This year marks the 20th anniversary of running my first marathon*. It was the London Marathon in April 1997. Over the same period of time, longer in fact, I have also been an observer and analyst of Middle Eastern politics. Reflecting on two obsessions that have been important in my professional and personal life, what have I learnt from marathon running that can be applied to my analysis and observation of Middle Eastern politics?
We can and we should provide both if the decades-long international system of protection of civilians and regulation of warfare is to have any meaning. It is urgent to ensure the safe passage of civilians in Eastern Aleppo according to International Law; and it is imperative to investigate the responsibility for the crimes that have already been committed.
This Saturday is 1,900 days since his arrest - he has not seen his family for over five years. The Foreign Office told me that during the nuclear negotiations, they did not once bring up my dad's detention with Iran. I think that was a missed opportunity... We must not rest until my dad is back home with his wife, daughter, son and two granddaughters. We have all suffered for too long. Theresa May, please do everything you can to help free Grandpa Kamal before it is too late.
The Chilcot report has laid bare the US-British plot to remove Saddam. This is the second time (that we know of) where the US and the UK have conspired to remove a Middle Eastern leader. "The world is safer" claimed former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in justifying the removal of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. More than a decade after the event and following the seven year wait for the Chilcot report, it is too early to say whether this is the case.
As we approach the first anniversary of the Iranian nuclear deal, tens of thousands of activists and Iranian dissidents are set to rally this Saturday in Paris, calling for Tehran's nefarious conduct at home and in the region to be tackled. One of the primary messages at this rally will be to condemn Iran's role in the massacre of the Syrian people and to demand an end to its assistance to the Assad government.
The publication of the Chilcot Report into the UK's involvement in the 2003 Iraq war has as its focus the events that led up to the flawed decision over the UK going to war, and to some extent the other side of the equation; the impact of this flawed decision-making on the conduct of the subsequent 'nation-building'.
When news of the accusations against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe came though recently, the phrase that caught the eye in many of the reports was that the Revolutionary Guard alleged that she'd participated in the "design and implementation of cyber and media projects to cause the soft toppling of the Islamic Republic". Soft toppling. Rather like a chess piece casually knocked over.
Though change may not come overnight, this conference in Paris is both timely and important - a potentially crucial pointer in the right direction towards resolving to one of the most difficult and dangerous foreign policy issues of our time, namely Iran. It surely deserves greater strategic comprehension and attention from our Governments.