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Paddy Ashdown interviewed on yesterday’s Murnaghan (Sky News)

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon

Dermot Murnaghan: Let’s talk to a former Lib Dem leader, Paddy Ashdown, good to talk to you.  So let’s take that head on, so Mr Blair, it’s not boots on the ground he said but he is still firmly interventionist, is he right to be?

Paddy Ashdown: I’m firmly interventionist because I believe unless we are prepared to intervene internationally to preserve the wider peace when it’s threatened, the world will be a much more turbulent place but I don’t believe it’s right in these circumstances in the way that Tony suggests.  I mean there are other ways you can do it and we might come on to talking about that.

Look, I’m sorry Dermot, I’m having a bit of a difficulty getting my mind round the idea that a problem that has been caused or made worse by killing many, many Arab Muslims in the Middle East is now going to be made better by killing more with Western weapons.  I just don’t think that’s the solution.

Look, let me go back I think it’s a couple of years actually or thereabouts, we were talking about Syria and I was talking on your programme and I was saying the problem is not Syria, please don’t get distracted, the problem is that we are at the beginning of a widening Sunni/Shia religious sectarian conflict that is going to be spreading across the entire Middle East, it will go to Iraq, it will go to Egypt, it will go to Libya, it will go to Mali and that’s exactly what’s happened.

This is more about the preparations, funded by the way by our so-called friends in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to capture and unify the Sunni community, the Sunni umma, for a Jihadist cause in preparation for a widening Shia war and unless we understand that and unless we understand also, Dermot, that we have pretty limited means to influence the progress of that, then I think we are going to get every calculation wrong.  I mean let me put it to you pretty straightforward, personally I think ISIS has over-extended themselves, the next thing I think you’re going to see is ISIS being beaten back in some form or another but that does not alter the reality that in all probability what you are seeing now is the wholesale rewriting of the borders established in the Sykes-Picot Agreement and set in the Versailles Conference of 1918 of the whole Middle East in favour of a new complex of borders which reflect sectarian differences between Sunni and Shia and that’s the danger.  If that is the prelude, and I think it is, to a widening regional war – actually we think we are the targets because we always do but I think actually we may get drawn into this in some form or another but I think the targets are now not the great Satan of the West but the great heretic in Teheran.

My final point here before we talk about what should be done is this,  we need also to recognise that the Russians have a concern about this and a very legitimate one because what they are seeing in those Islamic republics of Dagestan, Chechnya threatening the cohesion of the Russian Federation is exactly the same radicalisation of the Sunni community and the real danger of this, unless we are very careful, is that we are drawn in on one side, on the side of the Sunnis, and Russia is drawn in on the other.  Then you have a regional war with the great powers engaged.  Now I don’t say we are there yet but that at all costs is what we must avoid.

Full transcript here


Paddy Ashdown: Ending the Horror of Rape and Abuse Against Children in Conflict (via Huffington Post)

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon

During my years in Bosnia, both during the war and afterwards I heard and saw evidence of horrific stories of mass rape and sexual violence committed during the war. Thousands of women and children suffered terrible abuse and the physical and mental scars could stay with survivors for the rest of their lives.

Years later, sexual violence still remains entrenched in conflict zones around the world and children are often the most vulnerable. Children suffering in conflicts are growing up in a world where they face the daily threat of rape and abuse and sexual violence is considered the ‘norm’.

In Mogadishu, Somalia, Unicef teams treated more than 50 child survivors of sexual violence every single week in 2013. And in the Democratic Republic of Congo an average of 36 women and girls are raped every day – with children as young as six months old being targeted by armed groups.

Full article here


Paddy Ashdown: Lib Dems’ biggest challenge is not to lose our heads (via The Independent)

“I bring you nought for your comfort, Yea, nought for your desire. Save that the sky grows darker yet, And the sea rises higher.”

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon

I suspect that many Lib Dems waking on Monday morning will identify with King Alfred’s speech to his ragged army in G.K Chesterton’s epic “The Ballad of the White Horse”.

We Liberal Democrats have endured some sombre post-electoral dawns recently. And this one is going to be another of them. With the election just a year away, this poses some serious questions for us. But they pose questions for the other parties too.

With Ukip on the stage, can the Tories ever win a majority on their own again? They may hate coalition, but is it now the best the Tories can hope for? Mr Cameron famously wouldn’t “obsess about Europe” because he knew it was toxic for his party’s unity. But by helping Ukip put a European referendum centre stage, he has now cheerfully taken the viper to his breast. A 2017 European referendum could be as deadly to Tory unity as the 1975 one was to Labour. Listen to the Tory voices calling for an electoral pact with Ukip and you can already hear the distant thunder.

True to form, Labour’s answer to its difficulties is an enquiry and another outing for its traditional circular firing squad.

Full story here

Lord Ashdown appears on Question Time


The Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon
The Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon

Lib Dem Peer Paddy Ashdown appeared on last night’s Question Time on BBC 1, to face questions from members of the public.

From the BBC blurb:

David Dimbleby presents topical debate from Coventry. On the panel are Esther McVey MP, Lord Ashdown, Caroline Flint MP, Humza Yousaf MSP and Tim Stanley.

Full episode is available here

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