Monthly Archives: July 2013

Polio and the Syrian Crisis: The Accidental Bioterrorist

Posted on July 29, 2013 at 8:51 pm

RUSI Analysis, 21 May 2014 By Jennifer Cole, Senior Research Fellow, Resilience & Emergency Management; Raffaello Pantucci, Senior Research Fellow

The World Health Organization’s recent declaration of a public-health emergency as a result re-emergence of polio in countries including Syria and Somalia highlights the nexus between insecurity, violent Islamist groups and the spread of deadly diseases.

Polio vaccine in Djibouti US Department of Defense photo

The continual use of chemical weapons in Syria has shocked the arena. It has also reopened speculation across the possible use of biological weapons. In January 2014, US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper suggested in an announcement to america Senate Intelligence Committee that the Assad regime is able to producing lethal agents, though it will probably not yet have a great delivery mechanism.

But the capability use of such weapons isn’t the most pressing biological threat emanating from Syria. Earlier this month, the realm Health Organization (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHIEC)[1] attributable to an unintentional bio-crisis: the re-emergence of polio, a perilous killer which was almost eradicated. During the last 365 days, twenty-five cases of polio was confirmed in Syria, putting neighbouring Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey in danger. Sooner than its ongoing civil war, Syria have been polio-free for fourteen years however the country’s immunisation rates have plummeted from greater than 95 per cent of eligible children before the conflict to around 52 per cent on the time of the polio outbreak.[2] Tellingly, nearly all of the kids affected were born after the vaccination programme fell apart.

(In)security and Bio-Threats

The global, long-term impact of what seems to be a lost opportunity to rid the area of this crippling disease is simply as devastating as any deliberate act of bioterrorism.

The challenging security environment that has facilitated its spread should sound alarm bells for the long run. Genetic sequencing has linked the tension of polio answerable for the October 2013 outbreak within the Deir Al-Zour province in eastern Syria to 1 of Pakistani origin that has also been present in Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories in recent months. The idea is that Pakistani fighters battling the Assad regime, or Syrian military personnel who’ve undergone training in Pakistan, might have inadvertently brought the virus to Syria with them.

Two-thirds of the 400 or so polio cases recorded globally in 2013 were because of strains imported to the affected country from elsewhere, again largely from Pakistan – while ninety-two actually occurred in Pakistan.[3]. Sixty-nine per cent of those were concentrated within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA),[4] where the Taliban is especially active, while Peshawar – the most city that may be a way station for folk transiting to Afghanistan – is the most important polio reservoir on the earth.

Islamist Resistance to Vaccination

The apparent link between polio and Islamist activity is not any coincidence: efforts to eradicate the disease in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria – the simplest three countries where the disease remains endemic, with ‘wild’ or naturally occurring strains still circulating – have long been challenged by Islamist militants who claim that the vaccinations are a Western plot to make their children infertile, to spread AIDS, or that medical examiners are undercover Western spies. The latter claim just isn’t without substance: Dr Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani physician working for the CIA, famously obtained DNA from children in Abbottabad looking for Osama bin Laden, under the duvet of a pretend immunisation campaign. Such suspicion could have a devastating impact: twenty-seven polio workers was assassinated in Pakistan since December 2012.[5] Nonetheless, so long as the virus remains endemic in Pakistan, jihadist fighters could be in a position to inadvertently carry it to other areas of instability around the globe.

This problem will never be exclusive to Pakistan. In May 2013, cases of the disease were recorded in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu for the primary time since 2007, brought on by strains imported from northern Nigeria, where imams and native political leaders issued a polio-vaccination boycott in 2003. In February 2013, the Islamist group Boko Haram murdered nine younger women engaged on polio-vaccination programmes. Meanwhile, the spread of the disease across Somalia itself was further helped by Al-Qa’ida-affiliated Al-Shabaab extremists discouraging parents from vaccinating their children by claiming that the vaccines contain AIDS.

A Polio-Free World?

How the area reacts to this global public-health emergency within the coming months – particularly over the summer, which heralds what’s traditionally the high-transmission season for polio – will determine whether we are able to realistically continue to attempt for a global which is polio-free.

Co-ordinating international efforts to support vaccination programmes in failed and fragile states is one response. Another measure – that has now been implemented by WHO – is to restrict international travel from affected regions by people who was recently vaccinated.  – an approach that has also been replicated within countries. As an example, Pakistani President Nawaz Sharif has stipulated that no unvaccinated child from FATA be allowed to go into the settled areas of Pakistan. He has also ordered army protection for polio vaccinators going into volatile regions of the rustic.

Other more creative measures must also be considered. The Organization of the Islamic Conference has issued fatwas in support of polio vaccination, and Pakistan has encouraged senior imams to talk out at the topic. On 16 May, the White House issued an announcement that the CIA will not make operational use of vaccination workers.

But beyond these, there must be greater awareness amongst the wider security community of ways this niche problem can change into a world threat – an ancillary fabricated from instability and violence that could have deep, longer-term ramifications. Security issues and the success or failure of WHO’s Global Polio Eradication Initiative are clearly, if intricately, linked. As such, efforts to wipe out polio in its previous couple of remaining strongholds needs to be approached with both in mind.

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Posted on July 29, 2013 at 5:16 pm

RUSI UK Feed web@rusi.orgen-usCopyright 2013Anglo/French Joint Training: Developing the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force This December marks the 15th anniversary of the St Malo Joint Declaration on European Defence signed by Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac in 1998. This major step towards a eu capability to behave militarily if need be without US military support has began to tackle a tangible combat identity – the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force. Simon Michell takes a better take a look at the hot CJEF training

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European Natural-Gas Security in an Era of Import Dependence: A Strategic Overview

Posted on July 27, 2013 at 8:36 pm

RUSI Journal, Apr 2014, Vol. 159, No. 2 By David Koranyi

As the Crimean crisis continues to develop, it’s becoming clear that Ukraine’s reliance on Russia for gas imports may prove to be a fundamental weakness, with the latter wielding price increases as an economic weapon. With Russia threatening to easily bring to a halt these crucial supplies to its neighbour, the conflict has also served to underscore key questions on European energy security more broadly. David Koranyi assesses the established order before analysing Europe’s options for supply diversification, focusing totally on its central and southeastern regions.

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Review: David Boyd Haycock’s A Crisis of Brilliance 1908 -1922

Posted on July 27, 2013 at 6:11 pm

RUSI Analysis, 18 Sep 2013

An exhibition of six British Post-modernists depict the impact of the comprehensive War 1914-18 on our society and culture. It provides a super entry point for the visual dimension of the 2014 programme marking the centenary.

Crisis of Brilliance - Paul Nash The Void Photo courtesy of MBAC, Tate London Dulwich Picture Gallery, London. Exhibition ends 22 September 2013

Review by Dr John Mackinlay

2014 is already programmed for a succession of commemorative 1914-18 events. Battlefield experts, military museum curators, war poet aficionados and art historians becomes increasingly visible at the small screen because the year unfolds and to a point this process has already begun with David Boyd Haycock’s A Crisis of Brilliance on the Dulwich Gallery. Within the richter scale of extravagant exhibitions this can be a modest certainly one of about seventy drawings and canvasses, but for anyone focused on the comprehensive War and its explosive effects on British society it provides a must-see introduction to the 2014 calendar.

Six British artists Nash, Nevinson, Carrington, Spencer , Bomberg, and Gertler who, even in today’s multicultural Britain, represented an outstanding diversity of race, class, politics and sexual preferences, were thrown together as prewar students on the Slade, at the moment London’s leading art school. The significance of this exhibition is that it compellingly brings together several prewar narratives of transition and confrontation throughout the pictures in addition to the person life stories of the Slade class.

The 1900s were uncertain times, the Victorian world was being eroded by speedier travel and collapsing social hierarchies. In 1910, the UK’s key communicators had didn’t understand or respond effectively to a spearhead exhibition in London introducing the ecu post-modernist movement including Matisse and Picasso. Consequently the emerging class on the Slade were crushed between their reactionary tutors and the irresistible pressures of the recent movement.

The same class of successful young painters were also caught within the mobilisation for war. Gertler became a conscious objector, Nash, Nevinson, Bomberg and Spencer went to the trenches. By 1916 the govt arranged to commission recognised painters as officers and supply them with an area or a vantage point from which to record the surroundings of front lines. This had a seismic impact at the nature in their art. A more immediate narrative was the students’ relationships with one another, their bonding, rivalry and sexual affiliations intensified by the pressures of war.

Generically they were expressionists; for them a tree didn’t should have each leaf exactly drawn, it was more important to convey the personality of the tree, its strength, movement and significance to the encompassing land.

A Crisis of Brilliance can therefore be engaged at different levels, visibly there are the hung paintings and drawings, and beyond, on an additional plane are the looming narratives of pre war Britain, now reinforced by Pat Barker’s recent novel Toby’s Room, during which an identical Slade students and  professors featured inside the exhibition,  are delivered to life with glowing intensity.

The Dulwich show is organised in six sections, three are dedicated to the Slade period and 3 to the war. Even without the foreknowledge of the underlying narratives, it’s possible to follow the maturing technique of the Slade class which then explodes or collapses on contact with the war. Within the first room you will need to spend a while studying a tremendous photo of the scholars with a number of their professors in a rural picnic setting to peer what they gave the impression of in black and white reality before passing onto their intense depictions of one another and themselves. The emerging talents of Spencer and Gertler were already visible, whereas Nash, Bomberg and Nevison , having did not make much impact with their orthodox drawing tutor were by 1912 creating a stir beyond the faculty in London’s alternative art scene.

The crisis of brilliance suggested inside the exhibition title occurs within the sections dedicated to the war. Gertler was individually wrestling with powerful anxieties thrust on him by the mobilisation of his colleagues. His tranquil green landscapes provided a spot for private escape but his canvas The Mill unconsciously betrays his deeper unease – with its unsettled skies, spikey windmill sails and strangely painted dogs. For the mobilised artists, contact with front line had an electrifying effect, particularly on Nash and Nevinson, whose candid statements on scale of devastation became iconic images of the nice War and should without doubt re-emerge within the 2014 calendar. Bomberg , a person before his time, had his initial work rejected by the British war art commissioners,  but almost a century later national galleries was buying his pictures at sky-high prices.

For RUSI readers who’ve not already seen this exhibition, the modest purpose is to clarify this crucially important introductory exhibition inside the context of the year that is to follow. In time A Crisis of Brilliance becomes an incredible milestone within the critique of the good War artists. That is well conceived and gives a really perfect entry point for the visual dimension of the 2014 programme. The show closes soon at the 22 September so there isn’t any time to lose, switch off your computer and get at the train to Dulwich. 

* Painting – Paul Nash,  The Void. Photo courtesy of MBAC, Tate London.

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The hot East of Suez Question: Damage Limitation after Failure Over Syria

Posted on July 25, 2013 at 2:29 pm

RUSI Analysis, 19 Sep 2013 By Professor Michael Clarke, Director General

The UK can do little to impact the Syrian civil war. However is shoring up its interests at the periphery of the conflagration, reinforcing the UK’s military reorientation East of Suez. The question is whether or not, in light of Parliament’s vote last month, the govt. now desires to say so.

East of Suez banner

The events of the last month have reinforced the actual fact, as though it needed any reinforcement, that the united kingdom has neither the appetite nor the capacity to get meaningfully enthusiastic about the Syria crisis. A year or more ago a big military/diplomatic initiative may need had a beneficial effect, and in another year or two the conditions can be right for such an initiative to assist close some kind of peace deal. But for now, the suffering will go on while the Western powers have little more to give than a prayer for the weak and a cheer for the brave.

The international community cannot address the centre of the crisis – a deeply sectarian civil war during which the political choice is between many sets of bad guys who control the fate of the victims. However the war is destabilising the region. The Levant could go right into a meltdown that might see political collapse in Lebanon and Iraq, whatever happens in Syria, immense pressure on Jordan and Israel, and a not-so-proxy war during the region between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. [1] 

In response to those prospects, the Western powers are being drawn into much greater involvement on the periphery of the crisis. As with the collapse of Yugoslavia within the 1990s, if the time is just not propitious for an imposed peace, a minimum of the external powers could act to contain the conflict and limit its political fallout. It really is no comfort to the victims of a vicious civil war, but nor is it a dishonourable political strategy.

Shoring Up Syria’s Neighbours

Not far below the skin a natural division of roles is emerging between america and the united kingdom (and now France) in moving to shore up Jordan and reinforce security around the Gulf.

The US could be smarting from the humiliation of not enforcing the ‘red lines’ it has asserted, but its more subtle military role within the region can be more significant in the end.  In summer 2013 exercise Eagle Lion happened in Jordan involving over 8,000 foreign troops from nineteen different countries, but 5,000 of those troops came from the united states CENTCOM command. And around 1,000 of them have stayed in-country. ‘CENTCOM Forward-Jordan’ is now a primary US military hub that serves the personnel manning US Patriot air defence batteries, technical advisers, trainers and Special Forces elements. [2] A squadron of F16s has stayed directly to work alongside the Jordanian Air Force in providing air defence. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey has already visited CENTCOM Forward-Jordan to elucidate to these involved the significance in their reassurance mission to Jordan. A marine assault ship stays as regards to provide extra support. The united states is bolstering the territorial integrity of Jordan while its aid efforts attempt to relieve the pressure created by well over 600,000 refugees flooding right into a country of only six million people. Not least, NATO has provided Patriot batteries to Turkey, supplied by the united states, with some support also from Germany and the Netherlands.

The UK’s Position within the Gulf

Meanwhile, the united kingdom have been quietly bolstering its position within the Gulf, especially in Qatar, UAE, Oman and Bahrain. The Defence Cooperation Agreement of 1996 between the united kingdom and the UAE was effectively revived in 2012 with a major Ministerial visit in November that concluded a ‘long-term defence partnership’ accompanied by renewed hopes of a main deal to sell Typhoon fighters to the UAE which include other new, and sensitive, technologies.

 The Al Minhad airbase in Dubai is not any longer only a staging post for UK forces inside and outside of Afghanistan, but becomes a big transport hub for UK forces moving across and outdoors the region and a base for a good amount of pre-positioned equipment for Army training in hot and desert environments. Training with Omani forces can also be expected to be stepped as much as provide training in hot and mountainous environments. The Royal Navy’s use of the Jufair naval base may be expanded as facilities at Jufair are upgraded by the Bahrainis. [3] 

Qatar has emerged as a prime political and economic partner of the united kingdom. Saudi Arabia is the West’s most crucial partner within the region. The massive US base at Al-Udeid, outside Doha, makes it impractical, and unnecessary, to develop more facilities in Qatar, and Saudi Arabia would not permit foreign bases or stationed forces on its territory; however the UK has done a lot within the last three years to resume its defence and security relationships with both countries, partly to displace some French influence that was considered already waning in Doha and Riyadh.  

There was an amazing longer term strategic logic to all this. The united kingdom was perceived as neglecting its Gulf allies over the past two Labour governments and Whitehall felt it was time to correct this perception. There has been a transparent ‘prosperity agenda’ behind an enhanced defence relationship with the Gulf, particularly at the back of what can be multiple Typhoon deal and all that may accompany it. And if america was ‘pivoting’ towards Asia and the Pacific, then Washington would express its Middle Eastern interests differently and would presumably welcome an unobtrusive but ‘smart’ military footprint within the Gulf from one in every of its allies. Not least, the long-term health of america-UK relationship would rely on the united kingdom being seen to be as globally-minded because the US, and never caught only in a post-Cold War straitjacket around the European continent.

The rejection of the main of military action in Syria within the UK Parliament on 29 August created a far more compelling logic to those ideas. Suddenly, the united kingdom gave the impression of an unreliable ally. The Prime Minister have been urging more assertive approaches to the Syrian crisis from both america and France for your time.  Now, as he aspired to guide an army/diplomatic push at the back of the Syrian Army’s chemical attack of 21 August, he was suddenly checked by his own MPs and the united kingdom would now not join an army response to the crisis.

Whatever damage this could have done to US-UK relations – still a question of speculation – it was a disaster for the UK’s relations with its partners within the Gulf.  The Sheikhs and Emirs may understand the vicissitudes of a democracy but they’ve very limited sympathy with what they see as weak leadership and inconsistency.  The sense that the united kingdom is minded to take itself out of the diplomatic frontline was only exacerbated by a frankly stunned reaction to the Parliamentary vote across Whitehall.

The governmental machinery failed to swing into immediate damage-limitation mode or assertive diplomacy to atone for a scarcity of deployed military capacity. In fact, little or no happened in those most important days after 29 August while the govt awaited developments in Washington – themselves truly astonishing with President Obama’s announcement on 1 September that he would consult Congress before launching any attack.

The damage that was done may partly be mitigated by a governmental try to shore up a few of its strategic and economic stakes inside the Gulf by creating a more explicit commitment to its security partners. The time is greater than right for the govt to fix the wear. In a feeling, it only has to declare more clearly what it’s been doing quietly; making sensible arrangements to interact East of Suez should it feel the necessity to achieve this. This may not be surprising if the govt. doesn’t make some explicit statement to this effect inside the near future. The united kingdom strategic logic in addition the dynamic of the Syrian crisis and its regional implications push the federal government on this direction. It has important interests to defend at the periphery of the Syrian crisis no matter if it has little direct national interests to defend in the centre of the conflagration.

There are, however, two difficulties in making such an explicit statement. Firstly, this kind of declaration would also play more explicitly into the Iranian nuclear crisis. The united kingdom will be putting itself further into the diplomatic limelight on Iran by talking openly about its commitments to its partners within the Gulf, most of whom feel overshadowed and threatened by Iranian power. Such limelight might not be entirely unwelcome, however, where Iran’s posture shows as a minimum some chinks of sunshine according to Syria’s use of chemical weapons.

More significantly, the united kingdom will be creating a statement that – however carefully couched – will be widely labelled as a ‘return to East of Suez commitments’.  Here’s all well and good in this type of globalised and changing world, but a hostage to fortune when the country’s military ability to deploy strategically significant forces is so low. The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have taught us that, actually, the united kingdom can now only really tackle one fighting commitment at a time, or even that stretches us greater than military planning has habitually assumed.  A diplomatic ‘return to East of Suez’ can be logical and necessary within the present hiatus over Syria, but can also widen the distance between the country’s strategic ambitions and its military capabilities.

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Maritime Boundary Delimitation inside the Eastern Mediterranean: a brand new Conflict between Cyprus, Turkey, Greece and Israel?

Posted on July 25, 2013 at 12:26 pm

RUSI Journal, Apr 2014, Vol. 159, No. 2 By Eric R Eissler and Gözde Arasıl

Since 2002, the Republic of Cyprus, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Turkey and Greece was embroiled in disputes over the delimitation of maritime boundaries within the Eastern Mediterranean. Geopolitically and geostrategically important, the area’s rich oil and natural-gas reserves have made Exclusive Economic Zones each of the more relevant. Eric R Eissler and Gözde Arasýl analyse the most recent developments, military postures, and the political and legal positions of the parties involved, concluding that, however an army clash remains a remote possibility, the stalemate is probably going to persist.

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Two aircraft carriers would cement UK’s position as global player

Posted on July 23, 2013 at 5:04 pm

RUSI News, 9 Sep 2013

A decision to adopt just a single UK aircraft carrier would provide poor value for money and compromise the government’s ability to answer international crises, argues a brand new report published by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

Future Carrier Leveraging UK Carrier Capability, written by Tobias Ellwood MP, argues that a choice to function both the aircraft carriers currently being built would cement Britain’s position as ‘a global player with an army power of the primary rank’ and in addition provide compelling operational and monetary benefits. ‘The UK either needs a carrier capability or it doesn’t. If it does, then at least two are required so that it will have one permanently available.’

Ellwood writes that there ‘is a narrowing window of opportunity you obtain equipment, develop protocol and train personnel with a purpose to maximise the early potential of this unique class of carrier.’ Chief a number of the final decisions to be remodeled the carriers is whether or not both will enter service or simply one.

The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review proposed holding a second carrier in ‘extended readiness’ as one choice to reduce costs. However the paper argues that a ‘£3-billion carrier waiting in “suspended animation”… has political consequences, as does the marketing of a boat at a loss. Neither option is wise use of taxpayers’ money.’

The paper, launched at the first day of the RUSI Maritime conference, points out that during the UK’s 2011 Libya campaign, a scarcity of carrier strike capability meant that RAF Tornados and Typhoons needed to fly a 4,830km round trip from the united kingdom to North Africa until logistics were in place at Gioia del Colle, Italy. ‘Although this base was much towards the targets, Tornados still required two mid-air refuelling operations with a purpose to complete their missions.’ The expense of using foreign bases, in-air refuelling, extended flying time and air-frame fatigue add as much as ‘the cost of land-based air costs (at a distance of 600 miles) rising to four times that of carrier-based operations’.

Ellwood argues that the ‘The carrier’s agility and independence means it’s prone to be one of several first assets deployed to any hotspot world wide.’ He adds, ‘The UK carrier capability is a transparent statement of “conventional deterrence”, complementing the united kingdom strategic deterrent as its ultimate security guarantee.’

But the significance of those ships for Britain’s foreign policy is at odds with the restrictions of operating just a single hull. ‘A single carrier will be limited in both availability (to around 200 days each year) and role. As both carrier strike and littoral manoeuvre require regular embarked periods to validate and maintain role-specific currency, a single ship can be in perpetual re-role.’ Operating just one carrier would mean significant gaps in service, as ‘every eight to 5 years a single ship will be faraway from the schedule as a result of routine (but extended) maintenance.’

‘To date there was little agreement,’ writes Ellwood, ‘as to how the costliest defence project ever (carrier and aircraft combined) might be utilised.’ ‘With a lead time of eight years, appreciating the complete contribution the carriers can offer would be certain that they commence operations as state-of-the-art assets with the built-in agility to evolve quickly at some point as opposed to date before their time.’

To read the occasional paper Leveraging UK Carrier Capability: A Study into the Preparation for and Use of the Queen Elizabeth-Class Carriers in full, click here. 


1.       Leveraging UK Carrier Capability was released at the first day of RUSI’s annual Future Maritime Operations conference. For more at the conference, please visit

2.        RUSI is an independent think-tank for defence and security. RUSI is a singular institution; founded in 1831 by the Duke of Wellington, it embodies nearly two centuries of forward thinking, free discussion and careful reflection on defence and security matters.


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The Political Challenge to Petroleum Activity around Svalbard

Posted on July 23, 2013 at 2:13 pm

RUSI Journal, Apr 2014, Vol. 159, No. 2 By Gjert Lage Dyndal

The petroleum industry has greatly increased its activities within the Arctic, and nations are desirous to award new licences for further hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation. The eu High North has become a sought-after region on this regard, and up to date discoveries within the Hoop High fields and other areas along the brink of the maritime zone across the Svalbard archipelago have again created debate in regards to the underlying judicial and political challenges that could spark international conflict. Gjert Lage Dyndal discusses the disputed status of the realm and argues that the petroleum industry may prove central to a compromise solution.

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Transnational Organised Crime and Security

Posted on July 21, 2013 at 7:25 pm

RUSI Journal, Apr 2014, Vol. 159, No. 2 By Dr Emma De Angelis

In the general instalment of the Journal’s series on transnational organised crime and security, Peter Romaniuk analyses existing research on terrorist financing. In a comprehensive overview of current approaches to this all-important nexus between organised crime and terrorism, he points out the gaps in current knowledge and suggests easy methods to develop methods of investigation. The pursuit of further empirical studies – gathering and analysing original evidence – is vital to make research immediately relevant to policy-makers, law enforcers and armed forces professionals who seek to undermine the financial foundations of terrorist activity.

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Voting for Irrelevance? The united kingdom Parliament Passes its Verdict

Posted on July 21, 2013 at 5:18 pm

RUSI Newsbrief, 3 Sep 2013 By Jonathan Eyal

British Prime Minister David Cameron claims that it really is ‘business as usual’ in London, despite his government’s stunning parliamentary defeat on a motion authorising British forces to take part in a US-led military strike against Syria. Mr Cameron, who interrupted his holiday to take care of the crisis, remains huddled in Middle East briefings together with his top security advisers. The Obama administration is likewise being polite. ‘The British were very strong in condemning the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons and that vote inside the parliament doesn’t change that’, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said immediately after the vote in London.

Yet none of this changes the undeniable fact that Mr Cameron suffered one of the vital devastating parliamentary defeats in Britain’s modern history; the last time a premier lost a ‘war and peace’ debate was in the course of the crisis over the conduct of the Crimean War, greater than 150 years ago. It’s a debacle many need to wish away, but which grievously harms Britain’s claim to stay a world military player and undercuts years of diplomatic achievements.

There is widespread agreement among political observers that the prime minister handled the crisis very badly. Mr Cameron spent many months attempting to persuade the united states to ‘get serious’ – as he put it – concerning the carnage in Syria. Bizarrely, however, he never thought it essential to explain this to his own electorate. So, when the united states finally decided to select military action, David Cameron needed to scramble to make the case for using force. It was too little and much too late: nearly all of MPs refused to be bounced into war at a week’s notice.

Mr Cameron also neglected warnings from his own Conservative backbench MPs; he never bothered to read their critical comments on ConservativeHome, the party’s influential website, and he never bothered to refer to MPs or perhaps his own parliamentary whips.

These MPs are not any longer the  same retired army brigadiers with handlebar moustaches and large country houses; this kind of traditional Conservative law-makers who rallied to the flag during the past at the principle of ‘my country, right or wrong’. The hot intake of MPs expects to be heard, and when their government doesn’t hear them, they rebel. The prime minister was not defeated by the Labour opposition: Ed Miliband, its leader, didn’t perform particularly well through the parliamentary debate, making rambling demands for what he called a ‘sequential roadmap’ in Syria, an idea which left most MPs mystified. Instead, the British premier was struck by something far worse: a mass defection from the ranks of his own coalition government: thirty Conservative and nine Liberal Democrat MPs voted against the resolution.

But Mr Cameron’s biggest failure was his refusal to realise just how much Britain’s controversial involvement within the 2003 Iraq War loomed over the Syria debate. He repeatedly reminded law-makers that the crises within the two countries, one decade apart, don’t seem to be comparable. Still, the parallels were too close for comfort. There’s a similar inexplicable rush to war, an analogous refusal to attend for a report from UN investigators, the identical claim that Western governments ‘know’ who the culprit is at the basis of intelligence which, for sure, can’t be fully revealed.

And, if this weren’t enough, there’s also the similar confusion concerning the legal mandate and purpose of the operation. Prime Minister Cameron instructed his attorney general’s chambers to return up with a fast legal justification and so they did. ‘If action within the Security Council is blocked, the united kingdom would still be permitted under international law to take exceptional measures if you want to alleviate the dimensions of the overpowering humanitarian catastrophe in Syria’, read the legal opinion of Dominic Grieve, the attorney general.

But how could this humanitarian catastrophe be stopped by simply firing a couple of missiles, because the US and Britain have proposed? And, if the target is humanitarian, why not opt for regime change in Syria? It took Jack Straw, foreign secretary through the Iraq War, to deliver the proper blow, by reminding law-makers of the perils of going to war on fuzzy logic: ‘I know’, said Mr Straw, ‘I have the scars’.

Britain’s absence makes no difference to america. And, it could be argued, this absence can also be more likely to be a one-off. Still, quite a number precedents were created, that are more likely to haunt Britain sooner or later.

In strictly legal terms, British prime ministers should not have the approval of Parliament to send troops into battle; the flexibility to wage war technically sits with the Queen (the Royal Prerogative) and is exercised on her behalf by the prime minister. But Mr Cameron was forced by public dissatisfaction to hunt parliamentary approval. Neither Cameron nor President Barack Obama – who also decided to invite Congress for backing – accept the argument that this has now changed the legal powers in their office; both claim that the present parliamentary votes were simple consultations in preference to formal requests for authority to wage war.

Still, in future years, it’s inconceivable that any future British leader could be in a position to commit forces for any foreign operation with out a clear international mandate or the specific backing of national law-makers. The times when a British prime minister and an American president could sit on a bench within the park of the Camp David retreat and plan a war are consigned to history. That, some would argue, isn’t any bad thing. However the days when government and opposition inside the UK could reach decisions on security issues by consensus also are over. Paradoxically – and with the advantage of hindsight – Downing Street would were well-advised to simply accept a compromise solution, which might have involved Parliament in decision-making on war powers, but would have essentially maintained the initiative with the prime minister. This was suggested by various constitutional committees which checked out the question of war powers within the UK, and would have allowed future British prime ministers more leeway than they’ll now enjoy. In effect, Mr Cameron has created a parliamentary precedent at the hoof: governments will henceforth be expected to debate any military action in public, upfront.

And, because the debate in the home of Commons indicates, we should always not expect this type of discussion to be very elevated in quality. Nor should we predict it to display much strategic vision: quite other than the MPs who circulated harebrained conspiracy theories, the main telling phrase from debaters on Syria was: ‘our job on this parliament is to seem after our own people’. Presumably, therefore, it’s as much as somebody else to peer after global security.

If this perspective persists, it may destroy the UK’s longstanding claim, in conjunction with France, to be one in all Europe’s only global military powers. It also calls into question Britain’s usefulness to the united states. Essentially the mostsome of the most striking features of the talk about Syria was the degree of hostility toward the Americans shown by Britain’s legislators. A history of intimate links with the usa is now considered a poisonous legacy, and the reason is, Britain – always derided as America’s poodle – was precluded by Parliament from participating inside the Syria operation, while France, which has often stood aloof from america, can now act as its closest ally.

Nor should one forget the baleful effects the vote has on Britain’s standing inside the Arab world. The only cause of the Gulf States’ interest in buying British-made military equipment is the concept that they’re buying right into a long-term and meaningful security partnership. Now, however, they’ll come to view any such partnership differently, given the likelihood that, if the Gulf is in trouble and Britain’s government considers the location important enough to require the engagement of its militia, all that a British premier may do is to invite Parliament to discuss a resolution that can or would possibly not provide for some military assistance. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t one of these tempting proposition: French and American-made military equipment is barely pretty much as good, and possibly comes with more tempting financial inducements and the promise of a more meaningful security partnership.

It is feasible that Syria was the exception in place of the rule of thumb. Still, there’s little question that the episode was a disaster for Mr Cameron. The prime minister would have done well to keep in mind the words of a fresh-faced young MP who rose inside the British Parliament seven years ago to induce the country’s politicians to exercise ‘humility and patience’ before strutting at the international stage.

The name of that young MP was none as opposed to David Cameron.

Dr Jonathan Eyal
Director of International Security Studies, RUSI, and Editor of RUSI Newsbrief.
Twitter: @JEyal_RUSI

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