There Are Worse Things Than Dictators

Everything they told you about Syria was wrong. The story where the noble, brave resistance were fighting to liberate their country. The story where Assad was the one the world had to worry about. Well, those resistance fighters have shown their faces now. And they are the butchers of ISIS, beheading their way through Iraq towards Baghdad. Syria and Iraq are the same war. They have been for a long time. ISIS is fighting in both countries, it wants to establish a single Taliban-style state … [Read more...]

First We Took Afghanistan. Then We Gave Them Iraq

First we took away Al-Qaeda’s base in Afghanistan. Then we gave them a new one in Iraq. Strip away the treachery and deceit, murder and mayhem of the last twelve and a half years, and that’s all that remains. In 2001, we went to war to chase Al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan. I was there. I watched the bombs fall, and I saw the bodies. Al-Qaeda were holed up in the poorest country on earth. They practically had to run their global jihad out of a cave. They were out on the fringes, cut off … [Read more...]

The Syrian Civil War – Made in Britain and the USA

  We started this. That's what I can't help thinking every time I hear about the latest death and suffering in Syria. When the US and Britain invaded Iraq in 2003, we set off a chain of events that led inexorably to the killing fields of Damascus and Aleppo. I watched it begin when I was working as a reporter in Iraq. I remember going to an interview at a hospital south of Baghdad: the moment I stepped into his office, the doctor told me "You have to get out of here. They're … [Read more...]

The Return of Al-Qaeda: why we should be worried about jailbreaks in Pakistan and Iraq

So, just over a week since the Al-Qaeda Jailbreak in Iraq, now we have the Taliban Jailbreak in Pakistan. It doesn't take much to tell that this was no coincidence. No, what it means is that, far from being a spent and broken force, the Al-Qaeda movement founded by Osama bin Laden is alive and dangerous. Eight days after spectacular raids by militants on two prisons in Iraq freed 500 inmates, among them some of the most dangerous Sunni extremists from the civil war, comes a remarkably … [Read more...]

Tony Blair: the Messiah and the Monster

Sometimes I think the only way Tony Blair could ever be truly happy is if he managed to get himself crucified. A big Calvary moment, complete with movie cameras, crowds of extras, make-up and lighting, is the only thing that could ever satisfy his Messiah complex-- But no, Blair was always a bargain basement Messiah, and he was always happy to pay in some one else's blood. Astonishingly, this week he declared he had no regrets over the decision to invade Iraq ten years ago. Well, he did … [Read more...]

How I fell in love with Syria

I remember the day I fell in love with Syria. We had got up early to watch dawn rise over the ruins of Palmyra in the desert, and as I sat on a piece of ancient wall, feeling the warm of the sun on my face, I saw a figure approaching out of the desert. It was a little like that scene in Lawrence of Arabia where Omar Sharif shimmers out of the mirage on a camel, except this was a small boy and he was on foot, but he was dressed in full Arab robes, headscarf and all. There was no sound except the … [Read more...]

The people are coming for you

In February last year, drunk on the euphoria of the Arab Spring and cheap wine, I put this rant up on Facebook: "Bouteflika, Saleh, Assad, Gaddafi, Ahmadinejad and you silent eminences his masters, Abdullah the Hashemite, Abdullah of the House of Saud, don't sleep, don't turn out the lights, don't blink, the people are coming for you." Well, yes. They really were coming for Gaddafi. Saleh of Yemen is gone too, though allowed to live.   Things aren't looking good for Assad, … [Read more...]