Friday, April 06, 2007

Was there a deal to release the British hostages?

Charles Krauthammer thinks there was, and suspects it was the Americans who made it happen.

If this turns out to be true, it wouldn't surprise me. These hostages were citizens of the European Union, but the EU showed no interest in protecting them, they were also acting under the mandate of the U.N., but the U.N. showed no interest in protecting them, so it may well have been left to the Americans to sort the mess out. Will the Americans get any credit for this? Of course not. As Mark Steyn once put it...
For everyone but America the free world is mostly a free ride.

This is Spring in Canada

We're in Toronto for Pesach and it's snowing outside, I thought this was the festival of Spring!

Believe it or not, were in the same latitude as the French Riviera!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Another propaganda coup for Ahmadinejad

The Iranian president releases our hostages as an Easter present, what a nice man. In the meantime, we just got our real Easter present from the the form of a roadside bomb.

We may have got our sailors back without having to make concessions, but Ahmadinejad is the real winner from all this. The Iranian people have been convinced that the British invaded their territory and that the Iranian authorities in their infinite mercy let the invaders go free. Meanwhile, Iran has succeeded in prizing Britain even further away from the Americans. British voters and politicians will be even more convinced that we can do business with the Iranians, and that America is the real problem. The spirit of 1938 lives on. Andrew Sullivan just about sums it up.

As Amir Taheri observes, the Iranian authorities are like scorpions. There's no point in trying to cut deals with them, we'll always get stung in the end. After almost three decades of Iran playing its games, the west still doesn't get it.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Iranian propoganda machine in full gear

There's a very good article by Tim Hames in today's Times that illustrates how Iran has been manipulating the west for the last 28 years, regardless of whether there were extremists or "moderates" running the country.

Even more interesting is an article on the BBC website that illustrates how the Iranians are manufacturing anger on the streets of Tehran. Reading this article, you'd think it was Iranians who were the victims.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Is Melanie Phillips a bad influence on North American Jews

Jonathan Freedland has just written an article attacking Melanie Phillips.

Her recently published book, Londonistan has become highly influential amongst North American Jewry, and in Jonathan's view, her blog gives a false impression of what life is like for Anglo Jewry. True, her piece on Jews for Genocide was over the top, but unfortunately, she's spot on most of the time. It's easy to dismiss her tone of writing as bordering on hysteria, but when you spend twenty years as she has writing about issues that few in Britain take seriously, you start to lose your rag. Since her time at the Guardian, Melanie has written about the dire state of our education system, the failure of multiculturalism, and the threat from terrorism. Unfortunately, most of her predictions have come true, but still no one listens.

One thing that Jonathan Freedland is right about is her influence on North American Jewry. Half an hour after flying into Toronto, some Jews got into our elevator at the airport and said to us: "You're from England, isn't that a Muslim country? We've just been reading Londonistan!". In North America at least, Melanie has an audience.

Terry Waite offers to negotiate with the this an April fools joke?

Terry Waite has offered to go to Iran to negotiate the release of the British hostages. Given his own track record, that may not be a good idea.

On the other hand, he could suggest a prisoner exchange: one Terry Waite for 15 hostages. Given the fact that he has a severe case of stockholm syndrome, he would actually feel quite at home there. Not sure the Iranians would want him though...

Hillel Neuer and UN Watch

The following speech by Hillel Neuer of UN Watch exposes the failure of the reformed UN Human Rights Council to do the job it was set up to do...protect human rights. Council President Luis de Alba of Mexico rejected his speech as "inadmissible" -- and issued a ban on any speech that similarly criticises the council or its member states.

Interestingly, the following speeches weren't banned.

Human rights, human wrongs

There is a good article in the Economist about Amnesty International.

For many years, Amnesty were the authoritative voice in human rights. With no allegiance to any political party or ideology, their critical reports were taken seriously and had the capacity to embarrass governments into changing their policies.

But recently, Amnesty International have expanded their remit into areas such as globalisation, poverty and the arms trade, issues that not everyone agrees on. That may be admirable to some of their supporters but it also means they are increasingly political, and there is more than a hint of yankee bashing in some of their campaigns. To describe Guantanamo as "gulag of our times", is an insult to Stalins victims. The entire Soviet Union lived in fear of the gulag, whereas Guantanamo has been an outrage precisely because it's exception to the American legal system rather than the rule. Amnesty also seem to find it harder to be impartial. In Colombia, for example, Amnesty opposed a law that offered reduced sentences to right-wing paramilitaries but made no objections to past proposals for amnesties for left-wing guerrillas.

For many years, Amnesty raised awareness about human rights by campaigning for prisoners of conscience, but much has changed in the past 20 years...
The collapse of the Soviet empire and of apartheid rule in South Africa cut the number of visible prisoners of conscience. Countless tens of thousands may languish in China's laogai forced labour camps (a system that truly deserves to be called a gulag), and many are incarcerated in places such as North Korea and Myanmar (Burma). But even getting the names of the inmates is hard, let alone embarrassing the governments. Writing letters on behalf of a Havel or Sakharov sparks members' enthusiasm far more than a few blurred pictures of a remote camp with anonymous inmates.
The article ends... organisation which devotes more pages in its annual report to human-rights abuses in Britain and America than those in Belarus and Saudi Arabia cannot expect to escape doubters' scrutiny.
That seems to be a problem with much of the west today. Unable to tell the difference between good and evil, western liberals treat Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with kid gloves whilst villifying George Bush as the global terrorist. Let me ask them one question. Which country would they rather be arrested in, the United States or Iran?

There are more democracies than ever, but few of them seem to support democracy

These are really depressing times.

Hundreds of thousands are being slaughtered in Darfur but the world stands by, Russia slides into a dictatorship whilst the world gives Putin the red carpet treatment, Bush's dream of spreading democracy in the middle east lies in tatters whilst Iran gets ever closer to becoming a nuclear power.

But the saddest thing of all is that in so many of the worlds democracies, both the voters and politicians don't seem to know who the villains are. Take South Africa. In 1994, the world watched in admiration is it moved peacefully from apartheid to democracy. If South Africa could become a democracy people asked, why not the rest of the continent? Thirteen years later, it is still one of the few democracies in Africa, yet has consistently refused to criticise Mugabe's regime next door in Zimbabwe. This is despite the fact that its elections have been rigged, its economy has collapsed and life expectancy there has fallen to just 40.

Then there is South Korea. Despite the continuing threat from North Korea and the fact that America continues to defend its border, many voters there want improved relations with North Korea and look on America as the villains.

And then there's the European Union. It sits within easy range of Iran's missiles. Should Iran go nuclear, it sits right in the line of fire. Yet amongst Europe's intelligentsia and many of its politicians, America is seen as the aggressor, not Iran. Even when Iran carries out an act of war against one of their own members, they stand by and shrug their shoulders.

Critics of US foreign policy complain that America has a simplistic view of good vs evil. The problem with the critics is that they don't recognise evil, even when it stares them in the face.

The Iranians must be laughing out loud

If the Iranians were looking for a country to mess with, they definitely picked on the right country.

Britain may be America's closest ally, but it doesn't have the stomach for a fight and the Iranians know it. And if Britain was hoping for the EU or UN to come to its aid, it must be feeling sorely disappointed. The UN has expressed no more than "grave concern" (despite us being on a UN mandated mission), whilst the EU has backed down from any sanctions. So much for multilateral institutions. Meanwhile, the United States has offered moral support but little else, it's too tied down with its own military commitments.

As David Frum notes, we don't even have to resort to military action to get our hostages freed. Iran has a shaky economy, high unemployment and poor infrastructure, sanctions could really hurt them, but the international community are too feeble to even contemplate that.

With no prospect of the hostages being released any time soon, it's all beginning to look like the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979, and our Prime Minister is beginning to resemble Jimmy Carter, the embattled President who was turfed out of office as a result of the crisis. Is this what Tony Blair wants to be remembered for?