The Zeitgeist Politics

Global Politics with a focus on The Middle East

Posts Tagged ‘UK

UK expels Israeli diplomat, Australia to follow suit?

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David Miliband with Ehud Olmert in happier times. Image Credit: LIFE

David Miliband with Ehud Olmert in happier times. Image Credit: LIFE

Fore more information on the assassination of Mahmoud al Mabhouh which has sparked this debacle click here.

There are reports that Australia will possibly expel an Israeli diplomat, following the announcement of a similar expulsion in the UK.

“We take this matter very seriously. But we will take it in a sensible, methodical approach,” Stephen Smith, the Australian Foreign Minister, said. “Obviously we’ll take into account what other countries have done, and the United Kingdom is not the only country caught up in this. Regrettably, there’s also France, Ireland and Germany.”

He said that David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary who ordered the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat over the cloning of British passports used in the hit, had offered him the report by the Serious and Organised Crime Agency. The Australian police are still investigating the forgery of the four Australian passports used in the killing. Mr Smith did not say when the inquiry would end or what measures his Government might take. [Times Online]

The UK expulsion appears to be a symbolic/rhetorical action aimed more at gaining positive media attention before the upcoming election than at any serious breach of ties. According to Haaretz:

It could have been much worse,” the official told the British newspaper. “I wouldn’t call it a slap on the wrist, but it was more a symbolic reprimand than anything else.”

Israel has also received assurances that the diplomat asked to leave could be replaced within six weeks, once the general election was over, the report added.

The Guardian, in a strongly-worded editorial, disagrees, noting that this is the first expulsion of an Israeli diplomat from the UK since 1988 and pointing to an “unprecedented statement” from David Miliband which “all but accused the Israeli government of participation in a criminal, terrorist conspiracy.”

He said that given that high-quality forgeries were made of British passports, it was “highly likely” the forgeries were made by a state intelligence service and that, taken with other inquiries from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), there were compelling reasons to believe that Israel was responsible for the misuse of British passports. The inference was clear. If Israel as a government was responsible for the forgery of passports, it was responsible too for the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the founder of Hamas’s military wing, in Dubai.

Former British diplomat Oliver Miles characterises this expulsion as a show of recognition that words must be backed by action when dealing with Israel, he also urges European action, or at least consideration, on Israel and questions the Israeli Government’s commitment to “the peace process.”

The Times Online reports that Israel has not taken any retaliatory measures against Britain’s diplomats and is hoping this crisis will blow over, it also has some statements from various people indicating that the Israelis may be taking this seriously:

There is further concern that the severe step taken by the British Government could negatively impact its security ties with Israel and the particularly close co-operation between the two intelligence organisations, the Mossad and Britain’s MI6,” said Ben Caspit, a commentator for Maariv newspaper.

This could cause heavy intelligence and operational damage to Israel and the Mossad, and leave the Israeli intelligence organisation exposed on many fronts — both in terms of its operational options and in terms of its methods of operation and the extent of the intelligence that was shared with foreign organisations,” he said.

However on the other hand, Times also spoke to Moshe Maor, an expert on British-Israeli ties who said:

Moshe Maor, an expert of British-Israeli ties at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said that the British actions had more to do with the upcoming elections than intelligence work.

“In an electoral situation in which the two main parties are running very nearly even, the importance of every vote carries great importance. There is a desire to satisfy those who have previously abandoned Labour, such as the far Left. In actuality, what we have here is an attempt to score points in the media and not a case of concrete damage to bilateral relations,” he said.

While I can see The Guardian’s and Ben Caspit’s points on this, I still don’t think this is really an event of any significance, and while I disagree with Mr. Maor that this is about winning votes back from the far left, I do think that this is a political move aimed at domestic audiences in the UK.

As Miles pointed out in his piece, expulsion of diplomats on the grounds of suspected espionage is nothing new and certainly no declaration of war. This may not have happened since 1988 but then British passports haven’t been forged since 1981 either. In an election year, the British government was never going to sit idly by or issue impotent condemnations, action needed to be taken and this is the simplest action that could have been taken. David Miliband’s comments notwithstanding, not a great deal has changed since then between Israel and the UK. Milliband himself was describing Israel as “a strategic partner” as recently as December last and, as Miles points out, this is a meaningless bit of circle jerk which shows a commitment to a vague “friendship” rather than anything real.

Stronger words by Milliband now may simply reflect the greater permissibility of criticising Israel in stronger terms, the reality of Israel’s relationship with Western nations may not have changed but the language has shifted a great deal since increased visibility of protest movements and, among other things, the Gaza offensive and the subsequent Goldstone Report. Stronger rhetoric can now be applied but I maintain that, behind the words, lies the same steely realpolitik facade of not wanting to rock that boat. It will be interesting to see what Australia’s Federal Commission into the stolen passports will show up and whether it will matter even a little.


Written by alexlobov

March 25, 2010 at 7:29 pm

The Iran-Pakistan conundrum

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I’ve had a post brewing in my head about developments in Iran-Pak all day long – had to shove thoughts of Jundullah aside to blog about the Islamabad bombings – but this tweet just reminded me of why I needed to write in the first place.


The attack on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps on Sunday, which killed 43 people including senior officers, has led to quite a disaster for the already-besieged-with-problems Pakistan. Iran, which has blamed (in not so many words) the United States, the United Kingdom and Pakistan for the attack, has been going back and forth with Pakistan on the root of the problem: Jundullah.

The group – based in Pakistan’s Balochistan province – has taken responsibility for the attack. In a nutshell, Iran wants Pakistan to hand over its leader, Abdolmalek Rigi, over to the Iranian authorities. On the other hand, Pakistan denies that Rigi is in Pakistan. A Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesperson told AFP:

‘We don’t know the whereabouts of Rigi,’ said the Pakistan spokesman. ‘As Interior Minister Rehman Malik said, Rigi is not in Pakistan,’ he added.

Pakistan has a lot at stake here. The country enjoys a stellar relationship with Iran – save for the rows they get into over Jundullah – and that relationship has been built further during Zardari’s presidency. The much-talked about Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline deal could see a delay if the row isn’t resolved soon. To add, the Iranian Parliament has demanded Ahmedinajad to freeze aid to Pakistan, which is to the tune of 300 million dollars for counter-terrorism assistance.

It is also via Iranian legislators that the idea of a military operation inside Pakistan came about:

Isna quoted a lawmaker from Sistan-Baluchestan, Payman Forouzesh, as saying: “There is unanimity about the Revolutionary Guards and the security forces engaging in operations in any place they would deem necessary.”

Apparently referring to agreement among lawmakers, he said: “There is even unanimity that these operations (could) take place in Pakistan territory.”

I don’t think that Iran, despite being furious over the attack, will actually allow IRGC to cross over into Pakistan and begin ground operations here. Instead, I assume that Pakistan will try and find some Jundullah members and hand them over to Iran and try and appease Iran in any way possible.

Meanwhile, the two friends have been talking.

The way we were (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The way we were (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday urged his Pakistani counterpart to confront the rebels, saying the “presence of terrorist elements in Pakistan is not justifiable.”

“The Pakistani government should help to quickly arrest these criminals so they can punished,” Ahmadinejad told Asif Ali Zardari during a telephone call received from the Pakistani leader.


Zardari called the incident “gruesome and barbaric” and pledged full Pakistani support to fight the militants, according to a statement from his office.

But remember, the Revolutionary Guards want Abdolmalek Rigi

The head of the Guards, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said on Monday that Tehran will demand that Pakistan hand over Jundallah leader Abdolmalek Rigi, who is accused of being the mastermind of the bombing.

Jafari said a Tehran delegation will head to Pakistan to deliver “proof to them so they know that the Islamic Republic is aware of its (Pakistan’s) support” to the group led by Rigi.

Lets see what the next few days bring to this state of affairs. President Zardari, your move?

Written by Saba Imtiaz

October 21, 2009 at 4:43 am

UNHRC endorses Goldstone Report & more anti-Goldstone crazy

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Photo Credit: AP

Photo Credit: AP

Breaking news via JPost & Haaretz, Goldstone Report is endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council:

The resolution passed 25-6, with mostly developing countries in favor and the United States and five European countries opposing. Eleven mostly European and African countries abstained, while Britain, France and three other members of the 47-nation body declined to vote. [JPost]

The resolution agreed in Geneva simply calls for the U.N. General Assembly to consider the Goldstone report and for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report back to the Human Rights Council on Israel’s adherence to it.

The report calls for the UN Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court if the Israelis or Palestinians fail to investigate the alleged abuses themselves. [Haaretz] (For full breakdown of votes for/against/abstentions click the Haaretz link

UPDATE: You can haz vote breakdown, hat-tips Haaretz & Jpost

Against: The U.S., Italy, Holland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Ukraine.

For: China, Russia, Egypt, India, Jordan, Pakistan, South Africa, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ghana, Indonesia, Djibouti, Liberia, Qatar, Senegal, Brazil, Mauritius, Nicaragua and Nigeria.

Abstain: Bosnia, Burkina-Faso, Cameron, Gabon, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Belgium, South Korea, Slovenia and Uruguay.

Refused to Vote: Britain, France

Not Present: Madagascar and Kyrgyzstan were not present during the vote.

We’ll update you on new stuff that comes out of this as soon as we can. In the meantime… here’s your daily dose of crazy.


The Guardian pretty much sums up the repercussions of this:

Hamas looks unlikely to investigate its actions during the war and Netanyahu has already insisted he will not allow any Israelis to face war crimes trials. The US would almost certainly veto any decision critical of Israel if the issue reached a vote in the security council.

It’s good to see that this vote has been passed, it’s interesting to see that Bibi’s shuttle diplomacy during the meeting only succeeded in bringing around the US & some Europeans. This could be a further indicator that the first to abandon Israel’s side completely will be the developing world. However, despite a good deal of discussion in the UK about this, it’s disappointing that they chose not to vote for it in the end and decided instead to not participate due to lack of time. The old stalling ploy. Nice one, Gordon.

Sometimes I wonder why Haaretz continues to put this kind of crap into print, maybe the anti-Goldstone lobby simply has no real reasonable ammunition left so they just have to make do with intermittently sounding either like a bunch of petulant children or old men shaking their fists at clouds, and maybe Haaretz just prints it in order to sound “fair and balanced”.

This here article by one Yoel Marcus is so chock-full of ridiculousness that I just can’t help myself, let me sum it up for you:

Firstly, Turkey is clearly on its way to becoming a member of the Axis of Evil since the grave error of supporting the Goldstone Report sin of not allowing Israel to use their airspace for military exercises was committed. But don’t worry, this doesn’t matter, the Turks don’t matter, WE DONT NEED THE TURKS (despite them being the biggest economy in the region & Israel’s only friend in it). Also, apparently the Turks no longer have any right to criticise anyone since what they did to the Armenians and the Kurds, nope, no right at all. Never mind that, you know, of course this in no way refutes the fact that Israel killed children in Gaza, as the Turks rightfully pointed out… it’s just that the Turks can’t say anything cos they were bad too! Tattle-tales! While poor Israel has “become the world’s doormat” despite having the unquestioned support of the world’s only superpower.

Furthermore, Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denying means he is in no way allowed to consider nuclear weapons, for shame for even suggesting it, while Israel’s clandestine nuclear weapons arsenal or ‘the thing we do not speak of’ is… cool. The article also credits Netanyahu for his grand-peacemaking plan: “Two states for two peoples”, all credit to Bibi, perhaps he should get the next Nobel Peace Prize? Oh and bloody Abbas, he’s been such a terrible man, despite initially helping Israel whitewash the Report, Hosni Mubarak on the other hand “turns out to be the most level-headed leader in the region”. Amazing!

There is also this bizarre little gem explaining why we should not talk to Iran:

Dialogue? Go for it. The Iranians are known for their salesmanship – when someone asks the owner of a carpet store the time, he will end up buying three rugs before getting an answer.

I never wanted those bloody rugs in the first place but I have to say, they are rather pretty…

Anyway there’s more crazy in there but my rant was long enough. See it & behold for yourselves!


Saba Imtiaz

Al Jazeera’s live stream crashed on me so I couldn’t view the endorsement of the Goldstone Report for myself.  That personal boo-hoo aside, should one be fairly optimistic or fairly cynical of this? If the Goldstone Report has been decried so much already, will an endorsement make any difference?

I’m going to lean towards yes, despite the signals of a third intifada in the making. In terms of its symbolic value, the endorsement – as has the Report – have been discussed worldwide now. While the countries that voted for the endorsement are pretty much the ones expected to, it is an important sign that the Report wasn’t just reduced to piles of paper. Israel and Hamas (though the level of their war crimes are by no means equally proportional) need to be held accountable for what happened during Operation Cast Lead, but more importantly Israel needs to realize what a major blunder they have caused in the aftermath of the invasion.

This is also an important sign to the Obama administration. They need to read (seriously, the amount of ill-informed opinions there are floating out there!) the Goldstone Report and realize that neither does their approval of the Israeli government’s actions help nor do their half-hearted squawks of disapproval hurt whenever the Israel government allows building settlements. If President Obama’s ill-thought out Nobel Peace Prize win was a “call to action” to him, then the time is now to act.

And if you’re looking for more optimism, Marc Lynch has a fairly good idea of why this could help move the peace process along.

First, the vote shows that Israel is paying a price for its short-sighted diplomatic strategy of confrontation with the Obama administration.

Second, the passage of the report may slightly increase the odds of a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement under Egyptian auspices.

Third, the U.S. will almost certainly veto any move in the Security Council to act on the report. But given how much importance the Israeli government has given to the Goldstone Report, this veto might actually be used as a form of leverage.

Written by alexlobov

October 16, 2009 at 11:58 pm