In 2015 we witness a rare geopolitcal power shift – and in the face of every kind of new external challenge the leaders of the EU and the USA have never looked weaker or more bemused.
Christopher Booker writes: As we enter this new year, what is the most significant feature of how the world is changing that went almost unnoticed in the year just ended? Two events last autumn might have given us a clue.
One was the very peculiar nature of that state visit in October, when the president of China was taken in a golden coach to stay at Buckingham Palace, down a Mall lined with hundreds of placard-waving pro‑China stooges, while the only people manhandled away by Chinese security guards were a few protesters against China’s treatment of Tibet and abuses of human rights.
Led by David Cameron, our politicians could not have fawned more humiliatingly on the leader of a country whose economy, before its recent wobbles, was predicted by the IMF to overtake that of the US as the largest in the world in 2016. While Britain once led the world in steel‑making and the civil use of nuclear power, the visit coincided with the crumbling of the remains of our steel industry before a flood of cheap Chinese steel, as our politicians pleaded for China’s help in building, to an obsolete design, the most costly nuclear power station in the world.
Three weeks later came the rather less prominent visit of Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, whose even faster-growing economy is predicted by financial analysts to become bigger than Britain’s within three years, and to overtake China’s as the world’s largest in the second half of the century. Read the rest of this entry »
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A Taliban suicide bomber struck the entrance to the Afghan parliament on Monday and gunmen tried to storm the heavily guarded compound, setting off a gunbattle with police that left two people dead as lawmakers were meeting inside to vote on the appointment of a new defense minister.
“Targeting innocent people in the holy month of Ramadan is a clear act of hostility against the religion of Islam,” his office said in a statement, adding that the perpetrators “are criminals who are bound by no creed or religion.”
Afghan security forces managed to repel the attack, killing all seven gunmen and ensuring that no members of parliament were harmed. But the audacious assault came as the Taliban captured two districts in as many days in the country’s north, displaying their ability to operate on multiple fronts.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the attack began with a car bomb explosion near the entrance to parliament. Gunmen then attempted to storm the compound but were pushed back by security forces and eventually corralled into a nearby building that was under construction.
Sediqqi later said all seven attackers were killed by police and that no members of parliament were harmed. “It is over now,” he said.
Sediqqi said a woman and a 10-year-old girl were killed. Health Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ismail Kahousi said 31 civilians were wounded in the parliament attack, including two women and two children.
Sidiqa Mubarez, a member of parliament, said the building was rocked by the large explosion and that some people were wounded by flying glass. She said the explosion happened shortly after Masoom Stanekzai had arrived to be confirmed as defense minister, a post that has been vacant for nine months. The vote was delayed by the attack.
The Taliban claimed the attack. The militant group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told The Associated Press by telephone that it targeted Stanekzai and the parliament itself. He said the assault showed the “capability of the mujahedeen, who can even attack the parliament in the capital.”
An AP reporter who witnessed part of the assault heard heavy gunfire outside parliament and saw black smoke billowing from the entrance as ambulances raced to the scene. The reporter later heard sporadic shooting from the building where the militants were said to be holed up. Read the rest of this entry »
Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani stands trial for charges that include insulting members of parliament and spreading propaganda against the system.
Mahsa Alimardani reports: First, Iran’s leaders restricted access to contraception. Then artist Atena Farghadani wrote a cartoon depicting them as animals.
“The image that led to her arrest came while Iran sought to outlaw IUDs and vasectomies, as Iran’s leaders pushed to increase the nation’s population.”
What came next for the 28-year-old artist? Arrest. Solitary confinement. A heart attack. And on Tuesday, the start of her trial on charges of spreading anti-Tehran propaganda and insulting the country’s lawmakers and supreme leader.
The image that led to her arrest came while Iran sought to outlaw IUDs and vasectomies, as Iran’s leaders pushed to increase the nation’s population.
She was initially jailed for five months in 2014 at the notorious Evin prison. She was released in December, but was detained again after publicly discussing her mistreatment by prison guards.
“She was initially jailed for five months in 2014 at the notorious Evin prison. She was released in December, but was detained again after publicly discussing her mistreatment by prison guards.”
Three weeks after her second confinement, Atena went on a hunger strike to protest the poor prison conditions. The move led to a heart attack and a brief loss of consciousness in February, her lawyer told Amnesty International. Atena Farghadani has since been moved to another detention center and stopped her hunger strike, the human rights group reports, but advocates remain concerned about her health. Read the rest of this entry »
Prime Minister David Cameron’s party projected to win 316 seats; 239 for Labour
LONDON— Jenny Gross reports: Exit polls showed a surprising swing of support to Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party in the U.K.’s tightly-contested election Thursday, suggesting that the Tories could continue to lead the government.
The exit polls forecast that the Conservatives would win 316 seats in the U.K. Parliament, suggesting a far stronger showing than months of pre-election surveys that showed them in a dead heat with the main opposition Labour Party. However, the exit polls indicated the Conservatives would be short of an effective majority of the 650-seat House of Commons.
— Robert Hutton (@RobDotHutton) May 7, 2015
Labour, according to the polls, secured 239 seats. The Conservatives’ current junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, were projected to win 10 seats, which would indicate heavy losses. Read the rest of this entry »
MPs back air strikes against Islamic State by 524 to 43, with a majority of 481 votes
It comes after more than six hours of debate in an emergency recall of Parliament today to plan for a third war in Iraq.
Earlier today David Cameron called for military action to stop a “terrorist caliphate” being set up near the Mediterranean.
“The brutality is staggering — beheadings, crucifixions, the gouging out of eyes, the use of rape as a weapon, the slaughter of children. All these things belong to the Dark Ages.”
— Prime Minister David Cameron
Six RAF Tornados were poised to bomb Islamic State assets tonight, just hours after all three main parties were expected to endorse a tightly worded motion restricting action to air strikes in Iraq.
— Evening Standard (@standardnews) September 26, 2014
In a historic Commons debate, Labour leader Ed Miliband — who has disowned the 2003 invasion of Iraq — said he understood the “qualms” and “deep unease” among MPs and the public about another war.
He urged: “I believe, although this is difficult, this is the right thing to do.”
However, Diane Abbott was among backbench MPs who said they would not vote for another Middle East war. Fears of “mission creep” among critics were fuelled when Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond left open the possibility military action might later have to be carried out in Syria as well as Iraq.
“In the space of a few months, Isil has taken control of territory greater than the size of Britain and is making millions selling oil to Syria’s Assad regime.”
The debate was led by the Prime Minister, who laid out the case for war by stressing that IS — also Isis or Isil — is a growing threat to the British people.
“The first Isil-inspired terrorist acts in Europe have already taken place, with the attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels,” he said. “Security services have disrupted six other known plots in Europe as well as foiling a terrorist attack in Australia aimed at civilians, including UK and US tourists.”
“This is not a threat on the far side of the world…This is not the stuff of fantasy. It is happening in front of us and we need to face up to it.”
— Prime Minister David Cameron
Mr Cameron described the “staggering brutality” of IS fanatics. “Isil is a terrorist organisation unlike those we have dealt with before,” he said. “The brutality is staggering — beheadings, crucifixions, the gouging out of eyes, the use of rape as a weapon, the slaughter of children. All these things belong to the Dark Ages.”
But he warned that the organisation was growing in power, territory and wealth, saying: “It is backed by billions of dollars and has captured an arsenal of the most modern weapons. Read the rest of this entry »
David Cameron backed down and agreed to delay a military attack on Syria following a growing revolt over the UK’s rushed response to the crisis on Wednesday night
The Prime Minister has now said he will wait for a report by United Nations weapons inspectors before seeking the approval of MPs for “direct British involvement” in the Syrian intervention.
Downing Street said the decision to wait for the UN was based on the “deep concerns” the country still harbours over the Iraq War.
MPs had been recalled to vote on a motion on Thursday expected to sanction military action. Instead, after a Labour intervention, they will debate a broader motion calling for a “humanitarian response”.