Monthly Archives: September 2015

Shaker Aamer’s Homecoming: Leaving Legal Limbo at Long Last?

The last British resident is being released from Guantánamo Bay after being detained there illegally for almost 14 years. American authorities reportedly informed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that US defence secretary Ashton Carter had authorised Aamer’s release on 25 September 2015. Shaker Aamer was never charged but was accused of terrorism. His lawyers maintain that he was never involved in any terrorism and was cleared of all wrongdoing eight years ago. Aamer is a 46-year-old Saudi Arabian national. He has indefinite leave to remain in the UK and is also married to a British citizen. Owing to his harsh predicament, he may be able to claim at least £1 million in compensation from the British authorities if he is able to prove that the UK was complicit with the US in his detention, rendition and mistreatment by US personnel.

Nevertheless, Carter reportedly sought assurances over security measures in relation to Aamer on his return to the UK despite Downing Street and the White House seeing eye-to-eye on the decision to release the Saudi. In 2001, Aamer and his wife Zin Siddique had moved from London to live in Taliban controlled Afghanistan. The couple have four children and Aamer has never met the youngest child. He claims that he was doing charity work and helping run a school but the Americans contend that he was a central figure in Tora Bora and that when Afghan militias captured him in Jalalabad in 2001 Continue reading


Filed under Al Qaeda, Courts, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Taliban, United States

The Changing Balance of Power in Syria

With news of Russian drones humming over Syrian skies, the Kremlin’s military operations in Syria appear to be in full swing. And Russian president Vladimir Putin looks set to address the UN General Assembly next week on Monday 28 September 2015 where he will reiterate his intentions to fight ISIS and support the battered regime of Bashar al-Assad. Equally, it appears that Putin’s American counterpart Barack Obama, who will also be attending, has approved meeting him in New York to bury the hatchet over Syria and Ukraine. Both the White House and the Kremlin confirm the meeting but the Obama administration stressed that it has huge differences with Putin and that the meeting had been called on Russia’s request. It is the first time the two leaders will be meeting in a year and the event signals an end to American attempts to diplomatically alienate Putin for his annexation of Crimea. Representing a significant propaganda victory for Putin, these rather interesting developments come off the heels of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent remarks that: “We have to speak to with many actors. This includes Assad but others [US, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia] as well.”

So building a coalition to save Syria from ISIS is on the cards and these events will dominate the agenda during next week’s UN meeting – the 70th session of the General Assembly. Meanwhile, it is reported that Putin will take unilateral military action in Syria if the west does not support him. Like America’s message on the war on terror in 9/11’s aftermath, there is an “either you are with us or against us” ring to it all and world leaders are taking care to avoid unnecessary confrontation with Russia. Explaining that Russia does not plan to “occupy” Syria Continue reading


Filed under China, Discussion, Europe, Germany, Iran, Israel, Palestine, Politics, Syria, The Middle East, United States

New Framework for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment

The EU is stretched to its outer limits in tackling issues thrown up by the economy, migration and terrorism. Tory politicians such as British prime minister David Cameron – who has been accused of extreme debauchery and profane and illegal behaviour by his former friend Michael Ashcroft in the upcoming biography Call Me Dave – are hell bent on “renegotiating” their country’s relationship with Europe. As we are already aware, the controversial and impending “in-out” referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU is a hotly debated matter. It is also very interesting to observe that the UK’s Electoral Commission, which is required by the Political Parties, Referendums and Elections Act 2000 to consider the precise wording of the referendum question and publish a statement of its views as to its intelligibility, has said that the question needs to be changed. Notably, in the European Union Referendum Bill as introduced into the UK parliament the proposed referendum question is: Should the UK remain a member of the EU?

The Electoral Commission suggests that the questions should be changed to: Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU? Answers: Remain a member of the EU – Leave the EU. But as we see in this post on the EU’s vision for gender equality and women’s empowerment, as an institution the Union is a very positive thing and it would be fair comment that people such as the European Commission’s president Jean-Claude Juncker and his colleagues do not like the Tory party’s stance on Europe. On 21 September 2015, the European Commission and the European External Action Service adopted a new framework for the EU’s activities on gender equality and women’s empowerment in EU’s external relations. The New framework for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Transforming the Lives of Girls and Women through EU External Relations (2016-2020) (see press release and see here) aims to Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Discussion, Europe, Pakistan, Politics, Water, Women

‘Kingmaker’: Putin’s Syria Strategy

President Putin has sent military assistance to Assad and is being dubbed “kingmaker” in any future transition to a new administration in Syria.

Speaking on a European tour mostly overshadowed by the refugee crisis and military escalation in the Syrian conflict, the US secretary of state John Kerry said that Russia’s newfound resolve to fight Islamists may present an opportunity to find a desperately needed political settlement for the war-torn country. After meeting Philip Hammond in London yesterday, Kerry said that they “agreed completely on the urgency of nations coming together in order to resolve this war that has gone on for much too long”. He explained that the Syrian war is the “root cause” of the refugee crisis. In Berlin he announced that the US would take 85,000 refugees in 2016 and 100,000 in 2017. On 14 September, American officials said that Russia had sent a dozen of its most modern T90 tanks, 200 marines and other military hardware to reinforce an airbase near the Assad regime’s coastal stronghold of Latakia. It is now said that 28 aircraft and 28 helicopters have been dispatched and 2,000 personnel will be deployed. Russia has been flexing its vast military muscles in the Middle East again. All eyes are on Putin, an unlikely messiah. For him, in comparison to the jihadis of ISIS,  the murderous Assad regime “is the lesser of the two evils.” (See update here.)

The Russian President, who is internationally alienated because of his despotic interference in Ukraine, quickly riposted allegations of wrongdoing by arguing that his administration aims to support the government of Syria in the fight against a terrorist aggression and is merely offering it necessary military-technical assistance. He is said to be the “kingmaker” in any future transition to another administration taking power in Syria. “Without Russia’s support for Syria, the situation in the country would have been worse than in Libya, and the flow of refugees Continue reading


Filed under Disarmament, Discussion, Europe, ISIS, Israel, Pakistan, Palestine, Politics, Russia, Syria, Taliban, The Middle East, United States

Drone Wars: Prospects, Proliferation and Emerging Challenges

As noted in our post The Iran Deal: Diplomacy Update, Islamabad’s nuclear weapons programme may be outpacing New Delhi’s. Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon’s study, A Normal Nuclear Pakistan, argues that our country has been producing 20 nuclear warheads annually in comparison to India’s five. (Presently, Islamabad has 120 warheads in comparison to New Delhi’s 100.) They estimate that at this rate Pakistan will, within a decade, join the ranks of Russia and the US in the league table of states possessing the largest nuclear arsenals. We also touched upon the copious use of drone strikes, by American and British forces, in Future Trends in Syria’s War and this post sheds further light on this important issue – one which chronically affects Pakistan. Emerging research suggests that apart from the US, Britain, Israel, China, and Iran – which have developed drones for military use – numerous Asian and European countries are pursuing drone programmes to reap the rewards of this unique class of weapon.

This post looks into the proliferation of drones and examines new trends emerging in this field. It has been reported that there have been 15 US strikes in Pakistan this year and only last week (6 September 2015) the Pakistan army confirmed that it killed three high profile militants in a first ever indigenous drone attack (by a UAV named “Burraq”) in the Shawal valley of the Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border. Such successes aside, one thing is for sure. The ethical, legal and tactical dilemmas thrown up by drone warfare will only intensify as their use becomes more and more widespread. Technically known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), drones have become the weapon of choice for carrying out clinical target killings Continue reading


Filed under Criminal Justice, Discussion, Drones, India, Iran, ISIS, Pakistan, Palestine, Politics, Syria, Taliban, The Middle East, United States

Future Trends in Syria’s War

Reaper drone

Despite the Democratic filibuster in the US Senate of the Republican resolution of disapproval in relation to the Iran deal, difficult questions loom over Tehran’s nexus with Damascus and the appalling state of affairs in Syria. Large swathes of Syrian territory – historically allocated to France through the arbitrary Sykes-Picot Agreement 1916, dismembering the Ottoman Empire, between Britain and France – have been lost to the so-called “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (ISIS/ISIL). After four years of carnage, war and the displacement of millions, Syria’s borders have been completely redrawn with the result that the government retains control of a mere 30-40 percent of the country’s original de jure territory. Constantly changing battle lines and tactics make it impossible to predict what the future holds. This round up looks at future trends and directions in Syria’s brutal war and the gamut of issues shrouding peacemaking in that country.

The media reports that in 2015 the Royal Air Force carried out more than 100 drone strikes against ISIS/ISIL jihadis – with 29 strikes in August, the surge continued in the first week of September and 14 strikes were conducted. This is so irrespective of the fact that in August 2013 David Cameron’s government lost its bid to join US-led strikes in military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; the motion in support of military intervention was defeated in Parliament by 285-272 votes. The fact that British citizens are being killed in drone strikes under an official “kill list” is all the more alarming for human rights lobbyists in the UK (where, of course, there is no death penalty). Unsurprisingly, Mohammed Emwazi – the balaclava clad knife wielding ISIS executioner initially known only as “Jihadi John” – is said to be number one on the list. Continue reading


Filed under Al Qaeda, Criminal law, Cyber Warfare, Discussion, Europe, ISIS, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Syria, The Middle East

The Iran Deal: Diplomacy Update

“The image conjured up by the name Persia is one of romance – roses and nightingales in elegant gardens, fast horses, flirtatious women, sharp sabres, jewel-coloured carpets, melodious music,” explains Michael Axworthy in his book Empire of the Mind. “But in the cliché of Western media presentation, the name Iran conjures a rather different image – frowning mullahs, black oil, women’s blanched faces peering from under dark chadors, grim crowds burning flags, chanting ‘death to …’,” he argues further. Considered to be public enemy number one and part of the “axis of evil” just a few years ago, a resurgent Iran is fast becoming the envy of historically pampered American allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia. Much to their dismay, Iran, the classic rogue state looks set to become America’s ally in the “war on terror”. Barack Hussein Obama’s Iran deal, symbolising the great thaw in relations with the Ayatollahs, is arguably as historic as Nixon’s deal with the Chinese.

As expected, Republican efforts to kill the deal were blocked by Democrats in the US Senate, securing a major foreign policy victory for President Obama; he will not have to veto any moves against the deal that reforms Iran’s nuclear programme. Republicans remained two votes short of the 60 needed to take the resolution to a final vote. “This vote is a victory for diplomacy for American national security, and for the safety and security of the world,” Obama said. In the run up to Obama’s triumph, likening the Vienna Agreement (or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)) to a football match, a jocund President Hassan Rouhani posited that Iran had won the game by three goals to two. Continue reading


Filed under Disarmament, Discussion, Europe, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Piracy, Politics, Sarwar Hasan, Widows