Leaked internal report warns of Canada’s declining world influence -Globe and Mail


During the recent Munk Debate on foreign policy, both the Conservatives and the Liberals claimed the Harper government’s foreign policy had undermined Canada’s international status and influence. Status and influence are notoriously hard to measure, and this type of criticism often fails to have much of an impact because its hard to back up. This Globe and Mail article suggests there is something to the claim, or at least the Canadian foreign policy bureaucracy thinks so.

“Canada’s international clout is “under threat” as its honest-broker role is replaced with a more assertive stand that plays down traditional multilateralism, an internal Foreign Affairs briefing document is warning senior federal government insiders.

The presentation, obtained by The Globe and Mail, is stamped “Secret” and was prepared by senior Foreign Affairs officials for a deputy-minister-level meeting Sept. 9. Departmental officials do not lay blame at the feet of the Conservative government, which has run foreign policy for the past nine years, but their analysis echoes criticism of Prime Minister Stephen Harper levelled by ex-diplomats, foreign observers and his political opponents.

“Despite Canada’s reputation as an active player on the world stage, by many measures, its relative influence has declined or is under threat,” they say.”


For a replay of the Munk Debate, see:http://www.cpac.ca/en/vote2015/

We can’t turn back the clock on Canada’s foreign policy -Globe and Mail


A brief but provocative article from a group of Canadian foreign policy specialists:

“In principle, nothing would prevent a new government from adopting a different style, beginning with rhetoric. Canadian diplomacy could be less virulent in its tone toward Russia and Iran, more constructive in negotiations on environmental issues, less suspicious of international institutions and less inclined to constantly proclaim itself to be “Israel’s best friend.”

But in substance, a return to alleged past glories is unlikely, for three reasons that fall largely outside the control of political leaders.”


The big myth about refugees -Washington Post


“research that has looked at the effect of refugees around the world suggests that, in the longer run, this view is often wrong. From Denmark to Uganda to Cleveland, studies have found that welcoming refugees has a positive or at least a neutral effect on a host community’s economy and wages.

…beyond the upfront costs of processing and settling refugees, the perceived burden of refugees on a host economy may not be as significant as it seems. “There’s not any credible research that I know of that in the medium and long term that refugees are anything but a hugely profitable investment,” says Michael Clemens, a senior fellow who leads the Migration and Development Initiative at the Center for Global Development, a Washington think tank.”


Exclusive: 50 Spies Say ISIS Intelligence Was Cooked -The Daily Beast

“It’s being called a ‘revolt’ by intelligence pros who are paid to give their honest assessment of the ISIS war—but are instead seeing their reports turned into happy talk.
More than 50 intelligence analysts working out of the U.S. military’s Central Command have formally complained that their reports on ISIS and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria were being inappropriately altered by senior officials, The Daily Beast has learned.

The complaints spurred the Pentagon’s inspector general to open an investigation into the alleged manipulation of intelligence. The fact that so many people complained suggests there are deep-rooted, systemic problems in how the U.S. military command charged with the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State assesses intelligence.”

This after the “intelligence” “failures” prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.


The Refugee Road -Various


The images of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi’s body washing up on a Greek beach has caused many to wonder how his family could have taken such a risk: Surely there must have been a safer way? No matter what path refugees take to escape the Syrian (and Libyan) violence, there is a great deal of risk and uncertainty. Below are a set of links that should provide a glimpse into the harrowing trip refugees have to brave.

The first two articles describe the process and dangers associated with dealing with people smugglers:

The precarious road to Europe
One Migrant’s Encounter with Death
The next two are interactive articles which allow the reader to pretend they are the refugee trying to get to Europe. At each step, the reader is given a choice that leads to uncertainty, danger and perhaps ultimately, safety:

The refugee challenge: can you break into Fortress Europe? – interactive http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/ng-interactive/2014/jan/refugee-choices-interactive

Syrian Journey: Choose your own escape route http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-32057601

Iran’s morality police: patrolling the streets by stealth -The Guardian


Here is an interesting piece on the morality police in Iran, and how their influence has changed since Rouhani was elected. Two points stick out. First, according to this article women are less intimidated than they have been in the past:
“Before we used to get scared, but now it’s a routine affair for us,” she says of being arrested. It’s nothing like the early days of the revolution when neighborhood vigilantes would torment those they deemed immodest under a selective interpretation of the Islamic principle of “commanding the good and forbidding the evil.” Today, Zahra says, “they just snap a few pictures [of the arrestees] and let them go” after calling in a relative to bring a change of [more “modest”] clothes.

Second, informal social taboos and norms remain powerful, particularly in the poorer, less western southern part of Tehran:
“But what the government can’t control is effortlessly kept in check by social forces, as has always been the case in Iran. In other words, Maryam won’t dare wear the outfit she’s wearing in front of me – nor would Zahra – in Rah-Ahan Square in south Tehran, which is almost entirely devoid of morality police unlike the affluent north. “We could never go walking looking like this in Rah-Ahan,” Zahra says. “Sure, there’s no morality police—but it’s the people.”
The quieter Saeedeh, a college student, speaks up. Even if the mandatory hijab is removed one day she says, “you still won’t be able to wear shorts near Rah-Ahan Square” in south Tehran.”


See also:

For Those Who Remain in Syria, Daily Life Is a Nightmare -NYTimes


About 4 million refugees have left Syria and there are about 8 million more internally displaced -still within Syria but driven from their homes. For those who have tried to stay, the situation continues to get worse:

“Every morning, at the dawn call to prayer, women and children move silently from the Damascus suburb of Douma to the surrounding farm fields, seeking safety from the day’s bombardments by the Syrian government.
The walk is part of a surreal routine described by the fraction of Douma’s residents who remain: shopping on half-demolished streets, scavenging wild greens, carrying out mass burials.”


For more information of the distribution of Syrian refugees, see: http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2015/09/daily-chart-crisis-context?fsrc=scn/fb/wl/bl/dc/st/wheresyriansfindtheirrefuge

Meet the Kurdish fighters mobilising against Tehran -al Jazeera


There has been a great deal written about the Kurds in Turkey, Iraq and since 2010, Syria. Much less has been written about Kurdish politics in Iran.

“For the last 20 years, the KDP-I and other Kurdish groups outlawed in Iran, have pursued their goals politically from exile in Iraq. They watched recently as Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, and Syria have attracted international attention, while their own struggle has stalled.

Convinced now that they will never achieve autonomy for Iranian Kurds without force, Iranian Kurdish fighters have once again taken up arms, returning to the mountains of the Iran-Iraq border.

While the newly mobilised fighters are exuberantly confident, observers question whether, despite their grievances, significant numbers of Iranian Kurds will support armed insurrection.”