A less mischievous Iran under Hassad Rouhni?

With the election of the “moderate” Hassad Rouhni so ends the eventful reign of Mahmoud Ahmadijed. I for one will miss some of his  ranting statements and often outrageous quotes. His repeated threats and aggressive rhetoric especially against Israel whilst unacceptable were just that that. Rhetoric.

Iran Elections

Iran Elections (Photo credit: bi0xid)

In comes Hassad Rouhni. A more reformist and moderate alternative to Ahmadijed. The Economist in a recent podcast covering the election made an excellent point that “moderate” is a relative term. It’s unlikely Mr Rouhni will be extending an olive branch to the west.

What will probably calm down is the constant stream of aggressive rhetoric and uncompromising belligerence.  The sanctions imposed on Iran because of its nuclear programme have according to most analysts hurt the Iranian economy. To the point where Iran might seek to loosen the noose by offering something palatable to both sides.

Will Iran give up its nuclear programme under Hassad Rouhni? Unlikely. It’s now hugely symbolic and a matter of national pride. There is no way Rouhni could waltz in and dismantle the programme in response to international pressure without fatally undermining his credibility internally. I’d argue Iran has got what it wants from its nuclear ambitions by achieving “escalation dominance” if faced with the real threat of military action. It makes little strategic sense for Iran to now give up the program having come this far down the road.  (i’ll go into this in another post)

Given the firestorm brewing in Syria and little appetite from the West for any direct intervention. A calmer less provocative Iran is a good opportunity. Both sides will welcome the chance to back away from the rhetoric and create some breathing space through dialogue. Except of course Israel. But given they don’t have the ability by force or otherwise to eliminate Iran’s nuclear programme they will just have to accept this “least worst” option.

Our eyes are open yet we do not see.

trafficking 2

I recently took part in a Community and Police Engagement Group meeting in the Kensington/Chelsea borough on behalf of a charity I volunteer for called Stop the Traffik. I was there to raise awareness about human trafficking and promote the Stop The Traffik community roadshow taking place June 22nd.

Two senior Metropolitan Police officers for the borough were in attendance and according to their figures, estimated around 200 brothels exist in the Kensington area.

I don’t live in Kensington but I visit friends in the area pretty regularly. I was surprised, perhaps naively by the stated figures. It got me thinking. How much goes on in our local community which we don’t know about?

As a young professional I live in the borough of Tower Hamlets and I work in Shoreditch. But do I really “live” in Tower Hamlets? Am i part of the community? In honesty it’s hard to say yes. I don’t know who my neighbours are and aside from a friend who I know from back home I rarely if ever talk to the people in my borough. I don’t really pay a huge amount of attention to whats going in the borough.

I’m part of the young professionals club. We move down to London for jobs and we develop a network of friends but mostly its with other young professionals. How many of us can boost friendships in the areas we live with people outside of that circle? Not many.

The meeting was a good opportunity to raise awareness and learn about the human trafficking taking place in our local communities. Without knowledge there can be no action. In the hustle and bustle of work and play in London its easy to become one of the walking blind.

By that I mean acceptance of the routine. A focus on getting where we want to go with minimal awareness of the wider picture around us. To walk around with our eyes open but actually see very little at all.

“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.”

Prism

Prism (Photo credit: jonpayne)

“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”

~William Pitt,

British Prime Minister.
Speech in the House of Commons, 1783.

The revelation this weekend about the”PRISM” implemented by the US uber secret National Security Agency reminded me of the above quote. Its deliberately provocative but a true reflection of the fact government will always justify encroachment of civil liberties on the basis of it being necessary for national security.

What is the balance between the right to privacy in the digital age and giving proportionate power to ensure the dangers born in the shadows do not see the light of day?

“PRISM” evolved out of the the Patriot Act passed in the aftermath of September 11th. Signed into law with sunset provisions meaning the act should have expired in 2005. It didn’t and serves as proof that once government is granted certain powers reclaiming them is much more difficult.

The ability of centralized government authority to harvest huge amounts of data pertaining to the lives of millions of people evokes the fear that our every keystroke, phone call, email, and Facebook post is accessible to the authorities at will. In reality “PRISM” doesn’t not record the content of phone calls only phone numbers, duration of call, location and time. “Prism” is able to “collect data” from Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Skype, Yahoo. You name it.

As technology evolves unfortunately those would seek to do harm evolve their tactics as well. It’s not unreasonable to expect the strategy and tools of security services and law enforcement to move with the times as well.

What seems to be missing is transparent debate about where to draw the line. A Guardian article leads with the headline White House “welcomes media interest” in Prism insisting the “time is ripe for debate”. Why not be more open about it earlier? The reality is “PRISM” would have remained shrouded in secrecy had it not been for whistle-blower Edward  Snowden. No doubt a harsh fate will await him should he ever set foot again on US soil.

Our equivalent of the the NSA is GCHQ (Global Communications Headquarters). A donut shaped building in unassuming Cheltenham which conducts signals intelligence and intercepts.

For us here in the UK the Draft Communications Data Bill nicknamed by its detractors as the “Snoopers Charter” would require:

“Internet service providers and mobile phone companies to maintain records (but not the content) of each user’s internet browsing activity (including social media), email correspondence, voice calls, internet gaming, and mobile phone messaging services and store the records for 12 months. Retention of email and telephone contact data for this time is already required.”

The Patriot Act in the wake of September 11th was passed in a mere 48 hours between introduction of the final draft and passage into law. The objective is for the Draft Communications Bill to be signed into law before the next general election. Have a real think about whether you feel the above represents proportionate intrusion of privacy to protect against serious crime and terrorism.