Will our leaders now wake up to the war against the jihadi enemy within?

THE emotions coursing through me writing this in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo atrocity and the three-day terrorisation of Paris are a meld of seething anger, deep sadness and utter revulsion.

Not because eight of the 12 victims in Wednesday’s craven attack on the satirical magazine’s offices were fellow journalists – in fact, I considered much of what they produced offensive – but free speech and humanity, warts and all, were the targets.

The scum, unfit to dignify the title ‘human beings’ and perverting the faith they purported to defend, carried out the massacre with the lethal and clinical precision of Nazi stormtroopers.

They’d clearly recce’d their killing ground well in advance, just as the callous butchers responsible for the Mumbai Massacre did in 2008, and they executed the op like seasoned special forces.

Particularly chilling was the gruesomely slick way one snuffed out the life of a wounded cop – himself a Muslim – lying helpless on the pavement, begging to be spared.

All bore the indelible hallmarks of al-Qaeda, particularly the assault on the kosher deli in eastern Paris, where four hostages were murdered, which was deviously synchronised to throw police into disarray.

So let’s be straight: these full frontal assaults on liberty cannot be passed off by pussyfooting politicos as yet more ‘lone-wolf’ incidents, concocted by fanatical ‘self-starters’.

WORLD GRIEF: This sympathiser in Moscow shares her revulsion at the attack on the French magazine

WORLD GRIEF: This sympathiser in Moscow shares her revulsion at the attack on the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo

Nothing about them was haphazard or shamateur. And the arsenal of death the assassins toted, AK47s and an RPG rocket-launcher, couldn’t have be sourced from Galeries Lafayette or even local gun shops, which proliferate in a hunting-mad country.

No, a complex supply chain, involving cells of smugglers, financiers and armourers, was needed to support these multiple barbarities and it lies somewhere in the heart of France’s five-million strong Muslim community.

Undoubtedly, the peaceable followers of Islam will be just as gut-wrenched by the hideousness of it all as their fellow-countrymen.

But – as demonstrated ad nauseum throughout Western democracies – the question will once again be posed: are Muslim community leaders doing enough in their own backyards and mosques to counter the explosion of extremism?

Secular France has a particularly testy problem with Islam. Yet, in recent times, its liberal elite has bent over backwards to excuse an uptick of attacks – much of them anti-Semitic – as merely the handiwork of maniacs.

Just before Christmas, a shopper was killed and nine wounded when a van deliberately ploughed through a crowded market in Nantes.

A day earlier a man, shouting ‘Allahu Akba’ rammed his car into crowds in Dijon, seriously injuring 13, while in Joueles-Tours an assailant stabbed three police officers, likewise yelling in Arabic, ‘God is the great’.

That same week three drive-by shootings in Paris targeted a synagogue, a kosher restaurant and a Jewish-owned publishing house.

SAVED: A hostage holding a child shows his relief after paramilitary police stormed the kosher deli in eastern Paris

SAVED: A hostage holding a child shows his relief after paramilitary police stormed the kosher deli in eastern Paris and killed the terrorist

And it is a French jihadi, then newly returned from fighting in Syria, who faces trial over last May’s ambush at Brussels’ Jewish Museum, in which three people were shot dead and another critically wounded.

Yet, immediately after the Dijon attack – which the perpetrator dedicated to the ‘children of Palestine’ – France’s interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, called on the public ‘not to draw hasty conclusions since [the car driver’s] motives have not been established.’

And, despite admitting ‘the investigation had barely begun,’ the local public prosecutor quickly claimed, ‘This was not a terrorist act at all.’

In fact, it took the third outrage before Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, conceded, ‘There is, as you know, a terrorist threat to France.’

Had there been any lingering doubt, Paris’s 9/1 carnage has obliterated it, because the bloodletting was all too predictable, regardless of any counter-terrorism failings.

And, in stark contrast to the appeasers who rule us, people – not merely headbanging xenophobes – were already displaying greater awareness of the unpalatable reality confronting them.

Those in the Western street long knew our civilisation is locked in a guerrilla war on our own turf, waged by an enemy within, who cloak themselves in a ruthless interpretation of an eastern faith imported by waves of immigrants, seeking opportunity in better, fairer, freer societies.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has serially failed to slap down the army of 20,000 demonstrators, who meet each week in Dresden – and growing bands of likeminded activists elsewhere in her country – demanding tighter immigration controls.

And Australian Premier Tony Abbott was rightly rapped for downplaying the attack on a Sydney café by a self-style sheikh that left two diners dead.

Even though it was evident the killer, Man Haron Monis – an Iranian, who forced hostages to hold up to the window a black flag, emblazoned with a jihadi slogan – was driven by religious fervour, Abbott insisted, ‘This event was an act of politically-motivated violence.’

Politically motivated? Maybe he also believes the Irish ultra-nationalists of the IRA and the Basque separatists of ETA were inspired by radical Catholicism to commit mayhem. Somehow I think not.

At least in Canada there is no mood for whitewashing Islamic extremism.

SATIRE SURVIVES: David Pope's cartoon in the Canberra Times puts the hideous acts of Paris 9/1 into true perspective

SATIRE SURVIVES: David Pope’s cartoon in the Canberra Times puts the hideous acts of Paris 9/1 into true perspective

After incidents involving Muslim converts killing two soldiers, Canada’s leader, Stephen Harper, didn’t mince words: ‘I have been saying we live in dangerous world and terrorism has been with us for a long time,’ he said.

So what can be done to stem the rising tide of ultra-Islamic ferocity?

For a start we can stop bellyaching that our security establishment scanning emails is a snoopers’ charter, because this is a key bulwark against those out to destroy our society.

And, as the head of Britain’s MI5 pleaded last week, invest more resources in vigilance to minimise opportunities for the merchants of death to claim further victims.

Governments also need to force internet platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, to take down suspect sites. If they don’t, hit them with astronomical fines.

The international community, meanwhile, must enforce its money-laundering pacts with real vigour, choking off cash – mainly from Middle Eastern sympathisers – that’s the lifeblood of jihadism.

A further measure is more scrupulous border checks and denying the right of return to those who join the jihad cause abroad, rendering them stateless.

Finally, to aid pan-community solidarity, those who represent mainstream Muslims – often so quick to rage – should take it upon themselves to organise ‘Not in our name’ marches.

That gesture might, just might, isolate the fanatics and stop them providing ammunition to far-Right parties expanding across Europe, whose racist venom is only likely to make a grave situation even worse.

Qatar: the West’s best of ‘frenemies’ – it buys our arms and funds world terror

IF money talks, then the pipsqueak, maverick emirate of Qatar has a voice like a foghorn.

However, it isn’t the ear-splitting volume of what’s bellowed that matters, it’s the mixed messages emanating from the capital, Doha, that beggar belief.

Because Qatar parrots from two scripts: one echoes the mantra of pro-Western, freewheeling capitalism; the other promotes a credo of anti-Western extremism, manifest in colossal financial support to terrorist franchises fomenting Sunni Islamist violence throughout the hellhole of the Middle East.

So, even by the Gulf’s duplicitous standards, few states are shot full of as many contradictions as Qatar, per capital the world’s third richest country – after Luxemburg and Norway – according to the International Monetary Fund.

Covering less than 4,500 sand-strewn square miles, its population of 1.8 million includes only 288,000 Qataris, the rest being expats and bonded foreign labourers, there to serve the absolute monarchy of the Al Thani clan and make the statelet prosper.

And prosper is an understatement. Sitting on the globe’s largest natural gas field and oil reserves conservatively estimated at 25 billion barrels, Qatar can indulge its sovereign wealth fund’s whims in a vast hash of investments.

They range from an airline and the TV channel, Al Jazeera – whose propaganda stretches far beyond the Middle East to Europe and the USA – to gargantuan chunks of international conglomerates.

JEWEL IN THE CROWN: Harrods is a flagship bauble in Qatar's huge investment portfolio

JEWEL IN THE CROWN: Harrods, the London store for the super rich, is a flagship bauble in Qatar’s huge investment portfolio

The £100-billion Qatari Investment Authority (QIA), for instance, includes in its share portfolio huge stakes in Volkswagen, Siemens, Harrods, The London Shard, Heathrow Airport, Paris Saint-Germain soccer club, Royal Dutch Shell, Tiffany, Sainsbury’s, BlackBerry, Barclays Bank and a cluster of other stellar institutions.

Currently, the QIA is trying to buy London’s Canary Wharf, though so far its overtures have been rebuffed.

But, with £25-billion a year flooding in from energy sales, Qatar can punch multiple times above its miniscule weight and uses its vast wealth to exert disproportionate influence in all manner of subversive ways.

That’s why the mini-emirate is the cuckoo in the nest of international affairs.

Under the autocratic rule of Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who seized control of the country from his father, Khalifa, in 1995, Qatar’s brand rapidly expanded and it’s been further burnished by Hamad’s son, Tamim, who took over in 2013.

The 33-year-old emir has continued the deceit of being the West’s best of ‘frenemies’ by continuing to buy in Western expertise, weaponry and commercial assets, while exporting extremist Wahabbi Islam anywhere opportunity presents itself.

WORLD CUP WINNER: Tamim al-Thani, the young emir of Qatar, plays host to FIFA boss, Sepp Blatter

WORLD CUP WINNER: Tamim al-Thani, the young emir of Qatar, plays host to FIFA boss, Sepp Blatter

Though not official regime policy, Qatar gives a nod and wink to its host of obscenely rich citizens’ generosity to Al-Qaeda offshoots throughout the war-torn region and provides sanctuary to reviled hate preacher, Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

The spiritual guru of the terror franchise – whose followers praise the Islamic State’s (IS) barbarities in Iraq and Syria as ‘great victories – once told Al Jazeera of his admiration for Hitler’s genocide of the Jews, vowing, ‘Allah willing, next time it will be at the hands of [we] believers.’

However, Qatar’s recurrent problem is misreading the runes, never more naively than in believing the Arab Spring would somehow herald an era of Sharia sunshine to replace the people’s yen for accountable democracy.

Despite Doha’s best efforts to prop up Egypt’s brief, Muslim Brotherhood government, the army’s counter-coup put paid to it.

A similar strategic cock-up besets Qatar in post-Gaddafi Libya, where it bankrolls Libyan Dawn, a bunch of jihadi thugs busy lining their own pockets through oil piracy in Tripoli.

Ditto meddling in Syria, where the emirate’s middlemen fund the Al Qaeda-linked cutthroats of Jabhat al-Nusra, only to have seen them seriously squeezed between forces loyal to the Al Assad tyranny and IS’s savages.

And Qataris could hardly hide their embarrassment when the Afghan Taliban were invited to open an office in Doha, only to hoist their inflammatory black flag over the building.

Then there’s the emirate’s funding of Hamas – long branded a ‘terrorist entity’ throughout the West – whose leaders purloined Qatar’s £250-million gift ‘to ease Gaza’s suffering’ to buy arms and build the network of terror tunnels which Israel destroyed in Operation Protective Edge.

Meanwhile, a six-star Doha hotel suite is where Hamas’s political supremo, Khaled Meshaal, calls home, counting his estimated £1.6-billion fortune, while his people scavenge through the ruins of their war-ravaged dwellings for the bare necessities of life.

It was reportedly at Meshaal’s request that Qatar allied itself with Turkey and laid down conditions for a ceasefire with Israel that heavily favoured Hamas…until, that is, Egypt pour scorn on them and sorted out a truce that reflected reality.

WORLD CUP LOSER: Qatar soccer chief, Mohamed bin Hammam, said to have paid out millions to secure the oily emirate's soccer fortune

WORLD CUP LOSER: Qatar’s disgraced ex-soccer chief, Mohamed bin Hammam, reportedly paid out millions to secure sport’s greatest prize for the oily emirate

However, the emirate’s mule-headed determination to stamp its authority on anything and everything in the Middle East still knows no bounds, whatever the neighbours say.

And several can barely contain their rage over Qatar’s obsession with its revolutionary buddies, however impeccably Islamic they are.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have already withdrawn their ambassadors from Doha and, in July, Bahrain detained three Qatari as spies.

Still, there was some good news for Doha last week when FIFA – who else, when money talks so loudly? – dismissed accusations Qatar had ‘bought’ the 2022 World Cup, despite an Everest of circumstantial evidence that the emirate’s disgraced soccer sheikh, Mohamed bin Hammam, secretly paid millions to buy the votes of football officials worldwide.

The sweeteners, claim FIFA insiders, were doled out not to influence the destination of the Cup, but for bin Hammam – now banned from the game for life – to replace the smug Swiss, Sepp Blatter, as soccer’s unassailable supremo.

Qatar, though, is not out of the dock yet.

Instead, it faces stinging condemnation over its ruthless treatment meted out to poor emigrant worker, at least 1,000 of whom have died while working on the £77-billion World Cup construction sites. And that horrific number is expected to reach 4,000 by the time the tourney kicks off in eight years’ time.

Most scathing is a report by Amnesty International, which stated workers were effectively slave labour, forced to work 14-hour days for months on end, without wages, in temperatures of up to 45C/113F, and without adequate access to water, safety equipment or medical care.

But, as the Qataris might say, that’s a small price to pay for the kudos of being the first Arab state to host the World Cup.

Obama’s ‘mini’ strike will make no difference to the bloody mayhem that’s the Middle East

Back in the 1970s, Britain’s then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson – whose tweedy, pipe-smoking image hid a razor-sharp intellect and wit – famously quipped, ‘A week is a long time in politics.’

But, never in any previous seven days, has there been such a flurry of monumental follies to equal what has been witnessed on both sides of the Atlantic this past week.

First, the dithering peacenik, Barack Obama, bowed to persuasion by Britain’s leader, David Cameron and France’s Francois Hollande, discovered some spleen and announced, yes, he’d teach the bloodthirsty butcher of Damascus, Bashar Assad, a short, sharp lesson for gassing over 1,400 of his own people.

For his part, Cameron then rushed to recall Parliament for MPs to rubber-stamp approval for the UK to support the American intervention in the Syrian bloodbath…only to narrowly lose the vote, thanks to the 11th hour back-stabbing of Red Ed’s Milibandits (plus a cluster of government rebels and no-show ministers). Result: abject humiliation for the PM.

‘The British aren’t coming!’ screamed the New York Post, as US Secretary of State, John Kerry, praised France as ‘our oldest ally’, clearly afflicted by amnesia and forgetting how the French were rubbished as ‘cheese-eating, surrender monkeys’ for failing to turn up for the Iraq War.

MIXED MESSAGES: Having made up his mind to strike Syrian, Obama is now asking Congress

MIXED MESSAGES: Having ‘made up his mind’ to strike Syrian, Obama is now asking Congress

It got worse – or better, depending on your viewpoint – when Obama took to the podium in the White House Rose Garden on Saturday to outline his moral, humanitarian imperative to stop tyrants resorting to chemical weapons…only to announce he, too – a la Cameron – would consult Congress about slapping down Assad.

What the President failed to clarify is what he’d do if US lawmakers copycatted their British counterparts and voted ‘No’ to the proposed ‘limited’ missile strikes, intended to remind all barbaric despots the civilised world won’t tolerate the gassing of innocents.

So what message was Obama trying to send?

As his ‘coalition of the willing’ fails to find traction, did he feel in need of Congressional assurance to engage in an act of war? Or was he seeking to get himself off the self-inflicted hook after drawing ‘red lines’ in the Syrian sand a year ago, with off-script remarks to reporters about a future intervention in Syria, should Assad get even naughtier?

The only certainty – and even that’s not a given – is nothing will happen immediately, because representatives and senators won’t be back on duty until September 9 and Obama must journey to Russia this week to attend the G20 Summit.

So the President, whose default setting is to stay out of any fray, has made up his mind…well, sort of.

Meanwhile, a grouchy United Nation’s Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, blathered about how only the Security Council (SC) can rule on Syrian intervention, insisting diplomacy is the one sure-fire way to end the bloody, internecine conflict that’s already claimed 100,000 lives, not to say created over a million refugees.

DIPLOMATIC DILEMMA: The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon insists on jaw-jaw, not war-war to sort out Syria

DIPLOMATIC DILEMMA: The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon says jaw-jaw, not war-war can sort out Syria

What La-La Land nonsense! The UN couldn’t stymie a storm in a teacup; it’s an utter irrelevance; a meaningless, neutered, toothless, clawless, clueless pussycat on the world stage and the SC’s five permanent members will split 2/3 – Russia and China voting ‘No’; the US, Britain and France ‘Yes’ – on any move to chastise Assad.

All Ban can do is wave the eventual report of his arms inspectors to Syria, which will indicate if and how gassings took place – but, specifically, without pointing a finger of culpability at either the tyrannical regime or the rag-tag rebels.

One wonders, then, was the inspectors’ journey really necessary, because, according to Kerry, there is irrefutable intelligence to prove Assad opened up his bio-arsenal and used it lethally more than once.

Ah, I hear you say, we travelled the ‘intelligence’ route before to justify the invasion of Iraq. And memories are still raw over the now discredited ‘dirty dossier’ showing Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which proved – how should I put it subtly – a tad overegged.

That legacy clearly gave British MPs the jitters and reflected the UK public’s apathy over the dog’s dinner that is the Middle East (and, no doubt, the same applies to war-weary Americans).

However, it did not justify Miliband double-crossing Cameron by forcing the Prime Minister to redraft a ballsy resolution with a document so wishy-washy it was puerile in intent, then foisting his own, nit-picking motion on the House of Commons that said pretty much the same thing.

Unsurprisingly, both failed to pass muster. And, though Labour is temporarily all smiles, it demonstrated the Left fiddled with political point-scoring while Syria burned and Miliband can never again be trusted to claim the moral high ground.

Cameron’s mistakes were dual-fold: he didn’t need to act in such haste by recalling parliament four days before it was scheduled to reconvene; and he failed to do his arithmetic on the expected votes tally.

Plus, he was being over-democratic by giving MPs the final say on whether Britain joined the US initiative, since a British PM can claim the ‘Royal Prerogative’ and act unilaterally when military action is considered urgent.

The net result of the folly of the UK’s Lib-Con government and the Labour Party’s cynical crowing is the country has sacrificed its claim to be ‘Great’ and now is relegated to simply ‘Britain’.

On the other side of the Pond, Obama risks a similar humbling by asking Congress’s consent.

SYRIA'S SUFFERING: Victims of gassing add to the 100,000 death toll

SYRIA’S SUFFERING: Victims of ghastly gassing add to the 100,000 death toll

Joe and Joanna Public across the West have little appetite for more military adventures, however miniscule, and nobody has a real clue about the dog’s dinner-cum-moral maze that is the Middle East.

Egypt is a basket case; Iraq a quagmire of hatred; a return to Taliban rule is predicted in Afghanistan when coalition troops finally retreat; Iran’s quest for nuclear weaponry is nearly certain to succeed, such is the West’s incompetence in dealing with the mad mullah’s deceit; Lebanon is on the edge of implosion; and Jordan’s monarchy could fall at the slightest push.

Israel, meanwhile, sits it out on the sidelines, uncomfortably aware that Assad’s backers in Tehran desperately want to draw it into war, as do the Al-Qaeda headbangers in the rebels’ ranks.

And, set against this powder-keg backdrop, the US and nationalist Russia square up, rekindling memories of the Cold War.

If ever there’s a ‘lose-lose’ scenario the Middle East is it.

And – with or without Obama’s intervention, however strategically surgical it is – matters are only going to get worse before sanity prevails in the region, if, indeed, it ever does.

Eat your ‘red line’ words, Mr. President – or show some real stomach for a fight

There’s a question I’d like to ask Barack Obama right now: Where does a red line become a green light?

You’ve guessed, of course, because the answer is self-evident… in Syria.

Nonetheless, I’d be interested to hear how the US President unhooks himself off a peg he fashioned a year ago, when, in sternly unambiguous language, he warned dictator Bashar al-Assad a red line would be crossed if ever biological weapons were moved, let alone unleashed on the Syrian people.

Yet, even before last week’s horrific massacre that probably took at least several hundred lives, Obama knew the Demon of Damascus had already employed his chemical arsenal to lethal effect more than once.

And, though, as yet, there isn’t incontestable proof Assad wasn’t embolden to repeat the war crime on a far grander scale, the finger of suspicion points inexorably in his direction.

However, there are caveats. Aided by Iranian Republican Guards and Hezbollah cutthroats, government forces are reportedly crushing the opposition. And, with UN arms inspectors in town to check the scenes of earlier gassing incidents, it’s a questionable moment to re-deploy deadly nerve agents.

Contrarily, maybe in his Machiavellian mindset, Assad is counting on the swirling fog of civil war to cloud culpability and/or deliberately tweak Obama’s nose, knowing his allies, Russia and China, will parry any UN censure.

They did exactly that last Wednesday, rendering a Security Council statement gutless. However, in the light of international condemnation, Russia has been forced to back calls for a probe, even if Vladimir Putin still insists his pet tyrant isn’t the guilty party.

A MOTHER MOURNS: Many of the victims of the recent gassing in Syria were children

A MOTHER MOURNS: Many of the victims of the recent gassing in Syria were children

And it is not outside the realm of possibility that the motley rebels – especially battle-hardened jihadis, sprinkled with Al-Qaeda affiliates – concocted a ‘false flag’ black op to smear the Assad regime, not that it any needs help in cloaking itself in further opprobrium.

But, if Obama drew a red line in the Syrian sand and someone took this as a green light to act in gross defiance, what price the warning from the leader of the free world?

All we’ve heard is Obama has – finally! – asked his generals to ‘provide all options for all contingencies’, as he views the worsening situation with ‘grave concern.’

Understandably, after Iraq and Afghanistan, the West doesn’t want any more complicated adventures on Muslim soil or another gung-ho president in the mould of G. ‘Dubya’ Bush.

Yet, after seeing the hope that began as the Arab Spring lurch into an Islamic Winter and now serial slaughter, what is not required is a vacillating, over-conciliatory, moralising poseur, who talks the talk but patently fails to walk the walk.

And, while Obama may be the coolest dude to occupy the Oval Office, for all his theatrical gravitas, he’s in danger of becoming the lamest duck President since bumbling Jimmy Carter, which takes some underachieving.

He signalled this potentiality from the very start of his first term in office, when his initial foray overseas was to Cairo, where he made a grovelling speech, which the Arab world predictably scoffed at.

Since then, where Middle East matters are concerned, Obama has rarely put a foot right.

Admittedly, his options with Syria are now limited, particularly since he muffed the chance to be effectual a year ago, before the conflict became the magnet for every turbaned headbanger with an AK47 to hitch a camel-ride and join the carnage.

That lost window of opportunity would have afforded the West the chance to supply the then mainly moderate rebels at least with light arms plus anti-tank ordnance and prod the bunglers of the Arab League into helping clean up a mess in their own back yard.

MUFFED IT: Obama misses a putt during a golf game, just as he muffed the chance to sort out Syria

MUFFED IT: Obama misses a putt during a golf game, just as he muffed the chance to sort out Syria

Instead, like the legal geek he is, Obama navel-gazed, preferring to wag a reproving finger at Bashar The Basher and mutter darkly about ‘red lines’.

Well, one way or another, they have been crossed and, as the US Commander In Chief huffs and puffs, Vladimir Putin unfailingly delivers macho support to the Assad mafia, however disingenuous Russia’s morally-bankrupt motives are.

Britain and France, meanwhile, seem up to the challenge of trying to stop the Syrian madness escalating into a mini-holocaust – the death-count is already beyond 100,000 and largely composed of innocent civilians, many of them children – though UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, doesn’t specify what sort of intervention he has in mind.

It might mean establishing no-fly zones to checkmate Assad’s MIGs or bombing his missile batteries, as the RAF and French air force did to help oust Muammar Gaddafi in Libya; conversely, it could involve selectively arming rebels, but ensuring weaponry doesn’t reach those seeking to impose an anti-Western, Sharia paradise on Syria; or it may mean diplomatically arm-twisting Russia and China to bring Assad to the peace talks table.

It should not mean, as Hague and his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, have been at pains to stress, Western troops on the ground.

But at least they are talking robustly in a test for the West inflicted by the rhetoric of an American leader, who, so far, seems to display no real stomach for a fight.

So I suggest Obama recalls what he said on August 20, 2012, and, if he doesn’t, here’s a reminder:-

‘We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.’

Now the world waits with mounting urgency to hear what the President’s solution is, before droves more innocents die in Syria.

If something positive isn’t quickly forthcoming, I suggest Obama pops into the White House kitchen, butter two slices of bread, insert his words in between and eats them.

Doing your bit now for Syria is too little, too late, Mr. President

As the weight of history leans ever more heavily on his shoulder – and no US President wants to leave office looking like a ‘wuss’ – Barack Obama is about to shed his conflict aversion.

‘Stop leading from behind,’ his friends chorus apropos Syria’s civil war, while ex-President Bill Clinton is even more critical, describing his Democratic Party successor as a ‘fool’ and that word, ‘wuss’ (a term I’m unfamiliar with, but can’t help thinking it’s not a compliment).

Obama’s problem is two-fold: firstly, his default setting is that of a liberal conciliator, who, for all his silver-tongued oratory, would rather shut up than put up; secondly, he slavishly follows opinion polls, which Slick Willy says isn’t the hallmark of a true leader.

Because, of all US Commanders in Chief, Clinton knows there are limits to navel-gazing, as he admitted – with teary regret – after shutting his eyes to the Rwanda genocide. That was why he finally ignored the people’s voice, took up military cudgels and sorted out the Bosnia-Kosovo mess, after Europe and the UN had lamentably failed.

The Syrian bloodbath, however, is riddled by complexities that threaten the worst of worse-case scenarios. Plus, coming as it does when the West is untangling itself from controversial engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq – after an Arab Spring that has transited into an Islamic Winter – no-one wants a Cold War-style stand-off.

But, while Obama’s policy of wait and berate may have seemed laudable after G ‘Dubya’ Bush’s gung-ho era, sitting on the sidelines, manicured fingers crossed that Syria’s goody rebels – not those nasty Al-Qaeda types – would topple the detestable Bashar Assad, is growing a remoter possibility by the day.

STAYING GLUM: Obama ponders over arming the Syrian rebels

STAYING GLUM: Obama ponders over arming the Syrian rebels

And now the President has fallen into a trap of his own making. When, last August, he threatened ‘red lines’ would be crossed if the Demon of Damascus ever resorted to chemical weapons, Obama should have realised it would only be a matter of time before that likelihood happened and the snare was triggered.

It has been, even if Bashar’s Russian buddies claim evidence is flimsy.

In reality, so far perhaps only a few hundred Syrians have been victims of gassing, probably by sarin. And while I don’t denigrate that appalling statistic, Obama’s stress on bio-warfare being a game-changer somehow diminishes the other 93,000 fatalities, whose deaths by conventional weapons were mostly far grislier than from anything concocted in a laboratory.

To be fair, the off-the-cuff , ‘red lines’ remark to journalists was made when the rebels – under the banner of the secularly moderate Syrian National Council (SNC) – looked short-odds favourites to win and fears were growing the maverick regime would break open its biological arsenal and stage a gory last stand.

Less than a year on, however, the tables are turning dramatically in Assad’s favour, after worse dangers than the sporadic use of nerve agents have exploded onto the bloodletting.

On one side, thousands of Shiite fanatics from Hezbollah have streamed over the Lebanese border to prop up the despot and they are being joined by an estimated 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards, all tooled up with increasingly sophisticated Russian weaponry.

In the rebel corner, provisioned by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, countless, rabidly Sunni jihadis from every corner of the globe, including Britain, have flooded into Syria, itching to take a swipe at Assad and his foreign legion.

FIGHTING BACK: But anti-Assad rebels are looking to the West to arm them

FIGHTING BACK: But anti-Assad rebels are looking to the West to arm them

It is these combined alien elements, not gas, that have proved the real game-changer. And, far from being internecine strife, Syria has become the battleground for a proxy war between Islam’s opposing ideologies.

Now – after Obama’s failure at last week’s G8 confab to talk Vladimir Putin into halting Russia’s ‘arms-lift’ to Assad – thanks to his ‘red lines’ warning, the US President is faced with a humiliating volte face or putting his munitions where his mouth is.

The nightmare fear is that US weaponry will fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda affiliates and eventually be used against the West. Certainly, nobody with a modicum of marbles has forgotten Afghanistan, where the CIA equipped the mujahedeen against the Soviets and Osama bin Laden was regarded as a ‘good guy’, a fact chillingly underlined by Putin.

So the talk is of supplying limited battlefield technology, maybe light arms plus anti-tank missiles, and pray a diplomatic miracle – one of the magnitude of Obama walking on the nearby lake – will somehow happen if a Geneva peace conference slated for later this month takes place.

Should it do, the likelihood is everyone will turn up, with the possible exception of the adversaries. Having clawed back the initiative, Assad has nothing to gain by making an appearance. And the SNC, who certainly don’t speak for all the rebel factions, insist on the tyrant retreating into ignominious exile before they’ll come for a natter.

Far from a ushering in a breakthrough, the meeting’s chances of success can best be summarised by an expression incorporating the words ‘snowball’, ‘chance’ and ‘Hell’.

Meanwhile, with an eye to his legacy, Obama won’t want to be remembered as a Jimmy Carter Mark II, though there’s every danger he will.

Imitating probably the most inept, post-WW2 occupant of the White House – who blundered monumentally in the Iran Hostages Crisis with a botched rescue mission and was serially incompetent in handling the US economy – Obama missed a real window of opportunity to halt the Syrian carnage more than a year ago.

Urged on by his then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and Pentagon top brass to outfit the rebels when their fortunes were soaring and they weren’t infested by Islamist headbangers, he dithered, dallied and did nothing.

Today, then, it’s nigh on impossible for the President to make a moral, humanitarian case for intervention, because that time has elapsed.

The best Obama can hope for is to claim, ‘Well, I did my bit.’

But whatever that bit is, it’s a bit too little and a lot too late.

Britain should take French lessons in how to get rid of Islamo nasties

Zoot alors – or words to that effect! Here I am, breaking the habit of a lifetime and actually singing the praises of French politicians.

First, let me state emphatically this is entirely unrelated to President Francois Hollande’s crass mismanagement of an economy that’s stinks worse than an over-ripe Camembert, where recession deepens and a record 3.22 million – 10.6% of the workforce – are jobless.

Indeed, I’ll even desist from naming and shaming the host of Champagne Socialists in Hollande’s regime, who put the flushest of Old Etonians in David Cameron’s Cabinet to shame when it comes to piling up the moolah.

So what am I doing extolling the virtues of Gallic lawmakers and some of their loonier edicts – retaining a 35-hour week and thinking you can compete with the Germans…words fail me – whose peccadilloes are very much in keeping with notoriously lax, French political custom and practice?

Where France excels, however, is in its attachment to the principles of La Révolution of 1789, when aristos were trundled off to the guillotine in tumbrels without so much as a by-your-leave trial (okay, okay…there was a pretence of one, but it was a foregone conclusion they’d always end up several inches shorter later that day).

Today, it applies rather differently, but nonetheless with the same ruthless efficiency.

Because, when it comes to dealing with nasties – particularly of the Islamic persuasion, foaming at le gob with notions of imposing sharia rule on the nation where liberté, égalité, fraternité were invented – the French retain the final word…and it’s ‘Non!’

Instead of ‘Off with their heads’, nowadays it’s ‘Au revoir and off you go’ and Abdul, Ali or Mo are on the first plane out of Paris De Gaulle to be delivered to from whence they came.

MOCKING JUSTICE: But hate preacher, Abu Qatada, wouldn't have escaped expulsion in France

GOING, GOING…NEARLY GONE: Hate preacher, Abu Qatada,  has  agreed to quit the UK, but he wouldn’t he have escaped French expulsion  for so long

So why has Britain been stuck with the ogrish spectre of Abu Qatada, who made a mockery of five Home Secretaries’ attempts over the last 10 years to deport him back to his native Jordan, where he has been convicted on terror charges in absentia.

At least, the odious, hate preacher – who arrived in the UK on a false passport in 1993 and was described by a judge as ‘Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe’ – threw in the towel yesterday (April 10) and agreed to hop it home, once a new treaty guaranteeing him a fair trial is ratified.

However, had he chosen La Belle France instead of Angleterre in the first place, he’d already be banged up in an Amman jail, counting his prayer beads and ruing his luck.

Like Britain, France is a liberal democracy, a member of the EU, a signatory to the convention on human rights and, likewise, at the mercy of the boneheads who sit in judgement at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. Unlike Britain, it is also a member of the Schengen Bloc, so its borders are porous to the sort of people you’d rather not have sharing a garden fence.

Moreover, even with several million Muslim votes at stake, French politicians have passed edicts banning religious symbols – principally the burqa – in public.

Meanwhile, between 2001 and 2010, the French expelled 129 Islamic headbangers while Britain’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, and four of her frustrated predecessors managed to shift only an abysmal nine nasties deemed to pose a threat to national security.

And, bizarrely, France’s Interior Minister didn’t have to jump through legalistic hoops, scurry back and forth to Arab countries – like Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt, whose justice systems are similarly as whiffy as over-ripe Camembert – gaining assurances the jihadi detritus being returned to sender would be treated fairly.

On the other hand, Mrs. May went to immense pains to wring out of the Jordanians guarantees Qatada would not be tortured or that any evidence used against him had not been tainted by brutal interrogation.

This baffling double-standard hasn’t escaped the attention of counter-terrorism expert, Dr. Frank Foley, whose new book, Countering Terrorism in Britain & France (Cambridge University Press), highlights the discrepancies between the Gallic and Anglo approaches to eradicating the dangers posed by extremists.

His conclusion is it that the framework of Britain’s legal system – and how it differs from that across the Channel – is as much to blame as that deservedly much-maligned, judicial joke, the ECHR.

Foley says, ‘In France, individuals only have limited means of preventing their deportation, because of the relevant legal regulations and because of the swift expulsion practices of the French authorities.’

NO, MINISTER: Like her four predecessors, Home Secretary Theresa May can't get rid of Qatada

NO, MINISTER: Like her four predecessors, British Home Secretary Theresa May couldn’t get rid of odious Qatada

There, an appeal does not immediately suspend expulsion, so an individual can be deported and afterwards petition a judge to overrule it from the discomfort of his homeland.

Foley explains, ‘The authorities have pre-empted such legal moves by putting the individual on a plane home within just a few days of the order being issued.’

Nor is France particularly fazed by the niceties of other nations’ notions of justice.

‘The French courts have not overturned any of the government’s deportation decisions on the basis that radical Islamists face a risk of torture or mistreatment if they are returned,’ reports Foley.

However, in Qatada’s case, neither did UK courts. Since 2001, British judges twice upheld efforts to boot him out. And, in 2007, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission agreed Jordanian assurances were enough to override human rights fears. This was upheld in 2009 by the Law Lords, who also ruled that it wasn’t for British courts ‘to regulate the conduct of trials in foreign countries’ or decide on the merits of evidence.

So what was Qatada – who demands Jews and converts from Islam (plus their kith and kin) be murdered and declared it is forever open season on annihilating Americans – still doing dodging Jordanian justice in Britain, while in possession of an £800,000, 4-bedroom house in West London, courtesy of the taxpayer?

The problem stems from various UK governments’ tardiness in reacting to jihadis in the Nineties, when they could have copied the French example and closed a glaring loophole.  Had this been done, a legal cottage industry defending the indefensible wouldn’t have mushroomed, costing millions in Legal Aid, and would have subverted European meddling.

Instead – as Qatada’s case disgracefully demonstrated – knowing Strasbourg would overrule them, powerless UK judges began caving into Abu’s appeals…until Friday’s voluntary game-changer.

So while liberals may insist the French judiciary is more arbitrary and authoritarian, there’s no denying in Britain, with all its traditions of free speech and civil liberty, the law is an ass when it comes to dealing with nasties like Qatada.

Which is why – just before I wash my mouth out with lye soap – I’ll say, ‘Vive la France!

Why you never find a ‘peacenik’ when you need one (clue: the ‘anti-war’ lobby only picks fights to fit its political agenda)

There’s only one given in warfare and it’s that people get killed, maimed or wounded, mostly minus discrimination between innocent civilian or trained military.

Even the shortest conflict on recent record, the Anglo-Zanzibar War, which broke out at nine a.m. on August 27, 1896, and finished 40 minutes later, claimed 501 casualties.

However, now it seems the debate regarding victims, whether in or out of uniform, has progressed to something bordering on the darkly ridiculous. Because, it’s no longer a simple matter of who war’s grim harvest reaps, but what strikes the deadly blows.

For instance, last week four Western intelligence agencies – the CIA, MI6, France’s SDECE and the Israeli Mossad – confirmed that a ‘red line’ had been crossed in the vicious, internecine Syrian conflict by the use of chemicals, probably the nerve agent, sarin.

This, of course, wouldn’t be the first time such weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) had been used in the Middle East.

They certainly didn’t induce insomnia in Saddam Hussein, after he ordered the gassing of tens of thousands of Kurds in the Iraqi town of Halabja, in 1988, during the Iran-Iraq War. And my guess is they’d get a hero’s reception from Hamas and Hezbollah.

However, under the arcane rules of conflict etiquette, antagonists usually agree to abide by the 1925 Geneva Protocol banning such WMDs.

Even Hitler, who had no compunction in gassing six million defenceless Jews and countless others with cyanide-based Zyklon B, drew back from employing chemical agents on the battlefield. Maybe experience of being temporarily blinded by mustard gas in WW1 weighed heavily even on his psychopathic conscience.

The dilemma facing the West over poisoned gas attacks in Syria is where to pin blame. The odds are heavily stacked in favour of Bashar Al Assad being the culprit, but President Obama is demanding incontrovertible proof it wasn’t the motley bunch of rag-tag rebels – which includes elements of Al-Qaeda and rabid Salafist extremists – ranged against the Demon of Damascus, however unlikely that scenario is.

Quite what America will do when cast-iron evidence is presented is, as ex-US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might have said, an ‘unknown known’ or even a ‘known unknown.’ Take you pick from Don’s gobbledygook.

But that’s not to belittle the fact that a ‘red line’ – as laid down by Barack Obama and, more emphatically, by Hillary Clinton in her tenure as US Secretary of State – has been crossed. And, if such boundaries are to mean anything, some kind of counter-measure has to be fashioned, especially since an estimated 70,000 Syrian civilians have already perished and a million-plus more have become refugees.

PROTEST ENDGAME? The marchers haven't much left on their anti-imperialist agenda to take to the streets

PROTEST ENDGAME? The marchers haven’t much left on their anti-imperialist agenda to take to the streets

As an aside, what strikes me as odd is this vile crime against humanity has barely raised a peep from the lippy, self-appointed ‘peace lobby’ – the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), Stop The War Coalition, War On Want et al – who believe they hold the patent on the moral high ground.

So where are the protest marches against Assad? Why no  banners hoisted high? What’s happened to the masses who throng Trafalgar Square? Have rabble-rousers, like George Galloway, Ken Livingstone and Tony Benn, been inexplicably struck mute?

No, the unvarnished truth is there’s nothing in it for them; unlike Iraq or Palestine/Gaza, say, Syria lacks a far-Left, anti-imperialist/Western narrative and if they can’t cherrypick their agenda, the ‘peaceniks’ retreat into the shadows.

Which is exactly where they’ve been skulking during the last decade, as the implacable headbangers of Iran lie, obfuscate and torpedo talks about their nuclear ambitions, while inching ever closer to an atomic bomb.

Perhaps, too, CND has become passé, because it’s achieved zilch since its inception in 1957, except drum-banging and giving purblind appeasers the odd day out. In fact, it might as well transpose its initials to CDN and accepted it Can Do Nothing.

But, hark! I hear the rumble of a grumble festering in the ranks of the pacifist diehards, though it’s not remotely connected to Assad’s murderous tactics in keeping his grisly mitts on Syria or Iran’s mad ayatollahs threatening Armageddon.

Instead, its unrighteous indignation is aimed at a ‘smart’ weapon in the West’s arsenal call the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – a.k.a. UAV, Reaper or drone – which has been employed for some time against Al Qaeda and Taliban cadres, mainly holed up in the hostile badlands along Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

DOWN WITH DRONES: The peaceniks hate them, but UAVs are the ultimate, battlefield weapon

DOWN WITH DRONES: The peaceniks hate them, but UAVs are the ultimate, battlefield weapon

What’s raised the dander of the do-gooders is the drones are now being controlled by trained pilots based 3,500 miles away from the battlefront, in RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire.

And, according to the ‘peace lobby’ that’s grossly unjust, even in an asymmetrical war against an enemy that wears no uniforms, doesn’t mass in serried ranks, pursues a ruthless terror strategy and uses the local populace as human shields.

Rafeef Ziadah, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, claims: ‘Drones, controlled far away from conflict zones, ease politicians’ decisions to launch military strikes and order extrajudicial assassinations, without democratic oversight or accountability to the public.  Now is the time to ban them – before it is too late.’

Democratic oversight and accountability to the public?’ What utter drivel, because since when did we hold a plebiscite every time a NATO squaddie lines up a terrorist in his crosshairs?

And too late for what? Saving Allied and civilian lives? Terminating religious fanatics, who want to impose a 7th Century religious credo on the world, enslave women, decapitate homosexuals, persecute infidels and export terror attacks to distant New York, London and Madrid?

One can only presume Mr. Ziadah and those who share his hypocritical alternative universe will be happy to sit on the next Clapham omnibus that gets eviscerated by a jihadi suicide bomber.

Or perhaps he ought to listen to John Taylor, who lost his daughter, Carrie, in the 7/7 London attacks and speaks for a great many more decent, enlightened folk than the entire ‘anti-war’ lobby put together.

He said: ‘If Al Qaeda wants to fly aircraft into buildings and send people with backpacks on to trains, I am quite happy for us to use UAVs, drones and the lot. It is part of modern warfare. These people brought the war to us, so anything we can do to stop them killing us and our soldiers I am quite in favour of.’

This isn’t the sentiment of revenge, but common sense. Because if wars must be fought – and, incredible as it may seem to the ‘peace-at-all-costs’ fraternity, nobody but nutters want them – we’re entitled to use whatever legitimate weapons we possess to protect ourselves.

If we didn’t, and the views of Messrs Ziadah & Co had prevailed 75 years ago, by now all in the UK would be speaking a language other than English.