We are just hours away from President-Elect Donald Trump taking the oath of office and becoming officially the 45th President of the United States.
I can only imagine how Ed Snowden is feeling right now. There must have been a part of him which was hope for a Presidential pardon from the outgoing President Obama – alas, it wasn’t to come. And so what now for America’s highest profile whistleblower and exile who has just been given leave to remain in Russia for another three years?
Well, like most things Russian – there is no such thing as a guarantee and if I were Snowden I’d be very very nervous right now. The Russian’s will have obtained everything they need or wanted from Snowden and in fact, his presence there was merely Putin sticking a pin in the side of Obama.
If we enter into a thawing of USA/Russian relations, an easy win for Trump would be getting Snowden back to face the music for releasing millions of confidential documents.
Snowden has tweeted that he would rather be “without a state than without a voice” – soon, he may find himself in Russian state custody – whilst awaiting extradition back to the United States – facing the rest of his life in prison and finally losing the voice he cherishes so much.
In 2016 I spoke to the author James Bamford who has met and interviewed Ed.
We are in the middle of a heated debate in the UK as to whether we should or should not use our armed forces to bomb Syria. Whether we do or wether we do not will be decided by a vote of our MPs on Wednesday.
Let’s be clear. If Paris had been London – the discourse would be very different and it is important that we take this opportunity to be thankful that we make such decisions with a cool head and not as a reaction to horrific events. That said – we need to realise the real dangers we face as British citizens – like the horrors that we saw on a beach in Tunisia – or that of in France. The Russian flight that was blown up over Egypt’s Sinai desert could well of been a British flight. Wether we like it or not – we are targets – wether or not we bomb in Syria.
There are those who are totally opposed to bombing. I understand their concerns. However, the truth is that bombing HAS worked. It decimated their high command; helped halt their advance and in many cases pushed them back; spreads fear and dread throughout the ranks of Daesh who worry that every time they step outside or jump into a vehicle – they could be killed or maimed. That in turn helps disrupt their mobility and ability to hold gatherings outside of their strong hold and if they need to communicate over long distances – they take a chance with their lives or use technology which can be intercepted and used against them.
Bombing Has Limitations
That said, bombing has limitations. We know already that there is a complex network of tunnels and command centres placed underneath the houses and hospitals of innocent Syrian people. The extremists use these dug outs knowing that if and when they get bombed – they survive but the innocent men, women and children above ground die; their deaths then captured and edited into slick horror videos distributed to easily suggestible men and women around the world who do not comprehend the context of how they actually died.
The real question for MP’s to ask of the Government on Wednesday is not just whether we should bomb Syria. Whether we do or do not will not make much of a difference. This fact we know. We also know Daesh will be defeated in Syria and Iraq. Maybe not next week, next month or next year. But they will. And we know this because – they are a death cult. They are only interested in death. And before they die they want to ensure they subjugate, kill, terrorise and torture anyone under their control. This is not something desired by the masses – no matter how deep rooted they are to a religion. Daesh has limited appeal.
Even the use of the word “defeat” is a simplification. Like defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan!
So, when we say “defeat” what we actually mean is turn them from a group which controls large swathes of a country and its population – into a small group of bandits and guerrillas who still hold the same ideology but terrorise on a much smaller scale and are dealt with at a local level before eventually being replaced with some other ideology and becoming a footnote in history.
The real question for MP’s to ask of the Government on Wednesday is: What do you think Syria will look like in 1, 3 & 5 years time and what do you base this on? (as apposed to what do you want it to look like). What is our end game? When Daesh is defeated – what could fill the vacuum? Who are they? What are their aims? How far are you prepared to go militarily – understanding that bombing has its limits? Weapons? Training? Our soldiers?
The West is adamantly opposed to Russian backed President Bashar al-Assad – yet backs the free Syrian army – which is adamantly apposed by Russia and President Bashar al-Assad. In order to root out Daesh we may need to work with Russia and Assad – how do we feel about this? Will we need to adjust our policy to Assad – what about the thousands and millions killed or made refugees by his Government – what are our “lines to take” when answering their questions? Can we feasibly have two opposing policies operating at one time? With Assad – but against? With Russia, but against?
And when Daesh are finally sent scurrying off into the desert – who will replace them? Do we know? Do we think we know? Have we post-Daesh plans? What do we do if Assad tries to reclaim control of the country? If we commit to side fully with the free Syrian army and this group of 70,000 militants ready to rout out Daesh from places such as Raqqa – what happens if they are then bombed by Assad or Russia? What if we find ourselves backing an army which finds itself fighting against Assad and Russia. Where are the lines drawn? When do we STOP?
So, whether we bomb or do not bomb Syria will probably turn out to be of less importance than wether we are or are not prepared for the end of Daesh control in the region and whether we finally find the stomach to square up to President Putin – when he tries to exert control in the region.
On Monday Matters tonight our featured artist is the US singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen, ‘The Boss’, who celebrates his birthday on Wednesday September 23.
Jason speaks to animal behaviourist Dr Gary Wietzman who as well as writing books on how to talk to your animals runs the San Diego Humane Society.
In our Night-Time Report Lord Ashcroft’s unauthorised biography of David Cameron is discussed with Skynews Adam Boulton and the books co-author Isabel Oakeshott as doubt is cast over the credibility of some of the stories.
In tonight’s music news Kyra tells us about Rhianna latest album and news on the Beatles first contract which has been sold in auction.
A recording of Sir Elton John’s phone call with two pranksters – one claiming to be Vladimir Putin – was released last week. We will play an excerpt of the tape – which by ‘prank call’ standards – is a bit lame.
And in the final hour – Music Matters – we hear music and interviews from the Life of Tina Turner.
The Russian comedians Vovan and Lexus appeared on Russian TV to release the conversation, in which Sir Elton was asked to discuss gay rights. I’d imagine Elton was genuinely hurt when he found out it was a hoax because he sounds like he thought he could of made a difference.
But the thing about Putin and his stance on gay people – and I’m sure Elton gets this – is that President Putin doesn’t care about people being gay – he cares about his own popularity. By attacking minority groups & saying that they are the root of Russia’s problem – it distracts from the real issue – of his failing government and the corruption that surrounds it and props it up. I hope that this audio was played in Russia – because as far as prank calls go – it wasn’t particularly funny – but it does show how much Sir Elton cares about Russian people – more, it could be said – than Vladimir Putin.
I wonder if Vovan and Lexus thought about carrying out the same type of prank or President Putin? Or, if they decided they didn’t fancy a long spell in a Russian prison – worse still – getting a bullet in their head – a fate that has befallen many a Russian journalist – because that is how politics works over there.
If the Crimean crisis has taught us anything about how we deal with Russian’s, it is that they don’t seem to react positively to considered and measured negotiations or weak and insignificant threats. The Russian bear is not for hugging.
To deal with the Russian’s you have to be blunt but meaningful. There is only one way to deal with the Russians…
a) kick them in the bollocks
b) know that they WILL kick you right back
When you next resume negotiations – not only will you have their respect, strange as it might seem – they will greet you, listen and come to a mutually agreeable settlement.
So PM David Cameron – the next time you meet President Putin you know what to do?