Monday, April 30, 2007

Time to talk to Iran

The history of the Cold war between 1945 and 1988 is a powerful demonstration of how talking to one's sworn enemies can eventually result in peace. Nixon talked to China in the 70s, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher extended the hand of friendship to Gorbachev in the 80s.

In the 90s, and against all odds, South Africa made a peaceful transition to majority rule when De Klerk and Mandela started talking. More recently a fragile, if somewhat imperfect, peace has descended in Northern Ireland following the decision by the British Government, encouraged by the Americans, to talk to the IRA.

Could some of these lessons now be applied to Iran?

In 1953 Britain and America organised a coup which removed their democratically elected President, Mohammed Moussadeq. Our respective Governments replaced him with the Shah who ruled as a hated dictator for the next 26 years. The Shah was thrown out in a revolution and replaced by Ayatollah Khomeini. Shortly afterwards Saddam Hussein invaded Iran. During the ten year war which followed both Iran and Iraq received military supplies from Western governments. It is therefore not surprising that the Iranians distrust the West. Yet following the attacks on the Trade Towers the the Iranians made overtures of support to the US which were subsequently rebuffed.

With Iraq on the brink of self destruction and Afghanistan descending further then ever into lawlessness, the time has surely arrived for Britain and the US to review their hostile relationship with Iran by offering to talk to them without any preconditions.

Iran is far more complex than the religious theocracy run by a President and an Ayatollah which is the image usually portrayed. In their Parliament and elsewhere powerful voices call for change. Many in high places want peace with the West and better working relationships. Seventy percent of the population are under the age of 30 and are showing signs of becoming increasingly distanced from religious hardliners. It is imperative that we reach out to those who want better relationships with the West instead of playing into the hands of the hardliners on all sides.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Claim your Harem Allowance

Polygamy may be illegal in Britain but apparently that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t recognise it and give financial support to those with multiple wives. This is the view of the Department of Work and Pensions who have been forced to admit they pay out an allowance to each “wife” in a polygamous marriage.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Why knife crime is out of control

It was so easy a few years ago. A police Officer sees spots a suspicious looking youth, perhaps someone with a conviction for carrying knives, and asks him (usually it is a male) to turn out his pockets. If nothing is found the youth is free to go on his way.

Those days have long gone. Partly as a result of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry the police are unable to stop and search someone for a weapon without “reasonable grounds” for suspecting they have one. If reasonable grounds exist (and they must seem reasonable to a Court not the police officer) then the PC has to decide under what powers of the law he is legally entitled to carry out the search and inform the suspect. Then a long form will be filled in. It should take eight minutes to do so, but if the suspect is not cooperating, or doesn’t understand English or it is belting down with rain and the paper and biro have got wet the whole thing will take much longer. Then the search. Then when the officer is back at the station the information on the form has to be re-entered onto a computer system. Then the officer responsible for looking after completed stop and search forms must be found, wherever he is, so that the completed form can be handed over to him. Both officers may require signatures to prove this has happened. The nominated officer will have to ensure that the form is passed onto another office where it will be kept handy for 12 months in case the person searched exercises their right to a copy of it. This isn’t all. The entire process of searching form-filling, computer entries, hand over, will all have to be recorded in the Officer’s notebook.

The result is that the phrase “turn out your pockets” is no longer heard. Black youths are being murdered at a horrendous rate on the streets of London, usually by other black youths and nobody appears able to do much about it. The only hope is that the many responsible members of the black community, the youth club workers, church leaders etc stand up and demand an end to the stop and search restrictions which were put in place by white politicians responding to allegations of police racisim and have led inevitably to carnage in the midst of the communities they thought they were helping.