NZ troops to train Iraqis

February 24, 2015

Tough decisions are rarely black and white.

The decision to send troops to a war zone, even if it is to train locals rather than engage in combat, is one of the tougher ones a government has to make and the complexities of the Middle East make the issue even more complicated.

The Dominion Post editorialises:

 . . . A political force which prides itself on beheadings and crucifixions of the innocent is intolerable to any democratic state.

The problem is that almost every form of Western intervention is fraught with trouble. The West has learnt from the invasion of Iraq, and the long bloody stalemate in Afghanistan, that making war in the Middle East often makes things worse rather than better.

So the choice is extraordinarily conflicted. Honest opponents of intervention should admit that the decision not to fight is deeply troubling because Isis is evil. Honest proponents of intervention should also admit that the war might have a just purpose but it is also probably unwinnable. . .

The government will have considered all of that in deciding to send troops to train Iraqis and Prime Minister John Key explained the decision in parliament today:

Mr Speaker, today I am announcing to the House the Government’s decisions about our contribution to the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.

Last November I gave a national security speech which outlined the threat posed to New Zealand by ISIL.

This brutal group and its distressing methods deserve the strongest condemnation.

ISIL’s ability to motivate Islamist radicals make it a threat not only to stability in the Middle East, but regionally and locally too.

It is well-funded and highly-skilled at using the internet to recruit.

Disturbingly, if anything, ISIL’s brutality has worsened since I gave that speech late last year.

In recent weeks we have witnessed a mass beheading and the horrific plight of a Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a cage.

And we’ve seen stories of Western hostages who have been kidnapped and killed in barbaric ways.

ISIL’s outrageous actions have united an international coalition of 62 countries against the group.

New Zealand is already considered part of the coalition because we have made humanitarian contributions, with $14.5 million in aid provided to the region so far.

The Government has been carefully considering its options to expand our contribution to the international coalition.

As I outlined in November, our approach is one that addresses humanitarian, diplomatic, intelligence and capacity building issues.

Mr Speaker, New Zealand is a country that stands up for its values.

We stand up for what’s right.

We have an obligation to support stability and the rule of law internationally.

We do not shy away from taking our share of the burden when the international rules-based system is threatened.

We have carved out our own independent foreign policy over decades and we take pride in it.

We do what is in New Zealand’s best interests.

It is in that context that I am announcing that the Government has decided to take further steps to help the fight against ISIL.

The Iraqi government has requested support from the international community and has been clear with us that security is its top priority.

We have been clear that we cannot, and should not, fight Iraqis’ battles for them – and actually Iraq doesn’t want us to.

Our military can, however, play a part in building the capability and capacity of the Iraqi forces so they can fight ISIL themselves.

I have been open with New Zealanders that we have been considering an option to train Iraqi Security Forces alongside our longstanding partner Australia, in Iraq.

Such an operation would be behind the wire and limited to training Iraqi Security Forces in order to counter ISIL and legitimately protect innocent people.

Mr Speaker, the Government has decided to deploy a non-combat training mission to Iraq to contribute to the international fight against ISIL.

This is likely to be a joint training mission with Australia, although it will not be a badged ANZAC force.

Their task will be to train Iraqi Security Force units so they are able to commence combat operations, and eventually able to carry on the work of our trainers – creating an independent, self-sustaining military capability for the Government of Iraq to call on.

The mission will involve the deployment of personnel to the Taji Military Complex north of Baghdad, and this is likely to take place in May.

The deployment will be reviewed after nine months and will be for a maximum two-year period.

The total number of personnel deploying is up to 106 in Taji, and there will be others such as staff officers, deploying in coalition headquarters and support facilities in the region.

The total altogether will be up to 143.

As well as these people, further personnel and Air Force assets will occasionally need to be deployed to the region to support the mission – for example in support of personnel rotations and resupply.

Mr Speaker, a training mission like this is not without danger.

It is not a decision we have taken lightly.

I have required assurances that our men and women will be as safe as they can practicably be in Taji.

Our force protection needs have been assessed by NZDF and determined as being able to be met by the well-trained soldiers of our regular Army.

So we will be sending our own force protection to support the training activities.

I want to briefly address the issue of special forces.

As I said last November, I have ruled out sending SAS or any troops into combat roles in Iraq.

The Chief of Defence Force has advised me that special forces are not part of this deployment.

However, I want to be clear that special forces could be deployed for short periods to provide advice on issues like force protection or to help with high profile visits – as they have many times before.

Our deployment in Taji will include logistics and medical support, as well as headquarters staff.

It is our intention that Iraqi Security Forces be able to assume responsibility for delivering their own training programmes in future.

The New Zealand Government will retain ultimate decision-making authority over the nature and scope of the activities of the NZDF personnel within the mission, and those personnel will deploy with appropriate legal protections.

Exactly what form those legal protections take will be worked through in coming weeks with our Iraqi counterparts.

We will secure the best protections we realistically can for our personnel.

Mr Speaker, our military has a proven track record of carrying out this type of training work in Afghanistan.

This is a contribution that’s in line with our values and our skills.

But this is not all we will do to help.

We recognise ISIL is not a short-term threat and there is a lot of work to be done in the long-term.

Defeating ISIL will mean winning the hearts and minds of those vulnerable to its destructive message.

That will take time.

As I said last year, we have already contributed to the humanitarian cause and we are currently examining options to provide more help.

We are also stepping up our diplomatic efforts to counter ISIL and support stability in Iraq.

As part of this, we are looking at options to base a diplomatic representative in Baghdad to serve as a conduit between the Iraqi government and our military deployment, as well as assess how we can support better governance in Iraq.

We will also expand our diplomatic engagement on international counter-terrorism by appointing a new Ambassador for Counter Terrorism.

Underpinning all this, we will work as a member of the UN Security Council to advocate for effective action on ISIL.

Mr Speaker, last November I told New Zealanders ISIL had been successful in recruiting New Zealanders to its cause.

Our Government agencies have a watch list of between 35 and 40 people of concern in the foreign fighter context and that remains the case.

Unfortunately an additional group requiring further investigation is growing in number.

We have strengthened the ability of our intelligence agencies to deal with this and they are taking steps to add to their resources.

We cannot be complacent, as events in Sydney, Paris and Ottawa have underscored.

To those who argue that we should not take action because it raises that threat, I say this:  the risk associated with ISIL becoming stronger and more widespread far outweighs that.

I know there is already risk.

New Zealanders do too, because they know we are a nation of prolific travellers who have been caught up in terrorist activity around the world many times before.

Mr Speaker, the Government has carefully considered our contribution to the international campaign against ISIL.

We are prepared to step up to help.

New Zealand does not take its commitment to Iraq lightly.

In return we expect that the Iraqi government will make good on its commitment to an inclusive government that treats all Iraqi citizens with respect.

Sending our forces to Iraq is not an easy decision but it is the right decision.

They will go with our best wishes.

To the Dom Post again:

. . . All the signs suggest that Key is doing what Keith Holyoake did in Vietnam – sending the smallest possible force into the war, mainly to keep the allies happy and to show the flag. And probably the most that can be hoped for from this war is to contain Isis and stop it from building a lasting fundamentalist caliphate.

If it can’t build the caliphate, it loses its theological reason for being. And it then might lose some of its support, and splinter under its own murderous fanaticism. None of that is certain to happen, but it is a defensible aim for limited Western military intervention. It is the best option available.

There is no best in situations like this, but sending a limited number of troops to train the locals for a limited time is less worse than the alternatives.


Word of the day

February 24, 2015

Pyromachy  – use of fire in combat.


Rural round-up

February 24, 2015

Celebrating 10 years of educating up-and-coming leaders in agriculture – applications open for 2015 program:

This year marks the 10th year of Rabobank’s Farm Managers Program, with more than 300 young farmers from across New Zealand and Australia graduating from the program since its inception in 2006.

Applications are now open for up-and-coming New Zealand farmers looking to undertake the 2015 Farm Managers Program.

Fifth generation bull beef producer, Rob Simpson from ‘Heaton Park’ in the lower North Island, who completed the program last year, says he was encouraged to attend the course by his father-in-law, who was one of the first graduates of Rabobank’s Executive Development Program.

“My father-in-law got a lot out of the program, and I thought it would be a good way to move forward in my own farming business,” he said. . .

Maniototo scheme ‘lifeblood’ of area – Sally Rae:

 Irrigation in the Maniototo is the ”lifeblood” for the area it serves, says Maniototo Irrigation Company chairman Geoff Crutchley.

To mark the 30th anniversary of the scheme, a jubilee dinner is being held this Saturday, and a public picnic and gala day is being held at the Gimmerburn Domain on Sunday.

The scheme, the last of the large community irrigation schemes built by the Ministry of Works and Development, has a chequered history. . .

Shear For Life fundraiser looming –

The countdown is on for Shear For Life.

Farmers Cole Wells, from Moa Flat, and James Hill, from the Teviot Valley, plan to shear over a 24 hour period, starting on February 28, to raise money for the Cancer Society.

The event will be held at Peter Jolly’s woolshed, near the Tarras township.

Mr Wells said the event had ”come around quickly” but training had been going well. . .

Easy riding in paradise – Rebecca Ryan:

Riding from the country’s highest peak to the ocean by bike, the 301km Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail offers an unforgettable experience, writes Rebecca Ryan.

DAY 1
Aoraki/Mt Cook to Braemar Rd (34.6km)

As a light rain clears, our group of five cyclists, some meeting for the first time, gathered at the start of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, at the White Horse Hill Campground, 2km north of Mt Cook Village.

Our seven-day adventure starts with a 7.2km off-road trail to Mount Cook Airport.

To cycle the Alps 2 Ocean in its entirety from Mt Cook to the ocean, riders must take a two-minute helicopter flight across the Tasman River. . .

Three new Olivers operations opening soon – Lynda van Kempen:

It’s all a changing canvas, says Olivers owner David Ritchie, indicating the finishing work taking place to launch three separate ventures in the complex next month.

After six months of construction work, the picture changes daily as Olivers Restaurant, The Victoria Store Brewery and the Merchant of Clyde cafe/bakery/delicatessen take shape.

All three businesses will run independently and are expected to open in late March.

The redevelopment of the Heritage New Zealand Category 1-listed group of historic buildings in the middle of Clyde has been challenging at times, Mr Ritchie admitted. . .

 United Fresh takes the lead in food safety

New Zealand’s only pan-produce organisation, United Fresh New Zealand Incorporated, has established a new Food Safety and Traceability Committee.

United Fresh Executive Member, Dr Hans Maurer, has been appointed chairman of the committee. Also appointed to the committee are Mathew Dolan from Horticulture New Zealand, Stephen Twinn from Snap Fresh Foods and Anne-Marie Arts from The AgriChain Centre, who was also confirmed in her role as United Fresh Food Safety representative. More members will be appointed to the committee in the coming weeks.

United Fresh President David Smith says the role of the committee is to represent the interests of United Fresh members and New Zealand’s pan-produce industry. . .

 


Understanding idioms

February 24, 2015

15/15 in the idiom quiz:

Awesome job, you ACED this one! This quiz was clearly just another, “rung in the ladder” as you climb your way towards English excellence! You clearly have a mastery of the English language and all of its intricacies used in everyday conversations. Others have, “bitten off more than they can chew” with this quiz because only 19% of quiz takers pass this one.

The bar isn’t set very high so unless you’re a kumara or two short of a hangi you’ll find it’s plain sailing.


Security Council needs to do better

February 24, 2015

Foreign Minister Murray McCully delivered this speech in the UN Security Council Open Debate on the Maintenance of International Peace and Security:

Thank you Mr President.

New Zealand congratulates China for this initiative.

We agree that the 70th Anniversary is the right time for the Council to undertake a measure of serious self-examination, and to assess where we are performing well, and where we are not.

We agree that the Council needs to do much better.

That is clearly the view of UN Members.

With others around this table, New Zealand has just experienced the invigorating process of seeking support from Members to win election to the Council.

We have not been left in doubt as to the desire of member states to see the Council lift its game.

The Council is charged with responding to threats to international peace and security. 

Yet in relation to too many of those current threats, the Council has dealt itself out of its proper role.

Where it is involved, it has often been too late.

The Council has a completely inadequate focus on conflict prevention, and a huge focus on peacekeeping.  

Peacekeepers are hampered and sometimes endangered by poor mandates and inadequate resourcing.

Too many of the cases on the peacekeeping agenda have become part of a revolving list of routine items rather than serious problems that we really expect to solve.

These challenges to the Council’s ability to live up to its mandate in relation to international peace and security are longstanding and complex – some would say intractable.

But we believe it is within the Council’s reach to make real progress.

As we move towards the 70th Anniversary of the establishment of the Council, we should listen to the UN membership, including the smaller members who are often not heard.

We should hear their disappointment and their frustration.

We should resolve to use this Anniversary Year of the Council to take action.

We believe there are three simple areas in which the Council could take action this year.

My first point is that the use of the veto or the threat of the veto is the single largest cause of the UN Security Council being rendered impotent in the face of too many serious international conflicts.

Whether we are talking about Syria or the Middle-East Peace Process, the veto’s impact today far exceeds what which was envisaged in the UN Charter – to the huge detriment of the Council‘s effectiveness and credibility.

We congratulate France on its initiative on the voluntary retirement of the veto in cases of mass atrocities.

We urge the Permanent Members to use this Anniversary Year to find a way to make progress.

While it is difficult, the future credibility of this organisation depends on it.

My second and related point: the Council’s lack of preventive action under Chapter 6, which is again partly the result of the pervasive impact of the veto.

Conflict is costly in human lives, in reconstruction costs, and in lost opportunities for development.

There is something wrong when we are spending over $8 billion per year on peacekeeping but virtually nothing on the responsibility to prevent situations escalating into intractable conflict.

My third point is that we must recognise and address a major weakness in respect of peacekeeping.

We cannot send peacekeepers into dangerous environments without adequate mandates and resources.

The review of peace operations being led by former President Ramos Horta will set scene for the Council to address that issue this year. 

Mr President, the 15 of us at this table can do more.

We can solve these issues.

We must solve them.

The perception of a “failure to act” impacts negatively on the reputations of both the Council and the UN itself.

It is time for us to confront the root causes that have seen this Council avoid the challenging task of conflict prevention simply because the politics and the diplomacy have been too difficult.

New Zealand is ready to work with fellow Council Members to make real progress in addressing these issues.

Only then will we the Council have earned the right to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of this body being conferred the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.

This is a frank and reasoned assessment on the Security Council’s shortcomings and gives three very simple solutions: addressing the problem of the veto; much more preventative work and adequate mandate and resources for peacekeepers.


Shearing’s a sport . . .

February 24, 2015

One of the country’s greatest sportsmen, David Fagan,  has never been recognised in the Halberg awards and Jamie Mackay is launching a crusade to change that:

. . . At the time of writing the five times world champion had won a staggering 634 open-class shearing finals, not to mention the odd junior, intermediate and senior title he picked up along the way as he honed his craft.  

By the time you read this that tally could well be 635 since he was a hot favourite to win the Southern Shears in Gore. With no Rowland Smith and John Kirkpatrick to contend with this season he’s looming large to win his 17th Golden Shears title at Masterton and do likewise for the 17th time in his swansong at the NZ Shearing Championships at Te Kuiti.

If Fagan is successful at either of the aforementioned events then surely he qualifies to be recognised in the 2015 Halberg Awards. 

What more does the man have to do? . .

Fagan did win the Southern Shears in Gore at the weekend.

He also won the speed shearing competition at the inaugural Hilux Rural Games in Queenstown at Waitangi Weekend.

Even if he doesn’t win anything else this year, surely his skill, athleticism, his 635 open-class titles, including five world championships and his 16 Golden Shears titles should qualify him for an award.

He’s not just a champion, he’s a good sport and he’s willing to share his skills. He was working in sheds around Southland before the Southern Shears, teaching up and coming shearers.

Sport is defined as an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

That should cover shearing.

Anyone who doubts it, should read Bulibasha by Witi Ihimaera. It has the most exciting sporting commentary I’ve ever read and the event was a shearing competition.

That shearing is also an occupation should be irrelevant – lots of other sports people are also paid to do what they do.

Shearing is a sport.

Fagan is one of New Zealand’s greatest sportsmen and he should be eligible for recognition at the Halberg Awards.

If the rules don’t allow his inclusion in existing categories then a special category that acknowledges his achievement should be made.


February 24 in history

February 24, 2015

303 – Galerius, Roman Emperor, published his edict that began the persecution of Christians in his portion of the Empire.

1387  King Charles III of Naples and Hungary was assassinated at Buda.

1538 Treaty of Nagyvarad between Ferdinand I and John Zápolya.

1582 Pope Gregory XIII announced the Gregorian calendar.

1607 – L’Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi, one of the first works recognised as an opera, premiered.

1711 The London première of Rinaldo by George Frideric Handel, the first Italian opera written for the London  stage.

1739 Battle of Karnal: The army of Iranian ruler Nadir Shah defeated the forces of the Mughal emperor of India, Muhammad Shah.

1786 Wilhelm Grimm, German philologist and folklorist, was born (d. 1859).

1803 The Supreme Court of the United States, in Marbury v. Madison, established the principle of judicial review.

1804 London‘s Drury Lane Theatre burnt to the ground, leaving owner Richard Brinsley Sheridan destitute.

1822 The 1st Swaminarayan temple in the world, Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Ahmedabad, was inaugurated.

1826  The signing of the Treaty of Yandaboo marked the end of the First Burmese War.

1831 The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, the first removal treaty in accordance with the Indian Removal Act, was proclaimed. The Choctaws in Mississippi ceded land east of the river in exchange for payment and land in the West.

1839 William Otis received a patent for the steam shovel.

1848 King Louis-Philippe of France abdicated.

1868 The first parade to have floats was staged at Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

1868 – Andrew Johnson became the first President of the United States to be impeached by the United States House of Representatives.

1870 – The final detachment of the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment departed from New Zealand, leaving the Armed Constabulary (formed in 1867) responsible for the colony’s internal defence.

Last detachment of imperial forces leaves New Zealand

1875 The SS Gothenburg hit the Great Barrier Reef and sank off the Australian east coast, killing approximately 100.

1877  Ettie Rout, New Zealand activist, was born  (d. 1936).

1893 The American University was chartered by an act of the Congress.

1895 Revolution broke out in Baire beginning the second war for Cuban independence.

1899 Western Washington University was established.

1902 The Battle of Langverwacht Hill ended.

1909 – The Hudson Motor Car Company was founded.

1912: The hull of TSS Earnslaw was launched in Kingston.

The TSS <i>Earnslaw</i> hull cruises on Lake Wakatipu in 1912 on its way to Queenstown. The hull was launched 100 years ago today. Photo from Lakes District Museum.

1917 The U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom was given the Zimmermann Telegram, in which Germany pledged to ensure the return of New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona to Mexico if Mexico declares war on the United States.

1918 – Estonian Declaration of Independence.

1920 The Nazi Party was founded.

1926  Jean Alexander, English actress, was born.

1942 Battle of Los Angeles: a UFO flying over Los Angeles caused a blackout order at 2:25 a.m. and attracted a barrage of anti-aircraft fire, ultimately killing 3 civilians.

1942 Paul Jones, English singer (Manfred Mann), was born.

1945 Egyptian Premier Ahmed Maher Pasha was killed in Parliament.

1948 Dennis Waterman, British actor, was born.

1968  The Tet Offensive was halted; South Vietnam recaptured Hué.

1970 National Public Radio was founded in the United States.

1976 Cuba’s national Constitution proclaimed.

1981 Buckingham Palace announced the engagement of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.

1981 – An earthquake registering 6.7 on the Richter scale hit Athens, killing 16 people and destroying buildings in several towns west of the city.

1989 – Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini offered a USD $3 million bounty for the death of The Satanic Verses’ author Salman Rushdie.

1989 – United Airlines Flight 811, bound for New Zealand from Honolulu, Hawaii, ripped open during flight, sucking 9 passengers out of the business-class section.

1999 – A China Southern Airlines Tupolev TU-154 airliner crashed on approach to Wenzhou airport killing 61.

2006 Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared Proclamation 1017 placing the country in a state of emergency in attempt to subdue a possible military coup.

2007 Japan launched its fourth spy satellite.

2008 Fidel Castro retired as the President of Cuba.

2010 – Sachin Tendulkar scored the first double century in One Day International cricket.

2011 – Final Launch of Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103).

2013 – Patriarch Neofit of Bulgaria was elected and enthroned as a Patriarch of Bulgaria and all Bulgarians.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia and the ODT.


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