Posted on 31 May 2012 by Luke.Middup
In response to the apparently indiscriminate killing of civilians in Houla earlier this week, Syria and the West have now engaged in a tit-for-tat expulsion of diplomats.
On Wednesday, the Foreign Secretary William Hague summoned the Syrian chargé d’affaires and informed him that he and two other Syrian diplomats were being expelled from the UK. This followed similar action by the French, German and Canadian governments.
As of Thursday morning, the Turkish and US governments followed suit, Turkey being particularly important due to the fact that it shares a border with Syria and is by far and away the strongest military, economic and political power in Syria’s immediate neighbourhood.
So what effect will this tit-for-tat expulsion have and what are the next steps in what looks increasingly like the beginnings of a protracted civil war in Syria?
Continue reading “The war of the diplomats” »
Posted on 25 May 2012 by Bleddyn E. Bowen
25 May 2012 may prove to be a regular space event timeline marker in the future. SpaceX, a private company founded by Elon Musk, has successfully sent a cargo delivery on-board the Dragon capsule to the International Space Station (ISS).
NASA administrator Charles Bolden declared that space exploration has entered a “new era” with the Falcon 9’s launch on 22nd May. Whether we are entering a new era or not in 2012 is a matter for future historical debate. But what I have seen does not encourage me to think that we are seeing a significant change in the space sector – as far as its commercial dimensions go – with the success of SpaceX’s mission so far. Continue reading “SpaceX: Boldly going where… the USA has been before” »
Posted on 16 February 2012 by Peeping Tom
Hopeful Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum‘s campaign team requested Secret Service protection from the Department of Homeland Security yesterday.
The request comes after a rally in Tacoma, Washington, where the audience chanted and yelled during most of the event. Two protesters were dragged away by police.
He has insisted that the protection would be for his family’s sake. He said it was unfortunate that some people “can get a little rowdy and sometimes a little violent.”
Currently, the only GOP contender with Secret Service protection is Mitt Romney. Maybe it’s just a case of $$$.
Posted on 09 February 2012 by Iram Ramzan
Last week, Libya’s former ambassador to France, Omar Brebesh, died in the custody of a militia from possible torture, Human Rights Watch said. This was barely mentioned in the mainstream media.
Posted on 09 February 2012 by Bleddyn E. Bowen
The Munich Security Conference saw the return (if it ever escaped the agenda) of one of the hallmarks of relations between the USA and Europe: freeriding. Throughout the Cold War and after it, the US has criticised the European NATO members for not ‘pulling their weight’ in defence spending. The US has always accounted for the majority of NATO defence spending, and European members have accounted for a much smaller share of defence spending as they prioritised other sectors for spending.
In effect, the arguments over freeriding are as old as NATO itself. However, I believe that joint European defence capabilities will continue to increase well into this century. The real question is whether NATO or the EU will bear the brunt of this trend. The US should not overtly fear a militarily-capable EU as long-term EU and US grand strategic interests are shared.
Continue reading “European defence integration at a crossroads” »
Posted on 06 January 2012 by Peeping Tom
On 5 January 2012 Barack Obama announced the latest defence review at the Pentagon. Four major themes stand out: moving on from Afghanistan and Iraq, (re)focusing on the Asia-Pacific region, reducing non-state threat capabilities in favour of state-on-state war needs, and reducing the size of the US military in line with tightening budgets.
None of these are surprising. The official end of the US military presence in Iraq has been coming for a while, and talk of exiting Afghanistan proper by 2014 or 2015 has been circulating around many government statements. Continue reading “Prying Eye: US publishes new defence review” »
Posted on 04 January 2012 by Peeping Tom
“When a crisis confronts the nation, the first question often asked by policymakers is: ‘What naval forces are available and how fast can they be on station ?’ ” – Admiral C.A.H. Trost, USN Chief of Naval Operations Proceedings, May 1990
If we pose this question to the United States in the event of the Iranians not bluffing on their threats to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, the two answers to the questions above would be “overwhelming” and “immediate”.
Iran has been conducting its war games in the Strait of Hormuz, and has threatened to blockade the strait if sanctions are placed on Iran’s oil industry. The EU has agreed in principle to ban Iranian crude oil imports, and to follow the American example in imposing greater sanctions on Iran. I argue that the Iranian threat is extremely self-defeating. Continue reading “EU members look likely to ban Iranian crude oil imports” »
Posted on 18 December 2011 by Peeping Tom
Russia has presented a new, ‘beefed-up’ draft resolution to the UN Security Council on the violence exercised by the Syrian regime. France promptly rejected it, claiming the text was too weak. Ironic, considering it was only two months ago that Russia, along with China, vetoed an equally weak, draft resolution that contained only a threat of sanction.
Has Russia suddenly done a U-turn? Not quite. After it initially opposed the no-fly zone over Libya, Russia (and other countries) was viewed with much suspicion by Western leaders.
Now that the Arab league (useless though they are) have turned up the notch with their condemnations of Bashar al-Assad, Russia has realised that now is the time to be clever.
The draft resolution is a pragmatic step by a country that is becoming more and more isolated. Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, said: “Russia is changing its position because to completely defend the Syrian regime is impossible given that everyone is against it, including practically all the Arab nations”. Continue reading “Russia and Syria – chess on a global scale” »
Posted on 04 December 2011 by Peeping Tom
In 2010, the world was outraged over the fate of an Iranian woman who had been convicted of adultery and was awaiting a sentence of death by stoning. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was fortunate enough have her sentence “suspended” thanks to human rights groups and media frenzy.
Another woman has dominated the international news this year – Gulnaz, a 19-year-old Afghan woman who was raped by her husband’s cousin and then jailed and sentenced to twelve years in prison for refusing to marry her rapist.
On Thursday, President Hamid Karzai pardoned her, which means that there are no conditions for her release. Continue reading “Prying Eye: Pardon for Afghan rape victim may not be a happy ending” »
Posted on 25 November 2011 by Peeping Tom
(c) US Missile Defence Agency
This week the issue of the European-based NATO ballistic missile defence (BMD) deployments came up again with an apparently annoyed Russia threatening to deploy short-range Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, a small enclave bordered by the EU.
I have previously written in greater detail on this issue for The Pryer. In short, I concluded that Russia desired inclusion in the BMD programme and Russia would be hard-pressed to stop a united NATO pursuing this system. As written in the previous article, US-Russian cooperation has waxed and waned over BMD since the end of the Cold War. This latest episode appears to be a further waning of cooperation and a frustrated Kremlin’s attempts to make its displeasure known. The US has denied it would change its plans over BMD deployment. Visit the American Missile Defense Agency’s website for more information on BMD systems and deployment. Continue reading “The irrelevant Kaliningrad missiles” »