Talk about Newsnight

Latest programme

Monday, 13 November, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 13 Nov 06, 06:17 PM

US helicopter over BaghdadTony Blair wants Iran and Syria to be included in talks on Iraq and the Middle East. Mark Urban examines if we are about to see an about turn on US and British foreign policy.

Julian Pettifer, who reported on the Vietnam conflict, has returned to the country with a veteran - are there parallels between the Iraq and Vietnam?

Are the government's anti-terrorism policies are just playing to a tabloid agenda?

And sexism and football - we debate women's role in male dominated sports.

Join Jeremy at 2230GMT on BBC Two and live and on demand on the Newsnight website.

Comments  Post your comment

How can one have faith in the seriousness of the government's anti-terrorism policies?
This is the government that was willing to stand by - whilst hatred was preached and violent placards paraded publicly on the streets of our capital -
then seeks tougher laws to further gag us because a minority political party leader won his appeal against conviction for incitement - following expression of his views secretly filmed in a private meeting!
I can tell you what ethnic minority is becoming radicalised: it's the indigenous English population.

  • 2.
  • At 11:29 PM on 13 Nov 2006,
  • Joe wrote:

I think that the leader of the minority political party that failed to be convicted of race hate crime should be locked up and questioned for 90 days to asertain if he is mad or a potential terrorist. As it is apparent that he and his party are clearly not guided by logic, and present a threat, (if only a very insignificant one) to democracy.

  • 3.
  • At 11:45 PM on 13 Nov 2006,
  • Liam Coughlan wrote:

The report from Vietnam was very interesting and balanced, in that the reporter made no explicit attempt to link the current situation in Iraq to the former situation in Vietnam.

There was a lot of beating about the bush on the other segments of tonights program. For example, the strained microsecond silences in the unfocused discussion about sexism in sport. Though JP tried to illuminate the dependence of Blair and the foreign office on US Iraq policy, nobody stated the obvious, apart from the Iranians. The US has lost this battle, and are seeking a quick escape. The country that threatened to wipe Israel from this planet noted the US u-turn and stated that if this did not happen, it would be made happen. The US strategy of trying to terrify Iran into submission by referring to it as part of an axis of evil has backfired completely. It seems that Iran's threats have had a greater effect.

A responsible UK Government would order all UK troops under US command to base and plan their evacuation home. Its either this, or develop a UK foreign policy and re-task the UK troops to achieving it. Would you get on a plane of you knew the polot was drunk? Or an idiot? Or had no guidance, navigation or landing systems? Or even if there was no pilot at all?

  • 4.
  • At 11:56 PM on 13 Nov 2006,
  • Gordon Pye wrote:

Wot not many comments:- is everybody watching Starkey's Last Word.

  • 5.
  • At 12:03 AM on 14 Nov 2006,
  • vikingar wrote:

Good marks all-round tonight

Esp Vietnam piece.

Thankfully Beeb stills allows career journalists, who can offer personal insights & can examine issues from first hand experiences in relation to current impasses.

Long may that continue.

btw - if the government is unwilling to wheel out someone (surely they have enough people) could BBC fill the slot with someone the government (regardless of party) would really object too. That way perhaps the servant of the people (the government) will re-learn the lesson to be accountable & available to a public broadcaster asking questions on our behalf of the electorate & others.

Looking forward to this weeks investigations into to Islamic Radicalisation / Extremism, set against the domestic issues of the last couple of months.


  • 6.
  • At 11:18 AM on 14 Nov 2006,
  • Bob Goodall wrote:

Dear Newsnight

One similarity between Vietnam and Iraq is politicians distorting intelligence assessments for political reasons.

NSA Top Secret/Umbra declassified On Watch September 1986 page 39

This was from a time when the US took over from the French on a wave of anti-communist hysteria despite a secret State Department intelligence report at the time saying that the department "couldn't find any hard evidence that Ho Chi Minh actually took his orders from Moscow"

My source 'Body of Secrets', James Bamford page 287

Also given the thrust of tonights programmes about whose pulling our strings. The problem seems to be that another country could potentially actually do this because we do not have adequate safeguards or security checks in place. Why this situation is allowed to continue, is beyond me.

As I became involved in political campaigning starting with the tactical voting campaign 1997 GROT where I was the national campaign worker I became aware that there are no security checks or vetting for members of the Government which can send our soldiers to war.

I set up a campaign I think the security services need a remit to conduct ongoing checks on members of the Government to protect them, and us. After all the techniques used by Mi5 to recruit # # # # # # # -[reported openly in the press two years ago including the Independent 17th December 2005, but my deletion] could be used against our politicians? And it would seem prudent to have checks in place, even to act as a deterrent.

I wrote to the Cabinet secretary and the reply is the website I set up including the suggestion that MPs do not have access to sensitive information. I disagree and they can also send us to war and make decisions that have huge implications over every aspect of our lives and those of people overseas.

George Wigg, Wilsons paymaster General called for positive vetting for ministers but was turned down. This is not about excluding people from Parliament and would only take place if someone made it say to the Cabinet.

Sir Martin Furnival Jones the former Director General of Mi5 told the Franks committee in 1972

"If the Russian Intelligence Service can recruit a back-bench MP and he climbs to a ministerial position the spy is home and dry"

Substitute ‘Russian’ for any country, even a friendly one, or organisation that would seek to influence British policy and you can see what the risk might be.

Ultimately you do not need to defeat a country in battle, instead one way or the other you nobble their politicians.

best wishes

Bob Goodall


I have held my peace since the results of the US elections, awaiting an outcome in terms of changed policies. In practice, apart from Rumsfeld becoming the sacrificial lamb and Bush having a social meeting with the new democratic leader of Congress, nothing has changed in the US. That Bush is in trouble is without doubt, but his solution is the same. He is calling in a different set of his daddy’s friends to tell him what to do to win the war; Rumsfeld is replaced by Baker (both from Bush Senior’s team).

The first, and arguably most important, real change came yesterday; this side of the Pond. Tony Blair is starting to call in favours owed. I am amazed by what the media saw and heard. He is, according to them, once more subject to US dictat. He is, like Bush, talking of bringing in Iran and Syria; the self-fulfilling prophecy which the media have been talking up for days.

Surely, in reality, the message was in what he said! He emphasized that he was looking to the Middle East as a whole. He did mention Iran and Syria, but only in the context of mentioning – by name – most of the other countries in the Middle East. In particular, in his list, he started with Israel! Indeed, he made it very clear that the conflict between Israel and its neighbours was at the heart of the matter; and that this, as much as Iraq, needed to be solved if peace was to be found.

The problem for the whole region was been, for decades, that Israel has never been willing to take negotiations seriously; its leaders, as much as its population as a whole, simply do not trust anyone else – even if they have so much to gain from peace. The others they see as their enemies are almost as intransigent, but they have so much more to gain that they will negotiate – they have already done so a number of times - even if they will not give Israel carte-blanche.

Tony Blair stressed that he will soon be off to the Middle East, to start a new peace initiative. I cannot see the populations of the Islamic countries welcoming him with open arms – indeed there may be riots when he arrives. On the other hand, I suspect most of the leaders will take him – and his mission – seriously; on the international stage he is, despite Iraq, still seen as a leader with considerable clout (and still some goodwill). Above all they need someone to take the lead in seeking peace.

This leaves, almost alone amongst the nations there, Israel as the one which can wreck the whole deal – and too often has in the past it has done just that. This is where the favours come in. Tony Blair has, for the past half decade, been one of Israel’s true friends – well beyond the call of duty. Accordingly, its leaders are more likely to trust him than almost any other intermediary. In any case, Israel is so dependent on the US that its own policies have – in effect – to be counter-signed in Washington. This is where Blair really comes into his own. His special relationship with Bush means that he is the one outsider who is trusted. Moreover, with Rumsfeld gone, and two years of a political stand-off facing him, Bush desperately needs help. He is almost too dependent on the Baker report, so Tony Blair’s intervention may be the ‘out’ he needs.

Good luck Tony!

I am in general agreement with so much of what David Mercer has to say above, but as for Israeli policy needing to be countersigned in Washington, he has it in reverse.

Witness last night's from Bush. He cannot agree to even talking with Iran unless they crawl to him and Olmert first. Instead they stand there and blame Iran as the most de-stabilising influence in the Middle East!

O wad som powr the giftie gie us,
To see ourselves as ithers see us!

God (generic) help us all

I think there should be some sort of dialogue between Iran and Syria because we know what happened when we went down the road of bombing Iraq: we made things worse as today proves - 150 people kidnapped in Iraq. I know things were terrible under Hussein, but even when he let the media in, why didn't we hear about people being kidnapped then? Infact, I think Blair and Bush have made the whole Middle East worse. There is still suffering in the other parts like Israel and Palestine even though we were told if we sorted Iraq out, it would end all of the suffering in the middle east, not to mention what goes on in Pakistan. It was a good programme on Monday.

  • 10.
  • At 02:16 PM on 14 Nov 2006,
  • mark wrote:

Hindsight hey.Mr Blair should have got Syria and Iran "involved" before he and the lovely mr Bush decided to flatten Baghdad.

  • 11.
  • At 05:25 PM on 14 Nov 2006,
  • Christine Constable wrote:

I was shocked that Newsnight invited members of Hisbut-ul-tirir on the programme last week, especially when today on Radio 4 there is an in depth report about the terrorist links and highly suspect behaviour of this organisation.

I hope in future Newsnight will refrain from giving the oxygen of publicity to terrorist sympathisers and apologists for Islamic Jihad.

In fact it would be a refreshing change if we could ignore these big mouth minority groups period and concentrate on the other 99.9% of the population who are fed up to back teeth with them and their vile racism.

Talk about Nick Griffin and the BNP - that's nothing compared to what these gangs are doing on the streets of London to innocents who don't want to "convert" to Islam.

Disgraceful the BBC give them airtime.

  • 12.
  • At 06:22 PM on 14 Nov 2006,
  • john wrote:

My brother lives in a 300 home gated community with its own golf course swimming pool and community center.

In Ireland and Im sure Britain its called a housing estate.

a super housing estate, or large village protectorate is the best deal.

if an ancient unique substantial recognized verifyable claim for all parties, then equity 50/50 and super housing estates with a reston va , columbia md like atsmosphere is all you can get in palestine.

  • 13.
  • At 08:18 PM on 14 Nov 2006,
  • Dave Parker wrote:

I wouldn't worry too much about Middle East leaders taking Blair seriously. The man's a joke: "I have put Britain at the centre of Europe". Yes Tony, and isolation by the US & Britain is a fearsome threat! Ooh!

  • 14.
  • At 10:43 PM on 14 Nov 2006,
  • Molly Brown wrote:

Who was the walking caricature who spoke so fastidiously about women in sport? I was half dozing,having just returned from an elegant round of women's mud wrestling.

  • 15.
  • At 11:15 AM on 15 Nov 2006,
  • sabina ahmed wrote:

Last nights programme was dissapointing. It seemed as if the programme makers changed course halfway and never got back on. The man from Hazb-E Tahrir needed stronger scrutiny but was not held to account as the programme has not done it usual robust research.Organisations like that should be held to account.
However it took your programme to highlight that Bukhari is still preaching hatred. So where are the secret services? Napping?When there have been an increase in the number of MI5 agents.
After the failures of the MI5 before the 7/7 and since i would think that they will be more active and vigillent,rather than their Chief making political statements to pave the way for the new measures due to be announced in the Queens speech.

  • 16.
  • At 11:46 AM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Oscar Adams wrote:

Sten,if you are really feeling so depressed perhaps you should seek mental help? The Samaritans run a 24 hour switchboard and the service is totally anonymous.

This post is closed to new comments.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites