What Kind Of Week Has It Been? 22 August 2014

Paddy Duffy   |   August 20, 2014   11:26 PM ET

The inevitable ice bucket calamity of news

It's been a week of great frustration. There's an Irish proverb about a house with a broken roof, where a man explains that when it's sunny it poses no problem, and when it rains the weather is too bad to fix anything. In most countries, that would be a charming fable. In Ireland, it's the basis for our goddamn abortion law. It was only a matter of time before Ireland's myopic policy on the matter got back in our face, but nobody was expecting it this quick. Much least the legislators who crafted it, or the doctors implementing it.

In the States, the terrifying developments in Ferguson, Missouri (resident population: 21,000. Black cop population: 3) show a scene you'd hope was long gone. Not only is police brutality not long gone, but police brutals are cynically covering their ass, overseeing curfews and arresting journalists while weaponed up like a bunch of Gotham City street punks.

Over in London, the frustration over the situation in Gaza was lent a down-the-rabbit-hole situation emblematic of the whole regional problem. The Jewish Chronicle published a humanitarian appeal about Gaza, raising the sad but inevitable opprobrium from the usual places. The JC then responds by apologising, saying that they were publishing it as a straight up humanitarian appeal like they would anywhere else in the world, and stressed that they did support Israel's latest attempt to make Gaza the finest rubble created by a western democracy. Which, as editorial policies go, is like The Sun raising money for Justice for the 96.

It's paragraphs like that that would probably get me blackballed by former MP and transatlantic irrelevance Louise Mensch. Earlier this week she took a stand against people who use the phrase Zionism, on the basis that it's used in a conspiratorial, anti-Jewish sense. Which is fair enough, except she'd press the block button on the founder of Zionism too. Assuming she recognised him. In fairness to Mensch though, her record on religious nuance has never been the tops.

Speaking of nuance and attention to detail, the good folk of Downton Abbey have got themselves in hot water over the bottled stuff loitering about in shot. But to their credit, they got ahead of it. with a response that was both charitable and evian self-deprecating humour. Greggs had a good day at the PR office in the face of adversity this week as well, as they exchanged jokes, Simpsons references and general good humour in reaction to a small but vital slogan change online.

President Obama too knows how a smile and a gag can counteract all manner of bad press, but he denied the opportunity for a photo op with a football helmet because, as he explained himself, "You don't put stuff on your head if you're President". That rule is also known as Dukakis' Law. It's probably wise for other reasons; with matters in Iraq getting more and more gruesome and the agenda being overcome by the terrible (and woefully proliferated pictures of) death of James Foley, it's probably better he keeps his mind clear.

Paul Vale   |   August 20, 2014    3:47 PM ET

President Obama's reaction to events in Ferguson, Missouri has been "disgusting" and a display of “overwhelming hypocrisy”, according to Cornel West.

Speaking on the BBC’s Newsnight on Tuesday, the philosopher and academic decried the president's response to events in the St Louis suburb following the shooting of Michael Brown, saying his words “reek of political calculation rather than moral conviction”.

“Bear in mind, he [Obama] put out a statement on the death of Robin Williams… before he put out a statement on brother Michael Brown,” excoriated West, adding: “It’s disgusting to have a black president who is unable to keep track about what’s happening among the young black youth.”

When asked about the looting that has been a feature of the riots, West said it was wrong, however added that if there was "any semblance of a just process, a semblance of transparency, you wouldn’t have the young brothers and sister out there throwing the Molotov cocktails.”

whatsapp politics

The president has been heavily criticized in the US for his lack of passion on the issue of Ferguson, having said little on events in Missouri, other than to confirm Attorney General Eric Holder was to travel to St Louis.

According to Vox, the White House appears to have concluded that Obama has become such a divisive figure that anything he says on an issue, particularly one as potent as race, will only widen the rift between the protesters and the authorities.

West has been an outspoken critic of the Obama administration, particularly on the issue of race. Last year, the author called Obama a "global George Zimmerman" in response to the president's attempt to rationalise the killing of innocent children in US drone strikes.

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  |   August 20, 2014   10:33 AM ET

Well, we say 'sings'. But it's not exactly as tuneful as Grande's original (see below).

Because this is the work of BaracksDubs - who previously brought us such gems as Barack Obama Sings 'U Can't Touch This' and Barack Obama Sings 'Get Lucky'.

And we think this is up there with the best of them.


If at First You Don't Succeed...

Paul Marshall   |   August 19, 2014    2:57 PM ET

No one starts a business thinking it's going to fail. That would be potty. ( Although not quite as potty as the adult in car potty with the accompanying slogan of WHEN YOU CAN'T STOP, BUT YOU'VE GOT TO PLOP).

However, somewhere in the back of their ever-whirring minds, enterprising souls know the dispiriting facts.

Yet like smokers who reduce their lives by 28 minutes with each pack of cigarettes puffed and drinkers who live 8 years less by glugging back more than 21 units a week, they choose to ignore the statistics.

Never mind that 20% of small ventures go under in the first year and 50% don't make it past their third birthday. This is presuming the owners of said companies haven't smoked or drunk themselves into an early grave before then, thanks to the gigantic amount of stress involved.

For budding Branson's, the motto to adhere to is plainly 'Hope for the best and prepare for the worst'.

Oh God! I make being in business sound akin to relatives gathered round an ailing family member's bedside waiting for the inevitable to occur.

Obviously though if the worst does happen and all your long held aspirations and dreams go floating down the Swanee, there's no point in wallowing in your misery, despair and depression. At least not for too long. There's a period of mourning that goes hand in hand with the loss of a company and it's nowhere near as lengthy as that experienced by Queen Victoria when Albert passed away.

The reality is that there really is nothing wrong with failure. Most tycoons - no matter how successful they end up becoming - experience it at sometime or another. And never do they think to themselves 'never again'.

Neither should you. For heaven's sake, you're British, aren't you? As a nationality we don't merely embrace failure. We hug it. We kiss it. We treat it as a one night stand. We take it for an inordinately expensive dinner that would give the creditors a coronary. We then drive it home, make passionate love to it and come the morning, we bid it a fond farewell. OK, perhaps we make it breakfast.

For guidance on what to do next, there's unquestionably only one person whose wise observations can make you want to relook at commerce with renewed vigour and enthusiasm.

I think you know who I mean.

Move over Bill Gates, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, John D. Rockefeller, Estee Lauder and Jeff Bezos. Stand aside Philip Knight, Ted Turner, Howard Schultz, Warren Buffett, Howard Hughes and Mark Zuckerberg.

Welcome into the spotlight (has she ever been out of it?), Ginger Rogers.

"What, as in Rogers and Astaire?", you ask incredulously.

The very same. In the 1936 film, Swing Time, she gave what could be considered the best piece of business advice that's been spoken (sung, if you're being pedantic) in nearly 80 years.

Here, if you're not familiar with it are four verses.

Nothing is impossible I have found
For when my chin is on the ground
I pick myself up, dust myself off
Start all over again

Don't lose your confidence if your slip
Be grateful for a pleasant trip
And pick yourself up, dust yourself off
Start all over again

Work like a soul inspired
Till the battle of the day is won
You may be sick and tired
But you'll be a man, my son

Will you remember the famous men
Who had to fall to rise again?
So take a deep breath
Pick yourself up, dust yourself off
Start all over again.

Seldom have there been more inspiring words to help one cope when Plan A doesn't quite go according to, well, plan.

They were even used by Barak Obama in his first inauguration speech in 2004 when he said to an expectant country and a hopeful world the following: "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America".

Fortunately we were spared the President and First Lady dancing.

I know for certain that should I fail, and I surely will, in my future endeavours, the voice of Miss Rogers will be ringing loudly in my ears. May it always ring as clearly in yours.

Islamic State Could Attack West In Response To Air Strikes, Top Terror Expert Warns

Mehdi Hasan   |   August 18, 2014    5:54 PM ET

Anglo-American air strikes on Islamic State positions in northern Iraq could "increase the risk" from homegrown terrorists in the West, the former head of counterterrorism at MI6 has warned.

Richard Barrett, who handled counterterrorism operations for Britain's Secret Intelligence Service both before and after the 9/11 attacks, told the Huffington Post UK that the latest military intervention by the West "does rather play to the [jihadist] narrative that these bad regimes are being supported by outside powers and, therefore, if you get too close to overthrowing them, the outside powers will come and beat you up."

The people who were "going to fight [Bashar Al] Assad or [former Iraqi prime minister Nouri Al] Maliki are now seeing a broader enemy" in the form of the US and UK governments.

"The argument that they could also achieve the same [result] by [conducting] terrorist attacks in Western countries becomes stronger [though] not necessarily inevitable."

Such critical comments from one of the West's leading experts on Al Qaeda and its affiliates will come as a blow to President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron as the two leaders continue to authorise military action against Islamist militants in the north of Iraq.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph at the weekend, Cameron claimed that "if we do not act to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement, it will only grow stronger until it can target us on the streets of Britain."

Barrett, however, warned that taking military action could, inadvertently, exacerbate the threat to people living in the West. "If ISIS pull back from Mosul, as a result of air strikes, they're not going to disappear, they'll still be out there," he said, pointing out that fighters from the UK and other European countries would return home and be much more motivated to attack targets in the West.

"Their justification will be: 'If it hadn't been for air strikes we would be fine, establishing our caliphate [in Iraq].. Why did you mess with us? Now we'll mess with you.'"

us air strikes iraq

US air strikes near Mosul have helped Kurdish forces retake a key dam from Islamic State fighters

Barrett, who has also served as coordinator of the UN's Al-Qaida/Taliban Monitoring Team and is currently a fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, pointed to the situation in Libya where "military intervention without a proper plan to follow up had all sorts of unintended consequences and led to chaos and instability".

He also noted how Cameron has conceded that the struggle against Islamic State and other jihadist groups is ultimately a fight within the Muslim-majority world, between moderates and extremists, but asked: "If that's the case then what are we doing there? Where are the Saudi aircraft? There's a disconnect between what [Cameron's] saying and what's he's doing."

Both Cameron and Obama have publicly pledged that they won't be putting 'boots on the ground' but the former MI6 counterterrorism chief believes the UK and US governments could be on a slippery slope in northern Iraq.

"You start with some air strikes then you have a few more, then we need people down there to tell us where targets are [so] we put special forces in, then they're in a pickle and they need force protection, before you know it, we're drawn down this road that has no obvious ending," he told HuffPost UK.

david cameron barack obama

Cameron and Obama have both promised that there won't be 'boots on the ground' in Iraq

Military action, said Barrett, should always be a last resort and isn't the "tool that is going to solve the [Islamic State] problem. Look at Libya, look at Afghanistan, look at Iraq in 2003. It's just reaching for a hammer because it is a hammer and it's to hand."

Diplomatic efforts aimed at getting Iran and Saudi Arabia around the negotiating table to resolve their differences and form a united front against groups such as Islamic State are "going to have much more impact [on Iraq] than flying out [aircraft] and dropping bombs - or even food parcels. We have to be careful that people aren't interpreting [air strikes] as gesture politics". Such strikes, Barrett argued, "have to have a very clear purpose and objective" but "I'm not sure we have that".

On Sunday, the Church of England attacked the government for having no "coherent or comprehensive approach" to tackling the rise of Islamist extremism across the Middle East. Labour has said the government's position on military action in Iraq is "pretty unclear".

Asked how he would 'defeat' Islamic State, Barrett told HuffPost UK that the key "was drawing down any sort of public support or community sympathy [for the jihadists].. Sure, then you can attack [Islamic State's] support base, the oil fields [and] stop foreign fighters going to join them as well. But you have to ask why [the foreign fighters] are doing it? How can we understand why they're doing it?"

Security services in the UK estimate that around 500 young Muslim men from the UK have gone out to fight with jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq in recent months.

Barrett believes it is politics, not religion, that is driving the radicalisation process. "I don't think the 400 or 500 people who have gone from Britain have been brainwashed in madressas; what they're doing is being pushed [and] pulled... The push factors [include] some sort of alienation, disaffection and a lack of identity, of a real sense of purpose... Pull factors are a [Sunni] community [in Iraq and Syria] that is vulnerable and that is being discriminated against and a brave band of warriors that's trying to defend them."

On the positive side, however, the latter argument is "becoming weaker because everyone knows what ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra represent," he explained.

The former UN terrorism expert praised counter-extremism plans drawn up by the Home Office in recent months but added that British Muslim communities "need to feel confident about working with the authorities and reaching out for help [against extremism]."

Ferguson - A Country Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

Jon-Christopher Bua   |   August 17, 2014   10:46 PM ET

"A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved -- I do not expect the house to fall -- but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new -- North as well as South." A. Lincoln

The House Divided Speech was given by Abraham Lincoln on June 16, 1858 upon accepting the Illinois Republican Party's nomination as that state's United States Senator, at what was then the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.

Although Lincoln lost that election for the US Senate to incumbent Stephen A. Douglas, of the Lincoln-Douglas 1858 campaign debate fame, Lincoln's remarks in Springfield emblazoned upon the country an image of the dangers of slavery and a people living half slave and half free.

It was on the Illinois State Capitol steps a century and a half later that Illinois Senator Barack Obama launched his successful campaign to become America's first Black President.

On October 16, 2011, I posted a Huffington Post UK Analysis Blog titled:
An America Divided marking the 150th Anniversary of The Civil War.

A century and a half ago, Americans struggled with both the end of slavery and a conflict that pitted brother against brother and divided the nation.

Today, in August of 2014, that struggle continues as America still wrestles with the legacy of slavery and oppression and tries to get a handle on exactly what went terribly wrong on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.

We are once again trying to understand each other through the lens of yet another tragic event.

It is 49 years since the Watts Riots of August 1965; 22 years since the Rodney King beatings in 1992; 20 years since the OJ Simpson Murder Trial in June of 1994 and only 2 years since Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida - and now Michael Brown killed in Ferguson, Missouri.

Not much has changed!

Despite all the efforts toward racial equality from the Emancipation Proclamation to the 13th Amendment, from Plessy vs. Fergusson to Brown vs. the Board of Education, from "The Little Rock Nine" in Arkansas to the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, from the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Poor Peoples March on Washington; from busing to quotas, all the way to the election of the first Black President in 2008, the economic and social divide between White and Black Americans stubbornly persists.

Despite the efforts of Fredrick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Robert F. Kennedy, John R. Lewis, A. Philip Randolph, Ralph Abernathy, Bayard Rustin, Ralph Bunche, Whitney Young, Julian Bond and Malcolm X, along with countless others....we still remain separate and unequal.

We are still consumed by an overwhelming sense of social and economic upheaval and a fear of one another.

From To Kill a Mocking Bird to Guess Who is Coming to Dinner to Do The Right Thing to 12 Years A Slave - the lesson, that we are all people who have a common bond - to love our families and our children and to give them a better life than we have had - is one we just cannot seem to learn.

White and Black Americans have fought in one way or another, side by side in the Union Army, in World War I and II, in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, only to return to their own separate neighborhoods, separate houses of worship and their own separate lives.

Black and White Americans, for the most part, simply do not live in the same society and do not see the world around them in the same way.

Many White Americans see the police as their protectors while many Black Americans view them as a group of armed enforcers who are naturally predisposed to doubt their innocence...."Driving While Black."

From birth many White Americans truly believe they are entitled to a good education, have every opportunity open to them, that their only limits are their own willingness to work hard to achieve a goal - and that they are innocent until proven guilty.

While many Black Americans believe that a good education for their children is something that is out of reach for them, they do not believe they have the same opportunities in the workplace for promotion - and they believe they will be treated as if they are guilty until they prove their innocence.

Even the most affluent Black Americans teach their children "special rules"- how to behave when confronted by police, where not to go, how not to dress and what not to say or do in an effort to ensure that they will not fall victim to a "fatal misunderstanding."

Perhaps the worst irony is that white "Hip Hop" suburban kids try to dress and act "black" to be cool.

However, they are not subject to and never will experience the fear that comes with simply being black in a society where most positions of authority are held by White Americans.

When a situation like Ferguson erupts in a black neighborhood the local police now tend to "deploy" their heavy military weaponry to ensure that things do no get out of control. They have developed a "Swat Team" mentality where use of excessive force has become the status quo.

Ferguson has shown America and the world just how militarized these responses have become thanks to free surplus military equipment from Congress. (That's another Blog)

So once again we watch as yet another tragedy unfolds before us and becomes a "A Media Event" with it's very own "theme".

A young man is dead and a police officer's life will never be the same again. As information dribbles out, White and Black Americans will process it differently through the lens of their own experience.

No matter how this situation is resolved we will never really know how these two individuals perceived one another at the critical moment that lead to this tragedy.

Whatever the outcome, both the officer and the young man were living out their roles against a backdrop of misunderstanding and distrust.

These problems are not only deeply rooted in each person's perception of the other they are also exacerbated by tough economic times.

Lately the sacred "American Dream" where each generation does better than the last seems more like an impossible dream for both White and Black Americans.

Many in the Black Community had hoped that the election of Barack Obama would make a real difference not only in the lives of Black Americans but in the perceptions of White Americans.

In his effort to be the president of "all Americans" some believe President Obama has not done enough to bridge this gap and seize this grand opportunity.

After his Philadelphia Campaign speech in 2008 many believed Candidate Obama would do more to engage Americans on the issue of race. Perhaps his reluctance to do this and his desire to be judged on his own merits and not as the "First Black President" speaks volumes about how far America still has to go to be truly free from its past.

Although President Obama has weighed in once again he knows he is speaking to a divided nation.

This latest situation cries out for the leadership of a Lincoln or a Dr. King - someone who is able to rise above the moment and give voice to a "New Dream".

In 2008 candidate Obama addressed the differing perceptions of White and Black Americans eloquently in his Philadelphia speech.

"This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together, we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. ....And it means taking full responsibility for own lives - by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children... teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.....

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed... It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper. "

White and Black Americans need to find a new way to engage with one another - more mistrust and violence cannot be the answer.

They know the old rules of the game simply don't apply anymore and they are looking for leadership to help them find that path forward.

Although President Obama has been chided by his detractors for his rhetorical abilities, there may never be a time when those abilities are needed more.

He is blessed with a unique perspective of what it is like to live in both White and Black America.

As President Obama looks forward to his legacy this event and it's aftermath may have presented him with an historic opportunity to heal this long festering wound.

After all, words do matter. In fact the words and challenges of our greatest presidents and leaders live on with us long after they have left the public stage - they continue to guide and inspire our lives and deeds.

The challenge for President Obama, if he chooses to accept it, is to use this moment in time to make a lasting difference in the way White and Black Americans see and relate to one another.

The challenge for all of us is clear. Now is our time as a Nation to start listening to one another and begin walking in our brother's and sister's shoes perhaps for the first time.

If we don't, in light of all that has happened, we will continue to hear the somber words of Abraham Lincoln - "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

A Widening War: We're Back in Iraq

Robin Lustig   |   August 16, 2014   12:00 AM ET

I fear that it is no longer fanciful to see the conflagration that has engulfed Syria and Iraq as the Middle East's version of the First World War. Big power rivalries are sucking the region inexorably into the vortex, with incalculable consequences.

When the history books come to be written, someone will doubtless compare the self-immolation of the Tunisian street-seller Mohamed Bouazizi on 17 December 2010, which sparked the wave of Arab uprisings, with the shot fired by the Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip that killed the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914.

Each was a single act that no one could have foreseen would lead to the appalling carnage that followed. And each reshaped the world, destroying great political powers and sowing the seeds for future instability.

When peace was restored to a shattered Europe in 1918, the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires had been destroyed. The rise of Germany had been halted; the Russian revolution had ended centuries of Tsarist rule, and the US had emerged as a major global power.

There is no sign yet of peace being restored in the Middle East; in fact, quite the reverse. Yet old regimes have been either swept away (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya), by a combination of popular uprising and external military force, or forced into a brutal suppression of internal dissent fuelled by external meddling (Syria).

In 1914, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, France and Britain went to war in defence of their national interests and in an attempt to exert their control in Europe. A hundred years on, we see different regional powers - Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, UAE - behaving in exactly the same way.

And there is a certain grim irony about the way borders are now being redrawn, as jihadi extremists establish their trans-national medieval caliphate, and the Kurds formalise their own nation state. After all, it was in the aftermath of the First World War that the current borders were originally drawn. As the former UN diplomat and Foreign Office adviser Michael Williams (Lord Williams of Baglan) has pointed out: "Throughout the Middle East the presence of the state is fast weakening ... In the immediate post-colonial order dictated by Sykes-Picot, strong states prevailed in the Middle East. That era is fast disappearing."

The rise of the movement that now calls itself the Islamic State has rightly been seen in large part as a Sunni reaction against Shia (or Alawite in Syria) supremacy. But it cannot be confronted without recognising that it is also a symbol of Saudi determination not to see Shia Islam, as promoted by Riyadh's rival Iran, become the dominant force in the region. (Think of it as the Roman Catholic church resisting the rise of Protestantism in 16th and 17th century Europe.)

It may be that IS fighters receive no direct support or funding from the Saudi government or from the clerics of the Wahhabi sect that underpins the house of Saud. But their brutal, extreme version of Islam stems directly from what the distinguished Middle East analyst David Gardner of the Financial Times recently called the "radical bigotry of Wahhabi absolutism". In a piece published last Friday, Gardner wrote: "Saudi Arabia not only exports oil, but tanker-loads of quasi-totalitarian religious dogma and pipelines of jihadi volunteers."

So here's a challenge for all those Western governments, in particular the US, UK and France, who sell billions of dollars worth of weaponry to the Saudis and other Gulf potentates every year. Will you publicly demand that they disown the murderous zealots now rampaging through Syria and Iraq and cut off the financial support that flows to them? Will you risk valuable defence sales to save the lives of thousands of Yazidis and others who are now being mercilessly persecuted by the region's fastest rising new power?

The former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, was quoted recently as having been given an ominous warning by the former head of Saudi intelligence and former Saudi ambassador in Washington, Prince Bandar bin Sultan. "The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally 'God help the Shia'. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them." The clear implication was that the Saudis would do nothing to impede the slaughter.

According to a report of a speech that Dearlove gave at the Royal United Services Institute last month, "he does not doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the Isis surge into Sunni areas of Iraq. He said: 'Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.'"

There's no mystery about why more isn't being made of this. According to the Guardian, Saudi Arabia is the recipient of more British weapons than any other country and is the biggest foreign customer, after the US, of BAE Systems, the UK's largest arms company and biggest manufacturing employer.

So what can be done to halt the IS advance? Bombing it, according to one detailed recent analysis, "is unlikely to turn around Iraq ... its fragmented condition has given the self-proclaimed [IS] caliphate the opportunity to establish a hub of jihadism in the heart of the Arab world ...

"The jihadist army ... is now brimming with confidence, emboldened by blood and treasure ... exploiting sectarian and tribal fault-lines in Arab society, petrifying communities into submission and exploiting the reluctance of Washington and the West to intervene more robustly in the civil war in Syria."

Shipping more arms to the Kurds will probably help at the margins; it may even halt the advance of the IS legions. But we should be in no doubt: we, the West, are back in Iraq. Perhaps the consequences of not helping anti-Assad rebels in Syria before the rise of the jihadis are now translating into a realisation that in order to stop the bad guys, you sometimes have to get stuck in and accept the associated risks.

Are Iraqi Christians Worth More Than Nigerian Christians?

Olaiya Phillips   |   August 15, 2014   12:00 AM ET

Last Thursday, President Barak Obama authorised the US Armed Forces to begin air strikes against the combined forces of the Islamic extremist terrorist groups, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS), otherwise referred to as the Islamic State.

It is notable that the President, who pledged a full withdrawal of US forces from Iraq during his first bid to become President, was persuaded to approve US military engagement in the country once again due to the Islamic States' brutal murder of civilians, particularly those who belong to religious minorities.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes as the extremists gave them a stark choice - leave, convert or die.

The choice given to the Christians of cities such as Mosul and Qaraqosh is horribly familiar to the hundreds of thousands of Christians in Northern Nigeria, who have been offered the same choice albeit by a different Islamic extremist terrorist group - Boko Haram.

Only last week the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported as many as 650,000 people have been forced from their homes in Northern Nigeria.

As Chair of the Northern Christian Elders Forum my prayers are with our Iraqi brothers and sisters who are suffering a similar fate to our members in Northern Nigeria. No one should suffer the atrocities and injustices these evil groups inflict upon their victims, and I pray their terror will soon end.

But it is not just in Iraq and Nigeria that Christian's face persecution. The pattern of violence and persecution can be seen across Africa and the Middle East. In a recent statement, his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby highlighted the dangers that face the Christian populations:

"With the world's attention on the plight of those in Iraq, we must not forget that this is part of an evil pattern around the world where Christians and other minorities are being killed and persecuted for their faith."

Our friends in the US have been very kind in the recent past to offer military assistance to the Nigerian government, especially in the wake of the kidnapping of hundreds of teenage girls from a school in Chibok, Borno State.

Military and intelligence advisers, training and equipment have all been provided to aid the Nigerian military in the successful recovery of the kidnapped school girls. US surveillance aircraft and drones have spent months searching for the girls over huge expanses of dense forest our own military would simply not be able to do. Yet one must ask - why has the US not committed to airstrikes on Boko Haram like they have on the Islamic State?

Surely the value of the hundreds of thousands of Christians in harm's way at the hands of Boko Haram, are just as important as the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians?

Should the question not be what more the US government - and indeed the whole international community - can do to prevent the persecution of religious minorities across the world?

Should the debate not be opened up to what should be done in: Iraq; Nigeria; the Central African Republic; Syria; South Sudan; and Burma?

Should an international crisis of this scale not be at the top of the agenda in the UN?

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees everyone the right to freedom of belief. President Barack Obama and the international community cannot pick and choose which battles they decide to fight and which they decide to turn a blind eye to.

They must urgently come to the aid of those nations being torn apart by religious intolerance and bigotry. To allow these Islamic extremists groups to flourish anywhere is to allow the terrorists to win.

  |   August 10, 2014    8:08 AM ET

An RAF transport aircraft has made the first airdrop of British humanitarian aid to refugees fleeing Islamist militants in Iraq, the Government has confirmed.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said the C130 aircraft made a drop last night on the Sinjar mountains, where thousands of people from the Yazidi minority religious group have been trapped by fighters from the Islamic State (IS), formerly know as ISIS.

The US has begun airstrikes against IS extremist targets engaging Kurdish forces near the key city of Irbil, but Britain has ruled out military action at this stage.

American jet fighters and drones conducted four more airstrikes on militants overnight, taking out armored carriers and a truck that were firing on civilians.

U.S. Central Command says the Islamic State militants were firing on Yazidi civilians taking shelter in the Sinjar mountains. In a statement, the military says the militants were firing on civilians indiscriminately.

Central Command says the strikes near Sinjar were spread out, with three before noon Eastern Daylight Time on Saturday and one about 3 p.m.

The military says indications suggest that the strikes were successful in destroying the armored vehicles.

This is the third round of airstrikes against Islamic State forces by the U.S. military since they were authorized by President Barack Obama.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has announced "a continuing drumbeat of airdrop operations" around the Sinjar mountains in the north of the country, where thousands of people from the Yazidi minority religious group have been trapped.

Two C130s left RAF Brize Norton yesterday and a spokesman for the MoD said one plane had made a drop of supplies including reusable filtration containers, tents and solar lights which can also recharge mobile phones.

The Government announced an £8 million emergency package, £3 million of which will go to charities and NGOs already on the ground and helping displaced people in northern Iraq, and £2.5 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

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Ms Greening said: "The world has been shocked by the plight of the Yazidi community. They face appalling conditions, cut off on Mount Sinjar after fleeing persecution by IS extremists.

"The UK has acted swiftly to get life-saving help to those affected. Last night the RAF successfully dropped lifesaving UK aid supplies, including clean water and filtration devices, on the mountain."

Speaking after chairing a meeting of the Government's Cobra committee yesterday, Mr Hammond said the wider focus is on supporting the refugees' exit from the mountainside.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Obama discussed the airdrops in a phone call yesterday, but admitted that a "long term solution" would be needed to quell the IS advance.

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Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community settle at the camp of Bajid Kandala at Feeshkhabour town near the Syria-Iraq border, in Iraq Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister welcomed the US efforts and made clear that we are keen to work with the Americans on the humanitarian effort.

"They agreed that the immediate priority is to get vital supplies to those trapped on Mt Sinjar and the UK will join the US in delivering aid drops.

"Both leaders also agreed that aid drops are not a long term solution, and that a way must be found to get these people to safety and to avert a genocide."

U.S. Launches 4 Airstrikes On Iraqi Militants

Iraq Aid Drop En Route As UK Mulls Plan To Save Starving Yazidi From Mountainside

White House: No End Date On Military Action In Iraq

Who Are The Yazidi?

Hundreds Of Young Yazidi Women Taken Captive By Militants

From Egypt to Saudi Arabia, the Arab World Has Abandoned the Palestinians

Mehdi Hasan   |   August 8, 2014    4:26 PM ET

Forget for one moment the timid pronouncements of Barack Obama and David Cameron. When will Arab rulers dare raise their voice against Israel's pounding of Gaza? "I have never seen a situation like it, where you have so many Arab states acquiescing in the death and destruction in Gaza and the pummelling of Hamas," the former US diplomat Aaron David Miller, who advised Presidents Clinton and Bush on the Middle East, told the New York Times on 30 July. Their silence, he said, "is deafening".

But their silence isn't the worst part; their complicity is. Take the collective punishment of the 1.8million inhabitants of Gaza which is referred to as the "blockade". Israeli officials may have bragged to their US counterparts that they wanted to "keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge", but they couldn't have maintained their seven-year siege of Gaza without help.

Remember: Israel controls only three sides of the strip. Who controls the fourth? Egypt, the proud, self-styled "heart of the Arab world". Yet, from Air Chief Marshal Hosni Mubarak to General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the Arab Republic of Egypt has been a keen accomplice in Israel's strangulation of Gaza. The former Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohammed Morsi, may have been willing to consider easing the blockade between 2012 and 2013, but Sisi, "elected" president in May this year after a military coup, is a sworn enemy of the Brotherhood and its Hamas affiliate.

In recent months, the junta in Cairo has resealed its border with Gaza, destroyed most of the tunnels that were lifelines for its residents and allowed a mere 140 injured Palestinians to cross into Egypt through Rafah - the only exit from the Strip that isn't controlled by the Israelis. The blockade of Gaza is, thus, a joint Israeli-Egyptian crime.

Consider also the stance of Saudi Arabia. "Attack on Gaza By Saudi Royal Appointment", read the headline on a Huffington Post blog on 20 July by the veteran foreign correspondent David Hearst, who claimed that "Mossad and Saudi intelligence officials meet regularly... and they are hand in glove on Iran".

On 1 August, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia released a statement denouncing the killings in Gaza as a "collective massacre" but conveniently, as the Associated Press pointed out, "stopped short of directly condemning Israel" and "did not call for any specific action to be taken against Israel". Meanwhile, the kingdom's Grand Mufti, Abdul Aziz al ash-Sheikh, claimed that pro-Palestinian demonstrations were "just demagogic actions that won't help Palestinians".

Then there is Syria. The Respect MP, George Galloway, may have praised the Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad once as the "last Arab ruler" because of the latter's supposed willingness to stand up to Israel, but Assad's brutal security forces have bombed and besieged the Palestinian refugees of Yarmouk, on the outskirts of Damascus. According to Amnesty International, Syrian forces have also been "committing war crimes by using starvation of civilians as a weapon" and have forced the refugees to "resort to eating cats and dogs".

The rest of the Arab countries don't have much better records. In Lebanon, 400,000-odd Palestinian refugees languish in refugee camps where the conditions are nothing short of horrific. They are prevented by law from working in the public sector or using state medical and education facilities and are also barred from buying property.

In Jordan, ethnic Jordanians or "East Bankers" resent the "West Bank" Palestinian majority, including their queen, Rania. And in Kuwait in 1991, after the first Gulf war, as many as 200,000 Palestinians were forced out of the country as punishment for Yasser Arafat's support for Saddam Hussein; up to 4,000 Palestinians were reportedly killed in vigilante attacks.

This Arab betrayal of the Palestinian cause has deep roots. In his 1988 book, Collusion Across the Jordan, the Israeli-British historian Avi Shlaim described how King Abdullah of (what was then) Transjordan worked with the Israelis, behind the scenes, to prevent the Palestinians from establishing their own state in 1948.

"Palestine has been the dominant issue on the agenda of the Arab League since its birth in 1945," Shlaim, now emeritus professor of international relations at Oxford, tells me. "But ideological commitment to the Palestinian cause has never been translated into effective support. "So one has to distinguish between the rhetorical and the practical level of Arab foreign policy."

Today, most of the unelected leaders of the Arab world, from the generals of North Africa to the petromonarchs of the Gulf, see the Muslim Brotherhood and fellow-travellers such as Hamas as a bigger threat to their own rule than the Israel Defence Forces. Only the emirate of Qatar maintains close ties with both the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in Gaza; the rest of the region's despots and dictators would be delighted to see the Israelis deliver a knockout blow to the Sunni Islamists of Gaza - and, for that matter, to the Shia Islamists of Iran.

Let's be clear: the inconvenient truth is that the collective punishment of the Pales­tinian people in Gaza is a collective endeavour in its own right - led by Israel, enforced by Egypt, endorsed by Saudi Arabia.

Pity the poor Palestinians. Their territories are occupied by the Jewish state; their cause is abandoned by the Arab world.

Mehdi Hasan is the political director of the Huffington Post UK, and a contributing writer for the New Statesman, where this column is crossposted

Paul Vale   |   August 8, 2014    2:58 PM ET

US Navy fighters have returned to the skies of Iraq, targeting American ordnance on artillery positions held by the Islamic State, formerly ISIS, the militant group that has ravaged the region, persecuting ethnic and religious minorities. The Pentagon confirmed on Friday that the USS George H. W Bush carrier had deployed a pair of F/A18 fighters, which targeted militants near the Kurdish city of Irbil, with two 500-pound bombs. The militants were reportedly launching strikes on Irbil, a city in which US personnel are deployed.

The move follows President Obama's declaration on Friday night that "America was coming to help", the White house authorising the strikes in response to threat on Irbil, as well as the plight of the Yazidis, a Kurdish sect that in recent days have been forced to flee their homes and take refuge on Mount Sinjar to escape slaughter at the hands of the Islamic State. The President added that the US military had already supplied food and water via air drops to the Yazidis at the request of the Iraqi government however reiterated that there would be "no American troops on the ground".

More than 4,000 Yazidis are estimated to be marooned on the mountain without fresh water and in unbearable summer heat, unable to descend through fear of being massacred by the extremists ravaging the surrounding geography.

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Two F/A18 fighters were deployed from the USS George H. W Bush

The Kurdish community, which follows an ancient religion linked to Zoroastrianism but with components of Islam and Christianity, fled to the mountain from nearby villages to escape slaughter, however without sustenance or shelter the displaced Yazidis faced a horrific end, despite attempts by humanitarian agencies to drop bottled water on the mountainside. CNN is reporting that dozens of children have already died of thirst.

Speaking to the Washington Post on Thursday, Marzio Babille, the Iraq representative for the UNICEF, said the Yazidis are dying on the mountain. “There is no water, there is no vegetation, they are completely cut off and surrounded by Islamic State. It’s a disaster, a total disaster,” he warned.

The Islamic State has been vociferous in its persecution of ethnic groups in Iraq, with an estimated 150,000 Kurds fleeing to the protected Kurdish region, creating a humanitarian crisis in the northern part of the country.

More from the Press Association:

Following a meeting in Whitehall of the Government's Cobra emergencies committee, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said Britain was ready to provide "technical assistance" to support US humanitarian operations in the region. Speaking in Downing Street, he told reporters that he hoped British air-drops targeting members of the Yazidi religious minority trapped on a mountainside could begin in the "next couple of days".

"What we have decided today is to assist the United States in the humanitarian operations that started yesterday. We are offering technical assistance in that in terms of refuelling and surveillance," he said. "We are offering aid of our own which we hope to drop over the next couple of days in support of the American relief effort, particularly to help the plight of those who are trapped on the mountain."

In its latest travel advice, the Foreign Office is warning British nationals against all travel to areas in northern Iraq affected by the fighting, including those in the Kurdistan region - previously regarded as one of the safest parts of the country. Earlier, David Cameron insisted the world must help the Yazidis in their "hour of desperate need" as he backed US president Barack Obama's decision to respond to a request by the Iraqi government for targeted air strikes.

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Protesters in London, who are calling for help for the Yazidi

The Prime Minister said he utterly condemned the "barbaric attacks" by IS - formerly known as Isis (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). "I am extremely concerned by the appalling situation in Iraq and the desperate situation facing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. I am especially concerned for the minority Yazidi community now trapped on Mount Sinjar, where they have fled for their lives. They fear slaughter if they descend back down the slopes but face starvation and dehydration if they remain on the mountain. The world must help them in their hour of desperate need."

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, joined the appeals for international help for those communities "facing a threat to their very existence in their biblical homelands". "It is imperative that the international community ensure the physical protection of all communities in Iraq, their human rights including the right to religious freedom," he said. "I urge Her Majesty's Government to lead the efforts in the face of such a human calamity in order to help restore these shattered communities, provide them with urgent humanitarian aid and work with others to ensure their long-term security in the land of their birth."

The Department for International Development later gave details of the UK's £8 million emergency aid package. It includes £2 million of humanitarian supplies for 75,000 people, such as reusable filtration containers filled with clean water, tents, and solar lights which can also recharge mobile phones. Much of the aid can be dropped from the air to help those trapped in the Sinjar Mountains. Some £3 million will go to charities and NGOs already on the ground and helping displaced people in northern Iraq, and £2.5 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

A further £500,000 will be used to ensure Kurdish and UN systems can co-ordinate properly. International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: "The world has been horrified by the brutal persecution of vulnerable minority groups by Isil extremists in Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes and we are extremely concerned for their safety.

"This aid from the British people will help the Yazidi community, who are now cut off on Mount Sinjar, get immediate emergency support. It will also ensure thousands more people get medical help, shelter, food and clean water. It is absolutely vital that the UN gets the access it needs and the British government is working with the international community to push for this."

SEE ALSO:

The Yazidis on Mount Sinjar

  |   August 8, 2014    2:24 PM ET

These incredible pictures have emerged, showing the desperate plight of members of Iraq's Yazidi religious minority as they hide from the Islamists who call them "devil worshippers" and will kill them if they try to return to their homes.

The Yazidis are a small community that follows a 4,000-year-old faith and have been repeatedly targeted by jihadists who call them "devil-worshipers" because of their unique beliefs and practices.

Islamic State (IS) - formerly known as ISIS - jihadists ousted the Peshmerga troops of Iraq's Kurdish government from the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, forcing thousands of people from their homes.

The images show them trapped on Mount Sinjar, where they are surrounded by the Islamist militants and desperately in need of food, shelter and water.

mount sinjar

A Yazidi family on Mount Sinjar

David Cameron has insisted the world must help the Yazidis in their "hour of desperate need", as he backed US airstrikes to protect them - but ruled out UK military action, while condemning the "barbaric attacks" by IS.

US President Barack Obama announced in a late-night televised statement that military planes had carried out humanitarian airdrops in the region to protect religious minorities - including Christians and Yazidis - and said America would take action if the lives of its troops in Iraq are at risk from Islamic militants.

Today, the US confirmed it had begun those airstrikes.

Britain is to drop relief supplies to support the refugees but will not intervene militarily.

Following a meeting of the Government's Cobra emergencies committee, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said he hoped the relief operation - could begin "in the next couple of days".

He said Britain was also ready to offer "technical assistance" in support of US humanitarian operations to aid the refugees.

"What we have decided today is to assist the United States in the humanitarian operations that started yesterday," he said.

"We are offering technical assistance in that in terms of refuelling and surveillance. We are offering aid of our own which we hope to drop over the next couple of days in support of the American relief effort, particularly to help the plight of those who are trapped on the mountain."

The Yazidis on Mount Sinjar

Cameron welcomed Obama's decision to accept the Iraqi government's request for help and to conduct airstrikes if necessary to help Iraqi forces "fight back" to free the trapped civilians.

He added he has tasked officials to urgently establish what more can be done to help those people affected.

SEE ALSO: Who Are The Yazidis?

Cameron said: "I am extremely concerned by the appalling situation in Iraq and the desperate situation facing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. And I utterly condemn the barbaric attacks being waged by ISIS terrorists across the region.

"I am especially concerned for the minority Yazidi community now trapped on Mount Sinjar, where they have fled for their lives.

"They fear slaughter if they descend back down the slopes but face starvation and dehydration if they remain on the mountain. The world must help them in their hour of desperate need."

He continued: "Last night, the UK chaired a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to ensure a strong international response to the crisis and this morning the Defence Secretary will chair a Cobra on the issue.

"I have tasked officials to urgently establish what more we can do to provide help to those affected, including those in grave need of food, water and shelter in the Sinjar area.

"I welcome president Obama's decision to accept the Iraqi government's request for help and to conduct targeted US airstrikes, if necessary, to help Iraqi forces as they fight back against Isil terrorists to free the civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar.

"And I fully agree with the president that we should stand up for the values we believe in - the right to freedom and dignity, whatever your religious beliefs."

IRAQ:

Former defence secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee and former foreign secretary, said the US was right to intervene.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The United Nations has what is often referred to as a responsibility to protect. That's a general statement but means when you have some potential humanitarian disaster on a vast scale then you can't just sit back and say how sad it is, you have to try and intervene.

"Here we have a total of 150,000 people who have fled from their homes and in danger of losing their lives."

Sir Malcolm said the political advance of Isil in northern Iraq was up to the Iraqi government to resolve, adding it would not be in a position to deal with it until it reformed.

He said the world could not "directly intervene" in that area but limited action could be taken to address the "specific humanitarian threat".

Sir Malcolm said he had always thought the Iraqi war in 2003 was a mistake and an "extremely foolish exercise" which has caused "massive instability" but noted Syria was perhaps in an "even worse mess".

He said: "One can't simply say this (in Iraq) was all caused by the war of 10 years ago but there is no doubt that war and the aftermath of it caused a fundamental split between the Sunni and Shia population, created instability and ungovernability in many places in Iraq and therefore has certainly contributed to the terrible drama we're seeing at the moment."

John Kerry Should Set Timelines and Benchmarks to See Progress on Deteriorating Situation of Rohingya in Burma

Tun Khin   |   August 8, 2014    1:12 PM ET

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Burma tomorrow. Just days before his visit, more than 100 security forces came to an internally displaced person (IDP) camp for Rohingya in Thandawlee village in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State in western Burma. They killed one Rohingya, seriously injured two others, and arrested more than 15 people. At the same time, Rohingyas in Buthidaung and Maungdaw, in northern Arakan State, were arrested, threatened and harassed while the government attempted to collect population data. These attacks are all too common, as impunity reigns for violence against Rohingya. As a President of Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK http://brouk.org.uk/, I call on Secretary Kerry to prioritise the situation of the Rohingya during his trip and press for accountability for these crimes.

It has been more than two years since an increase in brutal violence against Rohingya and the situation has not improved. In fact, it is getting much worse. In March of this year, hundreds of aid workers were evacuated after facing attacks from nationalist mobs. The expulsion had devastating consequences; for example, more than 150 Rohingyas and 20 pregnant women died in the two weeks after Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF) http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/2/28/doctors-without-borderskickedoutofwesternmyanmar.htmlwere expelled from Arakan State in March. Many children have died from malnutrition. Although MSF has now been invited back into Arakan State, there are still serious restrictions on aid and movement for the thousands of Rohingya IDPs.

To date, there has been no progress on the resettlement of displaced Rohingya. The children in IDP camps are simply dying from insufficient health care and other essential services. President Obama http://www.dvb.no/analysis/what-obama-didn%E2%80%99t-say/25003has mentioned that Rohingya should be treated with the same dignity as all other people, but still there was little progress that translated into necessary aid for those in need.

The government of Burma uses six main methods to oppress our Rohingya community: discriminatory laws, incitement of hatred, political disenfranchisement, restricting humanitarian access, stopping economic activity, and using both state and non-state physical violence against Rohingya individuals.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47517#.U-SzdqOtqZGhas stated that the widespread and systematic human rights violations in Arakan State may constitute crimes against humanity. The US government should be supporting an international investigation into human rights abuses in Arakan State given the ongoing violence and the urgent needs of Rohingya community members.

If the US government wants to see clear progress on the Rohingya issue in Burma, Secretary Kerry should set clear and measurable timelines and benchmarks for progress, including restoring Rohingya citizenship and lifting restrictions on aid, movement, marriage and education for Rohingya.

In June a senior UN official referred to the humanitarian situation in western Burma's Arakan State as "appalling" upon concluding a four-day visit to the country. Kyung-wha Kang http://www.dvb.no/news/un-official-appalled-by-situation-in-arakan-burma-myanmar/41607, the UN assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told reporters that she witnessed "a level of human suffering in IDP [internally displaced persons] camps that I have personally never seen before."

US Secretary of State John Kerry should support an independent international investigation http://burmacampaign.org.uk/european-union-must-support-international-investigation-into-human-rights-abuses-against-rohingya/149/ into human rights abuses in Arakan. Rohingyas around the world have been calling for an international investigation since June 2012. We faced a massacre in October 2012 and again January 2014 http://brouk.org.uk/?p=85. Anti-Muslim propaganda and hate-speech have increased attacks against Muslims in Burma.

President Thein Sein'shttp://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/refdaily?pass=463ef21123&date=2012-07-13&cat=Asia/Pacific previous request to deport all Rohingya from the country has been described as tantamount to ethnic cleansing, and has sent a signal to others in government that they can act with impunity when it comes to violence against Rohingya. An independent international investigation http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/04/22/burma-end-ethnic-cleansing-rohingya-muslims would help end the sense of impunity, establish the truth and make recommendations for action to prevent further violence.

Secretary Kerry should seize the opportunity to change the Burmese government's response to violence against Rohingya. He must put pressure on President Thein Sein to forcefully denounce hate speech against Rohingya, promote appropriate accountability for violence and crimes against Rohingya, allow humanitarian access to all parts of Arakan State, repeal the 1982 Citizenship Law that renders Rohingya stateless, and end the segregation between communities in Arakan State.

A new form of apartheid is being created to segregate us from other people of Burma. Rohingya have been put into camps or isolated villages where life will be so terrible that people will be forced to leave the country, even at great risk to their safety. I call on Secretary Kerry to do everything in his power to stem the tide of oppression and help protect the rights of our Rohingya people.

Tun Khin is President of Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, which is playing a crucial role to provide a vital voice to policy makers around the world for the Rohingya people.

Scottish Independence Rejected By Members Of US Congress

Ned Simons   |   August 7, 2014    9:41 AM ET

Republican and Democratic members of the United States Congress have joined forces to encourage Scotland not to vote for independence on September 18.

A motion tabled in the House of Representatives, signed by 27 congressmen and women, expresses support for "a united, secure, and prosperous United Kingdom".

House resolution 713 speaks about the "special relationship" between the UK and US and references Winston Churchill as evidence of the "unprecedented depth of cooperation and the extensive historic ties between the two nations".

"Throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries, the United States and the United Kingdom fought together in several struggles, including the First and Second World Wars, in which millions of American and British soldiers sacrificed for their countries," it says.

"Millions of Americans have Scottish roots and identify with their Scottish ancestry, and Scottish people and culture have had a profound effect on the United States throughout its history."

Republican congressman Ed Royce, the chairman of the House foreign affairs committee, told The Huffington Post: "Our ‘special relationship’ with the United Kingdom is unparalleled. It is crucial for both our nations to continue our close cooperation on key diplomatic, security, economic, and human rights concerns. A strong, unified United Kingdom has been a leader in the world and I look forward to continuing our valuable partnership."

In June, President Obama staged a major intervention in the debate over independence, when he said he wanted to see Britain remain "united". Former secretary of state, and likely 2016 presidential candidate, Hilary Clinton, has also urged Scotland to reject independence.

A recent poll of ex-pat Scots living in the United States showed 74% did not want Scotland to leave the UK. However people born in Scotland who now live outside the country are not allowed to vote in the referendum.