The Society of Authors has moved into high gear in the ‘C.R.E.A.T.O.R.’ campaign for fairer contracts for authors. I urge all academics not already members of the Society to join as soon as possible and thereby support this cause. Membership (the cost of which is tax deductible) also has valuable direct benefits, not least the prompt, expert vetting of draft contracts.
I have just published on this site my latest article, ‘Diplomatic security and the birth of the compound system’. I am grateful to Eugenio Cusumano, for stimulating my interest in diplomatic security; John W. Young, for his comments on an early draft; and – as ever – to Jelena, for her patience with my forgetfulness. To read the article, click here.
I am pleased to be able to say that the long-gestating Turkish translations of my biography of Gerald Fitzmaurice (who once described himself as ‘the Wizard of Istanbul’) and his private letters to the young George Lloyd (later Britain’s High Commissioner to Egypt and later still Colonial Secretary) have been published. See Foreign Editions.
On 2 January there were well-publicised attacks on Saudi missions in Iran by mobs angered by the execution of the important Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. This prompted the Saudi government to break diplomatic relations with Iran, and shortly afterwards the Iranian government claimed that the Saudis had retaliated by launching an air strike on its own diplomatic mission in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, which is controlled by pro-Iranian Houthis. However, the press coverage of the incidents in Iran left something to be desired, as did the Iranian government’s account of the fate of its embassy in Yemen. First, serious and lamentable though the attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and consulate-general in Mashhad certainly were (see UN Security Council press release), there is no evidence that they were completely ‘ransacked’ and then ‘torched’, although this was widely reported at the time – in the case of the embassy itself, only an annex appears to have been invaded and set alight. Second, after an initial lapse in honouring their obligation to guard such premises, the Iranian authorities – clearly keen to shake off Iran’s reputation for treating embassy-bashing as a national sport – soon prevented further damage; and the security deputy to Tehran’s governor-general shortly afterwards paid for the lapse with his job. Third, while added plausibility that the Saudis intended to attack the Iranian embassy in Sana’a is provided by their belief that it serves as a vital agency of support to the Houthi rebels, only trivial damage is said to have been inflicted on the building by shrapnel flying from a strike on a neighbouring property, although one or more embassy guards standing outside (probably Yemeni) are reported to have been wounded by the blast.
The breach in diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran is deeply worrying. However, some comfort might be drawn not only from the fact that the extent and savagery of the attacks on their diplomatic premises have clearly been exaggerated but also from the reflection that, despite longstanding and bitter enmity, up to this point there had remained an Iranian embassy in Riyadh as well as a Saudi embassy in Tehran. This holds out the promise that the extra-regional arm-twisting now going on to get them to restore diplomatic relations might not be a completely lost cause. For those generally interested in the role of embassies in circumstance such as these, see my recently published Embassies in Armed Conflict.
The fifth edition of Diplomacy: Theory and Practice has just been published by Palgrave Macmillan. I have not only updated it but also added new chapters on ‘Secret Intelligence’ and ‘Economic and Commercial Diplomacy’. You can read more about it on the publisher’s own website here. Meanwhile, I am refreshing the Online Updating pages – which is quite a big job – and expect to have them posted within about two weeks, together with the new jacket cover on this page.
By way of postscript, I might add that it is good to note the near-exact coincidence of this publication with the announcement, on 14 July, of the nuclear deal with Iran, because the protracted negotiations leading up to it are one of the main examples I employ in the book. (The full text of the agreement can be found on numerous sites, for example here.) I applaud all those who have worked for this settlement and hope earnestly that it is not torpedoed by right-wing Neanderthals in Congress and the Middle East.