The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

The U.S.-Iran non-alliance alliance against Islamic State

Smoke rise over Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border

One irony about the fight against Islamic State is that the nations now striking the extremist group the hardest also dislike each other the most.

Iran’s supreme leader, for example, declared last month that the United States has “a corrupt intention and stained hands” and cannot be trusted to fight against Islamic State. Meanwhile, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington is “not and will not coordinate militarily” with Tehran.

Washington and Tehran say they abhor each other. Yet they appear to be tacitly working together -- if awkwardly and at arm’s length -- to fight Islamic State. When everyone hates everyone else (welcome to the Middle East!) and pursues their own self-interest, strange political alliances can emerge.

Tracer rounds cross the sky over the Syrian town of Kobani during an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border

Is this deemed an ugly, politically distasteful relationship for all sides? Yes. Is our ad hoc alliance good enough to degrade and destroy Islamic State? Maybe not. Is Washington tacitly working with nations and organizations that have American blood on their hands? You’d better believe it.

Investors seek transparency on corporate taxation


By Fiona Reynolds, managing director, Principles for Responsible Investment. The opinions expressed are her own.

Public debate is well and truly focused on corporations and the amount of tax they pay – or don’t pay as we have seen in recent headlines decrying the fact that the likes of Google, Amazon, and Glencore are not paying their fair share.

from The Great Debate:

Recent mandatory quarantine policies are unscientific–and dangerous


On Thursday, Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey announced a mandatory 21-day quarantine for returning healthcare workers from Ebola-ravaged Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn followed suit a day later. Other U.S. states, including Minnesota, Georgia and Connecticut, have introduced similar measures.

Kaci Hickox, a nurse and epidemiologist who had volunteered with Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone, was the first person quarantined under the new rules when she returned to the United States on Friday. She was held against her will until Monday afternoon at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey.

from The Great Debate:

Surprising source offers signs the global ‘war on drugs’ may be ending

U.S. coast guard officers stand next to seized cocaine packages, on the deck of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell at Naval Base San Diego

The contentious debate over international drug policy was potentially transformed a few weeks ago, when the United States strongly reiterated a major shift in policy.

William R. Brownfield, assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs summed up the key idea underpinning the shift at the United Nations on Oct. 9:

from The Great Debate:

How congressional hawks plan to kill Obama’s Iran deal

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani gives a news conference on the sidelines of the 69th United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York

Negotiations with Iran over the future of its nuclear program have not even concluded yet some members of Congress are preparing to manufacture a political crisis over a deal. Their beef? President Barack Obama may initially bypass Congress and suspend sanctions imposed on Iran to make a deal possible and only later ask lawmakers to end them permanently when it is determined that Iran has complied fully with its obligations under the deal.

Of course, many of the lawmakers complaining about the potential presidential end run voted to give him the right to waive sanctions when they passed sanctions legislation in 2010 and 2011. And, of course, only Congress can lift the sanctions permanently, so there wouldn’t be any circumventing to begin with.

Starting with the Arctic, could some effects of global warming be reversed?


By Julian Hunt, Visiting Professor at Delft University of Technology, a member of the UK House of Lords, and former Director General of the UK Meteorological Office. The opinions expressed are his own.

Governments are in the midst of preparations for the 2014 UN Climate Summit, which begins in Peru on December 1, in advance of potential agreement of a new global climate treaty next year.  The scientific basis for these international attempts to reduce fossil fuel consumption is data from cutting-edge research which has recently yielded conclusions showing how at least some effects of global warming could be reversible.

The coming of age of challenger banks


By Andrew Wingfield, Partner in the Financial Institutions Group at law firm King & Wood Mallesons. The opinions expressed are his own.

With Metro Bank and the soon-to-be-launched Atom Bank offering exciting blueprints for multi-platform banking, and other new entrants making headway into the UK banking market, it seems an appropriate time to ask whether so-called “challenger banks” are finally coming of age.

from The Great Debate:

Sykes-Picot drew lines in the Middle East’s sand that blood is washing away


Last week British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond said the struggle against Islamic State was “effectively Iraq’s last chance as nation state.”

That somber assessment followed his visit to Iraq a few days earlier, where he had used the expression “last chance saloon” to describe Iraq’s dire predicament.

from The Great Debate:

What the Synod of Bishops that discussed divorced, LGBT Catholics did – and didn’t – do


If you told me a few years ago that a synod of bishops would make the front page of almost every newspaper, be featured prominently on almost every news website, and be the topic of heated conversation among Catholics worldwide, I would have said that you were -- to use a theological term -- crazy.

The interest generated by the Synod of Bishops on the Family, the two-week meeting of bishops, priests and lay people that concluded last weekend at the Vatican, surprised even veteran Vaticanologists. In recent years, synods did not garner much enthusiasm, to put it mildly. One reason for the renewed interest this year was Pope Francis’s urging participants to be as open as possible. And they were. Not only to one another, but also in the daily media briefings, which brought their candor before the general public.

from The Great Debate:

Why the world shouldn’t write off the Iraqi Army just yet

Shi'ite volunteers, from Abbas Unit who have joined the Iraqi army to fight against militants of the Islamic State, parade down a street in Kerbala

On Sept. 10, President Barack Obama outlined an overall strategy for countering the al Qaeda’ist movement that grandiosely calls itself the Islamic State. The president vowed to defeat and ultimately destroy it.

How is that campaign going? What are its prospects for success over the next few months to several years? Is it promising in both Iraq and Syria? My answer is a guarded yes, especially for Iraq (the Syria strategy is incomplete and will take longer to develop).