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So, the Iranians have retaliated following the seizure of one their oil tankers off Gibraltar by the Royal Marines. And where were was the US Navy when Iranians intercepted a British-flagged oil tanker in Omani waters? We heard a British frigate advising the tanker not to stop for the Iranians and trying to warn off the boarders. But for some reason, the Iranians paid no attention. There are some who would say that the boarding  of the Stena Empero was an act of piracy. The United States has a large military presence in the Persian Gulf but watched this piracy unfold. The reason given for the boarding of the Iranian tanker Grace 1 off Gibraltar was that it was suspected of carrying contraband oil to Syria in defiance of European Union sanctions. Pull the other one. Does anyone even remember the EU sanctions? It was a pathetic attempt to curry favour with the Americans as they pile the pressure on Iran for reasons of their own which has back-fired and exposed British military impotency on the world stage. I bet the Iranians wouldn't have risked an international incident if they thought there were a couple of armed Royal Marines on board this and every other British tanker in the Persian Gulf and bullets might fly. But how did the Iranians know the Americans would not intervene? They know their history and they know their United States and how it treats those who think they are its allies.  

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It looks as though Britain is set to become even more of an American poodle. Why else would the Royal Marines be sent to board an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar? Well, a word of warning: don’t expect the Americans to raise a finger to help if that provokes an unpleasant retaliation from the Iranians. Here in Canada we made the mistake of detaining a Chinese businesswoman Meng Wanzhou on behalf of the United States. The argument that Canada was bound to do this due to its international legal obligations have cut little ice with the Chinese. They have effectively halted imports of Canadian canola and meat; are holding two Canadian citizens hostage; and upped the sentence for a Canadian citizen convicted of drug trafficking to death. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau foolishly expected President Donald Trump at the last G20 meeting  to ask the Chinese to cool it. The Chinese gleefully reported Trump had done nothing of the sort. What Trump has done is to say Meng will make a great bargaining chip, once she is deported to the USA, in his own trade talks with the Chinese; thus making a nonsense of Trudeau's claim that he cannot free Meng because this is purely a matter of international criminal justice. Meng is wanted for bank fraud, namely falsely claiming her company does not do business with Iran. Britons, pay heed and take warning.And let's not go into America's record when it comes to securing deportations using perjured evidence.

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I wish folk like the BBC would stop referring to every old lady who worked as a postal clerk at Bletchley Park during the Second World War as a “former spy”. Talk about stretching the facts beyond breaking point. Yes, Bletchley Park was home to a very successful British radio signals interception operation, often called Enigma, but I’m not sure “spy” is a good description. To me, a spy is someone who gathers information inside enemy territory, or perhaps on neutral territory. In much the same way, members of MI5 counter-intelligence are not really spies either.  Nor were the truly brave women who served with the Special Operations Executive in occupied territory, unless they gathered intelligence in addition to their mission to organize resistance work such as sabotage. And MI6 was keen to keep its intelligence operations completely separate from the activities of the SOE. It has even been suggested that MI6 betrayed SOE operatives to help their agents within the Gestapo ingratiate themselves with their German masters. “Spy” is often lazy journalistic shorthand and sometimes even hyperbole. Let’s call a spy a spy and the others what they were. 

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So, no air services now between Lewis and the Scottish mainland. It must be true because I heard Pria Rai say on both the BBC World Service's The Newsroom and World Update that Stornoway could only be reached by boat. The item was about the first anniversary of Stornoway's first mosque. I can only guess that this "alternative fact" was conjured up to bolster a crude attempt for the sake of the story to patronizingly portray Stornoway and the Isle of Lewis as some kind of Uber-Teuchter theme park. You may ask where is the harm in this flight of fancy from Ms Rai when so many programmes now thank their audiences at the end for listening to "The Show". Well, suppose a very busy call centre entrepreneur in India was thinking of opening an operation in Scotland and heard that Stornoway could only be reached by boat. The very busy man decides that Stornoway is therefore somewhere he shouldn't waste any more time considering even adding to the list of possible locations to investigate further. As I say, a very busy man, and he may not have realised yet just how much of a stranger to reality the BBC World Service has become. My guess is neither Ms Rai nor the senior editors at the BBC will even get their fingers rapped for this disgraceful fabrication. After all, the hallmark of incompetence is a combination of ignorance and arrogance. 

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I might have come over last week as being a little harsh when it comes to academia in the United States of America. My disillusion stems from disappointment. I used to look forward to reading what Americans had to say about British military operations. After all, most British military history is written by men from a very narrow section of British society. But unbelievably, most American material proved to be even more flawed. Most of the books were poorly researched  and their conclusions so far wide of the mark that if they had any humour in them they could be safely relegated to a joke pile. And should American troops be involved, all objectivity is thrown aside and what is produced takes blinkered chauvinism to new heights. Way too many of these pathetic tomes were written by US history professors. I pity their students. The notable exceptions are those books written by former American military personnel who have turned themselves into academics. Most of their work is both meticulous and insightful. The American military has a policy of encouraging its officer corps to venture into academia to widen their horizons and some don't come back. By the time they enter the world of academia they are mature and confident enough to take what their professors have to say with the requisite dose of salt. 

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