Iraq is going to change. After repeated calls from governments around the world to postpone the vote, Iraqi Kurds conducted a referendum on independence and overwhelmingly backed the creation of a new state. With all precincts reporting, over 92% of residents in Iraqi Kurdistan voted to support the proposition with only 7% of voters backing continuing as part of Iraq. Overall turnout was around 72%. Although this exercise in democracy should be seen as a positive development, the other players in Middle Eastern geopolitics are not respecting the result and are now trying to coerce Kurds into remaining within Iraq.
Iraqi Kurdistan is an autonomous region in the north-east of the country and has a somewhat fractured relationship with the government in Baghdad. Relations between the two authorities is much better than under Saddam Hussein, although this is a very low bar, but there remains a perception in Erbil that the Iraqi central government is both corrupt and incompetent. It is this perception that last week resulted in leading politicians announcing that the region would hold a referendum on independence from Iraq. This development is something that I have long argued for and could be a game-changer for the Middle East.
This morning the UK wakes up to another terrorist incident. Last night a suicide bomber detonated his device at the entrance of Manchester’s Victoria Railway Station, which affected people leaving a concert by the US pop star Ariana Grande at the nearby Manchester Arena. According to Greater Manchester Police 22 people, including children, have been killed with a total of 59 people also being injured, although it is possible that this number will rise in the coming hours. In the past I have attempted to write these pieces from a distance so that we can let cool heads prevail, and I shall endeavour to do so here. However, I would be remiss to omit that whilst I am not a Mancunian by birth, Manchester is now my city and as such this may prove difficult.
London has been rocked by a terrorist incident that took place close to the Palace of Westminster. The Metropolitan Police have closed the roads surrounding of the Palace and are treating the situation as the scene of two terrorist incidents. The House of Commons was sitting at the time and Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle suspended the session and ordered that the Commons Chamber was locked down. Prime Minister Theresa May was evacuated and Downing Street later confirmed that she was unharmed. The session of the Scottish Parliament has also been suspended following the news out of London.
A new year gives us the opportunity to soberly re-evaluate the ongoing crises of our world and one of the most pronounced areas of instability is the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. People like myself who argue against Western intervention in order to undermine ISIS’ narrative of Christian crusaders need to provide a coherent alternative. I think this is possible. At this point in time a lasting political solution to the Syrian crisis look unlikely but those of us who advocate a diplomatic end to the war need to think laterally. Continue reading →
How debates are framed is very important and it’s hard to change people’s perceptions when they are bombarded with the same types of images for a number of years. For those of us who steadfastly fight against extremism in our own ways, news stories like these are important. Circulating stories like these makes people feel better but it acts as a weapon against group-think and reactionary views. We are conditioned by everything we see and hear, but keeping hold of fundamental truths about the world prevents sloppy thinking from taking root.
In a move that could be described as inane and Orwellian, the government want civil servants to swear an oath of loyalty both to set an example to new migrants and to combat radicalisation. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, writing in the Sunday Times, wants the oath to include an acknowledgment of key ‘British’ values like equality, democracy, and freedom of speech. Not only is this a terrible idea for a number of reasons, but this stunt illustrates how remarkably oblivious Sajid Javid is.