Tuesday, February 03, 2004
More Stick, Less Carrot

The Foreign Affairs Committee have published their report on the "War on Terror". The newspapers mostly quoted from the passages that appeared to support the actions of the government. The long list of conclusions or commendations reproduced the incoherence of the administration's foreign policy.

The Foreign Affairs Committee stated that the war had probably left Britain more vulnerable to terrorist attack. However, it provided a long-term opportunity to increase stability and democratisation in the Middle East. The members then poured the syrup on when they described the government's support for the European Union and the United Nations, including the tri-power delegation to Iran and the establishment of a UN Committee on Counter-Terrorism.

Their response was based on the decadent love of 'soft power' that has infected the political elites in the European Union. They noted that bothe Syria and Iran were possible destabilising influences in Iraq without noting their support for terrorist acts or possession of weapons of mass destruction.

We conclude that Iran and Syria have the potential to be destabilising factors in Iraq, and that maintaining co-operation with both is therefore essential for the success of Coalition efforts to bring stability to that country. We further conclude that the United Kingdom, through its diplomatic relations with Iran and Syria, could play a crucial role in ensuring this co-operation. (Paragraph 34)

However, they take a far greater interest in the Middle East 'peace process' and criticise Israeli actions for undermining these plans. There is a token criticism of the Palestinian Authority for not controlling terrorism (how?) and a desire that the United States should be encouraged to twist Israel's arms into making concessions.
Whilst acknowledging Iran and Syrian activities in fostering terror, on wonders why engagement will work.

41. We conclude that through its links with Palestinian terrorist organisations, Iran disrupts prospects for peace between the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We further conclude that the Government, with its partners in the European Union, has a number of incentives?such as the Trade and Co-operation Agreement?which it can employ to help encourage Iran to cease its links with terrorist groups. We conclude that the Iranian authorities value these incentives and that their existence could be used to discourage Iranian support for Palestinian terrorist groups. (Paragraph 203)

43. We conclude that although Syria's closure of the offices of terrorist groups in Damascus is a positive step, it continues to support terrorist organisations and has failed to restrain them beyond temporary efforts to limit their activities. (Paragraph 227)

44. We are concerned about the pursuit of WMD by Syria. However, we conclude that pressure alone is unlikely to succeed in gaining Syrian co-operation on WMD, and recommend that the Government pursue dialogue with Damascus in order to address this threat. (Paragraph 232)

45. We also recognise Syria's concerns about Israel's nuclear capability and recommend that the Government pursue this issue with the Israeli Government. We conclude that ultimately, a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Arab States will be required to address the issue of WMD and arms proliferation in the region, and we recommend that the Government seek to encourage Syria and Israel to return to the negotiating table. (Paragraph 233)

46. We conclude that, at this stage, it is better to foster gradual reform and co-operation with Syria than to push for unachievable objectives. Syrian co-operation is important for success in Iraq and the Middle East peace process. Given the failure of pressure alone to gain Syrian co-operation, we recommend that the Government continue to pursue constructive engagement and dialogue as the best way to foster co-operation. In particular, we recommend that the Government work to encourage Israel and Syria to resume peace negotiations, including giving its support to any regional efforts at mediation in the conflict, and generally to improve bilateral relations. We further recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government set out its position on the Golan Heights and the Israeli settlements there. (Paragraph 242)

Whilst there is a concern about these states as far as the deployment of our troops in Iraq is concerned, the 'peace process' is an intractable problem impervious to outside influence or pressure. Engagement with these two states will only serve to encourage their existing elites and will not prevent their support for weapons of mass destruction or terror as tools of state power.

A greater concern is the multilateral policy that is now supported by the mainstream in politics. This emphasis upon engagement and co-operation only encourages states that do not recognise the value of a multilateral foreign policy to take unilateral steps that increase their power and unpredictability since they are offered only carrots and no sticks. Such a foreign policy is infused with moral hazard since the rogue states are not sanctioned for breaking undertakings that they may give or for following policies that endanger the interests of the West.

If Syria or Iran are implicated in the deaths of British soldiers through their actions, we do not want our politicians to sound like spokemen for a telephone utility, advocating the joys of diplomacy. We want them to act and demonstrate such actions will not go unpunished. The listless orthodoxy of the Foreign Affairs Committee may play well in the halls of Brussels and the corridors of New York but the sharks in Tehran and Damascus only respond to threats.

(22.50, 3rd February 2004)


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