your editorial (05 January) on the escalating tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia following the latter’s execution of dissident Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, and 46 others, concludes by noting that “the non-Muslim world can do little but watch on and despair”.
Not true at all. The non-Muslim western powers could immediately stop arming such a despotic regime. The combined sales of arms from the UK, France and Germany to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in 2014 alone totalled $3.3 billion, weapons that are likely being used for indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Yemen and possibly even making their way into the hands of Da’esh operatives. Such military support from western Governments, combined with their reluctance to criticise human rights abuses, de-facto grants Saudi Arabia the imprimatur to carry out atrocities - including executing a Shia cleric - that inevitably exacerbate regional tensions.
In 2013 the Irish Government decided to send Irish troops to Israeli occupied Golan Heights in Syria in order to replace the peacekeeping troops with UNDOF that the Austrian Government had decided to withdraw, because they could no longer justify putting their soldiers in danger on such a mission. The UNDOF peacekeeping mission is questionable for several reasons. Firstly, this mission has been in place for over 40 years since 1974, during which time it has failed to restore the Golan Heights to Syrian control, as had been the original intention of this mission. UNEF II peacekeeping was a parallel mission in the Sinai Desert established to restore the Israeli occupied Sinai Peninsula to Egyptian control after the Yom Kippure war in 1973, and it achieved this objective by 1982. The failure of the UNDOF mission to do likewise with the Golan Heights means in effect that this UN mission has been used more to prevent a peace settlement on the Golan Heights rather than to end the conflict there. In 2013, the conflict in Syria spilled over into the Golan Heights “buffer zone” in which UNDOF peacekeepers were located forcing UN peacekeepers to withdraw to the Israeli controlled part of the Golan Heights, indicating a fundamental failure of the UNDOF mission.
Recently it has been revealed that oil has been discovered in the Golan Heights, and that Israel had granted oil exploration licenses to Genie Energy whose advisory board members include Dick Cheney, James Woolsey (former CIA director), Larry Summers (former head of the US Treasury). Afek Oil & Gas an Israeli subsidiary of Genie Energy, is reported to have discovered a huge oilfield in the Golan Heights during 2015. Among the questions that must be asked are: Why are the lives of Irish soldiers being put at risk in such a very questionable mission which appears to have little to do with making genuine peace?
I am fully in favour of Irish soldiers being used to help maintain international peace, on genuine peace missions, and I served with the above mentioned UNEF II mission in the Sinai Peninsula in 1973/74. There are several important peace missions in Africa where high quality peacekeeping troops such as the Irish are urgently needed, including Darfur, the Congo and South Sudan.
What were the real reasons behind the decision by the Irish Government to send Irish troops to the Golan Heights?
Edward Horgan (Commandant Retired), Newtown, Castletroy, Limerick.