which did not come to fruition. Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi had agreed to the truce earlier in the day. Foreign Minister Abdulmalek al-Mekhlafi wrote on Twitter that Hadi agreed to the halt in fighting if Houthi rebels adhere to it, activate a UN-backed committee to watch the truce, and lift the siege on the encircled city of Taiz. Cheikh Ahmed said he had been in contact with the Houthis’ lead negotiator and with Hadi's government. The announcement comes after the United States, Britain and Cheikh Ahmed urged the warring parties on Sunday to declare a ceasefire, which they said could start within days. US Secretary of State John Kerry said if Yemen's opposing sides accepted the ceasefire, the UN envoy would work through the details and announce when and how it would take effect. "This is the time to implement a ceasefire unconditionally and then move to the negotiating table," Kerry said. The conflict in Yemen has killed almost 6,900 people, wounded more than 35,000 and displaced at least three million since March last year, according to the United Nations".
Middle East Eye, "UN announces 72-hour ceasefire in Yemen starting Thursday". The Middle East Eye. 17 October 2016, in www.middleeasteye.net
"The White House said it had begun an “immediate review” into its role in assisting the coalition in the wake of the attack, one of the bloodiest since March 2015, when Saudi Arabia led a coalition of neighbouring Sunni states into an air and ground campaign seeking to restore the ousted government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Yemeni officials blamed Saudi Arabia for launching about three air strikes targeting a gathering after the funeral of the father of Yemen’s interior minister, Jalal al-Rowaishan, a close ally of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been fighting alongside the Houthi rebel movement.... The US has backed Riyadh’s campaign to restore Mr Hadi’s government by providing rearmament and targeting assistance, but has become increasingly concerned about the loss of civilian lives in the 20-month campaign that has killed more than 10,000 people.... The coalition described the bombing as “regrettable and painful”, saying it would investigate the incident. In a statement, it said its pilots have “clear instructions not to target populated areas and to avoid civilians”. Coalition military officials had earlier briefed media that their jets had not struck the funeral hall.... Riyadh and its allies have been struggling to make headway against the Houthi movement, after earlier dislodging the Iran-backed militia and army units allied to Mr Saleh from the southern port city of Aden".
Simeon Kerr, "US reviews support for Saudi-led coalition in Yemen after 140 killed". The Financial Times. 9 October 2016, in www.ft.com
"It is somewhat self-evident that per se, a mere air campaign will not fundamentally change the dynamics on the ground in Yemen. That the recently ousted President, Mr. Abd-Rabbu Hadi, does not himself possess the wherewithal militarily speaking to defeat the Houthi rebels 1. Accordingly, there is much talk of a coalition of ground forces between the Saudis and the Egyptians which will invade Yemen and defeat the Houthis. Which is of course by far the best case scenario. The only issue is that neither Saudi Arabia, its Gulf allies or even the Egyptians have shown themselves in recent years able to perform anything akin to the scenario just outlined above".
Diplomat of the Future. "The Saudi military intervention in Yemen: A comment". 2 April 2015, in www.diplomatofthefuture.blogspot.com.
There is nothing in the situation in Yemen from when I first wrote about it back more than eighteen months ago, which the errata-filled Saudi-lead military intervention has not proven to be true. The military intervention other than preventing the Houthi rebels from completing ousting the government of President Abd-Rabbu Hadi, has not achieved any of its original goals. It has not defeated the Houthi, nor has it restored peace and security to this wretched country and its poor people. Instead the Saudi campaign, especially its military campaign has shown itself both ruthless and incompetent. The image that one is left with is that of Air Chief Marshal 'Bomber' Harris of World War II fame being impersonated by P. G. Woodhouse's 'Bertie Wooster'. Added to which is the sordid fact that the Saudi military intervention has perhaps inevitably resulted in a greater role for Persia in the country, as it has gradually increased its support for the Houthi. In short the Saudis have more than lived up to their previous military reputation as incompetent brutes and blunderers. At this point in time, there is little left to do but to call a complete halt to Riyadh's military campaign in Yemen and hope that the current cease-fire will last long enough to prevent this unfortunate place from becoming another failed state `a la Libya, Syria and Iraq.

Thursday, October 06, 2016


"Shimon Peres the Israeli leader and Nobel Prize-winning peacemaker who coined the phrase “the new Middle East”, has died at the age of 93 with the region still sadly reminiscent of the old one. One of Israel’s longest-serving public officials, Peres was prime minister, foreign minister and president at different times and played a role in the country’s history from before its founding. He will be best remembered as a father of the Oslo accords, the blueprint that was meant to create a Palestinian state. Peres’s vision of a brighter future for the region was shattered during his later years, when the Israeli-Palestinian peace process floundered amid the violence of the second Palestinian intifada; hopes for a two-state solution all but vanished. He grew increasingly disillusioned that the prospects for peace had slipped away under successive hardline governments led by Benjamin Netanyahu, the rightwing prime minister who defeated him and his Labour party at the polls in 1996 and went on to serve four terms in office. While remaining a voice for peace as Israel’s ninth president in 2007-14, his interventions on matters of war and peace in that ceremonial role were largely symbolic. As an elder of Israel’s postwar Ashkenazi liberal elite, he often seemed out of step with a demographically changing Israel as it came to display a right-leaning political plurality a citizenry sceptical about ever reaching a negotiated peace deal with the Palestinians".
John Reed and Avi Machlis, "Shimon Peres, Israeli leader, 1923-2016". The Financial Times. 28 September 2016. In www.ft.com.
"Defence Minister Shimon Peres's rivalry with Rabin was to haunt the lives of both men for the nest two decades. Peres had been the architect of the 'French Connection,' which had generated the weapons that won the Six Day War in 1967. He was instrumental in the acquisition of development of many of the weapons on which his country still depends. He was also perhaps the most erudite of that generation of Israel's leaders. Yet preeminence always just eluded him. Peres's combination of driven ambition and abstract intellectualism was not in keeping with the style of the Israeli public and contributed to his defeat in no fewer than five elections, including contests for Prime Minister. Over the decades of their rivalry, Peres thinking on relations with Israel's neighbours followed the same trajectory as Rabin's from 'hawk' to at least 'almost dove'--with Peres leaning somewhat more to extremes. He had been more of a hawk than Rabin, and he was to wind up as more of a dove. The difference was that Peres was intuitive where Rabin was analytical, intellectual where Rabin was practical. Peres's training had been in France, and he shared the trait of French academics, who tend to believe that the formulation of an idea is equivalent to its realisation. In the end, this idealism provided the impetus for the Oslo accords with the PLO in 1993."
Henry A. Kissinger. Years of Renewal. (New York, 1999), pp. 376.
There is not much more to add to former American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's remarks about the late Shimon Peres. Peres is in certain respects one of the last of the Mohicans, in terms of being one of the few remaining voices of Israel's second generation of leaders. A generation which included of course Rabin. The generation which in effect won the Six-Day War and as it were subsequently 'lost' the peace which should have followed. Like Rabin, Peres fruitlessly toyed with various options in order to not deal with the Palestinians: the Jordanian option, the Egyptian option, the home-grown 'village league', West Bank, non-PLO option. All of course fruitless and all leading to a diplomatic cul de sac in the end. Finally, as the ultimate faute de mieux, first Peres then Rabin, via the Oslo route, negotiated with the PLO and for almost six-years it appeared that peace was truly at hand. For many different reasons, involving both the PLO and the then Israeli leadership the Oslo route ultimately failed. With Benjamin Netanyahu's electoral dominance since the January 2009 elections, in essence putting the entire peace process in a very cold hibernation. And in fact given the turmoil in the Near and Middle East since 2011, there has been no real pressure or for that matter reason for Netanyahu, et. al., to take the peace route. Unlike the generation of Rabin and Peres who were actively entertained by the idea of Israel 'joining' the Near and Middle East, the current Israeli leadership has no wish to join the area. Israel being almost completely removed from its surrounds economically speaking. Especially with the discovery of huge gas supplies off Israel's coastline. Of course this point of view might very well change. But, in the absence of the region recovering its equilibrium, there does not appear any particular reason why it should. Which from a historical perspective means that Peres quest for peace, and the form that this quest took can be said to have 'failed' historically speaking. Which from a Christian perspective, does not make any less impressive, Peres shift from a warmonger to a putative peacemaker. Or as our Lord said in the Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God".

Friday, September 30, 2016


"In driving the terms of the bargain, Moscow has reasserted its status as a power to be reckoned with in the Middle East. It can for now preserve President Assad’s regime as the strongest force in the country, the reason for its intervention in the first place. Washington meanwhile gets everyone to join forces in the fight against Isis. In themselves, these are not ingredients that will end the war. Any sustainable solution to the crisis must involve an end to President Assad’s rule and the creation of a transitional authority that includes representatives of the Sunni majority. That remains a very distant prospect. For the past year, Moscow has shaped the evolution of the war by rescuing a murderous regime and reversing the military momentum in its favour. The onus is now on Russia to show that it can also exercise its influence to shape the peace".
Leader, "The US and Russia find common ground in Syria". The Financial Times. 14 September 2016, in www.ft.com.
Whatever the qualities of the Soviet leadership, its training is eminently political and conceptual. Reading Lenin or Mao or Stalin, one is struck by the emphasis on the relationship between political, military, psychological and economic factors, the insistence on finding a conceptual basis for political action and on the need for dominating a situation by flexible tactics and inflexible purpose. And the internal struggles in the Kremlin ensure that only the most iron-nerved reach the top. Against the politburo, trained to think in general terms and freed of problems of day-to-day administration, we have pitted leaders overwhelmed with departmental duties and trained to think that the cardinal sin is to transgress on another's field of specialization....As a result the contest between us and the Soviet system has had many of the attributes of any contest between a professional and an amateur. Even a mediocre professional will usually defeat an excellent amateur, not because the amateur does not know what to do, but because he cannot react with sufficient speed and consistency.”
Henry Alfred Kissinger. Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy. (1957). pp. 434-435.
Regardless of anything else, I do not like. much less admire either as a historical individual or as a 'person', qua person, Vladimir Putin. He is a corrupt, narrow-minded, abusive, vulgar man, whose idée fixe is the resurrection of Sovietskaya Vlast (God help us). Whatever positive role he had in Russian history was played out by 2006 if not earlier. For the past ten years he has been progressively driving Russia and its poor peoples into the ground. Economically, politically and morally. The day that the regime will collapse, cannot be currently predicted but the fact that the regime will collapse sooner or later is something that no one can gainsay. With however all that being said, the unfortunate fact of the matter is, in the case of Russian intervention in Syria, that Grazhdanin Putin, has proven himself to be a past master in his employment of tactics. At almost every juncture during Russia's military involvement in Syria, Moskva has shown itself to far superior to its American counter-parts. Comparing Putin with either the American President or Secretary Kerry leaves one shaking ones head at how sadly outplayed the former are by the latter. Au fond, perhaps this is not too surprising, as Putin, et. al., very much knows what they want and have a good idea as to how to go about it. Whereas the Americans (we will not even mention the Europeans...), basically do not know what they want. Do they want to overthrow the Assad regime? Do they not want to overthrow the Assad regime and merely destroy the proto-statelet of ISIS? Are they willing to countenance a Kurdish statelet in Northern Syria despite Turkey's opposition or not? Clear answers to all these questions and many other both in the past five years and even now is difficult to hazard. And it is this indeterminacy of American / Western goals and policy which I believe counts as much for the triumph (for now) of Putinism in Syria, as the second-rate nature of American and Western policy-makers. Unfortunately, there is little reason to believe that this state of affairs will change anytime soon. Unfortunately, Henry Kissinger was and is correct in his statement that 'even a mediocre professional will usually defeat an excellent amateur'.

Friday, August 12, 2016


"The encirclement of Eastern Aleppo by the Syrian military and its allies is a major blow to the opposition. It reenforces regime aspirations that it can manage, if not entirely destroy the insurgency over the course of the next five years. It signifies four important developments that have been brewing for some time.... The reconquest of Aleppo fits into the larger regime strategy by consolidating its grip on what has been called “Useful Syria.” More than half of Syria’s population lives in its four great cities: Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo. The regime is intent on retaking these four cities for they are the heart of the nation, certainly the urban nation. It should be remembered that Syria is a country of deep divisions, not only between religious communities but also between the classes and between urban and rural society. The upper and middle classes live in the cities. By restricting the rebellion to the poorer countryside and tribal regions, Damascus will have scored a moral and strategic victory. It will be able to turn rich against poor and city against village. Syria’s rebels have grown progressively weaker over the last year. Russia’s entry into Syria was key to this shift. But other trends also contributed. Jihadist bombings in the West, Turkey and Saudi Arabia eroded support for arming rebels. The refugee problem in Europe, also undermined the desire to escalate in Syria. Iraq’s destruction of its Sunni rebellion weakened Syria’s rebels. The rise of ISIS and Nusra to paramountcy in Syria, undercut those arguing for arming rebels. For all of these reasons, the future looks dark for the rebel cause. Assad’s encirclement of Aleppo is an important chapter in Syria’s ongoing struggle."
Joshua Landis, "What the Rebel Loss of Aleppo will mean for Syria?" Syria Comment. 29 July 2016 in www.syriacomment.com.
"Syria’s opposition has hailed rebel advances in the strategic city of Aleppo as a stunning success for ragtag forces, while the international community looked on as 300,000 Syrians suffered a weeks-long siege. But the offensive against President Bashar al-Assad’s troops may have had more foreign help than it appears: activists and rebels say opposition forces were replenished with new weapons, cash and other supplies before and during the fighting. “At the border yesterday we counted tens of trucks bringing in weapons,” said one Syrian activist, who crosses between Syria and neighbouring Turkey. “It’s been happening daily, for weeks . . .  weapons, artillery — we’re not just talking about some bullets or guns.” Two other rebels, who, like all those interviewed, asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, described cash and supplies being ferried in for weeks. They and others believe the money and supplies came from regional backers, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and were sent in trucks across Turkey’s border with Syria. This was in spite of the fact that the rebel offensive — dubbed “the great Aleppo battle” — has been led and organised by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, a jihadi group formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra. Some rebels claim that US officials supporting moderate rebel forces intentionally turned a blind eye to Fatah al-Sham’s participation in the offensive to ensure the opposition maintains a foothold in Aleppo. “The Americans, of course, knew what was going on. They ignored it to put some pressure back on Russia and Iran,” said a western diplomat in contact with the opposition. Both Iran and Russia back the Assad regime, and Russian air power was critical to the government laying its weeks-long siege on rebel-held areas of Aleppo. Rebel fighters claim they broke the siege on their territory when they advanced into regime-held districts over the weekend and have vowed to retake the whole of Aleppo".
Erika Solomon, "Outside help behind rebel advances in Aleppo". The Financial Times. 8 August 2016 in www.ft.com.
The battle for Aleppo in some telling has all of the hallmarks of either the Stalingrad or Brunete of the Syrian Civil War. As Joshua Landis correctly points out, the fall of Aleppo will be a devastating set-back for the rebels, both of the so-called 'moderate' as well as the Muslim extremist variety. However, since Landis wrote his posting, the rebels have staged a comeback and have ousted the regime's forces from a portion of the city, and provided a land-bridge to the rebels outside of the city. Thus in essence breaking the regime's siege at least temporarily. The rebels success has lead to claims that Assad's opponents will be able to soon conquer the regime's held portions of Aleppo. I for one depreciate this given the fact that as the French analyst, Fabrice Balanche has cogently argued recently, the rebels successes should not be overstated due to the fact that:
"Since July 2012, all rebel attempts to hold the western part of the city, where the population does not favor them, have failed. However, in 2012-2013, the rebels were mostly nonradical Islamists, which today is not the case. Jaish al-Fatah is headed by a former Jabhat al-Nusra faction -- known before the offensive as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham -- and includes several jihadist groups, such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and Jund al-Aqsa, known for their great brutality. The recent radicalization of "moderate" groups like Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zinki does not reassure western Aleppo's urban middle classes. In Aleppo, the major divide between rebels and pro-government factions is not based on sectarian opposition -- except for the pro-government Christian minority -- but mainly on social class divisions and the historic urban-rural cleavage. Therefore, the chances for an anti-Assad uprising in western Aleppo are nonexistent. If the rebels want to conquer the government-held portion of Aleppo, it will be with a hard fight. Moreover, the Ramouseh victory took a great toll on the rebel ranks: five hundred killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights 1."
In short, do not be lead by the rebels temporary success in breaking the siege to believe that Assad's forces are on the brink of defeat in Aleppo. Given the very heavy Russian air support, as well as Hezbollah, Persian and Iraqi militia forces on the ground to stiffen Assad's army, it is difficult to believe that the rebels will be able to follow-up their success. Indeed, it could very well be the case that in order to improve Assad's bargaining power in any upcoming negotiations with the Americans in Geneva over Syria, that Russia and its local allies will pour in more men, air support and material in order to win the battle of Aleppo and thus drive the rebels from the last major population centre it has a hold on. A victory of this sort by Assad, could very well, `a la Joshua Landis, be a 'game-changer' in this long struggle. Time will of course tell.
1. Fabrice Balanche, "Aleppo: Is the Turnaround Sustainable for the Rebels?" The Washington Institute. 9 August 2016, in www.washingtoninstitute.org

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


"A UN tribunal has ruled unanimously in favour of the Philippines in its case against China’s extensive claims in the South China Sea. The Philippines first brought the case to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea at The Hague in 2013, raising 15 instances in which it held China’s claims and activity in the South China Sea had violated international law, writes Hudson Lockett. In 2015 the tribunal decided it had jurisdiction on seven of those, though it said it was still considering the other eight. The tribunal’s decision applies not to sovereignty claims, but the maritime rights attached to such claims. Among the issues raised by the Philippines was the validity of China’s “Nine-dash line” asserting sovereignty over as much as 90 per cent of the region’s waters".
The Financial Times. "World News: UN tribunal rules for Philippines in South China Sea dispute". 12 July 2016 in www.ft.com.
"China reiterated it would ignore an unfavourable court ruling on its maritime claims in the South China Sea, and warned its neighbours it would “take all necessary measures” to protect Chinese interests there. In a day of sabre-rattling and veiled threats, vice-foreign minister Liu Zhenmin on Wednesday said China had the right to create an air defence identification zone in the South China Sea, effectively claiming the airspace over the region. China’s claims to 85 per cent of the territory of the South China Sea were badly dented by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which on Tuesday ruled in favour of the Philippines in a case brought three years ago. The court said there was no legal basis for Beijing’s claims to almost the entire South China Sea. Beijing sees control of the South China Sea as a vital national interest, and has embarked on an ambitious policy of dredging islands from coral reefs and rocks in support of its claims."
Charles Clover & Wan Li, "Beijing warns neighbors after South China Sea ruling". The Financial Times. 13 July 2016 in www.ft.com.
The ruling against China by the United Nation's tribunal and Peking's automatic denunciation of said ruling with its declaration that it will refuse to abide by it are all of a piece. It shows clearly and without diplomatic niceties that the ruling clique in the Peoples Republic understand only the logic of force. Legal rulings unbacked by the employment of force or the threat of force are something that it deliberately chooses to ignore. It is this once again verified factum, which shows how important it is for the Americans, the West and its local allies (South Korea, the Philippines, and even Vietnam) to present a united, diplomatic front vis`-a-vis the Peoples Republic. It is only via a consist pursuit of a Kennanesque containment policy that those many elements in the Chinese leadership who believe that the 'correlation of forces' both now and in the future favors Peking will be forced to moderate its policies in its 'near-abroad'. As was recently and wisely noted in a piece in the current issue of the Royal Institute of International Relations, flagship periodical ('International Affairs'), only by incorporating the views of its neighbors, and ceasing to base its foreign policy on the logic of force can China and its role in International Affairs acquire some degree of legitimacy and acceptance from its neighbors:
"The World is not just of China's own making-neither is China's place in it. For Chinese-generated conceptions of world order and Great Power relations to translate into real power politics in the ways envisages by Chinese thinkers, others will have to be persuaded to accept and buy into them. This might prove to be a rather difficult task. The second is that it is important for these debates to remain connected to reality. By this we mean that what is said and argued within China about its nature as a Great Power will be viewed by others alongside the track record of how key Chinese actors utilize Chinese power in international politics. In particular, the way this power is articulated in the country's regional relations might make the already difficult task of persuading others to accept Chinese views of China as a Great Power even more problematic" 1.
1. Shaun Breslin & Jinghan Zeng, "A G2 with Chinese characteristics?" International Affairs. (July 2016), p. 794.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


"The first hours of Theresa May’s premiership confirm she will be a breath of fresh air in Westminster. Her debut speech in front of 10 Downing Street on Wednesday focused on One Nationism, a shift away from the David Cameron years that signalled a more interventionist, possibly softer form of Conservativism. In short, a less austere, more caring government. Appealing to those who feel “left behind”, the finger prints of Nick Timothy, her chief of staff, were all over the address. His piece for ConservativeHome on working class conservatism shows the direction he and the prime minister plan to take. She has wasted no time with the first six major appointments to the cabinet. There were two key themes in Mrs May’s thinking behind these roles (as well as the subsequent ones to be announced on Thursday): unity and Brexit".
Sebastian Payne, "Theresa May’s premiership is off to an inspired start". The Financial Times. 14 July 2016, in www.ft.com.
"As Tory MPs gathered at St Stephen’s entrance in Parliament to await their new leader on Monday afternoon, a choir in Westminster Hall began to sing. The hosannas spoke to the sense of relief among Tory MPs: they had been spared a long and divisive nine-week leadership contest. A period of political blood-letting brutal even by Tory standards was coming to an end. The United Kingdom would have a new Prime Minister. More than relief, there was hope for the bulk of MPs who had previously not been marked out for advancement. Theresa May’s accession shows that the narrow rules which were thought to govern modern British politics are not hard and fast. May is not one of the shiny people. She isn’t a member of a gilded political set. Her success is the triumph of hard grind, perseverance and determination. She kept her head when all about her were losing theirs".
James Forsyth, "Why Tories are so excited about Theresa May". The Spectator. 16 July 2016, in www.spectator.co.uk.
"There seems to be something almost inevitable about the political career of Sir Anthony Eden. With the one exception of his resignation from the Chamberlain Government in 1938 his life has been strangely sheltered. Early marked out as a man of promise, he has seldom run risks, but has proceeded up the rungs of the political ladder in a decorous fashion, proving himself serviceable, to his superiors and with some spectacular exceptions urbane and courteous to his contemporaries and juniors".
Randolph S. Churchill. The Rise and Fall of Sir Anthony Eden. (1959), p. 13.
There is something to the example (one is tempted to say 'fatal example') of Sir Anthony Eden and after him Gordon Brown and before Sir Anthony Eden, Neville Chamberlain and at the beginning of the twentieth century A. J. Balfour. What example is that? The 'curse' (for lack of a better mot) of too much experience. Or should I say: the wrong type of experience in order to succeed as a British Prime Minister. It is not that 'experience' per se is necessarily a bad thing. Both Lloyd George and Sir Winston Churchill had enormous amounts of experience prior to reaching Number 10 Downing Street. Merely that both had a wide range of experience. Neither man spent their pre-Prime Ministerial career in one senior post to the exclusion of almost everything else. That was the case with all of the other individuals mentioned. Indeed fatally so in the cases of Sir Anthony Eden and Gordon Brown. Both of whom spent ten-years, yes ten-years in one senior Cabinet post (in the case of Eden the Foreign Office, in the case of Brown the Exchequer). One cannot tell of course if Theresa May will fall afoul of this 'curse'. She does share with both Eden and Brown tendency to be both boring (at worse) or uninspiring (at best) speaker. All three were and are not 'clubbable' and glad-handing sort of politician (Neville Chamberlain & Balfour as well), being for the most part, private individuals with few friends outside of their immediate family. The fact that May succeeded in winning the race to Number Ten by in essence avoiding taking sides in the BREXIT debate also does not bode well for her going forward. Equally problematic is the fact that like both Eden and Brown, May has surrounded herself at Ten Downing Street the same coterie of youngish aides who were with her at her departmental office. Aides who are both violently loyal to their chief, but unpopular with the rest of Whitehall 1. This is of course all in the possible future and mere conjecture. And it could very well be that six plus years at the Home Office is not as dangerous to a future prime minister's political skills as say being either Chancellor or Foreign Secretary for ten plus years. To-day Prime Minister May is the toast of the town, at least Westminster. Hopefully this will continue to be so. The portents for those who known their Prime Ministerial history is unfortunately, not the very best. Or as the ancient historian Tacitus once put it about the Emperor Galba: "Omnium consensu capax imperii nisi imperasset".
1. James Forsyth, "She doesn't do likes: Theresa May won't be exciting but she may well be radical". The Spectator. 16 July 2016, p. 12; George Parker, Kate Allen and Oliver Ralph, "Nick Timothy: Theresa May’s political ‘brain’". The Financial Times. 15 July 2016, in www.ft.com. As per the remarks of the British political commentator Bruce Anderson: "Mrs May cannot do everything herself. She will have to learn to trust her ministers. Central strategic direction from No.10: essential. Attempts to micro-manage every aspect of policy: futile and fatal. Assuming that she does want efficiency, she has made life unnecessarily hard for herself by two important appointments: Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, her new chiefs of staff. Michael Fraser, who eventually became Lord Fraser of Kilmorack, ran the Tory Party’s operations for a generation. He had a famous dictum: the back-room boys should stay in the back room. That is not how Miss Hill and Mr Timothy work. They will see enemies everywhere. When they do not find them, they will create them". See: Bruce Anderson, "Theresa May’s team is not built to last". Reaction. 18 July 2016, in http://reaction.life/theresa-mays-team-not-built-last/

Friday, July 15, 2016


"Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on his supporters to take to the streets and airports to fight off an ongoing attempted coup that’s left Turks unsure of who was in charge of the country. President Erdogan, whose location was unclear, used a video livestream on a mobile phone to respond to the military group which had two hours earlier seized key points in the capital Ankara and the main city of Istanbul. His appearance added to the confusion, without information on his whereabouts, and the reverberating counterclaims from the unidentified military officials who appeared to have taken control of television and radio stations and sent fighter jets into the skies and rolled tanks into the streets of Ankara, the capital.... He added that the “chain of command has been violated. This is a step against the higher ranks, and the judiciary will swiftly respond to this attack.” The military, which has toppled the government at least three times since 1960, said earlier that it had taken over the “administration of the country, to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law and the general security that was damaged.” But the identity of those in the military who had issued the statement, and earlier ordered tanks into the streets and closed the major bridges connecting Istanbul’s Asian and European sides, remained unclear. Other statements read out on television channels were attributed to a previously unknown group called the Council for Peace in the Homeland.... “This looks like a well executed coup for the moment, though only by lower ranking military officials,” said Mujtaba Rahman, at the Eurasia Group. “The way Erdogan wants to resolve this is by getting civilians out to pressure the military, but this clearly risks seriously raising the stakes in the confrontation.” Mr Erdogan made his comments on CNN Turk, a private television channel, via the FaceTime video app on an iPhone held up by the newsreader. A journalist for the state broadcaster, who asked not to be named, said it had been “evacuated by the military” when its news broadcast was about to begin shortly before 8pm GMT. “They confiscated everyone’s phone on the way out,” the reporter said. “We all thought it was a hijacking of a plane at first [following rumours of an attack on Ataturk airport]. Everyone went home and as things unfolded, all TRT buildings were being taken over by the military at the same time.” As it took control of the state broadcaster, the military group announced a general curfew, and the highest level of security at ports, airports, borders. In Istanbul, Gazientep, and Erzurum, thousands of people were reported on the streets, but there were no credible reports of widespread violence. There were conflicting accounts of hostilities — the state-run newswire, which has been reportedly occupied by coup members, said a helicopter killed 17 police officers, while a source in the President’s office said a F16 had shot down a helicopter. Gunfire could be heard in the streets of Istanbul, with local mosques calling citizens on to the streets, and reports of raids on automatic teller machines amid the chaos."
Mehul Srivastava, Laura Pitel, David O’Byrne, Funja Guler, Demetri Sevastopulo, Joe Rennison, "Turkey’s Erdogan calls citizens to streets." The Financial Times. 15 July 2016 in www.ft.com.
The coup d'état in Turkey to-day is certainly a bit of a surprise. While there was in the past (circa 2006-2010) rumors of possible military plans for a takeover, there has not been anything resembling the same in the past five to six years. With the guiding assumption that the AK government of former premier, and now President Erdogan having in essence de-fanged the armed forces. Such now appears not to be the case. As far as one can make out, the coup leaders appear to be lower level officers (Brigadier Generals and below) rather than anyone in the upper reaches of the military hierarchy. In itself this appears to be at variance with the past history of Turkish coups, wherein the military as an institutional and coherent bloc, would intervene to overthrow a particular government. The other change from coups in the past, was that there is nothing resembling a societal wish for any such military intervention, per contra to both past examples in Turkey (especially those of 1960 and 1980) and more recent examples of both Egypt and Thailand. Without being anyway an 'expert' on Turkey, my own surmise for what it is worth is that this coup will fail. If not to-day then tomorrow, if not tomorrow then by no later than five to seven days. Turkey is (whatever else one may say of her, and I am the very opposite of a Turcophile to put it mildly), somewhat beyond the stage as a society wherein the armed forces can tout `a coup overthrow an existing government, which while semi-authoritarian and not wildly popular, has for the most part some degree of popular legitimacy. The example of Spain in 1981 immediately comes to mind. How matters will play out is of course unknowable at this time. It could be that some variant of 'people power' will force the armed forces back into its barracks and little or no blood will be shed. It is only if there is a sustained and consistent employment by either side of force that the chances that this unfortunate and unnecessary (whatever one thinks about the egregious President Erdogan and his hideous policies) coup will be foiled. The world has enough problems on is hands, especially Europe and its immediate neighborhood for the Turks to add to the mix.