Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Nick Childs’

Iran and the West: Is War Inevitable?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 24th January, 2012

This lunchtime at the National Liberal Club I was a member of a panel discussing the inevitability or otherwise of war between the West and Iran, held under the auspices of the Global Strategy Forum, which is chaired by Lord Lothian (aka Michael Ancram). The place was packed as the subject could hardly have been more topical and there were three fine other speakers: Sir Malcolm Rifkind (former Foreign Secretary), Sir Jeremy Greenstock (former UK Ambasador to the UN) and Dr Arhsin Adib-Moghaddam, a colleague of mine at SOAS. There was sufficient variety of views for a lively debate and some useful input from the audience, which included many Ambassadors, several members of the House of Lords and a number of journos, including Frank Gardner and Nick Childs from the BBC. We speakers were allotted just eight minutes each, so I used my time first to make the general point that whereas there are sometimes justifiable wars — recent examples being the Coalition that ousted the Iraqis from Kuwait in 1991, and the intervention last year in Libya under the principle of Responsibility to Protect — in general War is an admission of failure. I do not believe that war with Iran is either inevitable or desirable, despite the regime’s apparent desire to develop nuclear weapons (strongly denied officially in Tehran, of course). I worry about the rachetting up of pressure on Tehran by several Western governments, including and in particular that of Britain, whose own history of interference in Iran’s affairs has an inglorious past. I stressed that an atomosphere needs to be created in which there could be meaningful multilateral talks, with no pre-conditions (a view contested by Malcolm Rifkind). We should also respect Iran as a great civilization, I argued, as well as a country whose people understandably feel surrounded and threatened, not least by US bases on the other side of the narrow Persian Gulf. And I concluded by proposing a Middle East conference that would look at the whole region — including the Palestinian issue — and not just Iran in isolation. All the countries of the region, including Israel, shnold be present, and although Western countries, including the EU and US, might facilitate such a gathering ( a point also made by Jeremy Greenstock), we in the West should not try to run the show or dictate an outcome. That era has passed, and rightly so.

[photo by Jacqueline Jinks of JF, Lord Lothian, Sir Jeremy Grenstock and Dr Arhsin Adib-Moghaddam]

Link: (though site still under construction): www.globalstrategyforum.org

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LIBG Forum on the US Elections

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 6th October, 2008

A dismayingly large percentage of the British electorate has shown little inclination to turn out in recent elections, but I suspect that several millions would just love to have a vote in the US presidential election next month. There is a rational case to make that the result of that contest will have more of an impact on our lives than many of the votes we are able to take part in. So it was maybe not surprising that the Forum on the US elections Liberal International British Group (LIBG) put on at the National Liberal Club tonight attracted a capicty audience; in fact, there were even people standing at the back.

We had a great line-up of speakers: Bill Barnard, Chairman of Democrats Abroad, (Lord) Chris Rennard, Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats (who gave a most entertaining account of gate-crashing events at the recent Denver Democrat Convention) and Nick Childs, former Washington correspondent and now political correspondent of the BBC Wotld Service. There is little doubt that if Brits — indeed, almost any other nationality — could vote, Barack Obama would win by a landslide. But we can’t. And the Sarah Palin phenomenon, which leaves most Europeans open-mouthed with disbelief, taps into a certain genuine American small-town conservative religious vein. The contest is far from over. I suspect that far more Brits will be sitting up to watch the results on US election night next month than at any other previous US presidential contest.

Link: www.libg.org.uk

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Breakfast with Auntie

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 15th September, 2008

The BBC breakfast is always one of the best-attended fringe events at LibDem conferences. Sponsored by the BBC World Service (radio), BBC World News (TV) and BBC Monitoring, it’s a good opportunity for the external services of the corporation to unveil new developments to a sympathetic audience. As Nigel Chapman, Director of the World Service, admitted, there have been highs and lows over recent years. Closing down remaining European language services (including latterly the Romanian service) was a tough decision. But on the up-side, BBC Arabic television was successfully launched esrlier this year — or more accurately, relaunched, as it had a short life once before. Soon it will provide 24-hour broadcasting, competing strongly with al-Jazeera and other Arabic-language channels. The best news, though, is that a new BBC Persian TV service will begin this autumn, opening up an exciting new channel for dialogue with people in Iran and other Farsi-speaking regions.

This evening, in collaboration with the British Council, the World Service will host another fringe event: a debate on the transatlantic relationship in the post-Bush era, chaired by my old Bush House colleague Nick Childs and featuring the LibDem Shadow Foreign Secretary, Ed Davey, the Chair of Democrats Abroad, Bill Barnard, and others.

Link: www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice

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