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Westlake Legal Group > War on terror

Media frantically reminding you that Trump hasn’t “defeated ISIS”

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While this was entirely predictable, the media pushback on President Trump’s announcement of the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has really been something to see. It was already starting on cable news yesterday morning before the President had even finished taking questions about how the ISIS leader died like a dog, but deep-diving think pieces quickly began to follow in all the usual outlets. Even the Associated Press got in on the action in this piece from Eric Tucker and Robert Burns.

Eliminating the Islamic State’s elusive leader gives President Donald Trump a new argument for leaving Syria, but the U.S. military campaign against the extremists is far from finished.

The killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by U.S. forces leaves the Islamic State without an obvious leader, a major setback for an organization that in March was forced by American troops and Kurdish forces out of the last portion of its self-declared “caliphate,” which once spanned a swath of Iraq and Syria.

But the militant group, which arose from the remnants of al-Qaida in Iraq after that group’s defeat by U.S.-led forces in 2008, has ambitions to regenerate yet again. And it remains a dangerous threat in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond.

At a moment when most of the western world should have been (and largely was) celebrating the slaying of a monster, our mainstream press was tripping over themselves to seemingly minimize the achievement by our armed forces. And the truly bizarre part of all this was that Trump defied the expectations of his detractors and really never even took credit for the success. He thanked the military and nearly everyone else under the sun for pulling off the feat. But the bottom line for many was the fact that ISIS is still out there.

More than a few of us have been saying this since the news broke. We live in an era of asymmetrical warfare when it comes to terrorist groups and everyone knows it. Killing Baghdadi doesn’t immediately eliminate the entirety of ISIS and their ideology any more than putting a couple of rounds through bin Laden’s head pulled the plug on al Qaeda. But just as with OBL, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t significant or worth doing.

There is, however, one significant difference between bin Laden and Baghdadi. Or more correctly, there’s a significant difference between their strategies and goals. OBL always advocated fighting from the shadows, trying to spread terror by striking unexpectedly against any available targets. I’m not saying that ISIS doesn’t encourage their “inspired” acolytes around the world to do the same. They certainly do. But Baghdadi and the main army of ISIS wanted a lot more.

For a time, when the terror group was really on a roll, they basically fulfilled their dream of taking and holding enough land to establish their own caliphate. Let’s not forget that ISIS was openly processing and selling oil on the black market. They were printing and circulating their own currency. They controlled entire cities and towns, along with all the territory between them, stretching across portions of both Syria and Iraq.

For at least a brief time, ISIS had what was, for all practical purposes, their own country. That was Baghdadi’s dream and the magnet that drew so many Islamic extremists to travel across the world and join him. He planned to hold that land until the end days, defying the west and all civilized nations. That was never OBL’s game plan. And destroying the caliphate (which we have done) was the real blow to ISIS. They’ve now been relegated to the same tactics that AQ employs and are arguably a smaller player now.

So it’s true that chasing Baghdadi into a hole and watching him blow himself up (along with three of his children) won’t spell the absolute end of ISIS. But it was the capstone on the effort to destroy his underlying dream and show that the civilized world will not allow such a massive terrorist wound to openly fester on the face of the planet. And it was worth the risk our military took to do so.

The post Media frantically reminding you that Trump hasn’t “defeated ISIS” appeared first on Hot Air.

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Martin Parsons: What is the point of the Commission for Countering Extremism?

Last year, the Government set up the Commission for Countering Extremism with a remit to “identify and challenge extremism in all its forms and provide the government with advice on the policies needed to tackle it.  And a few days ago, the Commission duly published its first major report: Challenging Hateful Extremism.

‘Extremism’ is a word that was little used in either the UK or USA prior to the 9/11 attacks. Look at political biographies of the post-war era, and you will see it occasionally used to refer to those at one of end of the mainstream political spectrum. In the pre-Thatcher era, it was actually used to describe those with the temerity to challenge the so-called ‘post-war consensus’ of a partly nationalised economy.

After 9/11, first in the USA, and then in the UK under Tony Blair, it primarily came to refer to Islamist extremism, meaning those holding more extreme views than what was sometimes called ‘mainstream Islam’. However, not only did this approach ignore non-Islamist extremism, but there were two more fundamental problems with it.

First, it became clear that Blair’s government had little understanding of the potential points of conflict between the legal and political aspects of what had been historically taught in classical Islam and the values of a free democratic society.

Second, this definition of extremism allowed the then Labour government to engage with a range of Islamist groups who were demanding, for example, a partial implementation of sharia law as a legal system in the UK. Blair’s government simply pointed to other Islamist groups which were even more extreme than those they were working with. Its policy even led to extremists being allowed to join the security services.

That is why during those years a number of us argued, including on ConservativeHome, that if ‘extremism’ was to be a useful term at all – it had to be defined as meaning extreme in relation to historic British values such as parliamentary democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and one law applying equally to all people.

That paradigm shift was enacted when David Cameron’s Conservative led government came to power in 2010 – and some of the credit for that must go to ConservativeHome’s editor, Paul Goodman, who was shadow Communities minister for the period leading up to that. To some extent, however, determining what those ‘British values’ actually are remains contested territory, not least because of attempts by some social liberals to hijack them as the Casey Review did in 2016 (Casey incidentally is now part of the Commission’s expert group).

It is worth reflecting quite how much progress we have made in understanding and tackling extremism since 9/11. The official report into the 7/7 London bus and tube bombings concluded that we did not understand what motivated the bombers. Politicians and public figures went out of their way to blame various social factors such as deprivation. As someone who had just returned to the UK after several years living as an aid worker in Afghanistan, including under the Taliban, I was astonished at the lack of understanding of Islamist ideology.

That is why I find this first report from the new Commission for Countering Extremism so troubling. In one sense, it ignores the very substantial progress that has been made since 9/11. It provides no significant analytical framework for understanding extremism, contains a whole section on ‘drivers of extremism’ which describes five social factors – but ignores ideology.

Although one cannot adequately summarise a 139 page report in a few words, one of the key thrusts of the report is that it is critical of the Government’s current counter-extremism strategy because, among other reasons, its definition of extremism is too broad and not well understood.  The basis for this claim and for much of the report is a survey of just under 3,000 people undertaken by the Commission. At best, this was a questionable basis on which to base public policy recommendations, risking being little more than a large-scale focus group or simply reflecting the views of lobby groups.

In case you missed it, the Government’s definition of extremism set out at the beginning of the 2015 Counter Extremism Strategy is:

Extremism is the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values…Life in our country is based on fundamental values that have evolved over centuries, values that are supported and shared by the overwhelming majority of the population and are underpinned by our most important local and national institutions. These values include the rule of law, democracy, individual liberty, and the mutual respect, tolerance and understanding of different faiths and beliefs.

What the Commission found was that just over half of ‘practitioners’ who responded to its survey thought the government’s definition of extremism was helpful, but three quarters of the members of the public who responded did not. That may well mean that the Government needs to do more to promote it, help people to comprehend it – and, crucially, help people to understand the story of how these fundamental British values developed over the centuries.

However, what the Commission proposes is that instead the Government should replace the definition with something that they claim will be clearer and easier to understand: a focus on ‘hate’.

“We currently summarise this hateful extremism as:

Behaviours that can incite and amplify hate, or engage in persistent hatred, or equivocate about and make the moral case for violence;

And that draw on hateful, hostile or supremacist beliefs directed at an out-group who are perceived as a threat to the well-being, survival or success of an in-group;

And that cause, or are likely to cause, harm to individuals, communities or wider society.”

I am probably not alone in thinking that is a good deal less clear than the government’s definition. Not only that, it simply ignores the hugely problematic nature of ‘hate speech’ – particularly in English law, whereby any third party can, however unrelated to the event, claim that something is motivated by hate.

This has affectively allowed hate speech to be weaponised by various groups intent on censoring any public disagreement with their own ideological beliefs, which incidentally includes those intent on imposing an Islamic blasphemy law by the backdoor.

Yes, the Government’s definition of extremism could be tightened up a bit. For example, ‘equal treatment of all by the law’ would be better than ‘the rule of law’: after all, Islamists also believe in the latter – it just happens to be sharia.  However, Ministers have rightly shied away from including certain types of speech in the definition of extremism for fear of creating a sedition law. Free speech is after all one of our historic British values.

What this report admits we need – but fails to provide – is a counter-narrative.

In the eighteenth century, Edmund Burke, in his Reflections on the Revolution in France, provided a counter narrative to the extremism of the French revolution. In twentieth century, Winston Churchill, who had begun writing his History of the English Speaking Peoples prior to the Second World War, saw the narrative of how our democracy and freedoms had been established over the centuries as a counter narrative to Nazi ideology. During the Cold War those such as Roger Scruton and Margaret Thatcher actively sought to develop a counter narrative to Communist ideology.

That too should be a central role for the Commission for Countering Extremism.

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John Jenkins: Too many excuses are made for Iran – especially by the EU. We must get real, stand with America – and take decisive action

Sir John Jenkins is a former British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and co-author of the Government’s Muslim Brotherhood Review of 2015.  He is a Senior Fellow at Policy Exchange.

How do we – the UK – solve a problem called Iran? The answer is more complicated than it should be, given the fragmented state of British politics, the way in which the Brexit debate has sucked all the policy oxygen from the room and now the absurd diplomatic spat with the Trump Administration.

But it is also urgent, given the way regional tensions are rising, bellicose noises from Washington DC and Tehran and our own self-understanding as a major international actor with a massive stake in global order and the reduction of conflict in the Middle East. What we decide to do about Iran now will also shape the views of Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, the US, France and Germany about what sort of power we shall continue to be after Brexit. It’s a test of our national will.

The general view of the commentariat seems to be that recent tensions are the fault of Donald Trump and his National Security Adviser, the belligerent John Bolton. They shouldn’t have abandoned the JCPOA, the nuclear deal negotiated over many painful years by the EU3+3, it is said. They shouldn’t have reapplied sanctions. They certainly shouldn’t overreact to Iran’s deliberate breach of the 300kg/3.67 per cent limits for uranium enrichment. And they should lay off Twitter. Is this fair?

Well, let’s remember that Iran has been an aggressive and often hostile presence in the Middle East since 1979. Under the Shah, it may have thrown its weight around from time to time. But it did so largely through OPEC and by trying to bully much smaller countries like Bahrain, backing down when confronted.

By contrast, the Islamic Republic tried from the start to export revolution. When this failed, it sought to subvert its neighbours by providing support to a wide variety of largely Shia Islamist groups. It helped to establish Hezbollah in Lebanon in the early 1980s. After 1983 it built similar groups in Iraq – and after 2011 in Syria – on the same model. It now backs the Houthis in Yemen.

Throughout this period, Iran has engaged either through others or on its own account in terrorist attacks on the US (Beirut and Kuwait 1983), France (Beirut and Kuwait 1983), Kuwait (1983, 1985, 1988), Saudi Arabia and the US (Al Khobar 1996) and Israel (Buenos Aires 1994, and Thailand and Bulgaria 2012). It sponsored kidnappings in Lebanon throughout the 1980s and the 2007 abduction of a British IT adviser, Peter Moore, and his close protection team in Iraq. Through its allies in Iraq it killed and maimed US and UK military personnel from 2003 to 2010. It has conducted regular assassinations at home and abroad.

During the latter part of the Iran-Iraq war, it indiscriminately sowed mines in international shipping lanes. It is almost certainly behind the recent attacks on shipping off the UAE, in the Gulf of Oman and elsewhere. For years it has offered tactical if intermittent support to Al Qaeda – and at one time to the Taliban – including training the operatives who carried out the 1998 East Africa bombings. It has given substantial and sustained military support to the Assad regime in Syria. It has illegally supplied missiles and advanced guidance systems to Hezbollah, some Iraqi Shia militias and the Houthis. And it continues to seek to establish permanent military bases in Syria in order to threaten Israel directly.

You’d think that all this would give commentators pause, especially when they wonder whether war is coming. They don’t seem to have noticed that it never really went away as far as Iran is concerned.

Now you could argue that this picture is exaggerated. Everyone’s doing it in the Middle East. And that in any case Iran is simply defending itself against sectarian Sunni revanchism and bone-headed US hostility.

But everyone’s not doing it. The brutal murder of Jamal al Khashoggi was shocking for many reasons. But one of them is precisely that the Saudis don’t normally do that kind of thing. They may, of course, do lots of other things people don’t like, including locking up human rights activists, executing people without what we would consider due process and exporting extremism.  There’s truth in all that – but Iran does the first two things on an even greater and the third on at least a comparable scale. And the point here is not whether a particular country has an unpleasant way of managing itself, but what the impact is on regional and therefore global security.

On this point, there is no comparison. The Saudis, together with the UAE, certainly helped fund popular opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. But such opposition already existed, was widespread, peaceful and growing from 2012 onwards. There has been regional competition for influence in Syria since the outbreak of the civil war there in 2011. But no other Middle Eastern power has sought so consistently as Iran to foment violent revolution in neighbouring states or exported vast quantities of weapons to those who seek to subvert them. No-one else since the collapse of Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi has sponsored terrorist attacks across the region and abroad, obstructed maritime free passage, harrassed foreign naval vessels or laid mines. Virtually everyone else has made some sort of accommodation with Israel.

And no other state has talent-spotted, backed or created and sustained such an array of powerful and purposeful sub-state actors – from Lebanese Hezbollah to the Badr Brigade, the Leagues of the Righteous and Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq, the Afghan and Pakistani Shia militias in Syria and the Houthis in Yemen. No doubt these groups have their own interests and their own purposes. Hezbollah in particular is also a global criminal enterprise with its tentacles extending through West Africa to Europe, Australia and South America, engaging in human trafficking, money laundering, the drugs trade – including a nice recent line helping smuggle Captagon out of Syria to pay for Iranian oil – and cheque fraud on a vast scale

But with the exception (mostly) of the Houthis, they all recognise the supreme religious and political authority of the Supreme Leader in Iran and in practice share the same overriding goals, of an expanded Shia hegemony over the greater Levant and, if possible, further afield under an Iranian umbrella and the eventual triumph in these areas of Khomeini’s heterodox doctrine of Wilayat al Faqih – the trusteeship of the righteous jurisprudent, in practice the Supreme Leader in Tehran.

The Houthis now fire missiles with gay abandon at airports, power stations and desalination plants in Saudi Arabia, and have threatened to do the same to the UAE. It turns out that the most recent drone attack on oil pipelines in the Kingdom – something that only makes sense in the context of Yemen – originated in Iraq. You might say that KSA is at war with the Houthis. But you can’t condemn Saudi attacks on civilian infrastructure in Yemen without doing the same for the Houthis. And what’s Iraq got to do with any of this?

The answer, of course, is that they’re all in it together. Iran has mobilised its allies and assets from the Bab al Mandab through the Gulf of Oman up to Iraq, Syria and indeed Lebanon in order to send a clear signal about its geographical reach, the variety and deadliness of its partners and the way in which it can use asymmetric and often deniable attacks to compensate for its conventional weaknesses as it seeks to preserve its gains in the wider region, face down the US and intimidate Europe.

The US under Trump seems incapable of transmitting such clear and consistent signals – there’s the constant hiss of tantrum-driven static instead. But you’d think in the circumstances that the EU would be inclined to stand with Washington – its single most important ally – and state clearly and collectively that we will not be intimidated, we condemn all targeting of civilian infrastructure and interference with shipping; that we will join forces to guarantee the freedom of navigation in the Gulf and adjoining seas, work to prevent further missile proliferation and respond robustly to attacks on the Arab Gulf States – at the same time as seeking to end the calamitous war in Yemen.

You’d be disappointed. The EU’s incoming High Representative for Foreign and Security Affairs, the Spanish Foreign Minister, Josep Borrell instead simply shrugs his shoulders and says that the EU will continue to work with Iran – and if Iran wants to destroy Israel, well, we’ll just have to learn to live with it. His predecessor, Federica Mogherini, quixotically used her last months in office to promote a special financial mechanism to enable European companies to avoid the impact of US bilateral sanctions on Iran. They won’t use it, of course. Who in their right minds would? But it was important to show willing. Willing to help Iran, that is.

And this points to a bigger problem in the mindset of European and indeed US elites over Iran, quite separate from the question of whether the US was right to withdraw from the JCPOA. If there’s any benefit of any doubt going around, Iran gets it. This isn’t just because Iran keeps teasing Europe with the idea that they might be the ones to save the JCPOA (though it does). And it isn’t quite universal. There’s an excellent and acerbic account of the intense final stages of the nuclear negotiations by the then French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, which makes clear his view of how Iran played the Kerry team. And even Europe may eventually run out of patience with Iranian posturing.

But there has long been a strong thread of Iranophilia in European policy circles, particularly but not exclusively on the Left. This is not out of love for Iran: but because far too many people in these circles dislike the US and did so even before Trump. A year or so ago at an Iran-related event, I heard a senior European External Action Service adviser tell a friend that it was important to support Iran (rather than Saudi Arabia) because only Iran in the region stood up to US imperialism.

That’s not an uncommon view and is now combined with a visceral loathing for Trump. It’s reflected in the way that many liberal commentators can’t bring themselves to admit that Iran, the Houthis, Hezbollah and many of the Iraqi Shia militias are in cahoots. The argument tends to be twofold: (a) Iran has a right to defend itself and (b) proxies equals puppets – any suggestion that these groups are just proxies misses their functional independence within particular socio-political contexts.

It’s a classic straw man argument. No one serious claims that these groups are puppets or simply proxies. They’re actually lots of different things, most of them unpleasant. But none of that alters the fact that they will serve Iran when Iran calls. We have seen them do so repeatedly from the 1980s – when Badr fought with Iran against their fellow Iraqis and Hezbollah bombed and kidnapped with impunity – to the present – when the Houthis keep the Saudis pinned down and distracted with Iranian technology while pumping out their propaganda from the Hezbollah stronghold of South Beirut. And little of this is about Iran’s right to self-defence.

It’s still not clear to me that there will be open war between the US and Iran. The latest French outreach to Iran may encourage both sides to step back. Neither wants a real fight. Trump has made clear his aversion to one as the US enters an election year. Iran knows and seeks to exploit this just short of conflict, though it also believes that if something does kick off, Trump is likely to want to end it quickly.

But you never know. And there are some clear if unsurprising policy conclusions for the new Foreign Secretary – when one is appointed and has decided who will replace the admirable Kim Darroch in Washington. First, si pacem vis, bellum para. What stokes the flames at times of tension is weakness and a lack of clarity. During the 1980s, Iran backed off because the US was crystal clear about both sending and acting upon its signals. Barack Obama set a bad precedent by abandoning his red lines in Syria in 2013. Trump didn’t do much better by striking Syrian targets once in 2017, blustering, and then last month advertising the fact that he had aborted a military response to the Iranian downing of a US surveillance drone.

This can only be remedied in Washington. That’s going to do take a lot of work. We should certainly advise against war – there are other things we can do instead. But we must stand by the US when it acts – whatever we may think about the President, the US is more than one person and remains indispensable to our security. The instinctive wringing of hands in Brussels and other European capitals simply encourages Iran.

The French at least will probably also want to be robust. We should work with them in shaping a realistic response with the US. If that means joint military action, we need to be part of it. We also need collectively to be clear about the triggers for any escalation ladder – from the new Gulf maritime protection force proposed by the US to the use of proportionate force in self-defence against Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) naval forces, the possible targeting of IRGC command and control nodes if they persist in hostile action and so forth.

We should be hard over against the Iran-aligned Shia militias in Iraq – just as we’ve decided belatedly to get real with Hezbollah by ending the feeble pretence (which they publicly ridiculed) that they have separate military and political wings. The Iraqi Prime Minister has said he wants to bring them under proper central governmental control. Some people suspect that’s an excuse to let them take over the state instead. We need to work with partners – again the US and the French, the Kurds, elements of the Iraqi government and key Iraqi Shia clerics – to stop them doing so.

We need to push for a settlement in Yemen. The war damaging, draining and entirely counterproductive. The UAE have wanted a settlement for the last couple of years and are now drawing down their forces. We have our differences with them. This is an area where we can potentially work together.

In the longer term, British and indeed western policy towards Iran needs to be what it always should have been, clear, robust, sustained and collective containment and deterrence. I’ve recently seen some very prominent former Obama officials argue that that’s precisely what the JCPOA was.

I didn’t think that withdrawing from the deal was particularly sensible. But that wasn’t because I thought it was a great deal. It was because I thought it bought us time – around 15 years to be precise. The task was to agree how to use that time well. But that’s not what actually happened. When the deal was formally ratified in 2015, the Obama Administration did nothing about Iran’s horizontal escalation in the region. Instead, they urged western businesses to start flooding back.

But business was reluctant – they suspected rightly that they’d find themselves in bed with some alarming partners which would spell serious trouble for them back home if these partners didn’t stop doing what they were doing in Iran, in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, not to mention further afield. And that was the problem. There was no effort to stop them nor any plan for containment and deterrence, just relief that we’d escaped from the trap we’d set for ourselves when we’d threatened consequences we weren’t prepared to deliver.

I’m glad to see we’ve now had the guts to stop a tanker we believe is smuggling Iranian oil in defiance of sanctions on Syria. The fact that the Iranians have threatened to retaliate – and may already have tried – suggests the charge is true. This won’t have been an easy decision to make. Over the last decade, there has been a startling lack of action over Iranian smuggling – of weapons, missile components and oil, even in areas where international maritime task forces – with British participation – operate such as the Gulf, the Indian Ocean, the Horn of Africa and the approaches to the Red Sea. So to stop a tanker now – even if it is Syria-related – sends a message of intent. It may also suggest that we are becoming more inclined to back the US – which has probably have supplied the intelligence on which the stop order was based.

And this is one way ahead. It’s not a question of toppling the Iranian regime. That’s a matter for Iranians. Nor is it a question of war: if the Iranians insist on continuing to threaten their neighbours, imperil shipping and subvert our friends, then we need to find and use ways to stop them doing so. But we need to do so proportionately, coolly and in partnership with others who are similarly willing, the US and the French in particular: the Germans will remain ambivalent. We also need to go after the criminal money flows around the world that sustain Iran and its allies in the region. The US Department of the Treasury and the FBI have been doing so for years. We should be part of all this.

In doing so we need to make sure that our military, our intelligence and security services and our diplomatic effort are properly funded, with the right equipment, staff and skills. And that they feel they have the full backing of ministers. That’s not been the case for some years now. Putting things right will be a generational task.

Needless to say, none of this will be remotely possible if a Corbyn government gets elected. So best get cracking now…

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Tom Wilson: How this Islamophobia definition would weaken the Government’s counter-terror strategy

Tom Wilson is a Senior Research Fellow in the Security and Extremism Unit at Policy Exchange.

Later this week, Parliament will hold a debate on Islamophobia and, specifically, on the APPG on British Muslims’ proposal for a formal definition of the term. While many may feel there are bigger questions on the national agenda, what is decided now will have significant ramifications for long to come. A definition of Islamophobia is being proposed that, if adopted, could tie government’s hands on a number of vital areas of future legislation—not least on counter-terrorism. The concern here is whether once accepted this definition might impact media freedom, and freedom of expression more widely still.

There is common agreement that where it occurs, prejudice and discrimination against minorities should be combatted in all its manifestations. If that were all that the term Islamophobia was concerned with—as many well intentioned people seem to believe—then there could be little objection to the term. Unfortunately, Islamophobia is a word that comes with a deeply problematic history. As our new report published for Policy Exchange explains, this is a term that was always intended to go far beyond simply protecting individuals from persecution.

The definition proposed by the APPG states that “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”. If formally adopted by government, there is critical question of whether such a vague and expansive definition would undermine both existing and future legislation—particularly in the area of security and counter-extremism.

Conceivably, we could expect to see this definition used to challenge legislation in the courts and quite possibly there would be a further impact at the level of Judicial Review of how existing powers are used and implemented. As Richard Walton—the former head of Counter Terrorism Command at the Met—pointed out on ConservativeHome recently, under the terms of the Islamophobia definition, measures in the Human Rights Act 1998 regarding discrimination could well be used against the police in their efforts to pursue and prosecute terrorists.

Furthermore, there is the fear that definition might cause particular difficulties for local authorities, several of which have precipitously moved to adopt the APPG’s definition independent of national government. Opponents of the counter radicalisation Prevent programme have previously argued that local authorities face a conflict in being able to uphold both their Equalities duty and their obligations under Prevent. Notably, in the Runnymede Trust’s 2017 report on Islamophobia, the argument was made that Prevent effectively conflicts with the public sector equality duty on account of being discriminatory against Muslims. This claim is dubious. Yet the risk is that by endorsing the Islamophobia definition, we might see campaigners challenge local government on its implementation of Prevent by arguing that councils are conflict with their own Islamophobia definition.

Many of those minded to offer their backing for the definition without necessarily being aware of the ramifications for important areas of policy, do so out of a well-intentioned desire to show support for people who have been the victim of prejudice. But one of the great flaws in the definition concerns the groups that it leaves out.

Several prominent Muslim figures have been critical of the failure of the APPG to address intra-Muslim hatred. Commenting on our new study, Baroness Falkner noted that the APPG’s own Islamophobia report, “was as silent on the impact of Islamism as it was on the very real discrimination that Muslim minorities and secular Muslims face from within their own faith. The APPG’s definition does nothing to address this form of prejudice.” The targeting of minorities within Islam by extremists should be of considerable concern in the UK, and particularly in Scotland where Asad Shah—a member of the Ahmadiyya community—was murdered in Glasgow in 2016. Given that it is reported that the political parties there have now adopted the APPG’s definition, they must ask whether that definition is adequate given its neglect of intra-Muslim hatred.

Baroness Falkner spoke out about her own first hand experience of this form of prejudice during a Lords debate on Islamophobia in December. During that same debate, Lord Singh also noted the experience of other minorities when observing the particular attention that Islamophobia receives in public debates. As he explained, other minority groups look at this long running focus on Islamophobia and feel as if they are falling off of the government’s radar on account of lacking “a culture of complaint”.

This is something those considering adopting the definition of Islamophobia have to take into account. It has been reported that Labour, the Liberal Democrats and London City Hall have all adopted the APPG’s definition of Islamophobia. There were similar reports that the Scottish Conservatives may have accepted the definition, although the details here remain unclear.

What is notable is that so far the Conservative Government has resisted doing so. This after all is a maximalist definition, and as our report documents, highly problematic groups and individuals – of the type kept at arms length by the last Labour government as well as its Conservative successors – have played a prominent role in campaigning for an Islamophobia definition. Several appear to have fed into the definition now being proposed. A more reasonable definition—or perhaps simply a national strategy on combatting anti-Muslim hatred—might easily have won near universal backing. Instead, this definition has become a matter of contention and may yet be rejected altogether.

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Nick Hargrave: Why Conservatives must catch the green tide

Nick Hargrave is a former Downing Street special adviser, where he worked under both David Cameron and Theresa May. He now works at Portland, the communications consultancy.

As much as politicians like to pretend that they are visionary masters of a country’s destiny, the truth is that most politics is really a response to events.

In my adult life, politics has arced around three unexpected moments that shaped national discussion for the years that followed; transforming the attendant issues from second order concerns for the back end of manifestos to questions that defined Prime Ministerial priorities and shaped elections.

First, the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, where the dreadful results fuelled a reappraisal of our vulnerability to extremism and moved the subject from thoughtful Chatham House debates to front page news.

Second, the largely unpredicted global financial crisis of 2008-09, which took the politics of deficits from dry economic thinking to an argument that sustained the Conservative Party for the best part of a decade.

Third, the Brexit referendum (which cannot be compared with the first two), which brought to the boil a discussion about identity and pride in the nation state that continues today.

It is foolish to predict the next ‘big thing’ precisely; there are several that you could choose. From tax transparency and the obligations on multinational companies to the demographic timebomb of an ageing society coupled with low levels of household saving.

It is pretty likely, though, that the politics of the environment – and more precisely climate change – is going to come to the centre of debate during many of our lifetimes. If we accept this premise, then Conservatives should make sure we are at least forearmed and on the right side of the argument.

Let us not pretend that the country at large shares the intensity of the Extinction Rebellion. And let us also remember that the United Kingdom has a solid record on reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions.

But there are some structural factors bubbling away which should trouble Conservatives:

  • Taken as a demographic group, under 35s are more intense in their concern about climate change than previous generations; although there are plenty of individual older voters who also care. Recent research by Onward puts the importance placed on the environment amongst under 35s in roughly the same category as housing and education. This is striking, given that the latter two will currently be felt much more as tangible issues in their daily lives. I do not think this attitude is going to change as we get older, because it is a product of values and world-view shaped by 30 years of pitch-rolling by our cultural icons, fuelled by the way in it has been discussed on social media in the past 10 years – and given oomph by recent documentaries such as those by David Attenborough that have worked their way into the generational zeitgeist. More research needs to be done, but I suspect that these concerns are currently more keenly felt by the economically mobile and those who have had the privilege of getting on in life with higher education. But we are missing a trick if we do not believe these voters are important parts of a future Conservative coalition.
  • There is plenty of potential in the century ahead for an ‘extreme’ global warming event that brings this underlying concern to a more dramatic head. The growing body of scientific evidence points to the consequence of global warming in the years to come. The effects in other countries – only as far away as the low-lying Netherlands – could be crushing. But the United Kingdom is not built to withstand the greater regularity of heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising sea-levels that are projected either. These things do not sound particularly threatening written down as abstract concepts. They are significantly more problematic when the practical consequences are spelled out: imagine Skegness being lost to the sea and much of the rest of the farming county of Lincolnshire turning to marsh as Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, suggested recently in a hypothetical scenario.
  • This direction on climate change is only going to continue unless the modern superpowers of the United States and China take the issue seriously. There has been incremental progress on the part of the Chinese in recent years although arguably not enough – while the US has gone the other way. This is concerning because while the UK is somewhere in the order of 40 per cent down on greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990, global emissions are continuing to rise.
  • Despite our creditable record on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the UK since 2010, we are being a little disingenuous as Conservatives if we suggest that we have made it part of our recent identity. We should also have the courage to recognise that the policy impetus for some of the progress predates the 2010 election and was often pushed more aggressively by the Liberal Democrats between 2010 and 2015 than us. A lot of this is rooted in an inherent Conservative scepticism at being preached to by the spotty student left. But of course it is coupled with the competing economic priority of keeping the cost of energy down for hard-pressed families. We should not beat ourselves up about this but be keenly aware of its potential to put us on the wrong side of debate in the future.

It is important to be realistic. I am not suggesting that the next Tory leadership race can or should be conducted entirely through the prism of the environment. We are still working our way as a country through the last ‘big thing’; the politics of Brexit will continue to spin until the nation makes a strategic choice.

But future Conservative leaders must keep this issue on their list of first order concerns in terms of both policy and communication.

It is critical that tonally we are seen to appreciate the scale of the challenge ahead and talk like we ‘get it’; it is after all inherently Tory to preserve the things we value for future generations.

It is fundamental that policy momentum is not lost in the 2020s and 2030s as we go through the UK’s fourth and fifth carbon budget rounds; we are not on track to meet them. What is more, tackling climate change and rebalancing the economy through new green jobs can be two sides of the same coin. We must not cede this ground to the left.

And it is essential that we use our diplomatic power as far as we can – although the business of striking independent free trade deals would make this more difficult – to make the case on emissions to Washington and Beijing.

The next contest for the Conservative crown will be upon us at some point. It is the responsibility of everyone in the Tory family to demand that the candidates have a credible position on these questions. Events will drive the moment this all comes to a head. But a leader of first rank should at least have the ability to see round the corner.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Freedom’s Detective: Everything old is new again

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Westlake Legal Group whitley Freedom’s Detective: Everything old is new again War on terror The Highwaymen The Blog Texas Ranger secret service scandal ku klux klan Hiram C. Whitley Guantanamo Bay Frank Hamer Ed's reviews domestic spying charles lane book review american history

Extraordinary interrogation methods. Domestic surveillance. A war on terror. Even a bungled break-in in Washington leading to the downfall of politicos. If you think that these are all modern plagues in the Beltway, Charles Lane has a history lesson that everyone should read. In Freedom’s Detective: The Secret Service, the Ku Klux Klan and the Man Who Masterminded America’s First War on Terror, Lane tells the tale of Hiram C. Whitley, the first head of the Secret Service, who took to undercover investigations so enthusiastically that it became tough to see the line between law enforcement and crime.

Lane rescues Whitley from obscurity in such a colorful manner that it’s tough to understand how he got there in the first place. Almost from the very start of the book, Whitley comes off as at best a complicated fellow. His scruples were few and malleable depending on circumstance. He went from scandal to scandal early in his life, and did so later as well. At one point, he sold out abolitionists by running an undercover operation for slave interests; earlier, he tried to bluff a business partner out of his interests.

And yet, for a brief but powerful period, Whitley’s talents precisely fit the Grant administration’s needs. Lane brings us a gritty view of Reconstruction that is shorn of the mythology on both sides of the issue to highlight the first American war on terror against the Ku Klux Klan. In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, before the United States federal government really grasped the nature of its new national mandate to enforce civil rights, the pursuit of justice against the Klan had foundered in state and local courts. After having established himself and the Secret Service in pursuing counterfeiters in the new national currency — itself a recent innovation — Grant tasked Whitley to use his undercover talents to combat the Klan.

Whitley got results, but in doing so raised some of the same questions we debate to this very day. How far can the government go in surveillance? How legitimate are certain interrogation methods? What role should the American military play in dealing with domestic terrorism, and how far can the federal writ run in states? There is even a parallel to Guantanamo Bay in Whitley’s largely successful — if temporarily so — suppression of the Klan.

In the end, however, Whitley’s vices end up undoing him, the war against Klan terror, and almost the entire Secret Service. Lane deliciously tells the story of Whitley’s connivance in a plot to conduct a burglary to undermine political opponents that evokes memories of a third-rate burglary that would occur in Washington almost one hundred years later. This scandal also had far-reaching consequences that arguably outstripped Watergate, especially for African-Americans in the South.

Lane keeps up a brisk pace in Freedom’s Detective and weaves a compelling tale that will have readers turning pages frantically. It reminds us of the difficulties the US had in transforming itself into a true national power and of the very real abuses that such a transformation can produce.

To adapt the Hot Air film-review scale to books, Freedom’s Detective gets a 5:

  • 5 – Buy it in hardbound
  • 4 – Wait for the paperback
  • 3 – Remainder bin prospect
  • 2 – Pick it up at the library
  • 1 – Avoid at all costs

For those looking for a hero of less moral ambiguity, I’d recommend an excellent biography of Frank Hamer titled Texas Ranger: The Epic Life of Frank Hamer, the Man Who Killed Bonnie and Clyde by John Boessenecker. Hamer was the central character in the recent Netflix film The Highwaymen, an excellent retelling of the hunt for Bonnie and Clyde that contradicts the slander perpetrated by the Arthur Penn film.

Boessenecker gives a much more detailed account of that hunt but aims at a more comprehensive look at Hamer’s life. Hamer also fought the Klan and lynchers in a more direct manner two generations after Whitley. The book inclines a bit at times towards a hagiographic portrayal of Hamer, but still includes some of the warts in Hamer’s life, in which Boessenecker delivers inescapable condemnation. Overall, however, the massive weight of Hamer’s integrity and perseverance shines through, and is also a tale well told.  At the end, Boessenecker also rescues Hamer from obscurity, and there seems little doubt that Hamer’s character calls for that rescue more than Whitley’s. Texas Ranger came out in 2016 so it’s possible to get it less expensively, but it deserves a 5 as well. Pick up both books and enjoy.

Addendum: I interviewed Charles Lane on Friday about his book while guest hosting on Relevant Radio. The podcast is at the link.

The post Freedom’s Detective: Everything old is new again appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group whitley-300x162 Freedom’s Detective: Everything old is new again War on terror The Highwaymen The Blog Texas Ranger secret service scandal ku klux klan Hiram C. Whitley Guantanamo Bay Frank Hamer Ed's reviews domestic spying charles lane book review american history   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com