The Commonwealth is a facet of contemporary life that most people know little about. The Commonwealth games, interposed every four years between the Olympics, might arouse a flicker of interest across the globe, but as for the background or purposes of the organization there is little general knowledge or concern. And yet the Commonwealth has the potential to exert an enormous power for good on global politics.
Author Archive: Neville Teller
Emboldened by the misconceived policies of ex-US President Obama, Iran has become positively confrontational under President Donald Trump. Iran and the US always backed different sides of the wars in Syria and Yemen, but now they stand ideologically opposed on most issues involving the region. Early in February Iran tested a ballistic missile, claiming that to do so was not in contravention of its nuclear deal, but the new US ambassador to the United Nations called the test “unacceptable”. Washington put the Islamic Republic “on notice” and imposed sanctions on more than two dozen individuals and companies involved in procuring ballistic…
The year 2017 will witness a double anniversary in the convoluted history of the Middle East, one of 50 years, the other a centenary. June 6 is the date in 1967 which marked the outbreak of the Six Day War; “November 2nd, 1917” is the date that appears below the words “Foreign Office” on the single sheet of paper that contains the Balfour Declaration. Both continue to influence every aspect of Arab-Israeli relations and the interminable Israel-Palestine dispute.
Never mind the traditional first hundred days. Within US President Trump’s first twenty days in office the broad outlines of his policy for the Middle East had emerged. It clearly has two over-riding objectives – to defeat Islamic State (IS) and to cut Iran down to size. In the Trump world view, both IS and Iran represent clear and present dangers to the stability, values and way of life of the civilized world in general, and the US in particular.
The Islamist world is fierce, bloody and fratricidal. Many of the extremist groupings are in bitter conflict with one another, not always along the traditional Sunni-Shia divide. Sometimes intra-Islamist conflicts are essentially political in nature. One long-running political feud is the continuing struggle between Hamas and Fatah. The Hamas-Fatah conflict does not concern itself with religious doctrine, nor even with basic political objectives. Both organisations are Sunni Muslim; both are pledged to restore to Islamic rule the whole of Mandate Palestine, including the area currently occupied by the state of Israel. Their fundamental disagreement is over the strategy for achieving their common…
Uniquely among the 50 Muslim-majority nations of the world, Lebanon has a Christian president. The inauguration of Michel Aoun on 1 November 2016 ended a 29-month power vacuum and a political stalemate that had frozen the country’s constitutional processes. “Not before time” would be a natural reaction, considering the length of the presidential inter-regnum. The truth, however, is that the absence of a largely figurehead president over that period, while politically inconvenient and somewhat of an embarrassment, made little difference to Lebanon as it ambled along under the guidance of prime minister Tammam Salam.
November the 5th – for anyone unfamiliar with British customs – is the day each year when children across the UK gather around a bonfire, burn an effigy of a 17th century villain called Guy Fawkes, and let off fireworks. Guy Fawkes’s villainy consisted in packing the basement of the House of Lords with barrels of gunpowder, hoping to blow up the whole place when King James I was present, thus despatching the monarch and the entire aristocracy to kingdom come. Details of the plot leaked, and it turned – as any firework does if not kept completely dry –…
Resolution 2334, approved 14-nil by the UN Security Council on 23 December 2016 with only the United States abstaining, has generated a tsunami of media comment. A major subject of debate has turned on the fact that, for the first time in his eight years in office, President Obama decided not to veto a demonstrably anti-Israel resolution.
On 28 December 2016, in the dying days of the Obama presidency, Secretary of State John Kerry summoned the media to the Dean Acheson Auditorium in the State Department building in Washington, where he promised to “deliver remarks on Middle East peace”. In a speech lasting more than an hour, Kerry provided a detailed apologia for the Obama administration’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, including an impassioned rationale for the US’s abstention on the Security Council vote on December 23 demanding an end to further Israeli settlement construction in territories captured in the 1967 Six Day War.