Tag Archives: Hamish de Bretton-Gordon

The Professor and the Spy

A while ago, eagerly and secretly, a professor at Edinburgh University began a correspondence over email with a man he thought was a Russian spy. ‘Ivan’, as the spy eventually took signing himself, wanted to thank the professor, Paul McKeigue, for his sterling efforts on matters of mutual interest. Those efforts, Ivan assured the professor, were appreciated by the boys in his office in Moscow.

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Idlib’s All Too Short Ceasefire

In Idlib, in northern Syria, a ceasefire filled with disquiet has begun. After a difficult beginning, in which fighting continued across the front and marketplaces and hospitals continued to be bombed, aspects of civilian life have resumed. Continue reading

Undiplomatic Wrangling and Aid to Idlib

Just as the UN aid mission to the rebel- and Islamist-held enclave around Idlib province in northern Syria was about to collapse, the movement of aid was reapproved – now in a reduced form. Continue reading

Rumours of a Third World War Prove Greatly Exaggerated

The strike was violent, decisive, and wholly unexpected. After frantic reporting, initially doubted by many, the news was confirmed in the early morning on January 3 in Iraq. Two of America’s enemies were dead. Continue reading

America’s ‘Caesar’ Bill

After many years and several failed attempts, the United States Senate has passed legislation containing tougher sanctions on the regime of Bashar al-Assad, its foreign backers and corporations that profit from Syria’s war. Continue reading

Idlib, on a Knife-Edge, Awaits Its Destiny

In the last Syrian rebel-held province of Idlib, Turkey is more influential than the Syrian government. But Turkey’s position has never been entirely secure. Run by Syrian rebels and Islamists, Idlib is the last part of Syrian territory not run by a foreign state or President Bashar Assad. Idlib’s people are not happy with their present rulers and protest against them, but they fear the government and its allies. Continue reading

Syria’s Propaganda Tours

Countries in war can make surprising tourist destinations. This is one objective of the Syrian government. It wants to forge an incongruous association with the leisure of travel. Its borders admit carefully chosen foreigners in the pursuit of that aim. Continue reading

Chemical Provocation

The Syrian civil war’s most horrific feature has become its most consistent undertone – one of the threat of war crimes committed with chemical weapons.

Hundreds of attacks have been made with chemical weapons, whose manufacture and use are restricted by international agreement. A report by the Global Public Policy Institute recorded more than 336 incidents in which the use of chemical weapons in Syria was likely. Of those incidents, 98 per cent, the report claimed, were carried out by the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Continue reading

Idlib’s Unenviable Situation Gets Worse

Last year, Syria’s Idlib province was in direct peril. The regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and its Russian allies, having consolidated their control of southern Syria, seemed poised to move on the northern province, where most of the territory was dominated by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Continue reading

Syria’s Chemical Tactics Could Have Dreadful Consequences for Future Conflicts

Chemical warfare has dominated the global perception of the Syrian civil war. The use of chemical weapons, banned internationally, attracts its own condemnation but the way the Syrian war is captured and communicated to the world increased the horror and disgust its crimes can inspire. Continue reading