All posts by Tom Hashemi

An alumnus of the University of Manchester (BA(Hons) Middle Eastern History) and King's College London (MA Terrorism, Security & Society), Tom is the founder of He currently works for market research and strategic consulting firm Edelman Berland. You can find out more about him by going to or by following him on twitter. All views expressed are his alone and not of any employer or other third party (including

Getting Your Five A Day?

The government wants us to eat five portions of fruit & veg every day; why not engage with five different news sources each day as well – it would be equally as healthy for you, and for the wider world.


5 a day


Tom is currently employed by Edelman Berland (the research arm of Edelman and the organisation that produced the data referred to in this piece). He was not involved in the creation of the report.


International PR firm Edelman released their 2013 survey of global trust, the ‘Trust Barometer‘, yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The survey, released annually since the turn of the millennium, commenced with the rise of NGOs to the global scene as a consequence of the anti-globalisation movement in the US. Since then it has tracked the ‘Fall of the Celebrity CEO’ (2002), to the rise of ‘A Person Like Me’ as a credible spokesperson (2006), through to the ‘Fall of Government’ (2012).

The data released this year was telling. Some pointed to things that we already knew (people don’t trust bankers or journalists much these days), and some to things that you would be unlikely to consider (the most trusted location for a company to be headquartered, for example, is Canada). Below are my highlights – you can see the figures for yourself here.

The ‘informed public’ (college-educated/within the top 25 per cent of household income per age group/significant media consumption/engaged with business news and public policy) felt significantly higher degrees of trust than the general public. According to the data the global difference was 9 points (informed public trust standing at 57 points against the general public trust at 48 points), with the UK displaying equatable levels (taking into account margins for error). The US, however, surged ahead with a whopping 14 point difference (informed: 59, general: 45) – though it is worth noting that this may have been artificially inflated by the recent election and the ‘hope’ of Obama having a successful second term, however improbable.

Business was trusted more than government in 16 out of 26 markets surveyed, including the US, the UK, Japan, and India. Interestingly, citizens of Singapore and China – neither possessing especially liberal or hospitable governments – expressed greater trust in their governments than in business, by 5 per cent and 7 per cent respectively. Whether this is due to mass failings in business (corruption et al.), good economic performance, or the lack of a polycephalous media…

We in the West, perhaps somewhat idealistically, trust small businesses significantly more than we trust big businesses: in the UK this amounts to an astonishing difference of 30 per cent (trust in small business: 78 per cent, big business: 48 per cent). Emerging markets on the other hand, expressed greater trust in big business. 89 per cent of Chinese, for example, giving the thumbs up for large organisations, against only 65 per cent for their smaller equivalents.

The winning statistic, purely from a fear factor, is the increasing level of trust that many are placing in social media as a reliable news source – 58 per cent in emerging markets view social media as a credible news source, 28 per cent in developed markets.

Bertrand Russell once said, “I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn’t wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine”. By relying on social media to provide information about the world around us we run the risk of regressing into an environment that relays to us only what we wish to hear, rather than ideas that challenge our perspectives.

In the case of Twitter, for example, a platform where you, and only you, are responsible for choosing the sources of your daily digestion, this possibility is entirely plausible. I myself am guilty of ‘unfollowing’ those with whom I expressly disagree with. An over-reliance on social media to provide us with a snapshot of world events creates the foundation for a wholly unbalanced diet of media consumption.

The government wants us to eat five portions of fruit & veg every day, why not engage with five different news sources each day as well – it would be healthy for both you and the world around you.


Photo credit: luckyjimmy

Birds, Polar Bears, Hippos, A Creep & Miss Alabama

At risk of changing the entire ethos of this site, I thought I’d post something a little more lighthearted than usual today, simply because I’ve come across some absolute gems that I wanted to share.

First off, there was this. This bird can mimic chainsaws, opera, and the Amen Break. In other words, it’s more talented than you.


Then there is the absolute bizarreness of these polar bears playing with dogs. And it’s not just a one-off, they come back every year to do it!


Jessica the friendly hippo – “she’s like a daughter to me”.


In case you aren’t familiar, this is what hippos are normally like around humans:


And which species to best end with than the human race. Can you get much creepier than this? Read about it here.

POW! Play Fighting In An Era Of Mass Shootings

On my morning rout through the various online news sources one story kept catching my eye on American news sites: a six year old was suspended in Maryland in late December for pointing his finger at a classmate and shouting “Pow!”.

With a backdrop of Sandy Hook, the Sikh temple shooting, the Aurora shooting, and the 58 other mass murders in the US since 1982, some reaction from school authorities to such an incident is understandable. Particularly if the child had been warned in the past about displaying such behaviour. But is suspending a child from school really the right approach?

If a child is genuinely displaying signs of threatening to shoot a fellow student (which is purportedly how the school characterised the event), is ostracising him or her from their classmates the path that school authorities should take? We cannot ignore the fact that ostractisation from school or society so frequently plays a role in these events.

Add to this the fact that this boy is six years old. Six! It would be worth contemplating whether a child would even begin to comprehend the seriousness of this backdrop of mass-murders. I think its safe to say that it is inconceivable to think that he understood the implications of this tiny act of play.

The all the more laughable development is that the parents have hired an attorney to fight against the suspension. What better way to destroy the authority that a teacher needs to control a classroom than for the parents to sue the school, what better way to damage the education that your child is going to receive.

And then you have kids like this – truly impressive.


Photo credit: Håkan Dahlström

The Drones Are Droning On…

Whatever our respective views are on the subject of drone strikes, it is undeniably the case that they are an incredibly effective method of targeting terrorists in unfriendly, or uncontrolled territory.

Of the many successful drone strikes in 2012, the following are – according to CNN’s Security Clearance blog – the most pertinent. June 4th saw al Qaeda strategist Abu Yahya al-Libi meet the ‘business end of a drone‘ in Pakistan, an occurrence that I argued should both be celebrated and mourned. Fahd Mohammad Ahmed al-Quso, another senior al Qaeda operative (wanted for his role in the USS Cole bombing), was killed in Yemen on May 6th. And lastly Badar Mansoor, considered the most senior Pakistani in al Qaeda, was assassinated on February 9th in Waziristan.

It can be argued that by removing known operatives we are simply inducing unknown individuals to take their position. When Israel assassinated Hamas military chief Ahmed al-Jabari in November there were those that argued that the IDF had acted with overwhelming short-sightedness: at least Jabari was a known quantity. If Sun Tzu was correct when he asserted that knowing one’s enemy is paramount to victory, perhaps there is some weight to these claims.

Last year we saw much debate on these pages on the subject of drones. Catherine Connolly’s piece back in June argued that the use of drones signalled a “failure in moral leadership by the United States”. Matt Wahnsiedler’s response sought to demonstrate that Connolly’s arguments had failed to take into account the realities of warfare. TRS Reviews Editor Jenny Holland, writing in The Guardian, took a different route, arguing that opposition to drone strikes is not so black-and-white ‘on the ground’ in Pakistan as is presented by Western peace activists and human rights groups. The real issue, she argued, is that the “debate over the drone campaign is a distraction from other, more important issues”: health, access to clean water, and the rule of law.

It is highly unlikely that Obama will cease to approve of the CIA’s programme. Whether it remains politically possible to persevere with it given the Arab Spring and the effect it could have on Arab sentiment towards the superpower is another matter altogether. 2013 will be telling.


 Photo credit: DVIDSHUB

Is ‘Less-Than-Lethal’ Ammunition The Solution?

Fox News published an article today denoting a new form of ammunition about to be sold by a US company. The “Burns Round” (named after the company founder’s deceased cousin: U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Kyle Burns) is fired out of a 12-gauge shotgun and flattens on impact. Resultantly it bruises and stuns the target, hopefully avoiding fatality.

The company is marketing this new ammo specifically at police and other law enforcement officials – the catalyst for its creation was the need for ammo that wouldn’t pierce the skin of a plane in the post-9/11 armed flight marshal world.

Given the on-going debate over the Second Amendment (read mine and Peter Kelly’s thoughts on the matter here), it would be beneficial to push these developments further into the public sphere. Allowing citizenry and police to be armed with “less-than-lethal” ammunition is clearly preferable to, for example, hollow point rounds. Whilst it will not eradicate the problem or the underlying issues, it has the potential to lower the casualty rate of this pandemic.

Of course non-lethal ammunition is nothing new; police have been using rubber bullets for some time now. But it is encouraging that the U.S.’s foremost right-wing gun-toting website is shouting its praises.

Perhaps the NRA would like to join in?


Photo credit: Keoni Cabral

The Second Amendment: An Outdated, Ideological Fallacy

This is not about rationality: arguments against gun control are almost entirely constructed and founded on their ideological underpinnings. And as with any devout ideologue, the wider picture and the resultant implications are willfully and purposefully ignored.




This piece was co-authored by Peter Kelly.


Anthony Machinski’s recent piece on TRS – “Gun Control: You Can’t Test Irresponsibility” – is, at best, the work of an individual firmly fixated on trying to make reality look like a world in which the Second Amendment is still relevant. At worst, it is one so dedicated to this fantasy as to have dangerous illusions as to the continued relevance of an armed militia concerned with resisting a tyrannous federal government. For that was the purpose and reasoning leading to the Second Amendment.

Machinski’s arguments are based on statistics, but these are either incorrect, invalid, or irrelevant to the matter at hand. Like Machinski we wish to take a moment to remember the lives devastated by this tragedy, however to do so without seeking ways to stop this trend towards such tragedies is a fatal mistake.

If we do not look at the underlying and facilitating factors to Columbine-esque shootings such events will continue to feature: is the post-revolutionary right to bear arms really worth the continuous killings of so many children?

Firstly however, we would like to address some incorrect claims made in the Machinski piece.

1) People will always be able to “get their hands on whatever item they want if they so choose”

Machinski chooses to exemplify this with reference to prohibition and the failure of legislation to tackle drug abuse. These are wholly illegitimate comparisons.

Firstly, there is a huge difference in intent.

The intent of someone who drank alcohol during prohibition was not to be able to maim or kill. Similarly, for one who is recreationally taking illegal drugs the intent is to enjoy themselves.

Irrespective of our respective views on the use of recreational drugs, it is readily apparent that for the vast majority of users the intent is not to commit any violence. With guns, the sourcing of a weapon is for the sole purpose of being able to maim at some point in the future, even if this is under the guise of defence.

Secondly, and more applicably, most killers lack the connections or experience to get hold of illegal weapons (as opposed to gang members).

Reductio ad absurdum: why don’t we just give all mentally unfit persons a firearm? According to Machinksi they are going to get them anyway.

2) The UK “has problems with school shootings”

The factual inaccuracy here is startling. A simple Wikipedia search would have displayed to the author that the only school shooting in the UK in living memory was the Dunblane massacre of 1996.

The Cumbria shootings of 2010 had nothing whatsoever to do with schools or children – as proven by virtue of the fact that all victims were over the age of twenty three. We can further consider that the only other major gun massacre in the UK (again, in living memory) was that which occurred in Hungerford in 1987. Again, nothing to do with a school.

Thus, of the three mass shootings in the last three decades in the UK, only one has taken place in a school.

3) In “no way, shape, or form would gun control laws have helped prevent this tragedy”

Firstly, should the type of guns permitted to be licensed be lower down the “ease-of-use” scale it is highly unlikely that this tragedy would have been as extreme as it is; had the shooter’s only weapon been a handgun it is doubtful that the casualty count would be so high.

The weapon he used was akin to the M16 (as employed by the U.S. Army). Its efficacy in lethality is demonstrated by the short time-frame of the killing spree (the killer shot himself less than ten minutes after the first shot was fired, just as the first police officer entered the school). Less efficient legal weapons would likely result in less deaths per mass killing.

Secondly, legal weapons have been used in approximately seventy five per cent of the sixty two mass killings in America since 1982, thus demonstrating the complete failure of the American licensed weapons system.

A more holistic attempt at ensuring that active weapons do not get into the wrong hands – a greater degree of federal specificity over how guns are stored; the enforced separation of gun from ammunition in storage; the ineligibility of those living with person(s) with mental health issues to possess a weapon, etc. – would indubitably result in less legal weapons being used for illegal purposes.

Such restrictions – gun control laws – would likely have limited (if not put a stop to) this mass murder.

We must also consider arguments which frame the fight against the Second Amendment; this is a debate which cannot be won solely on the defensive.


The Second Amendment is archaic and belongs to the time of slavery and the looming threat of the British Empire. In short, a time well before the U.S. could truly have been called a democracy. Now, when federal government depends on votes to remain in power, votes are the weapons every household needs.

There is no need for every man to wield a weapon to warn off a federal army which has its hands tied controlling Afghanistan, let alone the three hundred and ten million citizens of the United States – even were they completely unarmed. Besides which, where is the organised militia such armed citizenry are supposed to belong to?

The Second Amendment is a disastrous carry-on from a past era. The eighteenth century solution (to eighteenth century issues which no longer exist) has created a twenty-first century problem.

The Statistics

The homicide by firearm rate in the U.S. is completely disproportionate to its position as a Western nation. It is only bested by developing countries and the nearest developed countries to it are Liechtenstein and Switzerland (also low gun-restriction countries).

The disproportion is by a rather telling factor of four.

One can point to all kinds of different mitigating statistics to this, but the inescapable line is that lax gun laws equal more gun murders in developed states. In the United States, unless you were to insult the entire populace with the assumption that they are more homicidal than average, a factor of four is simply too large of a difference to be challenged.

Bringing the United Kingdom in hardly helps the case – it has a gun-related homicide rate of approximately forty times smaller. The rate of gun crime has halved in the years since stricter gun laws were enforced and cannot be attributed to a culture of less crime, as the United Kingdom has a slightly higher crime rate.

It also rubbishes the claim that those without guns will find other means, as despite the higher crime rate the UK’s homicide rate is significantly smaller than that of the US, 1.2 per 100,000 against 4.2 respectively.


The fact of the matter is that the strength of the argument for gun control is all but irrelevant. As Sam Leith, writing in today’s Evening Standard, argues, “the issue in the US is a dialogue of the deaf because it’s about identity politics, not harm reduction”. The Second Amendment equates the gun to freedom, and as we are aware, freedom is a big word.

This is not about rationality: arguments against gun control are almost entirely constructed and founded on their ideological underpinnings. And as with any devout ideologue, the wider picture and the resultant implications are willfully and purposefully ignored.

Resultantly debate on this matter is nothing but a formality. No matter how much the facts stack up on one side, votes will be matched along these lines of identity, not of rationality. What needs to change is what “freedom” really means: that we should be looking upon it as freedom from death and suffering, not freedom to wield a weapon of your choice to cause it.


This piece was co-authored by Peter Kelly.

Peter holds an MSc in International Security from the University of Bristol and a BA in Philosophy and Politics from Durham University. His focus is on security and conflict issues in the western world, Middle East and Africa. He runs the site A Third Opinion.

Photo credit:  Jenn Durfey

Telling Muslims To ‘Do One’ Is Not Pragmatism

A pragmatist would work to understand the drivers for jihadism and extreme Islamism. Telling Islamists to fuck off does not feature, and it will not work.


carlsberg dont do freedom of speech


This is a response to ‘Innocence of Muslims’ ‘offends’ Muslims: ‘Well So Fucking What?


In 2006 Karl Rove, the Bush-era White House Deputy Chief of Staff, delivered a speech denoting the achievements of American conservatives. He argued that the most important distinction between conservatives and liberals was the former’s desire for revenge:

Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.

For Rove, any attempt to comprehend the reasons for 9/11 was illogical and unnecessary: America had been attacked and the only possible response was war. It was unthinkable for the Republican to consider why terrorism had struck American shores in such a destructive and horrific fashion. By responding with the invasions of the Middle East, especially Iraq, the West acted to further catalyse anti-Western sentiment, grievances, and ultimately terrorism. In short, the response distinctly lacked any semblance of pragmatism.

Peter Kelly’s recent piece considering the film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ shares this quality. The inference that protesters should be taking offence over the poor quality of the film rather than its content is as laughable as it is perverse, but the all the more serious issue is the representation that his arguments represent pragmatism: they do not.

Kelly argues that the statements made by Morsi and Karzai are “beyond wrong, they are dangerous”. Seemingly therefore, no national leader should take into account domestic political considerations and constraints when responding to an issue. Is this a pragmatist speaking?

The statements by both Morsi and Karzai are intended to allay further protests. Each leader’s respective country has recently undergone drastic and strenuous political changes, both leaders suffer from challenges to their leadership, and both preside over populations that have proven to be easily fired up. Is it more pragmatic to deliver a message in the hope that it will minimize further protests and casualties (likely targeting foreigners), or to persevere with a message that would only work to antagonize, irrespective of its (neo-liberal) ideological ‘correctness’?

Kelly goes on to denounce claims that the US embassy in Cairo’s statement was pragmatic, yet he fails to locate the statement within the broader timeline of the protests. The statement in question was made before both the murder of Christopher Stevens and members of his staff in Libya, as well as the storming of the US embassy in Cairo. It was not a response to the violence but an attempt to allay violence and protests given the effects of previous similar productions attacking Islam. One would hope that should Kelly inhabit the role of UK ambassador at some point during his career he would take every possible precaution to ensure the safety of his staff, even if by doing so his ideological message is weakened. When there is a threat to diplomatic personnel it is irresponsible and illogical to put politics before life. The US embassy’s statement was entirely pragmatic in that it attempted to ensure the safety of its staff. Would a pragmatist not have taken such a route?

The all the more deplorable position presented however, is that of a Manichean framework through which to view this issue. In much the same way that the Bush administration and al Qaeda promoted an “Us versus Them” vision of the post-9/11 world, Kelly asserts that either we “bend over and give over our rights” or we tell Islamists to fuck off. Such a binary only serves to consolidate the hand of those that hold values antithetical to the modern universalist values of freedom of speech, of equality, of political freedoms. The combating of such ideologues does not occur by presenting the wider population with the choice of ‘you’re either with us or against us’. If we tell the Muslim world to ‘do one’ every time we have a cultural conflict, well, is the result not obvious?

In The Art of War, the military strategist Sun Tzu wrote:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

The Rove/Kelly vision argues against knowing your enemy and reacting on the basis of ideological foundation. A pragmatist would work to understand the drivers for jihadism and extreme Islamism, working to spread modern universalist values by taking into account, and working against, the factors that aid and abet it. Telling Islamists to fuck off does not feature, and it will not work.


Photo credit: sjgibss80

Multiculturalism In Modern Discourse

The theory of multiculturalism, societal multiculturalism and state multiculturalism: what is the difference?




The Multiculturalism of Theory

Multiculturalism is a concept that, much like terrorism, has consistently been rendered undefinable. Its underlying facets emerged from a speech by former Home Secretary Roy Jenkins in 1966, who described it as “equal opportunity, accompanied by cultural diversity, in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance”.[1] Unlike assimilation, where the existence of minority cultures is viewed as a barrier to a harmonious society, multiculturalism views cultural difference to be positive – it explicitly recognises and values cultural diversity – whilst maintaining the need for a dynamic, fluid national identity.[2] It argues for the recognition that different individuals and communities will have different requirements, and as such if integration policy is to be truly equal it must take account of these different needs. In short, equality must be “applied in a discriminating but not discriminatory manner”.[3]

As such we can understand multiculturalism, the theory, as a combination of three key constituents: a) two-way integration involving both groups and individuals; b) policies of equality being applied in a discriminating but not a discriminatory way, and; c) seeking to create a dynamic national identity.[4]

Societal Multiculturalism

One topic worthy of clarification is the assertion that multiculturalism has never been an official state policy;[5] the claim that multiculturalism is but “a simple description of the character of our society”.[6] The Parekh Report labels the transformation of Britain into a multicultural society as multicultural ‘drift’ – meaning multiculturalism ‘just happened’ as opposed to it being a “concerted decision”.[7] To be sure, the multicultural, multi-ethnic characteristics of modern Britain are the result of immigration and globalisation throughout the last century. It did, to an extent, ‘just happen’ (though it was never intended to catalyse a long-term multi-ethnic, multicultural society).[8] Using ‘multiculturalism’ as a descriptor of British society today, however, is a separate concept to both multiculturalism as a theory, and as a description of multicultural policies (‘state multiculturalism’). For example, take the variety of cuisine available in London – it would not be far off to suggest that you can source food from every part of the world. This would lend itself to describing the city as truly multicultural. In other words, it possesses elements of many cultures. This would not change even if the government were to introduce an assimilationist integration policy; even if multiculturalism were rejected as an integration policy, we could still describe much of the United Kingdom as multicultural.

State Multiculturalism

Consider the following passage from Amartya Sen’s Identity and Violence:

If a young girl in a conservative immigrant family wants to go out on a date with an English boy, that would certainly be a multicultural initiative. In contrast, the attempts by her guardians to stop her from doing this… is hardly a multicultural move, since it seeks to keep the cultures sequestered. And yet it is the parents’ prohibition, which contributes to plural multiculturalism, that seems to get most of the vocal and loud defence from alleged multiculturalists… as if the distinct cultures must somehow remain in secluded boxes.[9]

What Sen labels ‘plural multiculturalism’ can be likened to those British multicultural policies – ‘state multiculturalism’ – that are viewed by critics as consolidating cultural divisions and separate identities. The differentiation between ‘state multiculturalism’ and the theory of multiculturalism, however, is key. To make that distinction we must firstly recognise that the UK has implemented policies that follow the dogma of multiculturalism. For examples we can look to the increasing support of faith schools, or to the funding of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). But, secondly, we must also note the extent to which multiculturalism has been employed as an integration policy: it has not been implemented ‘properly’. We can take the example of the MCB again to demonstrate this. By choosing to place emphasis on the Muslim identity of British Muslims through an organisation which suffers from Lilliputian-like recognition by the Muslim community, the government failed to recognise the differing needs of the individuals within that group (may I refer the reader back to the definition of the theory for clarity on this matter). It sought to deal with all Muslims as one rather than acknowledging the different variants of Islam (Sunni, Shia etc.), or the different ethnicities encompassed in the British Muslim contingent, or the many other identities that British Muslims have.[10] Resultantly, whilst the funding of the MCB was something of a multicultural policy, it was not multicultural enough. Therefore it would be incorrect to assert that multiculturalism – the theory – has completely reared its head, and therefore we must make the distinction between the theory and the practice.

The debate over multiculturalism is very rarely an affront to a multi-ethnic society bringing together cultures from around the world. Its critics would argue it is over the inegalitarian nature of the theory and, in practice, its pointed partitioning of society. The point to be made is that there are multiple understandings of the word ‘multiculturalism’. It can be a description of society, it is the name of a theory, and it can be the name applied to policies used in furtherance of that theory, to whatever extent. Discourse should distinguish between these three interpretations of the word in order to avoid miscommunication.

[toggle title=”Citations & Bibliography”]

[1] Manning (2011)

[2] Mason (2000), p. 69; Modood (2011), p. 63

[3] CMEB (2000), p. ix

[4] Based on definitions provided by Modood (2011), p. 66 & CMEB(2000), p. ix

[5] Galloway (2012); Mahamdallie (2011), p.21

[6] Livingtone (2011), p. 29

[7] CMEB (2000), p. 14

[8] Leiken (2012), p. 97

[9] Sen (2006), p. 157

[10] A good parallel being Kissinger’s purported desire for a single phone number for Europe.


CMEB (2000), The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain: The Parekh Report (London: Profile Books)

Galloway, G. (2012), ‘The Dis-united Kingdom’, The Cafe, Al-Jazeera, [online] Available at:

Leiken, S. (2012), Europe’s Angry Muslims: The Revolt of the Second Generation (New York: Oxford University Press)

Livingstone, K. (2011), ‘In praise of multicultural London’, in Mahamdallie, H., ed., Defending Multiculturalism: A Guide for the Movement (London: Bookmarks Publications), pp. 26-37

Mahamdallie, H. (2011), ‘Introduction: Defending Multiculturalism’, in Mahamdallie, H., ed., Defending Multiculturalism: A Guide for the Movement (London: Bookmarks Publications), pp. 15-25

Manning, A. (2011), The evidence shows that multiculturalism in the UK has succeeded in fostering a sense of belonging among minorities, but it has paid too little attention to how to sustain support among parts of the white population, [online] Available at:

Mason, D. (2000), Race and Ethnicity in Modern Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Modood, T. (2011), ‘Multiculturalism and integration: struggling with confusions’, in Mahamdallie, H., ed., Defending Multiculturalism: A Guide for the Movement (London: Bookmarks Publications), pp. 61-76

Sen, A. (2006), Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (London: Penguin)


Al-Libi Meets The Business End Of A Drone

Whilst the death of an al-Qaeda strategist as brilliant as al-Libi should be celebrated, it should simultaneously be mourned: he provided us with better advice than we were able to produce ourselves at the time. 



[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he death of Libyan-born Abu Yahya al-Libi, the “general manager” of al-Qaeda, has provoked a new round of debate over the use of drones by the United States. Many al-Qaeda leaders have met their end after encountering the business end of a drone (credit to John Quinn for dreaming up such a brilliant phrase), proving them a useful tool in the American military toolbox for eliminating threats in territory that they do not control.

As Andy Parsons amusingly puts it:

“We went into Afghanistan with the help of Pakistan to find al-Qaeda, now it appears that they (al-Qaeda) have left Afghanistan and gone to Pakistan. But we can’t actually go and find them in Pakistan because Pakistan is our friend and they’re still helping us look for al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.”

Pakistan has described the killing of al-Libi on Pakistani soil as “unlawful, against international law and a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty”. But Pakistani protests over the presence of American troops conducting assassinations on Pakistani soil would be far greater, as would the effect on anti-American sentiment (bin Laden’s departure as a case in point). If one adheres to the argument that to counter the extremist group one must destroy its leadership, drones are undoubtedly the lesser evil.

This debate is not constrained to issues of sovereignty however. Following confirmation of the success of the strike by American authorities, the dead Libyan’s brother, Abu Bakr al-Qayed, asserted that “the way the Americans killed him is heinous and inhumane”. “Regardless of my brother’s ideology, or beliefs, he was a human being and at the end of the day deserves humane treatment”. This aspect of the debate – that of human rights – is one that I shall (happily) leave to one side in the knowledge that others more capable than myself will be tackling it on these pages shortly.

Al-Libi’s fame was born out of his escape from Bagram in July 2005, subsequently proving his worth as an al-Qaeda strategist and theologian. The “explosive cocktail of youth, rage, arrogance and intellect that has made him a force” among Jihadis was demonstrated when he provided the sole remaining superpower with unsolicited advice on how to defeat the militant Sunni group (Brachman 2008).

Amusingly the neutralization of senior leaders was a key point in his suggestions: al-Libi was a self-appointed target. His further recommendations can only be regarded as brilliant. He argued that America should focus on promoting the voices of those who had renounced extremism, in much the way that certain countries use former extremists within their deradicalisation programmes: what better person to use to discredit the movement than one who has been through it and come out the other side. Further, mainstream Imams should be encouraged to issue fatwas against al-Qaeda and its followers. By using such a line of attack, al-Qaeda’s appeal to potential recruits is dramatically lessened and the West may start to win the war of ideas.

Building upon that foundation, al-Libi suggested that America make up stories about the organisation and exaggerate its mistakes. If America were to insinuate that these fictitious or embellished events were inherent to the movement, the group’s public support would undoubtedly drop significantly. He mentions the damage done to the image of the organisation by rumours that al-Qaeda had imposed a death penalty on those who renounced its violent ideology.

The most pertinent argument provided is that of encouraging and strengthening Islamic movements that favour democracy. As Brachman asserts, Jihadist thinkers are threatened by such groups (the Muslim Brotherhood as an example) as they utilize the same texts to legitimize their world-view and appeal to the same kind of person. The Muslim Brotherhood are, evidently, eminently preferable to al-Qaeda.

To close, whilst the death of an al-Qaeda strategist as brilliant as al-Libi should be celebrated, it should simultaneously be mourned: he provided us with better advice than we were able to produce ourselves at the time. Jarret M. Brachman’s 2008 work Global Jihadism: Theory and Practice should be consulted by those that wish to read more upon this subject – I strongly recommend it.

An Introduction To Terrorist Organisational Structures

An introduction to conventional hierarchy, cells, networks and leaderless resistance.



[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t is generally considered that there are four forms of structure employed by terrorist groups: conventional hierarchy, cellular, network & leaderless resistance. The decision to employ one of these formats is grounded in the security/efficiency trade-off of each; conventional hierarchy providing the most efficient and least secure, leaderless resistance the opposite: highest security, least efficiency. It is worth stating in advance that certain terrorist groups prohibit us from placing them into just one category; the term ‘fuzzy boundaries’ is used to describe those organisations that transgress the stated demarcations. For example, Hezbollah utilize a conventional hierarchy in Lebanon whilst maintaining networks in the West. It is the purpose of this piece to briefly explain these structures and provide some examples of how they have been implemented by various groups (N.B. the security/efficiency numerals presented after each variant are purely indicative).

Conventional Hierarchy (Security: 1, Efficiency: 4)

Audrey Cronin has argued that all terrorist groups would, in an ideal world, utilize the conventional hierarchical structure, thus attempting to cross the border into full-blown insurgency. Such a structure equates to the mimicking of the hierarchy employed by modern-day military forces: the pyramid shape is populated at the bottom by footsoldiers (privates), managed by their officer (corporals) and so on until the top of the pyramid and the high command (generals).

Employing such a structure provides an organisation with the greatest efficiency (this format aids the specialization of units in, for example, intelligence, recruitment, finance and support), ease of information transfer, and allows it to enforce a coherent long-term strategy. With regard to ideology-based organisations, it aids ideological unity among its members – an important issue given the need to maintain such unity within these groups. The weaknesses of this structure have been ably discussed by Beam (an American white nationalist), albeit with reference to the subversion of the American State. Beam argues that such a system is extremely dangerous when utilized against a state, especially in this era of electronic surveillance: should the state infiltrate or otherwise compromise the organisation at the higher echelons of command, the whole entity is compromised. Similarly, should the high command be killed or captured, there is a very real possibility of the group disintegrating. Thus, a more subversive organisational construct is of greater use for a terrorist group that seeks to remain in existence in the face of the “War on Terror”. The early Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) provide good examples of the use of this structure.

Cellular (Security: 2, Efficiency: 3)

The cell structure incorporates a network within a hierarchy. Each cell (generally comprising three to ten individuals) possesses one member (‘X’) – usually the leader – who maintains contact with the organisation’s high command. Often only one element of the command will have contact with X, and X will generally have no knowledge of other cells, or other members of the high command. Should X be compromised, the information that she is able to provide is distinctly limited: whilst her cell will likely be rendered inoperable, she is unable to provide details of other cells, nor is she able to provide details of the high command other than the commander that she has dealt with. Similarly, if a member of X’s cell is compromised, the only information they can provide is that of their cell and X.

Whilst the high command is removed from contact with their footsoldiers, this structure suffers from the same problem with that of the conventional hierarchy: should the high command be compromised the entire organisation could topple. Beam writes that “the efficient and effective operation of a cell system … [is] dependent upon central direction, which means impressive organization, funding from the top, and outside support”. The central command must maintain their hold on each individual cell in order to maintain strategic unity and thus remove the possibility that cells will act alone, thus potentially damaging the organisation as a whole (for example, say that a renegade AQ cell was responsible for 9/11. The United States would likely still have responded with an attack against the entire AQ infrastructure, even if the attack had not been initiated by the high command).

Network (Security: 3, Efficiency: 2)

An organisational network structure comprises numerous nodes/cells connected/interconnected in differing ways. Variations of such a network, each with different levels of security & efficiency, can include:

1) Chain
A linear trail: A – B – C – D – E. For a message to get from A to E it must pass through B, C & D.

2) Hub
One node acts as the hub for all other nodes: A is connected to B, C, D & E. B through to E have no connection with each other. Should B wish to send a message to E, it must go through A. This does not equate to A being the lead cell, simply the hub cell.

3) Star
The same as for the hub network, but each cell has contact with its two neighbouring cells in addition to A (the central node). So, aside from A, B would connect with E & C; C with B & D; D with C & E, and; E with D & B.

4) All-Channel
Each node is connected to every other: A is connected to B, C, D & E; B to A, C, D, E; C to A, B, D, E; etc.

Such structures result in the decentralisation of decision-making, permitting initiative from each cell and thus making it impossible to topple the organisation in one go. As Arquilla, Ronfeldt & Zanini explain, such an organisational structure can appear to be acephalous (headless) & polycephalous (multi-headed) at the same time. The points of the network with greater connectedness indicate their importance (so, for example, if a hub network was in position as per the example above, targeting A would provide for the greatest effect on operational capability).

Network structures, whilst benefiting from far greater security than conventional hierarchy/cell structures, suffer from low efficiency given the difficulties in getting a message out to all members of the network, with clear implications for organisational unity and strategic coherence. This, however, does not detract from the danger that such a structure poses.

Leaderless Resistance (Security: 4, Efficiency: 1)

The last structure that this piece will analyse is the most secure and the least efficient. An Environmental Liberation Front (ELF) recruitment video describes it perfectly: “Remember, the ELF and each cell within it are anonymous not only to one another but to the general public”. In the truest form of leaderless resistance there is no contact between cells and/or the central command. However, given the spread of the internet and the ease of international communication, such a finite requisite has been watered down (see Pantucci’s lone wolf classifications).

Such a structure (or, more appropriately, a lack of) poses the greatest difficulties to counter-terrorist agencies given the minimal connection between the organisation (or the propagandist of the ideology), and the actor committing the terrorist act (the subscriber to the ideology). As with networks, this form of structure is incalculably aided by developments in information technology (the transformation of terrorism from ‘old’ to ‘new’, see Neumann).

Such a structure is highly secure; it is almost impossible to know which viewers of a website have been radicalised and whether they would ever come to commit an act. But the lack of control over such actors can be incredibly damaging. Should an act be committed by a member of an ideological network in the name of a specified group, resultantly negatively affecting said group’s public support, the group cannot disassociate itself from the act, regardless of its lack of participation in, or support for, the act. Further, given that the organisation propagating the ideology has no control over its ideological movement, such a movement may well disintegrate owing to a lack of developments: these sleeper cells may never wake from their slumber.

An example of leaderless resistance actor would be Roshonara Choudhry.

[toggle title=”Sources & Related Texts”]

Arquilla, J. & Ronfeldt, D. (2001), Networks and Netwars

Beam, L. (1983), Leaderless Resistance

Cronin, A. (2006), How al-Qaida Ends

Hoffman, B. (2006), Inside Terrorism

Neumann, P. (2009), Old and New Terrorism

Pantucci, R. (2011), A Typology of Lone Wolves: Preliminary Analysis of Lone Islamist Terrorists

Sageman, M. (2004), Understanding Terror Networks

The Effects Of A Nuclear Iran

With reference to Israel’s nuclear strategy, would a nuclear-armed Iran spur proliferation among Arab states, strengthen Hamas and Hezbollah and disrupt oil shipping?
{Department of War Studies, King’s College London}



[dropcap]H[/dropcap]aving deposed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from its throne, the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme currently occupies the prized position as the mainstay of Middle Eastern debate. Intransigence and fiery rhetoric has gained Iran few friends, numerous enemies, and left the international community playing a guessing game as to how the conflict will evolve. There are few moments of clarity within this subject area. One, however, is the indubitable fact that the regime is pursuing the development of a weaponized nuclear capability. The IAEA revealed in May of last year that Tehran has been working on the construction of a nuclear detonator, a project that has absolutely no civilian purpose; its only use is in the detonation of a nuclear warhead.1

Thus this paper will initially question why Iran wishes to develop a nuclear weapon (NW), proceeding to analyse Israeli nuclear strategy and pre-emptively assaulting the question by declaring its non-viability: I argue that Iran categorically will not acquire a NW in the foreseeable future. As such, all latter arguments come with the caveat that they are inherently speculative and capricious. I argue that should Iran ‘go nuclear’ proliferation in the region is preventable, that a nuclear-armed Iran would be unlikely to assail oil shipping and I provide various differing situations, policy-recommendations and predictions regarding a nuclear Iran’s relationships with regional non-state actors.

Iranian Nuclear Desire: Why?

This section will analyse Iranian nuclear desire through the prism of Sagan’s three theories of nuclear proliferation: security considerations, domestic considerations and international norms. Resultantly corroborating the view that “nuclear proliferation cannot be explained by a single causal model”.2

Security Considerations

Iranian desire for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) was born following the Iran-Iraq War, Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani explaining: “it was made very clear during the war that [WMDs] are decisive… . We should fully equip ourselves both in the offensive and defensive use of [these] weapons”.3 Fear of Iraq metamorphosed into a fear of the United States following its interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, the declarations of intent for regime-change in Iran by the Bush administration augmenting “long-standing concerns about American intentions”.4

The view that “there is no way to deter the United States other than by having nuclear weapons” has been corroborated by the case of North Korea.5 The East Asian country has tested its NWs on more that one occasion and continues to provoke the powers that be;6 Iraq on the other hand did not have a nuclear ability and suffered the consequences. The lesson to be learned is apparent: the acquisition of nuclear weapons prevents American military intervention.7 Thus, given the plethora of American military forces in the region, when viewing Iran’s situation through a security prism desire for NWs is understandable.

Domestic Considerations

Irrespective of whether a NW serves the security of the state, such a programme is “likely to serve the parochial bureaucratic or political interests of at least some individual actors within the state”.8 Sagan outlines three groups that could stand to benefit from proliferation: (i) the nuclear energy establishment; (ii) the military (or an element within it), and; (iii) politicians presiding over a populace desiring nuclear capability.9

The evolution of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) into a “socio-military-political-economic force” with influence stretching far and wide within the Islamic Republic has, according to some analysts, afforded the entity greater control over Tehran than the Supreme Leader.10 With clout in the nuclear establishment, influence in the military and significant control over the political system (former Guard commanders hold positions in the Supreme National Council, the Expediency Council, and of course the current President),11 its desire for nuclear capability is undoubtedly a driving force within Iran. Additionally, polls suggest that 7 out of every 10 Iranians (both pro- and anti-government) support the nuclear programme, thus providing political incentives for politicians.12 Consequently domestic theory provides further answers to comprehending Iranian nuclear ambition.

International Norms

The last of Sagan’s theories argues that proliferation may not be determined by “leaders’ cold calculations about the national security interests [nor] their parochial bureaucratic interests, but rather by deeper norms and shared beliefs about what actions are legitimate and appropriate in international relations”.13 Examples given are the establishment of Air Malawi, Royal Nepal Airlines and Air Myanmar. None were founded to develop transport infrastructure within their respective countries, more because national leaders “believed that a national airline is something that modern states have to have to be modern states”.14

Iran is a proud country that often proffers its vision of itself as a regional power with aspirations to become a world leader. Due to the fact that the first five nuclear states hold positions of great power in international diplomacy (permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council), is it any wonder that a country with a vision such as Iran’s seeks to develop attributes that would allow it to achieve a status on par with its desires?

The Begin Doctrine

Menachem Begin’s famous words have long been adopted as the underlying doctrine behind Israeli policy towards neighbouring countries’ WMD manufacturing: “on no account shall we permit an enemy to develop weapons of mass destruction against the people of Israel”. The dictum has been altered by later Israeli statesmen, including Ariel Sharon: “Israel cannot afford the introduction of the nuclear weapon… . We shall therefore have to prevent such a threat at its inception”.15 Such iteration has given birth to common sentiment that Israel will assault any proximate nation that seeks to develop a NW, building on the Begin Doctrine which referred more generally to any form of WMD. A cursory glance at Middle Eastern nuclear proliferation attempts and Israeli reactions demonstrates that Israel has not always held true to such an axiom.

Shlomo Brom provides various instances showing the lack of Israeli action pursuant to the more general Begin Doctrine: Egyptian chemical and biological weapons development in the late 1950s; Syrian chemical weapons programmes after the Yom Kippur War, and; construction of an Iraqi chemical plant in the early 1980s.16 Brom proceeds to remind the reader that Baghdad restarted its nuclear program after the bombing of the Osirak reactor in 1982 inducing no further military action from Jerusalem. Similarly, after Operation Desert Storm and the revelation that Iraq was again attempting proliferation, Israel opted to coerce European countries into preventing the supply of materials necessary for such a program to reach realisation rather that performing additional strikes.17 The decision to utilize solely diplomatic overtures was most likely due to the difficulties involved in striking the post-Osirak Iraqi programmes. Saddam Hussein learned the lesson, one that Iran has clearly taken note of, that the dispersal of critical sites is imperative.18 By spreading his nuclear program thinly across Iraq, Hussein distinctly limited Israel’s ability to undertake pre-emptive aerial strikes against such facilities. The effortless destruction of Syria’s sole nuclear reactor at al-Kibar is a secondary case in point as to the importance of such a strategy.

This, however, does not lead to the extrapolation that Israel will not attempt to incapacitate Iran’s nuclear programme through military means should current diplomatic efforts fail. It is beneficial to allow diplomacy to see as much sunlight as possible before being shelved (owing to the difficulties in assailing Iran), but this route is only viable for Israel until Iran nears breakout capability. Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), in which he evoked memories of the holocaust as reasoning to destroy Iranian nuclear ambition, is one of many examples of Israeli dictum stating the intention to prevent an Iranian bomb whatever the cost.19 President Obama’s speech at the event similarly reiterated that his policy is to “prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” and that he would “not hesitate to use force… to defend the United States and its interests”;20 the last three successive American presidents have vocalised similar ultimatums.21

We will not see an Iranian NW unless we see radical regime change (excuse the pun) in Tehran and the emergence of a government that is able to rebuild relations with Jerusalem. Even with such an implausible scenario manifesting, it remains highly unlikely that a Western-friendly Tehran would be permitted to construct this most dangerous of weapons. Thus, to all extents and purposes, the remainder of this paper deals with purely speculative analysis on issues that are unlikely to ever come to fruition. As Fiore notes, “given the security culture in the country, no Israeli decision-maker can risk allowing a bitter ideological enemy to acquire enemy weapons”.22 There will be no nuclear-armed Iran in the near future.

A Nuclear Iran and Proliferation

It has been argued that the Israeli fear of a nuclear Iran is more due to the resultant threat of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East than an Iranian NW per se.23 The revolutions that have swept across the region over the year or so will conceivably lead to greater control of Arab foreign policy by the Arab street, thus animosity towards Israel will appear in future decision-making. Israeli apprehension is born out of the theory that an Iranian NW will, by way of the security concept mentioned previously, lead to proliferation in the region. Combine greater regional acrimony toward the Jewish state with an Arab nuclear capability and Israeli fears are comprehensible.

As Kenneth Waltz has argued, history demonstrates that the cascade concept (a state will rapidly construct NWs to counter strategic imbalance created by a hostile neighbour’s nuclear arming) is flawed. His argument is further consolidated by virtue of the fact that the fear of rapid nuclear proliferation has been vociferously audible in Western media almost every year since the 1960s, yet the world possesses only nine nuclear powers.24 Leaving this convincing argument to one side, would a nuclear Iran provoke proliferation in the Middle East?

Sagan’s aforementioned three theories assume that a state has the ability and the opportunity to develop a weapon.25 By inserting such a caveat we can eliminate numerous states from this predictive analysis of proliferation in the region. Whilst existing nuclear powers (China and Pakistan for example) may be willing to suffer international condemnation for the provision of nuclear technology to a strong regional player (perhaps Saudi Arabia) in return for the “strategic prize of security ties”, they are highly unlikely to do so for minor actors (Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait etc.) – irrespective of the ability of such states to pay over-the-odds for the technology.26 It is highly unlikely that such states would be able to proceed with a NW program as a result of this. Furthermore, it is doubtful that these smaller states would risk alienating their American or Saudi security backers by developing a NW given that such powers “are the cornerstones for ensuring their autonomies from the larger states of Iraq and Iran”.27 Such stumbling blocks would likely lead to these states further cultivating their security relationships with the United States.28

Saudi Arabia, whilst currently lacking the technical infrastructure to develop a weapon,29 is the most likely to respond to an Iranian weapon with one of its own. Saudi fears of future American intervention and mistrust of Israel combined with the threat of an increasingly Iranian dominated Gulf region would likely result in the logic that a NW would offset such perils.30 The former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal iterated last December that “it is our duty towards our nation and people to consider all possible options, including possession of [nuclear] weapons”, a statement that goes some way to substantiating this argument.31 The ability and opportunity clauses are satisfied owing to Saudi financial reserves and the long-standing defence ties between the Kingdom and nuclear-armed Pakistan.32 But such an eventuality is containable through the prevention of Pakistani assistance, American guarantees of non-intervention in the Arab country, provision of conventional arms to mitigate increased Iranian influence and a guarantee of American nuclear deterrence against Tehran.33

Turkey is one of a handful of countries that have recently communicated their intention to commence a nuclear program, a progression that has been interpreted by some analysts as a “hedge against a nuclear-armed Iran”, presumably their first steps towards developing a weapon.34 Such an interpretation can be refuted not only due to Ankara’s warming relations with Tehran and disaffection with American and European sanctions against the Islamic Republic, but furthermore owing to Turkey’s long history of participation in non-proliferation efforts.35 The Anatolian country joined NATO within a few years of its creation and has hosted nuclear weapons under America’s umbrella for some time. Thus it seems improbable that Turkey would feel the need to proliferate following the advent of an Iranian weapon.

Predicting eventual political make-up and direction of both Egypt and Syria falls outside the scope of this paper, though such analysis is paramount to anticipating the potential for proliferation. It is widely assumed that Assad will eventually succumb to the opposition movement in Syria, though envisioning how the rebels will behave vis a vis Assad’s allies in Tehran or the United States is problematic (with evident repercussions as to their potential pursuit of NWs).36 What is clear, however, is that Israel would not permit a Syrian weapon. As the strike on al-Kibar in 2007 demonstrated, Israeli Air Force (IAF) action against Syria is not constrained by the impracticalities of an attack on Iran. Syrian anti-aircraft weaponry and its air force are military relics of eras gone by, and, unlike Iran, the distances involved in an aerial strike are easily surmountable. Furthermore, Syrian infrastructure relating to a nuclear program is negligible and “bar significant infusions of external assistance”, unlikely to be realised.37 It is doubtful that a future Syrian government’s cost-benefit analysis would negate to take account of such points.

With similar caveats for Egyptian predictions, whilst the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) retain influence within the Republic proliferation is unlikely. The United States could deduct the “estimated budget of any suspect research and development program” from American military and economic aid to Egypt.38 Such a development would reduce the SCAFs power given their use of the $1.3 billion p/a aid to shore up support for their political presence.39 Owing to current political dilemmas it is improbable that such an occurrence would be welcomed.

In summation, whilst nuclear proliferation in the region following Iranian nuclear attainment poses a real threat in the case of Saudi Arabia, the remaining major regional players are unlikely to initiate a NWs programme. Noticeably absent from this analysis is Iraq, owing to this author’s belief that given the current pro-Iranian government and continued American influence proliferation seems unlikely – though it is recognised that this may change in the future. An American nuclear umbrella, the provision of conventional arms and a strictly enforced prohibition on the transfer of nuclear technology would diminish prospects of proliferation dramatically throughout the region.

Non-State Actors

The effects of an Iranian bomb on non-state actors can be dichotomised as follows: (1a) Iran provides a terrorist organization with a nuclear weapon; (1b) an Iranian weapon is stolen by a militant group; (2a) an Iranian bomb would provoke unsanctioned aggression from Hamas and Hezbollah (the proxies as belligerents), and; (2b) Iran would sanction aggression by these proxies (Iran as the belligerent).

Nuclear Provision & Theft

At the recent AIPAC conference, President Obama aired the fear “that an Iranian nuclear weapon could fall into the hands of a terrorist organization”.40 This could occur in two situations: either Iran provides a nuclear weapon to a militant group or such a group steals an Iranian weapon. The former is highly unlikely.41 Since 1979 Iran has, for the most part, employed a coherent, rational foreign policy;42 the provision of nuclear weapons to proxies that it does not possess full control over is not an action undertaken by any rational pragmatist. Iran would be held responsible for any resultant detonation and thus would be subject to the full retaliation of the United States and its allies.43

The latter, given that Tehran may not implement sufficient safeguards to prevent unintended detonation or theft,44 is of greater concern. However, in the eventuality of an Iranian weapon, would this not provide a suitable opportunity to reintegrate Iran into the international fold? If the West were to provide assistance in securitising the Iranian nuclear program, economic benefits aside, the construction of links between the pariah state and the West would be wholesome for all involved.

Hamas & Hezbollah

Fiore argues that Hamas and Hezbollah “might take the nuclear umbrella for granted and be more inclined to escalate minor conflicts with or without encouragement from Tehran”,45 an argument that is supported elsewhere.46 There have been conflicting messages originating from the Palestinian group regarding their response to a pre-emptive strike on Iran, but how would the two groups act should Iran cross the nuclear threshold?47

In the event that aggression was not sanctioned by Tehran, aggressive posturing by Hamas and Hezbollah would likely facilitate a destructive Israeli response. We can draw a parallel with the intifadas: Arab pacifism in the First Intifada limited the potency of the IDF; violence in the Second permitted the IDF to utilize its distinct military superiority. Iran would likely be reluctant to intervene in such a scenario as to do so would result in all-out war with Israel.48 That leads us to question whether Iran would galvanize the two organizations into action, a consideration that would ultimately prove or disprove Waltz’s theory that nuclear states act responsibly. It is unclear whether Iran would undertake such action, however it should be noted that if Assad were to fall the current supply-line would cease to exist,49 therefore the most feasible solution to supplying Hamas and Hezbollah would be through Iranian use of the Suez Canal (the precedent of which has been recently set).50 Whether Israel would allow such a transfer to take place is arguable, though the Jewish state has acted in the past (the Karine A affair) to stop similar actions in international waters.51 The Iranian backlash to Israeli action on this front is equally unpredictable.

To conclude this section, it is not only dubious to assert that Iran would provide a non-state actor with a nuclear weapon, but coequally to suggest that Iran would support Hamas or Hezbollah in the event of their non-sanctioned aggression against Israel. What is unclear is how Iran would weigh up the costs and benefits of stimulating proxy action against Israel. The threat of an Iranian weapon being stolen by another entity is preventable should the West seek to ingratiate itself with the Iranian regime.

The Oil Weapon

The Supreme Leader has emphasized Tehran’s willingness to “seriously jeopardize” energy supplies should the US attack or punish Iran, an assertion that has been repeated by various elements of the Iranian establishment.52 Such rhetoric is seized upon by neoconservatives to demonstrate the dangers that Iran poses and the need for conclusive military action to prevent Iran building a bomb and thus becoming ‘immune’ to retribution in the case of Iranian actions against shipping. But such logic is flawed as Iranian use of the oil weapon would be reactionary to intervention of some description.

The United States and the European Union have recently punished Iran through increased sanctions, an action that has not catalysed an Iranian response. Should Iran ‘go nuclear’ and thus achieve military immunity (if the N. Korea-Iraq paradigm of American non-intervention in nuclear-armed states holds true), America would not attack Iran and thus there would be no provocation to induce an Iranian reaction. The risk of Iran acting against the Strait of Hormuz emanates from a pre-emptive military strike that Tehran considers to be severely threatening and that fails to destroy Iranian military assets.53 Once Iran has crossed the nuclear threshold, America would not act against Tehran and therefore the reasoning behind an assault on oil shipping lacks foundation.

In Summation

Initially considering the reasons why Iran would desire a nuclear weapon, this paper proceeded to assert the improbability of Iranian acquisition of a nuclear weapon through an analysis of Israeli nuclear strategy and the Jewish state’s irrevocable attitude towards preventing any regional power challenging its military superiority. In the implausible circumstance that such an eventuality manifests, this paper has argued that of all the proximate states likely to view an Iranian weapon as a security threat, Saudi Arabia, with its financial reserves and strong links to Sunni Pakistan, is the most likely to attempt proliferation. This paper has posited that such a development is containable through the provision of a well-received and believed-in American nuclear umbrella, conventional arm sales to limit Iranian influence and stringent controls on the spread of existing nuclear technology. Syrian, Egyptian and Iraqi nuclear development is unlikely for a host of reasons, though inevitably such predictions rest on the ontogenesis of these states following recent upheavals.

Latterly, if the Iraq-N. Korea paradigm holds true, Tehran would have no reason to impact on oil shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, not least out of consideration for the detrimental effects on the Iranian economy. This paper further asserted the absurdity of the suggestion that the Islamic Republic would provide its proxies with a nuclear weapon. Whether a nuclear weapon would morph Iran into a regional aggressor, or whether its possession of such a bomb would provide the foundations for integration with the West has been left unanswered. Israeli nuclear capability allowed the Jewish state some semblance of security in a region of hostile Arab states. A Persian nuclear capability would serve the same purpose.

 [toggle title=”Citations & Bibliography”]

1 Fiore (2011), p. 2
2 Bahgat (2006), p. 124
3 Bowen & Kidd (2004), p. 264
4 Ibid.
5 Sagan & Waltz (2007), p. 137
6 ‘North Korea conducts nuclear test’, BBC, 25 May 2009,
7 Bahgat (2006), p. 126
8 Sagan (1996), p. 63
9 Ibid., p. 64-65
10 ‘Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’, Council on Foreign Relations, 12 October 2011,
11 Ibid.
12 ‘Iran, Lebanon, Israelis and Palestinians: New IPI Opinion Polls’, International Peace Institute, 8 December 2010,,%20Lebanon,%20Israelis%20and%20Palestinians-%20New%20IPI%20Opinion%20Polls.html
13 Sagan (1996), p. 73
14 Ibid., p. 74
15 Brom (2005), p. 137
16 Ibid., p. 136
17 Brom (2005), p. 136
18 Ibid., p. 142
19 ‘Netanyahu invokes horrors of Holocaust, declares Israel’s right to “defend itself, by itself”’, Reuters, 6 March 2012
20 ‘Transcript of Obama’s AIPAC speech’, Politico, 4 March 2012,
21 Edelman et al. (2011), p. 76
22 Fiore (2011), p. 9
23 ‘An Iranian Nuke Is No Threat – An Arab Nuke Is’, theriskyshift, 22 February 2012
24 Gavin (2009), p. 17
25 Jo & Gartzke (2007), p. 169
26 Russell (2005), p. 34
27 Ibid.
28 Ibid., p. 44
29 Bowen & Kidd (2005), p. 53
30 Russell (2005), pp. 31-32
31 ‘Saudi may join nuclear arms race: ex-spy chief’, AFP, 5 December 2011,
32 Bowen & Kidd (2005), p. 53
33 Bowen & Kidd (2004), p. 273
34 Edelman et al. (2011), p. 69
35 Ulgen (2011), p. 138
36 ‘Obama: Syria’s Assad “will fall”, but no air strikes’, Reuters, 6 March 2012,
37 Bowen & Kidd (2005), p. 71
38 Sagan (1996), p. 72
39 Russell (2005), p. 42
40 ‘Transcript of Obama’s AIPAC speech’, Politico, 4 March 2012,
41 Fiore (2011), p. 4
42 See Rasmussen (2009)
43 See Gavin (2009) p. 16
44 Edelman et al. (2011), p. 72
45 Fiore (2011), p. 4
46 Edelman et al. (2011), p. 68
47 ‘Hamas sends conflicting message over support for Iran’, Trumpet, 8 March 2012,
48 Bahgat (2006), p. 129
49 Support for Assad from Hezbollah and Iran will likely mean that should the rebels defeat the Syrian leader future relations with the two entities would be poor.
50 ‘Iran warships sail via Suez Canal amid Israeli concern’, BBC, 22 February 2011,
51 ‘Seizing of the Palestinian weapons ship Karine A’, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4 January 2002,
52 Talmadge (2008), p. 88
53 Ibid., pp. 87-88

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Russell, R.L. (2005), ‘Arab Security Responses to a Nuclear-Ready Iran’, in Sokolski H. & Clawson, P., Getting Ready for a Nuclear-Ready Iran (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute), pp. 23-50

Sagan, S. (1996), ‘Why Do States Build Nuclear Weapons?: Three Models in Search of a Bomb’, International Security, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 54-86

Sagan, S. & Waltz, K. (2007), ‘A Nuclear Iran: Promoting Stability Or Courting Disaster’, Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 60, No. 2, pp. 135-150

Singh, S. & Way, C.R. (2004), ‘The Correlates of Nuclear Proliferation: A Quantitative Test’, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 48, No. 6, pp. 859-885

Shaikh, F. (2002), ‘Pakistan’s Nuclear Bomb: Beyond the Non-Proliferation Regime’, International Affairs, Vol. 78, No. 1, pp. 29-48

Talmadge, C. (2008), ‘Closing Time: Assessing the Iranian Threat to the Strait of Hormuz’, International Security, Vol. 33, No. 1, pp. 82-117

Ulgen, S. (2011), ‘The Security Dimension of Turkey’s Nuclear Program: Nuclear Diplomacy and Non Proliferation Policies’, in Ulgen, S. (ed), The Turkish Model for Transition to Nuclear Power (Istanbul: Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies), pp. 142-181


Rightly Or Wrongly, An Israeli Attack Is Inevitable

The timer to the first of many Israeli missiles killing the first of many Iranian citizens comes increasingly and inevitably closer to zero.



[dropcap]I[/dropcap]srael has a history of taking preventative measures to stop Middle Eastern states from challenging its nuclear hegemony over the region. The attacks on Osirak and Al Kibar (Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007 respectively) exemplify what is known as the BeginDoctrine: “under no circumstances will [Israel] allow the enemy to develop weapons of mass destruction against our people”.

Whilst this has been somewhat neutered by the lack of an Israeli offensive against the manufacture of various chemical and biological weaponry in the Middle East, the Jewish-majority state has been consistent in its implementation in regard to nuclear capability.

The reasoning behind such a policy lies in the depths of mankind’s turpitude. The horrors that befell the Jewish nation during the Second World War catalysed the Israeli assertion of “never again”: Israel will not allow any state to reach a stage where it may threaten her existence, no matter how remote such a possibility may be.

This is notable as Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel (even if one does believe everything a populist politician says, the mistranslation of Ahmadinejad – ‘Israel should be wiped of the face of the earth’ – is exactly that, a mistranslation). Iranian foreign policy since the 1979 revolution has, with few exceptions, veered away from the ideological and towards the pragmatic: she has been a rational actor. As such, many of the torts regarding the Islamic Republic’s probable actions following its ascension to the nuclear club are incredulous in their ignorance.

As Shashank Joshi has capably argued, Iran will not initiate a nuclear showdown. She will not provide terrorist organisations with a nuclear weapon (more significantly, Hamas and its ilk would never dream of detonating a nuclear warhead in Israel). And, if past experiences are anything to go by, Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons will not spur a mass proliferation among Arab states in the region.

But it is easy to dispense with such sentiment from the comfort of our Western armchairs. After all, we are not in the firing range of Iran’s Shahab 3 missiles. Similarly, whilst Seamus Milne is correct in asserting that an Israeli assault would give the “strongest incentive possible” for Iran to assemble a nuclear weapon, such sentiment does not hold weight among swathes of Israeli society. The possibility of an Iranian nuclear breakout capability is threat enough.

if we are right, as I believe with every fibre of instinct and conviction I have that we are, and we do not act, then we will have hesitated in face of this menace, when we should have given leadership. That is something history will not forgive”

Quoting Tony Blair is an inherently dangerous affair, but his sentiments beautifully illustrate the Israeli dilemma.

All parties accept that Israeli military action will bring untold mayhem and carnage to a region already reeling from decades of mismanagement, destruction and suffering. But what politician can reject the founding conviction of their state? What politician will run the risk of condemning their state’s history to a chapter in an ancient textbook? What politician will risk their nation suffering a second genocide? However implausible, such a scenario is not beyond the realms of reality.

The CIA doctrine towards Iran of “delay delay delay” until another solution presents itself was possible three years ago, but with sanctions already crippling the Iranian economy and no sign of the nuclear programme letting up, it appears that alternative options are scarce. Continued Iranian intransigence toward IAEA inspections is ratcheting up pressure on the Israeli leadership: how much longer until a strike would fail to make an impact on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme?

The Begin Doctrine has been reiterated by numerous Israeli politicians since the founder of Likud’s death, including current Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu: the leader has affirmed his commitment that a nuclear Iran will not happen under his stewardship. But as domestic sentiment and internal political rivalry in the Muslim country forbids the fundamentalist regime from backing down, the timer to the first of many Israeli missiles killing the first of many Iranian citizens comes increasingly and inevitably closer to zero.

Jerusalem: Stumbling Block For Peace

“Jerusalem is the main stumbling block for peace”. Discuss.
{Department of War Studies, King’s College London}



[dropcap]J[/dropcap]erusalem has a turbulent history. It was oft the focal point of Abrahamic religious tension, bickering and violence throughout the last millennium, a regrettable trait that has continued to the modern day. However whilst in the past control of Jerusalem revolved (for the most part) around competing religiously motivated factions, the present sees the city being fought over by two broad nationalist ideologies as well. The bifurcation of hostility into both religious and nationalist has posed, and continues to pose, a distinct threat to regional stability given the capricious nature of the Middle East, ensuring that the solution of such a contentious issue will require great skill and diplomatic tact.

The title dictates that this paper should consider whether Jerusalem is the main stumbling block for peace. However, whilst this title prompts for an outline and comparison of the various other issues for peace in the question of Israel/Palestine, this paper will take a slightly different approach. In effect I will be writing with the title “Jerusalem: a stumbling block for peace”. In doing so the lens of the paper is focused on Jerusalem and an analysis of what makes the city an issue. I will refer to those other barriers to an agreement that exist – notably settlements and refugees – but only to disprove that they are the main issue. As such, this paper will introduce the recent history of the city through the prism of United Nations Resolutions before arguing the importance of the city and the options available in concluding a settlement. Having discussed intra-national issues and demonstrated why Jerusalem retains the prized position in intrastate issues, the paper will conclude that it is one of many pieces that must fit the puzzle before we shall see an all-embracing settlement strong enough to last the test of time. Jerusalem is a stumbling block for peace, not the main stumbling block for peace.

Before proceeding it is necessary to define ‘peace’ in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Oxford Dictionary provides two possible understandings of the word: either, ‘freedom from disturbance; tranquility’; or, ‘a state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended’.[1] Neither of these attempts are ideal for our purposes. If there were to be a negotiated settlement between Israel and a newly formed state of Palestine this would undoubtedly not free either country from disturbance given the diversity of ideological thought within the two distinct nationalist bodies – a topic to be covered presently. Thus a solution to the Jerusalem issue would not provide peace by the first definition of the word as in all probability it would not bring about tranquility. The second is inadmissible in this context given that there is no war in Israel or her occupied territories at present therefore this definition would provide that there is already peace – the question clearly suggests otherwise.[2] Thus the effective title will change once more: “Jerusalem: a stumbling block for a settlement”. A settlement in this context meaning the enactment of a two-state solution.

The Resolutions: Jerusalem From 181

UN Resolution 181 (29th November 1947) dictated the terms under which the British Mandate of Palestine would come to an end, which it duly did on the 14th May 1948 prompting the first Arab-Israeli war. Resolution 181 called for independent Arab and Jewish States with Jerusalem a corpus separatum under the control of a special international regime.[3] This was not to be, for during the Arab-Israeli war Israel occupied the area to the west of Jerusalem, Transjordan the area east (including the Old City and consequently the majority of religious sites) with a slither of no man’s land separating the belligerent forces. The subsequent truce between the two nations was signed on the 3rd April 1949 on the island of Rhodes, Greece, cementing Jordanian hold over the Old City and thus limiting access to holy sites for Israelis.

UN Resolution 303 (9th December 1949) reaffirmed Jerusalem as a corpus separatum under neither Arab nor Jewish control. Given that there is no principle in legal theory that repudiates a United Nations resolution in the case of its violation, under international law Jerusalem remains a corpus separatum – ‘the only “status” or “legal status” or “specific status” which Jerusalem possesses is that laid down in resolution 181’.[4] Resolution 303 was passed by the General Assembly despite Ben Gurion’s attempts to soothe international fears: in a statement to the Knesset on the 5th December he upheld that Israel would ‘guarantee freedom of religion and conscience, of language, education and culture. It will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions. It will be loyal to the principles of the United Nations Charter’.[5] He continued, ‘we cannot imagine, however, that the U.N. would attempt to sever Jerusalem from the State of Israel or harm Israel’s sovereignty in its eternal capital’ (emphasis added).[6] The 13th December 1949 saw the Israeli Prime Minister emphatically reiterate this point: ‘for the State of Israel there has always been and always will be one capital only – Jerusalem the Eternal’.[7] The meaning, potency and relevance of this quote is clear: in the Israeli eye Jerusalem is the only Israeli capital.

Following Jordanian involvement in the Six Day War of June 1967 Israel occupied the West Bank, effectively annexing Jerusalem in the process. The government worked to unite east and west of the city, in doing so attempting to ensure that Yerushalayim would never see division reoccur: Jerusalem was to be Israel’s ‘eternal capital’.[8] The U.N. General Assembly responded with a statement calling for Israel to ‘rescind all measures already taken and to desist forthwith from taking any action which would alter the status of Jerusalem’.[9] The United States similarly publicly denounced the Jewish-majority state, its representative to the United Nations announcing that his ‘government regrets and deplores this pattern of activity’ and that Israel is bound to act under the provisions of international law that would ‘bind any occupier’ (a reference to the illegality of obtaining territory through war).[10] However Israel was unresponsive, she possessed her capital and she fully intended to keep it. The formal annexation was passed by the Knesset on July 30th 1980 under Israel’s Basic Law which dictated that ‘Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel’.[11] The move was castigated by both the Security Council and the Conference of Islamic States shortly after, the general consensus of world opinion being that the move ‘created a highly explosive situation which [would] threaten world peace and security’.[12]

The Importance of Jerusalem

Al-Quds, Yerushalayim, Jerusalem: three names for three severed religions that each hold sites within the city’s precincts as sacred. This is further complicated not only by mutual veneration for certain people and places, but by the difficulties presented by certain areas housing multiple holy sites – Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif being a case in point.[13] Members of each doctrine have a decided interest in the city owing to its spiritual and theological values; indeed it has been argued that Resolution 181 endowed ‘Jerusalem with an inter-national legal status compatible with its historical character and religious significance to the world’.[14] Thus, point one, the details of a settlement of Jerusalem are intrinsically an international affair.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict often has the effect of driving interested parties to the extremities of the opinion continuum, particularly the case with regard to the Muslim populations of the Middle East. Primarily the animosity felt towards Israel is a result of the numerous defeats of Arab forces at the hands of the Israeli Defence Force, but similarly due to the belief that the Israeli political system imitates an herrenvolk democracy – an issue owing to Palestinian solidarity. To complicate matters further, Muslims, especially those of Middle Eastern states, are far more likely to view their religion as an integral, requisite part of their life.[15] Given that Israel is surrounded by Muslim states whose populations have a heightened sense of faith, and given their antipathy towards the Jewish-majority state, it is clear that Middle Eastern leaders have a distinct political interest in Jerusalem. Should a settlement be perceived as denigrating to the ummah such leaders stand to lose a significant amount of prestige – there is no recourse for them to take in such a situation owing to Israel’s military might and its political support from the United States. Thus Jerusalem is unavoidably a regional affair.

Further scrutinization of the city’s importance leads us to ponder over its standing within the two broad nationalist movements. We have seen that Ben Gurion regarded Jerusalem as Israel’s ‘eternal capital’, that for Israelis it has been and will always be their cardinal city. And this is a vision shared by the Palestinians, for they regard the conurbation as the beating heart of a future Palestinian state politically, economically, culturally and spiritually.[16] Both peoples are equally as stubborn when considering the concessions needed for the stalemate to dissolve due to the importance they attach to the result of a settlement on the city. Thus, thirdly, Jerusalem is a national affair.

The final piece in this puzzle concerns those that reside in the holy city as the potential for a re-division of the city will affect both Arab and Jewish Jerusalemites. It could be argued that they represent a microcosm of all of the above; they possess concern for their respective religious sites, they are aware of the impact of a political fallout from a one-sided resolution of the issue, but more so they are in the economic firing line should things turn sour. There are various studies considering the impact of a re-division of the city; Michael Dumper’s examination focuses on the effect of a split on service and utility provisions. He posits that whilst such a split is not technically impeded, it would require significant investment in East Jerusalem and a cordial relationship between the two sides at least until the Palestinians are able to support themselves unaided.[17] Thus, to conclude this section, the issues inflicting on a settlement on the city are fourfold: international, regional, national and local.[18]

Intra-national Divisions

The purpose of this section is to demonstrate the divisions within each nationalist body with regard to the solution of the broader conflict by focusing on the Haredim – ultra-orthodox Jews – and Hamas. It is worthy of mention as whilst Jerusalem is inescapably a predominant issue in an intrastate settlement, certain developments must occur within each national body before such a settlement is viable.[19]

In 2002 Shlomo Hasson considered the power struggle between secular and ultra-orthodox Israelis in Jerusalem’s municipal elections of 1993 and 1998. He concluded that a ‘local democratic deficit’ was born, that whilst the elections fulfilled democratic criteria the resultant councils that they formed failed ‘to adequately fulfill the needs of non-Haredi groups’.[20] The Haredim are similarly becoming increasingly influential on a national scale, aided by the use of an electoral system based on proportional representation. The low qualifying threshold of 2% ensures that a wide variety of parties win seats at government, significantly reducing the prospect of a single party government and therefore precipitating the formation of a fragile coalition – Israel is in a perpetual state of hung parliament. Given the diversity of opinion within each coalition they are prone to premature break-ups, especially over vital domestic issues such as the future of Jerusalem.[21] More important is the prominence that such a political system gives to marginalized parties: they become the keystone of the alliance and therefore possess considerably more power than the electorate voted to bestow upon them.

Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination provides a clear example of the conflicting opinion within Israel over concessions awarded to Palestine. It also demonstrates the need for the government to counter the ‘ideo-theological cleavages’ in Israeli society in anticipation of a settlement to the conflict. Clive Jones asserts that ‘religious-based opposition to the Oslo Accords… among Haredi… increased markedly’ following the election of Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996, in contrast to their previous anti-Zionist stance.[22] He emphasizes that if these pockets of Israeli society are to be satisfied there must be two developments. Firstly the religious right must be brought on-board the settlement bandwagon through the use of ‘religious discourse condoning territorial compromise’, and secondly, to avert the ‘atavistic monopoly over hermeneutical interpretation exercised by religious nationalists towards the peace process’, the centre-left must partake in discourse relating to the ‘ideo-theological cleavages’.[23] In short, there must be greater effort placed on solidifying support for a settlement among the differing political and religious groups. Without such a development it is highly improbable that a religious-right influenced Knesset will make the necessary overtures.[24]

Of course it is not just the Israelis who suffer from a fragmented communal psyche: the partition among Palestinians is equally as pronounced. There are arguably only two groups that have the potential to derail a settlement program: Hamas and the al-Aqsa Brigades. Given the latter’s affiliation with Fatah, it is likely that it will be brought to heel as and when needed – as has happened in the past – and thus I shall focus solely on the former.[25]

Hamas is representative of the minority of Palestinians that align with the use of violence as the sole path to the realization of a Palestinian state. This belief is born out of two notions. Firstly, given Israeli emphasis on security, the continued use of violence affords the Palestinian cause a bargaining chip.[26] Secondly, it firmly considers Israel’s motivation to partake in a settlement as an attempt to consolidate territory by ulterior means,[27] a viewpoint that has garnered support among certain regiments of the pro-Palestine academic lobby.[28] The organization has on numerous occasions stated that no settlement process can be initiated until Israel ‘first withdraws to the borders of 1967; dismantles all settlements; removes all soldiers from Gaza and the West Bank; [and] repudiates its illegal annexation of Jerusalem’.[29] Whilst this distinctly gives the impression that there is no hope for optimism – Israel would never agree to such preconditions – it is notable that Hamas has suggested that a two-state solution ‘may be the only realistic way forward’.[30] Consequently there are grounds for hope that the militant body may be brought into the fold of a settlement, though such a development is only feasible should Israel commit to diplomacy with the radicals, an action which will only occur following Israeli consolidation among its ‘ideo-theological cleavages’.

The Options

Temporarily disregarding the divisions within each body, we should consider the different options for a solution of the issue at hand. Chad Emmett proposes that a system of shared sovereignty in Jerusalem – based on Suri Nusseibah’s ‘scattered sovereignty’ –[31] is the only ‘reasonable solution’ to the issue, that the city has long been occupied by different faiths and peoples who have, for the most part, been able to coexist peacefully.[32] He proceeds to give examples of such communal coexistence – both in the past and the present – attempting to demonstrate that the status quo can be duplicated and adapted to fit the modern ethno-religious conflict. The settlement of a shared city presents numerous problems and whilst this paper concurs with his assertion that it is the most realistic outcome given the situation that has presented itself, it should be noted that it is not the only recourse available.

We have seen that under international law Jerusalem was to be established as a corpus separatum, a body separated from both Israel and a Palestinian state and under the administrative control of the United Nations. One option would be to further this line of thought. Instead of placing the city under the control of an international consortium, perhaps gather elected politicians from Arab and Jewish communities, as well as representatives from each religion that has an interest in the city, to govern in a Jerusalem Council. This option would entrust power to numerous communities thus safeguarding the sacredness of Jerusalem to each, in doing so preventing any one community from acquiring a strangle-hold on the city.[33] As a consequence of multiple sites being holy to more than one doctrine and the resulting intransigence of both Palestinians and Israelis that these sites be under their own respective sovereignty, such a proposal would, unfortunately, be unlikely to be realised.

Another option would be for the city to remain undivided under Israeli authority. Clearly this would appease the Jewish-majority nation given their fear that should Israel concede sovereignty it would tempt a return to the physical division of the 1948 to 1967 period.[34] Indeed Emmett argues that this would, ‘from the standpoint of the most efficient governance and the spatial integrity of the city’, represent the optimum arrangement.[35] However thanks to Israeli policies of land appropriation, institutional separation and demographic alteration in order to Judaize Jerusalem – processes justified by the fear of a physical division of Jerusalem – the resultant distrust felt by Palestinians towards Israel prohibits such a recourse from being enacted.[36] A settlement that provides for Israeli control over the city would never be accepted by any Palestinian diplomatic delegation. Thus, in summation, there are three general solutions: Jerusalem as a modified corpus separatum; as a united Israeli city; and most feasibly as a shared city with dual ownership.[37]

The Issues of Dual Ownership

There are those who argue that as Jerusalem represents the most divisive matter it should be the first to be considered in any negotiations. The alternative proffered is that as Jerusalem is such a thorny issue it should be relegated to the bottom of the list to ensure that negotiations manifest themselves.[38] The second of these judgements was deemed to be the more appropriate given the need to attain some form of progress and thus the Oslo Agreement of 13th September 1993 excluded the topic. Instead the accord affirmed that permanent status negotiations were to commence as soon as possible, such negotiations to cover the remaining issues (including Jerusalem, refugees and settlements).[39] It would be unwise to disregard the importance of this affirmation, for the Declaration of Principles was the first document that specifically avowed that Jerusalem would be negotiated.[40]

Following the failure of the Declaration of Principles to bring about any meaningful permanent status negotiations – continued violence brought about the election of Netanyahu in 1996 and a subsequent break down in relations – a further round of talks began in July 2000.[41] The 2000 Camp David Summit, to become known as the ‘Jerusalem Summit’, was attended by Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak under the auspices of President Clinton. It brought two watersheds: not only was it the first time Israel had officially negotiated over the sovereignty of Jerusalem but it marked the first time that an Israeli Prime Minister officially considered the political split of the city, thus certifying Israeli and American recognition of Palestinian political interests in Jerusalem.[42] When one considers the lengths at which successive Israeli governments sought to ensure that Jerusalem would remain Israel’s sole capital one cannot fail to comprehend the magnitude of such an event – especially given Barak’s previous dictum dissenting to divide the holy city.[43]

There are differing accounts as to why the summit concluded inconclusively – even from within the same delegations – however it is generally accepted that Arafat rejected Barak’s ‘generous offer’ due to its suggestions on Jerusalem.[44] The two sides had agreed on Palestinian sovereignty over the Old City’s Muslim and Christian Quarters as well as control over Jerusalem’s outer Arab districts, and Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish and Armenian Quarters, the Wailing Wall and Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. The stumbling block: Temple Mount. Barak offered Arafat custody of the site but refused to concede sovereignty, a proposition that Arafat refused to consider, thus a settlement remained elusive. President Clinton refrained from losing sight of the objective, initiating a new round of talks in December 2000 which again resulted in failure – Arafat was offered sovereignty over the Haram al-Sharif at the expense of the right of return.[45] Such a dismissal would appear to lend credence to the argument that the right of return assumes the primary negotiating aim of the Palestinian leadership, which leads us to a comparative consideration of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem: A Comparative Consideration

This paper considers there to be three chief intrastate hurdles to be clambered over before we shall see a two-state solution enacted: Jerusalem, refugees and borders/settlements. As discussed in the introduction to this paper, the inclusion of this chapter is solely to argue that Jerusalem is the principle of the three.

The preceding chapter suggests that the Palestinian leadership viewed the Palestinian refugees’ right of return as paramount in any settlement. Whilst this may have been the case under Arafat’s hegemony, it is certainly not the case now. January of last year saw The Guardian and al Jazeera release reams of Palestinian documents pertaining to talks with Israel and the United States over the path to a conclusion of the conflict. Amongst these documents were references to the right of return as a ‘bargaining chip’ by Dr. Saeb Erekat, who later confirmed to the United States Middle East Envoy George Mitchell that ‘on refugees, the deal is there’.[46] The documents provide further details of the settlement anticipated: Erekat is on record as commenting that, ‘Olmert [former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert] accepted 1,000 refugees annually for the next 10 years’.[47] Furthermore Mahmoud Abbas, current President of the Palestinian National Authority, is recognized as having acknowledged the illogicality of endeavoring to force the return of refugees to Israel proper given the Jewish-majority state’s demographic concerns.[48]

These papers clearly reveal that for the Palestinian hierarchy the right of return is of relatively minor concern. This is not so clear-cut among the population of the Occupied Territories. Appendix 1 reveals that a majority – 53% – of Palestinians are disinclined to agree to a deal whereby Israel would be required to absorb a similar amount of refugees as third countries would. There are two points to elucidate from these figures. Firstly that this majority has fallen by 4% over the last year, purporting to unveil that Palestinian attitudes are becoming more susceptible to the idea, and secondly, the figures detail a greater Palestinian emphasis on attaining sovereignty over Jerusalem – a difference of 6%. Thus we can deduce that from both the perspective of the leadership and the population, the issue of Jerusalem takes precedence.

Of course I have neglected to mention the final status of borders. This is something of a non-issue comparatively to Jerusalem, for not only has the final status of a Palestinian border been agreed upon numerous times (thus we can deduce that both the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships are content), but, as shown in Appendix 1, a majority of Israeli and Palestinian populations agree with the formation of a Palestinian state along 1967 borders with a 3% land-swap. Thus neither borders or the right of return are of comparatively greater significance to either the Palestinian leadership or the Palestinian population.

In Summation

With its plethora of doctrinal artefacts and holy sites, Israelis and Palestinians view Jerusalem as paramount to the eminence of their respective national identities. The lack of altruism displayed by both sides of this dispute ensures that in order to bring about its resolution a great amount of tact and diplomatic finesse will be required, especially when factoring in the city’s international and regional relevance.

The three distinct options for an agreement over the future state of Jerusalem converge to one when the practicalities of the situation are acknowledged; it is apparent that Palestinians will not accept Israeli sovereignty over the city, and unlikely that either of the two factions would succumb to a modified corupus separatum. Therefore Barak’s aforementioned offer to Arafat will form the basis of the eventual settlement. However, in order for said settlement to have a chance of success and for the curtain to finally fall on this conflict – resembling as it does something of a Shakespearean tragedy – each protagonist must erode their intra-national divisions in anticipation of the realization of an intrastate settlement. Thus, whilst Jerusalem is the predominant intrastate hurdle, before either side prepares to leap they must first ensure that they are capable of landing: the internal issues must be resolved before the attempt to realise the external. A settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has failed to arouse significant domestic support will ultimately flounder. As such, Jerusalem is a stumbling block for a settlement but it is not the main stumbling block.

[toggle title=”Citations & Bibliography”]

1 Oxford Dictionary (2012)
2 I have discounted the continuing war – or rather the lack of a peace agreement – with Saudi Arabia, Syria etc. given that the question implicitly insinuates peace with the Occupied Territories.
3 See Cattan (1981), pp. 7-8 for a consideration of the corpus separatum
4 Cattan (1981), p. 9
5 State of Israel (2003)
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8 Albin (2005), p. 344
9 United Nations General Assembly, A/RES/2253 (ES-V), 4 July 1967
10 US Permanent Representative to the U.N. Charles Yost, before United Nations Security Council, 1 July 1969
11 Israel’s Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel, 30 July 1980
12 Cattan (1981), p. 4
13 Emmet (1997), p. 19
14 Cattan (1981), p. 8
15 Ipsos Mori (2011)
16 Albin (2005), p. 345
17 Dumper (1993), pp. 93-94
18 Albin (2005), p. 344
19 See Barak (2005) for an affirmation that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resembles an intrastate conflict as supposed to interstate or international.
20 Hasson (2002), p. 9
21 Rowley & Webb (2007), p. 9
22 Jones (1999), p. 10
23 Ibid., p. 10-11
24 Rowley & Webb (2007), p. 10
25 Gunning (2004), p. 233
26 Ibid., p. 243
27 Ibid., p. 243
28 See Harris (2001), p. 3513
29 Al-Zahar (2008), p. 165
30 Gunning (2004), p. 241
31 Emmet (1997), p. 17
32 Ibid., p. 16
33 Emmet (1997), p. 16
34 Albin (2005), p. 345
35 Emmet (1997), p. 17
36 Abowd (2004), p. 6; Albin (2005), p. 346
37 Emmet (1997), p. 16
38 Koshy (1995), p. 1289
39 Article V, Olso Agreement, 13 September 1993
40 Albin (2005), p. 346
41 Kydd & Walter (2002), p. 263
42 Albin (2005), p. 348
43 Ibid., p. 346
44 Abowd (2004), p. 9
45 See Peace Monitor (2001), pp. 127 for a consideration of the ‘layered sovereignty’ proposal put before Arafat. Whilst the PA feared for the safety of the Haram should Israel proceed to excavate underneath it, the foremost worry was the political retribution that would occur should Arafat publicly announce the dissolution of the Palestinian right of return.
46 The Guardian (2011), ‘Palestinians agreed only 10,000 refugees could return to Israel’
47 The Guardian (2011), The Palestine Papers: ‘Clinton told us to be quiet’
48 The Guardian (2011), ‘Palestinians agreed only 10,000 refugees could return to Israel’

Al-Zahar, Mahmud [Hamas Foreign Minister] (2008), ‘No Peace Without Hamas’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 165-166

Abowd, Thomas (2004), ‘Carving up the Capital’, Middle East Report, No. 230, pp. 4-11

Albin, Cecilia (2005), ‘Explaining Conflict Transformation: How Jerusalem Became Negotiable’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp. 339-355

Barak, Oren (2005), ‘The Failure of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process’, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 42, No. 6, pp. 719-736

Bell, Christine (2006), ‘Peace Agreements: Their Nature and Legal Status’, The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 100, No. 2, pp. 373-412

Biton, Yifat & Saloman, Gavriel (2006), ‘Peace in the Eyes of Israeli and Palestinian Youths: Effects of Collective Narratives and Peace Education Program’, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 42, No. 2, pp. 167-180

Cattan, Henry (1981), ‘The Status of Jerusalem under International Law and United Nations Resolutions’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 3-15

Dumper, Michael (1993), ‘Jerusalem’s Infrastructure: Is Annexation Irreversible?’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp. 78-95

Emmet, Chad F. (1997), ‘The Status Quo Solution for Jerusalem’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 26, No. 2, pp. 16-28

The Guardian (2011), Palestinians agreed only 10,000 refugees could return to Israel, [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 January 2012]

The Guardian (2011), The Palestine Papers: ‘Clinton told us to be quiet’, [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 January 2012]

Gunning, Jeroen (2004), ‘Peace with Hamas? The Transforming Potential of Political Participation’, International Affairs, Vol. 80, No. 2, pp. 233-255

Harris, Nigel (2001), ‘Collapse of Peace Process’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 36, No. 37, pp. 3513-3517

Hasson, Shlomo (2002), The Struggle for Hegemony in Jerusalem: Secular and Ultra-Orthodox Urban Politics (Jerusalem: The Floersheimer Institute for Policy Studies)

Ipsos Mori (2011), How Much Does Religion Matter?, [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 January 2012]

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1997), Jerusalem Urban Development – Economic Characteristics, [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 January 2012]

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1997), Jerusalem Urban Development – Tourism in Jerusalem, [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 January 2012]

Jones, Clive (1999), ‘Ideo-Theology and the Jewish State: From Conflict to Conciliation?’, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 26, No. 1, pp. 9-26

Kristiansen, Wendy (1999), Challenge and Counterchallenge: Hamas’ Response to Oslo’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 28, No. 3, pp. 19-36

Koshy, Ninan (1995), ‘New US Policy on Jerusalem’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 30, No. 22, pp. 1288-1289

Kydd, Andrew & Walter, Barbara F. (2002), ‘Sabotaging the Peace: The Politics of Extremist Violence’, International Organization, Vol. 56, No. 2, pp. 263-296

Neff, Donald (1993), ‘Jerusalem in U.S. Policy’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 23, No. 1, pp. 20-45

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Rowley, Charles K. & Webb, Michael J. (2007), ‘Israel and Palestine: The Slow Road to Peace or the Fast Track to Mutual Annihilation’, Public Choice, Vol. 132, No. 1/2, pp. 7-26

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Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research & Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace (2011), Increase in Palestinians’ and Israelis’ willingness to compromise amidst climate of feud and mistrust, [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 January 2012]
  • East Jerusalem to become the capital of a Palestinian state, West Jerusalem the capital of the Israeli state. Arab neighbourhoods under Palestinian sovereignty, Jewish neighbourhoods under Israeli sovereignty. The Old City bar the Jewish Quarter and the Wailing Wall would come under Palestinian sovereignty, with the two named exceptions under Israeli sovereignty.
December, 2011 December, 2010
Palestinians 40% support, 59% oppose 36% for, 63% against
Israelis 38% support, 60% oppose 38% for, 58% against
  • Refugees would be able to choose from: the Palestinian state and the Israeli areas transferred to the Palestinian state as mentioned below; no restrictions would be imposed on refugee return to these two areas. Residency in other areas (host countries, third countries, and Israel) would be subject to the decision of these states. As a base for its decision Israel will consider the average number of refugees admitted to third countries like Australia, Canada, Europe, and others. All refugees would be entitled to compensation for their “refugeehood” and loss of property.
December, 2011 December, 2010
Palestinians 45% support, 53% oppose 41% for, 57% against
Israelis 42% support, 51% oppose 36% for, 52% against
  • Israel to withdraw completely from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip except for several large blocks of settlements in 3% of the West Bank which would be annexed to Israel. Palestinian state to form in the rest of the West Bank and Gaza and will in turn annex approx 3% of Israeli territory.
December, 2011 December, 2010
Palestinians 63% support, 36% oppose 49% for, 50% against
Israelis 51% support, 44% oppose 49% for, 43% against


An Iranian Nuke Is No Threat – An Arab Nuke Is

Israeli fear of an Iranian nuclear weapon has far more to do with the probability that it would provide the catalyst for an arms race among Arab states than the actual Iranian weapon itself.



[dropcap]D[/dropcap]aniel Vanello recently wrote a piece arguing that Israel’s fear of an Iranian nuclear weapon was illogical, that the reasons behind a pre-emptive strike on the Islamic Republic were negligible and fallacious.

Whilst I fervently believe that an Israeli strike (with probable American involvement) would have disastrous consequences not only for the region, but for Western interests at large, I do think that his arguments fail to accept the probable consequences of an Iranian nuclear capability and the very real Israeli fears.

I do not adhere to the Israeli rhetoric that Iran poses an existential threat to the Jewish-majority state. Many academics have posited that Iran, since the 1979 revolution, has adhered to a pragmatic foreign policy as supposed to an ideologically-based foreign policy. A nuclear-capable Iran would not divert from this path. If anything a nuclear Iran would become more sensible owing to the greater responsibility that she holds (as every other nuclear state has done over the course of the last 60 odd years).

The Ayatollahs are well aware of the Israeli second-strike capability and they would be foolish to assume that none of Israel’s current submarinal nuclear second-strike capabilities would be – or already are – focused on Tehran. Should Iran appear to be involved in the supply of a nuclear weapon to Hamas, Hezbollah or any other state or non-state proxy, she would be subject to the full, unhesitating retaliation of the Israeli Defence Force.

Thus I agree with Daniel’s assertion that “it seems absurd that the Iranian regime actually intends to nuke Israel”.

However I do believe that Iran could pose an existential threat to various Arab states (most notably Saudi Arabia) in the region. An Iranian nuclear weapon would provoke such states to work towards their own nuclear capability and this is the predominant issue for Israel.

Saudi Arabia already possesses intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) and aircraft capable of delivering a nuclear payload over the entire Middle East. The Sunni state has a strong relationship with nuclear-armed Pakistan and it would be likely that the Saudis would utilize this connection to bring about the rapid production of their own bomb.

Should such a development take place, we would undoubtedly see numerous other Arab states developing their own capability. These states, especially given the fact that many of the old Middle Eastern elites have recently been deposed from power, are those that could pose an existential threat.

Furthermore, an Iranian nuclear weapon would drastically alter the balance of power within the region. Israel would no longer maintain total military domination; her power would be drastically curtailed and she would be prevented from being as bolshy as she has been.

Israeli fear of an Iranian nuclear weapon has far more to do with the probability that it would provide the catalyst for an arms race among Arab states than the actual Iranian weapon itself. And of course, why would she not want to maintain her hegemony over nuclear capability in the Middle East? I would.

Israel & Egypt: War On The Horizon

With the prospect of war between Israel and Egypt, peace with the Palestinians is needed now more than ever.



[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e in the West have been vociferous in our support of the transformation taking place in the Middle East; democracy is finally coming to the Arabs. The bleak mid-winter autocratic landscape is thawing, the green shoots of pluralism, freedom of speech and equality are tentatively climbing their way up the twine that we in the West so carefully and delicately prepared.

Is that not, in essence, what we infer when we use the phrase “Arab Spring”? Does it not conjure up images of a return to an ‘Arab Summer’ and the cultural and technical advancements of the Caliphate, a time where the Islamic world bowed to none and distributed knowledge to all?

There are numerous issues with such a label, not least that no-one partaking in the uprisings would contemplate calling the movement as such. But more important is this insinuation that the Middle East (and North Africa) are to move into an era reminiscent of times gone by, a time of prosperity and success. Such an eventuality, in the short-term, is highly unlikely; the destruction of many of the old oriental elites has the potential for a catastrophic collapse of regional stability.

If any region can be described with any element of certainty as capricious it is without doubt the Middle East. The region has seen violence uninterrupted throughout the 20th century, much of it related to the Arab-Israeli Conflict. And it is Israel that will inevitably provide the stumbling block for regional stability in this forthcoming period, even if we leave the Iranian issue well out of the equation.

The Arab-Israeli peace process made its first hesitant steps in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War with the Disengagement Treaties of 1974 and 1975 between Egypt and Israel. Egypt wished to regain control over the Sinai peninsula, and a hesitant Israel was enticed to the negotiating table following an unrefusable offer by the United States; the scene was set for the Camp David framework for peace in 1978 and the peace treaty itself the subsequent year.

The Camp David agreement is to become increasingly important as the internal politics of Egypt undergo dramatic change. The Arab Spring has resulted in the Arab ‘street’ possessing a far greater hold over the direction in which Arab states will develop, and given the antipathy towards the Jewish-majority state we should expect this to materialize on some level in a breakdown of bilateral relations.

Thus the change within Egypt, given her relationship with, and proximity to, Israel, should be of great concern. The Muslim Brotherhood have already threatened to change the terms of the 1979 peace treaty should American aid to Egypt be revoked, arguing that such a move would violate the terms of the 1979 Treaty. But the Brotherhood is equally as able to negate the agreement given the lack of development in regard to the Palestinian conundrum.

The preamble to the 1979 peace treaty affirmed both parties resolve to adhere to the framework for peace agreed upon at Camp David. Section A of that framework called for full autonomy for the inhabitants of the occupied territories following the free election of a self-governing authority. It dictated that Israeli military forces and civilian administration of the West Bank and Gaza would be withdrawn following a transitional phase of no more than 5 years following such elections. Given Israeli failure in regard to this aspect, the Brotherhood is – and within their rights – able to claim that Israel has failed to adhere to the pact. A unilateral abrogation of the treaty would create a distinct lack of confidence in the region, especially if it became apparent that an Iranian hand was at play.

Fortunately whilst the military still exert power and influence over the Arab republic it seems unlikely that such a dissolution will be permitted to occur. The old Generals remember well the horrors of war and they are unlikely to permit a liquefaction of the 1979 treaty. However, as and when the SCAF lose political hegemony within Egypt we will undoubtedly see a government that does not possess experiences of the brutality of war. They will reminisce romantically over “glorious” war with Israel and may well lead Egypt into another.

There are many reasons why Israel should resolve the Palestinian issue by the end of this decade. The growing threat of settlers to the Israeli demographic being high on this author’s list, but external factors must be brought into account. Israel wishes for two things: 1) no more violence, and 2) no more Arab claims. If she wishes to achieve any lasting version of the first she must act now to bring about a resolution of the Palestinian issue, the second should be exactly that: secondary.