SOME REALLY GOOD ANTI-ISLAMOPHOBIA NEWS
CBC journalist Shanifa Nasser has an important story entitled Canadian Muslim charity wins ‘milestone’ settlement after being falsely accused of funding terrorism (9 June 2023).
Islamic Relief Canada, one of this country’s largest faith-based charities, which operates in hot spots worldwide, has reached an out-of-court settlement in its $2.5-million lawsuit, including an admission that “false, malicious and defamatory statements” about the charity, alleging it was a “front” to fund terror groups abroad, are “unfounded”.
In the words of Usama Khan, Islamic Relief Canada’s CEO:
This case illustrates the kind of misinformation that legitimate aid organizations too often face in carrying out their vital humanitarian missions.
The defendants in the lawsuit include several lead participants in the truck convoy protests, notably Thomas Quiggin and Benjamin Dichter among others, who began their smear campaign by authoring a false claim to the RCMP that the federal government was funding terrorism with taxpayers’ money by providing grants to Islamic Relief Canada.
The charity’s lawyer, Nader Hasan, told the CBC that, because it operates in hot zones around the world and because of the increased scrutiny that Muslim charities generally face, Islamic Relief is
one of the most audited, scrutinized, and inspected charities in the world.
Israel ban continues despite lack of evidence
Israel maintains a ban on the international federation Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), of which Islamic Relief Canada is a part, despite a “comprehensive, independent” review of its operations in the Palestinian-occupied territories which found no evidence that its West Bank office engaged in any improper or illegal practices.
The governments of the United Kingdom, the United States, Sweden and Canada have all continued to fund IRW’s humanitarian work.
National security watchdog probing possible CRA bias
Earlier this year, CBC News reported that the watchdog for Canada’s security and intelligence agencies has begun an investigation into the CRA’s work on charities following allegations of bias and Islamophobia within its auditing practices.
This investigation in turn follows a legal challenge by the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) claiming that a years-long audit of the charity has been tainted by bias and Islamophobia:
A 2021 report, Under Layered Suspicion: A Review of CRA Audits of Muslim-led Charities, by the University of Toronto’s Institute of Islamic Studies, found that Muslim charities are disproportionately targeted for audits by the CRA:
The report identified structural biases that may be influencing the CRA audit process. They include the belief that Muslims are somehow “inherently foreign or outsider” and a reluctance to accept non-Christian activities as legitimately religious.
The recommendations emphasize the need for the Government of Canada to
formally investigate patterns of bias within the machinery of its agencies and bureaucracies, and create mechanisms of accountability.
The full report is available in PDF format here.
For its part, Islamic Relief Canada says that the legal settlement for the false and defamatory statements affirms what it has always maintained, that it is a
respected, purely humanitarian organization supporting vulnerable people in Canada and around the world.
The CBC article ends with a ringing endorsement of the charity by Lauren Ravon, the Executive Director of Oxfam Canada, with which Islamic Relief has long worked in response to conflict and natural disasters:
The Islamophobic attacks that IRC has been the target of over the years are shameful and absolutely out of step with the professional and principled organization I have always known them to be.
No determination yet regarding Kakhovka Dam destruction
Ukraine and Russia are blaming each other for setting off an explosion at the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant, located on the Dnieper river and under the control of the Russian military.
another devastating consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres described the destruction as “another devastating consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” but added that the UN doesn’t have access to information to independently verify the cause.
As for America, the Washington Post reports on 9 June that
Water levels in the Kakhovka Reservoir had been rising for months and were at a 30-year high when the dam failed. Thousands of residents downstream were evacuated, and floods submerged several villages in Ukrainian- and Russian-controlled areas.
Canadian statement on the destruction of the dam
Canada’s Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly and International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan issued a joint statement on 6 June 2023 underscoring the very serious human, economic and environmental consequences of the dam’s destruction, and pledging Canadian assistance:
Canada stands with Ukraine and remains ready to continue to provide assistance to Ukrainians.
Civilians and critical infrastructures are illegitimate targets of war, and we will ensure that those responsible for this attack and other egregious acts against Ukrainians sovereignty are held accountable for their crimes.
International law implications of deliberate destruction of the dam
The Geneva Conventions and its protocols explicitly ban war-time attacks on “installations containing dangerous forces” such as dams due to the risk posed to civilians. What is less clear is when such an attack amounts to a war crime.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court criminalizes
intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated.
- Whether a particular civilian dam is also a “legitimate military objective” because of the “concrete and direct military advantage” it provides; and
- If so, whether the damage and loss incurred by civilians in the attack on the dam are “excessive” compared to the “concrete and direct military advantage” expected.
For a detailed examination of the American view of international law in relation to attacking dams, with the attack in March 2017 by US forces against the Tabqa Dam, the largest in Syria, as the focus, see Attacking Dams- Part I: Customary International Law (Michael N. Schmitt, 31 January 2022). See also Part II: The 1977 Additional Protocols.
RI President Peggy Mason comments:
Bearing in mind that we do not yet know who is responsible for the dam’s destruction, it seems pretty clear that there is no “direct and concrete military advantage” for either Russia or Ukraine that would outweigh the catastrophic consequences to civilians from the destruction of this dam.
Latest information on the Nord Stream pipelines implicates Ukraine
For the latest information on the destruction of the Nord Stream gas pipelines — which implicates Ukraine, the country with the most to gain and least to lose from the event — see Nord Stream: Zelenskiy rejects claim of Ukraine plot to destroy pipeline (theguardian.com, 8 June 2023), which relies in turn on a Washington Post report on Tuesday that:
a European spy agency told the CIA that it knew of a Ukrainian special operations team’s plan to blow up the Nord Stream gas pipeline — and that the Biden administration was briefed on the matter.
Ukrainian counteroffensive believed to be underway
For a good rundown of what is known — and not known — about the Ukrainian counteroffensive, see Ukraine counteroffensive against Russia under way: think tank (aljazeera.com, 9 June 2023).
More good news: American expert calls for Ukraine war negotiated endgame
On 5 June 2023 the prestigious Foreign Affairs magazine published an article entitled An Unwinnable War – Washington Needs an Endgame in Ukraine by Samuel Charap, a Senior Political Scientist at the RAND Corporation. Charap writes:
It is now time that the United States develop a vision for how the war ends.
Here are his reasons:
Fifteen months of fighting has made clear that neither side has the capacity—even with external help—to achieve a decisive military victory over the other. Regardless of how much territory Ukrainian forces can liberate, Russia will maintain the capability to pose a permanent threat to Ukraine. The Ukrainian military will also have the capacity to hold at risk any areas of the country occupied by Russian forces—and to impose costs on military and civilian targets within Russia itself.
In Charap’s view, rather than continuing with a “devastating, years-long conflict that does not produce a definitive outcome,” the United States and its allies face a choice:
They could begin to try to steer the war toward a negotiated end in the coming months. Or they could do so years from now.
If they decide to wait, the fundamentals of the conflict will likely be the same, but the costs of the war—human, financial, and otherwise—will have multiplied.
Charap reminds us of the costs of a long war between Russia and Ukraine:
- The risk of possible escalation – either to Russian nuclear use or to a Russia-NATO war
- Ukraine on near-total economic and military life support from the West
- Eventual budgetary challenges and military readiness problems for Western countries
- Continuing global economic fallout including volatility in grain and energy prices
- Deepening Russian dependence on China
- Inability of the US to focus on other priorities
Charap also argues that while a long war will also further weaken Russia, it will not extinguish its capacity to pose an ongoing threat to Ukraine.
He therefore concludes:
An effective strategy for what has become the most consequential international crisis in at least a generation therefore requires the United States and its allies to shift their focus and start facilitating an endgame.
Neither side will achieve its stated territorial objectives by military means
Neither Ukraine nor Russia, in Charap’s view, can achieve its stated territorial objectives by military means. To put this another way:
the war will end without a resolution to the territorial dispute. Either Russia or Ukraine, or, more likely, both, will have to settle for a de facto line of control that neither recognizes as an international border.
In order to avoid a long war between Russia and Ukraine that will produce substantially the same results as a strategy of early war termination, Western governments, in Charap’s view, need to
adopt a strategy for war termination—a vision for an endgame that is plausible under these far-from-ideal circumstances.
Settlement of core issues seems currently out of reach
Charap argues that the “fundamental differences” between Moscow and Kyiv on “core issues” such as borders, as well as “intense grievances” after so many casualties and civilian deaths mean that
a peace treaty or comprehensive political settlement that normalizes relations between Russia and Ukraine seems impossible….
But negotiations are still required if a ceasefire arrangement is to be agreed
Charap reminds us:
It is difficult to imagine how the Ukrainian economy can recover if its airspace remains closed, its ports remain largely blockaded, its cities under fire, its men of working age fighting at the front, and millions of refugees unwilling to return to the country.
A settlement is off the table, but an armistice agreement is a plausible goal
Since talks are manifestly needed to effectively stop the war, but final settlement negotiations are currently “out of the question,” Charap argues that
the most plausible ending is an armistice agreement.
An armistice—essentially a durable cease-fire agreement that does not bridge political divides—would end the hot war between Russia and Ukraine but not their broader [political] conflict.
Charap cites the “archetypal case” of the 1953 Korean armistice, which
dealt exclusively with the mechanics of maintaining a cease-fire and left all political issues off the table.
Ukraine must make its own decisions but discussions with allies should now include endgame
While acknowledging that Kyiv will ultimately make its own decisions, Charap believes that
the United States and its allies, in close consultation with Ukraine, can begin to discuss and put forward their vision for the endgame.
Up to this point, Charap does not see any evidence of ongoing efforts within the US government or among Washington, its allies, and Kyiv to think through the practicalities and substance of eventual negotiations.
Compared with the efforts to provide resources for the counteroffensive, practically nothing is being done to shape what comes next. The Biden administration should begin to fill that gap.
An effective strategy will require both coercion and diplomacy
Charap emphasizes that he is not proposing a Western shift from a military to a diplomatic strategy:
Beginning to plan for the inevitable diplomacy can and should occur in parallel with the other existing elements of U.S. policy—as well as with the ongoing war….
An effective strategy will require both coercion and diplomacy. One cannot come at the expense of the other.
And Charap reminds us:
Starting preparations now makes sense also because conflict diplomacy will not yield results overnight.
Measures to implement the ceasefire and “make it stick” will not be easy
Charap underlines the difficulty of implementing ceasefire agreements and references studies that show:
strong agreements that arrange for demilitarized zones, third-party guarantees, peacekeeping, or joint commissions for dispute resolution and contain specific (versus vague) language produced more lasting cease-fires.
These mechanisms reinforce the principles of reciprocity and deterrence that allow sworn enemies to achieve peace without resolving their fundamental differences.
Because these mechanisms will be challenging to adapt to the Ukraine war, Charap warns that
governments need to work on developing them now.
More than bilateral measures will need to be agreed
As was discussed in the early negotiations following Russia’s invasion, security commitments to Ukraine from the US and its allies will need to be part of the equation. But if this takes the form of NATO membership for Ukraine, Charap argues:
From Moscow’s perspective, membership in the alliance would transform Ukraine into a staging ground for the United States to deploy its own forces and capabilities. So even if there were consensus among allies to offer Kyiv membership (and there is not), granting Ukraine a security guarantee through NATO membership might well make peace so unattractive to Russia that Putin would decide to keep fighting.
Squaring this circle will be challenging and politically fraught.
He then suggests a possible alternative security guarantee, modelled on the US-Israel 1975 memorandum of understanding, which was one of the key preconditions for Israel to agree to peace with Egypt.
Article 10 of the agreement reads:
- In view of the long-standing U.S. commitment to the survival and security of Israel, the United States Government will view with particular gravity threats to Israel’s security or sovereignty by a world power. In support of this objective, the United States Government will in the event of such threat consult promptly with the Government of Israel with respect to what support diplomatic or otherwise, of assistance it can lend to Israel in accordance with its constitutional practices.
In addition, Article 7 of the agreement reads:
- In case of an Egyptian violation of any of the provisions of the agreement, the United States Government is prepared to consult with Israel as to the significance of the violation and possible remedial action by the United States Government.
After reviewing these key security commitments by the United States to Israel, in the MOU, Charap concludes:
This is not an explicit commitment to treat an attack on Israel as an attack on the United States, but it comes close.
Applying this precedent to Ukraine, Charap writes:
A similar assurance to Ukraine would give Kyiv an enhanced sense of security, encourage private-sector investment in Ukraine’s economy, and enhance deterrence of future Russian aggression.
In addition, in Charap’s view, Ukraine will need
other incentives such as reconstruction aid, measures of accountability for Russia, and sustained military assistance in peacetime to help Kyiv create a credible deterrent.
Sanctions relief for Russia and European security dialogue must also be part of the equation
In a welcome sign that Charap understands the compromises needed on all sides, he argues that coercive pressure on Russia must be supplemented with
efforts to make peace a more attractive option, such as conditional sanctions relief—with snapback clauses for noncompliance—that could prompt compromise.
The West should also be open to a dialogue on broader European security issues so as to minimize the chance of a similar crisis with Russia breaking out in the future.
United States must create a mechanism to support the diplomatic track
Charap reminds us that an entire new US military command element, the Security Assistance Group–Ukraine — led by a three-star general with a staff of 300 — has been devoted to the aid and training mission.
On the other hand:
there is not a single official in the U.S. government whose full-time job is conflict diplomacy.
Accordingly, Charap recommends:
- A special presidential envoy who can engage with ministries of foreign affairs in all relevant capitals — ministries that have been largely “sidelined” in this crisis.
- US-led informal discussions with Ukraine and among allies in the G7 and NATO about the endgame.
- In parallel, a regular channel of communication regarding the war that includes Ukraine, US allies, and Russia to allow continuous interaction out of the public eye, at least initially.
No one will be fully satisfied with an armistice deal
In the last section of his article, Charap frankly acknowledges that there is no guarantee the negotiations will reach an armistice agreement, and even if they do:
no one would leave fully satisfied.
On the other hand, in the nearly 70 years since the signing of the Korean Armistice, there has not been another outbreak of war on the peninsula and South Korea has emerged as an economic powerhouse and thriving democracy. In his view:
A postwar Ukraine that is similarly prosperous and democratic with a strong Western commitment to its security would represent a genuine strategic victory.
But, let us be clear, an endgame premised on an armistice would leave Ukraine—at least temporarily—without all its territory.
In Charap’s view:
- The death and destruction would end and Ukraine would have the opportunity to recover economically.
- The conflict over the Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine would play out in the political, cultural and economic domains where, with Western support, Ukraine would have advantages.
Regarding European security, Charap writes:
a Russian-Ukrainian armistice would also not end the West’s confrontation with Russia, but the risks of a direct military clash would decrease dramatically, and the global consequences of the war would be mitigated.
Charap’s earlier recommendation that the endgame negotiations include a dialogue on broader European security issues would also hopefully ameliorate the West’s confrontation with Russia.
ADDENDUM: DAVID JOHNSTON RESIGNS
Just after we published, we saw on twitter that the Independent Special Rapporteur, David Johnston, had resigned. His letter of resignation is available in PDF format here.
This is a triumph of character assassination and hyper-partisanship over substantive consideration of serious national security issues.
For a thoughtful commentary, which includes some excellent “next step” recommendations for the Government of Canada, see Wesley Wark’s National Security and Intelligence Newsletter, published shortly after Johnston’s resignation became public, and available in PDF format here.
Photo credit: Wikimedia (Islamic Relief Canada working in Syria)
Ceasefire.ca is a public outreach project of the Rideau Institute linking Canadians working together for peace. We depend on your donations as we accept no funding from government or industry to protect our independence. Thank you for your support….