One thing is crystal clear: the Assad regime is doomed. But the people of Syria cannot wait while the wheels of diplomacy turn. It is time for all major powers to work with Arab countries to stem the violence. If Russia and China will join us in standing up for Syrians, not propping up Assad, we will gladly work with them.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, sets out the five areas in which the British Government will assist the Free Syria Army ahead of “the inevitable day of Assad’s fall”

As the Games roll on, a colourful reminder that people are still dying in Syria.

Times cartoonist Peter Brookes brings us President Assad of Syria and President Ahmadinejad of Iran in part four of his Rules of the Game series

This is a presidential candidate on a trip designed to bolster his foreign policy credentials, who is literally next door to the greatest foreign policy crisis of the new decade. And, as the fire rages down on Aleppo, he apparently has nothing to say about it at all. No criticism of Russia, no gesture of support for Turkey. No half-sentence about arming rebels, or not arming rebels, or UN resolutions, or anything. Look, I’m not saying it’s easy, but damn it man, you’ve got to say something.

Is Mitt Romney a hawk or just a tactless weirdo? Hugo Rifkind ponders the question

While some radicals in Tehran would argue that Iran had an even greater need for nuclear weapons to compensate for its greater vulnerability following the loss of Syria, a more likely consequence would be a willingness to negotiate with the international community an honourable compromise.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary, believes that the end of the Assad dynasty could provide wider benefits to the Middle East.

At first it was another anti-despot revolt blossoming in the Arab Spring. Soon it became a diplomatic imbroglio involving Arab states, Western powers and the triumvirate of Russia, Iran and China. Last week, Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian despot, labelled it “real war”. Two days later, the Red Cross offered a new label: civil war. But it is also becoming something bigger. It is turning into the battlefield for a mini world war, the outcome of which could affect global politics.

Iranian journalist Amir Taheri says there is an international struggle for power in Syria. President Assad’s brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, a senior defence official, was killed in a suicide bombing in Damascus earlier this morning.

Read more

Times Opinion today | Diamond Bob, Islam and human rights, the beautiful game

Goodbye, Diamond Bob

Bankers who spent £44,000 on wine at the Michelin-starred Pétrus restaurant broke Bob Diamond’s “no jerks” rule. This rule can be extended to all walks of life, says Rachel Sylvester

And the £291 million fine for Barclays pales in comparison to its £3 billion profits. The bank should have been fined no less than £1 billion, says David Davis, the chair of the 20120 Future of Banking Commission

“It is hard to overstate the scandalousness of the bank’s behaviour or its significance for the wider economy,” says The Times

Europe

“This would effectively be in/out/shake-it-all-about,” says a confused Hugo Rifkind of a three-part referendum on EU membership

Middle East

Islam and human rights are not mutually exclusive,” says Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish journalist, praising Turkey’s aggressive stance on Assad’s Syria

More

Football “is not merely a tribal experience but an aesthetic one, too,” says Matthew Syed, in praise of Spain

The Times has been investigating the “export” of damaged children from care homes in London and the South East to cheaper homes in the North West and West Midlands. The Times says this is an “outrage”

Nasa’s new Orion spacecraft brings back memories from the race to the moon

(Times Opinion, Tuesday July 3, 2012)

Times Opinion today | Bob Diamond should go, Obamacare, Bomber Command, beard tax

Barclays and Bob

Diamond should go, says The Times

Banks must be split apart, says Nigel Lawson, the former Chancellor

Also

“I will never see Arnold Schwarzenegger and not think of a brown condom stuffed with walnuts,” says Philip Collins of the “underrated” Clive James

The authorities have taxed “wealth, numbers of female servants, hearths, watches, dogs and salt…beards, beehives, basements, hats, birth, marriage and death…nothing tears a society apart faster than the perception of a tax burden unshared,” says Ben Macintyre.

The memorial to the men of Bomber Command is long overdue, The Times says

The trench warfare that is Obamacare will rumble on, The Times says

Syrian blogger Fares Chamseddine thinks Syrian rebels will welcome Turkey’s sabre-rattling

Ed Miliband’s poll bounce and confidence boost makes it game on for the 2015 election, says Anushka Asthana

(Times Opinion, Friday June 29, 2012)

A Syrian rebel fires a rocket propelled grenade during clashes with Syrian government forces at Saraqeb, Idlib. A United Nations report has highlighted human rights violations “on an alarming scale” across the country and a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva has condemned both sides in the war

The futility of Occupy Hampstead Heath | David Aaronovitch

On Wednesday, some Occupy protestors pitched tents on Hampstead Heath and demanded it be handed over to “the people”. They wanted to prevent money men charging for swimming in the Heath’s ponds and restrict the number of professional dog-walkers.

This futile protest bore no relationship to the views of those living in North London. Ironically, by camping on the park, Occupy spoiled the very amenity they claimed to be protecting.

Yesterday, a man attempted a citizen’s arrest on Tony Blair in Hong Kong on the basis that Blair is Britain’s equivalent of Ratko Mladic or Charles Taylor. The man chose not to protest against widespread repression by the Chinese authorities.

It was the same with the Occupy folk: there’s a war in Syria; protesters versus a dictator supplied with Russian weapons. Number of protestors outside the Russian embassy? A round figure.

Twitter: @DAaronovitch

Read more: Ben Macintyre advises those rattling sabres over Syria and Iran to examine the myth of military glory

The Times says…

Wednesday June 13, 2012

Balkan Ghosts | Oliver Kamm

Balkan Ghosts: that’s the title of our main leading article (£) in today’s paper. It’s about Syria. It argues that there are heavy costs to not intervening. The ghosts are the victims of the Bosnian war of 1992-95, which killed almost 100,000 people in a country the size of Scotland. Historical counterfactuals can never be proved or refuted, but I have little doubt that many of those victims might have lived if Nato airpower had been deployed earlier in the conflict. I make this case in an article in the current issue of Prospect magazine.

The names of the peace plans for Bosnia have passed into history: the Carrington Plan, the Vance-Owen Plan, the Owen-Stoltenberg Plan, the Contact Group Plan. Their principal common feature was that they failed.

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