Tax, Transparency and the G8
Slowly but surely the world is coming round to our point of view.
David Cameron is beginning to realise that the problem with tax havens (and their attraction for those who use them) isn’t their low tax rates, it’s their secrecy laws. So the news that he’s managed to persuade the British Crown Dependencies to move towards transparency is very encouraging. Of course, it doesn’t go far enough. But it is a step in the right direction, even if it is one that is likely to have some unintended consequences for the economies of many small Caribbean states.
“Transparency” must not become just another word in soundbite bingo, but for all my interest in the matter, it isn’t the most important thing the G8 has to address.
Obviously, it is Syria.
And there is an opportunity to do something about it, because it is also the most important thing for Mr Rohani. Instead of bickering amongst themselves about which of the raggle-taggle Syrian opposition groups, most of whom are Salafist armed and influenced, we should arm, the West should join Russia and push hard for a serious peace conference. With Mr Rohani and Mr Erdogan at the table.
No preconditions. We must say, clearly, that it doesn’t matter who runs Syria, so long as there is peace. We may think, perfectly reasonably, that it can’t therefore be Mr Assad; but the Russians, equally reasonably think that it can therefore only be Assad. That is what the peace conference has to decide round the table in Geneva rather than over the corpses of yet more Syrians.
The Syria crisis is the most serious Middle-Eastern war yet. More serious than Iran-Iraq or Israel-Egypt. At every level it’s a dangerous conflict. On the ground, Saudi-funded salafists are pushing their noxious genocidal doctrines, the same doctrines that drive the bus-bombings in Quetta and the iconoclasms in Timbuktu. A seventh-century schism over a prophet’s inheritance is being exploited as two oil-rich totalitarian states vie with each other for influence over a diverse and global ummah. The West is being sucked in to supporting the bad guys yet again on the mistaken premise that my enemy’s enemy is my friend. And we all still need the money and oil that comes from Saudi, where the ascetic idealism of an eighteenth-century scholar has been turned into a vicious dogma that, unless confronted, will lead to fulfilment of the twisted prophecies misinterpreted by nutty Americans from the bizarre imagery in the Book of Revelation. Russia’s support for Assad is based partly on old loyalties, partly on a general objection to intervention in the internal affairs of any state, however vile – its own hands being dark-stained with the blood of its own Salafist insurgents, brutally suppressed in Chechnya.
The G8 is nowhere near as influential as it would like to think itself to be. But with Russia at the table, it can present a united front, not about the outcome but about the next step. Everyone has an interest in preventing the further spread of the conflict; and everyone bar a few lunatics funded by the Arab fringe also has an interest in curtailing the spread of Salafism. These two goals are much more important than who’s in charge in Syria.