Sad Day in Benghazi

Anti-corruption activist Mohamed Bughaighis was killed today near to the Kish Café, Benghazi, where we made friends with many optimistic Libyans in 2011 and 2012.  In total, 4 people were killed and 21 injured in the vehicle attack, to add to the 10 men who were discovered on a rubbish tip this weekend, bound, tortured and killed.  Tomorrow in London, Fayez al-Sarraj, the Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord will meet  President Obama’s special envoy to Libya, Jonathan Winer at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to discuss the collapsing economy in Libya.  Perhaps the security situation in Benghazi should be the first point on the agenda.

Tobroq Council

Sleepwalking into a new Cold War?

I was interviewed by Emma Barnett on BBC radio about the British troop deployments to the Baltic announced yesterday.  We are all worried about the deterioration in relations between Russia and the West.  The use of the military to deter aggression is an important tool of diplomacy, but should not be taken as an imminent sign of War.  See Chapter 2 of Belfast to Benghazi for a sense of what it was like to serve on the front line during the Second Cold War; the period of heightened tension from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 to the time of Glasnost and Perestroika.

img_1056The 17th/21st Lancers patrolling in the Arctic during the Cold War.


Battle For Mosul

I was asked by Radio 5 Live to comment on the Battle to retake Mosul from Islamic State which started today.  Mosul is almost twice the size of Basra, so the operation will not be swift.  There may be rapid gains through the empty desert, but house to house fighting inside the city will be slow.  The key to success is to ensure the Sunni community are not disenfranchised.  The Iraqi Government would be well advised to follow up immediately with a reconstruction programme after an area is liberated, as we did in Sadr City in 2008.  It is vital to avoid Mosul stagnating and becoming another Aleppo.  See Belfast to Benghazi pages 218 to 226:                         


Supporting the White Helmets

I joined Ayman Asfari and other distinguished guests at the Chatham house screening of the Netflix documentary, White Helmets.  It was a moving tribute to the humanitarian work of the Syrian Civil Defense, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize – 110 of the White Helmets have been killed whilst working as heroic first responders.  There is a strong case to provide the 250,000 people in Aleppo, who are being bombed daily by helicopters and aircraft, with the means to defend themselves from air attack – or history may well regard the victims of Aleppo as abandoned by the very people who encouraged them to rebel. img_1043