Nation-building policies in Timor-Leste: disaster risk reduction, including climate change adaptation

“Nation building policies in Timor-Leste: disaster risk reduction, including climate change adaptation”.

Few studies have explored the relationships between nation-building, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Focusing on small island developing states, this paper examines nation-building in Timor-Leste, a small island developing state that recently achieved independence. Nation-building in Timor-Leste is explored in the context of disaster risk reduction, which necessarily includes climate change adaptation. The study presents a synopsis of Timor-Leste's history and its nation-building efforts as well as an overview of the state of knowledge of disaster risk reduction including climate change adaptation. It also offers an analysis of significant gaps and challenges in terms of vertical and horizontal governance, large donor presence, data availability and the integration of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation for nation-building in Timor-Leste. Relevant and applicable lessons are provided from other small island developing states to assist Timor-Leste in identifying its own trajectory out of underdevelopment while it builds on existing strengths.

  1. Jessica Mercer1,*,
  2. Ilan Kelman2,3,
  3. Francisco do Rosario4,
  4. Abilio de Deus de Jesus Lima5,
  5. Augusto da Silva6,
  6. Anna-Maija Beloff7 and
  7. Alex McClean8

Article first published online: 5 SEP 2014

DOI: 10.1111/disa.12082


http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/disa.12082/abstract

 

Greenland ice loss doubles from late 2000s

A new assessment from Europe’s CryoSat spacecraft shows Greenland to be losing about 375 cu km of ice year.

The team has produced elevation models for the ice sheets

Added to the discharges coming from Antarctica, it means Earth’s two big ice sheets are now dumping roughly 500 cu km of ice in the oceans annually.

“The contribution of both ice sheets together to sea level rise has doubled since 2009,” said Angelika Humbert from Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute.

“To us, that’s an incredible number,” she told BBC News.

In its report to The Cryosphere journal, the AWI team does not actually calculate a sea-level rise equivalent number, but if this volume is considered to be all ice (a small part will be snow) then the contribution is likely to be on the order of just over a millimetre per year.

This is the latest study to use the precision altimetry data being gathered by the European Space Agency’s CryoSat platform.

The satellite was launched in 2010 with a sophisticated radar instrument specifically designed to measure the shape of the polar ice sheets.

The AWI group, led by senior researcher Veit Helm, has taken just over two years’ worth of data centred on 2012/2013 to build what are called digital elevation models (DEMs) of Greenland and Antarctica, and to asses their evolution.

These models incorporate a total of 14 million individual height measurements for Greenland and another 200 million for Antarctica.

When compared with similar data-sets assembled by the US space agency’s IceSat mission between 2003 and 2009, the scientists are able then to calculate changes in ice volume beyond just the CryoSat snapshot.

Negative shifts are the result of surface melting and ice discharge; positive trends are the consequence of precipitation – snowfall.

Greenland is experiencing the biggest reductions in elevation currently, losing about 375 cu km a year (plus or minus 24 cu km per year), with most of the action occurring at the west and south-east coast of the continent.

Significant thinning is seen also in the North East Greenland Ice Stream (NEGIS).

“This has three outlet glaciers and one of these, the Zachariae Isstrom, has retreated quite a bit and some volume loss has already been reported. But we see now that this volume loss is really propagating to upper areas, much further into the interior of the ice sheet than has been recorded before,” explained Prof Humbert.

In Antarctica, the annual volume loss is about 128 cu km per year (plus or minus 83 cu km per year).

As other studies have found, this is concentrated in the continent’s western sector, in the area of the Amundsen Sea Embayment.

Big glaciers here, such as Thwaites and Pine Island, are thinning and retreating at a rapid rate.

Some thickening is seen also, such as in Dronning Maud Land, where colossal snowfalls have been reported. But this accumulation does not offset the losses occurring in West Antarctica.

A British-led group recently reported its own Antarctica DEM, using a different algorithm to process the numbers in the CryoSat data.

The AWI outcomes look very similar, and the German team has transferred the exact same approach to Greenland so it can have confidence in comparing the two continents.

The losses also look consistent with the analysis coming out of the American Grace mission, which uses a different type of satellite to monitor gravity changes in the polar regions – to, in essence, weigh the amount of ice being dumped into the sea.

Prof Andy Shepherd, who was part of the British group that reported its findings in May, commented: “This is yet another exciting result from CryoSat, thanks to the team at AWI, charting yet more new ground by providing the first complete survey of ice volume changes in Greenland.

“However, the increased ice losses that have been detected are a worrying reminder that the polar ice sheets are still experiencing dramatic changes, and will inevitably raise concerns about future global sea-level rise.” More

 

Facing Rising Ocean, Pacific Island Town Must Relocate

In an unprecedented move that illustrates the dramatic impacts of planetary global warming, one community in the South Pacific has decided it has no choice but to pick itself up entirely and flee for higher ground.

All too aware of their vulnerability to the effects of climate change — such as rising sea levels and extreme weather events — communities in the Pacific Islands have long acknowledged that their very existence isthreatened by global warming.

But now, authorities in a town on Taro Island, a coral atoll off Choiseul in the Solomon Islands that sits less than seven feet above sea level, have decided to relocate to the mainland in response to increasing coastal hazards including tsunamis, storm surges, and erosion. The exodus from Choiseul Bay Township, the provincial capital that's currently home to about 500 people, will take place over many years. It is the first such official migration — of people, services, and facilities — in the Pacific Islands.

According to Reuters, “the groups behind the Choiseul adaptation plan said it is being hailed by the Solomon Islands national government as a model for other provinces across the nation and more broadly across the Pacific.”

The plan comes out of Choiseul Bay Township's consultation with a team of engineers, scientists and planners, funded by the Australian government, on how best to adapt to the impact of climate change. Extensive community input was solicited, Choiseul Province premier Jackson Kiloe said in a statement Friday.

“Relocation is the only option available that will keep the community safe and will allow for future growth and prosperity of the capital and the province,” said Philip Haines, project manager at BMT, an engineering firm that worked on the plan.

Land to build a new, larger settlement that could accommodate up to 5,000 inhabitants has already been acquired, Haines told Reuters. The town will essentially have to be built up from scratch, with a hospital and school expected to be constructed within five years. In the meantime, the plan prescribes detailed actions to increase the community’s resilience to climate change, including the preparation of a tsunami response plan, and the handover of a hand-wound siren to alert the local communities of a tsunami warning.

The Solomon Islands government would be looking for climate change funding from international donors to finance the relocation, Reuters reports.

Some of that funding could come from the U.S., which has millions invested in Asia-Pacific climate change adaptation, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pointed out when he visited the Solomon Islands just last week.

In remarks delivered in Honolulu last week, Kerry said:

I just came from the Solomon Islands yesterday, a thousand islands, some of which could be wiped out if we don’t make the right choices. The Pacific Islands across the entire Pacific are vulnerable to climate change. And just yesterday, I saw with my own eyes what sea level rise would do to parts of it: It would be devastating — entire habitats destroyed, entire populations displaced from their homes, in some cases entire cultures wiped out. They just had flash flooding in Guadalcanal — unprecedented amounts of rainfall. And that’s what’s happened with climate change — unprecedented storms, unprecedented typhoons, unprecedented hurricanes, unprecedented droughts, unprecedented fires, major damage, billions and billions of dollars of damage being done that we’re paying for instead of investing those billions of dollars in avoiding this in the first place. More

 

2028: The End of the World As We Know It?

“There is nothing radical in what we’re discussing,” journalist and climate change activist Bill McKibben said before a crowd of nearly 1,000 at the University of California Los Angeles last night. “The radicals work for the oil companies.”

Bill McKibben

Taken on its own, a statement like that would likely sound hyperbolic to most Americans—fodder for a sound bite on Fox News. Anyone who saw McKibben’s lecture in full, however, would know he was not exaggerating.

McKibben was in Los Angeles as part of his nationwide “Do the Math” tour. Based on a recent article of his in Rolling Stone, (“The one with Justin Bieber on the cover,” McKibben joked) the event is essentially a lecture circuit based on a single premise: climate change is simple math—and the numbers do not look good. If immediate action isn’t taken by global leaders: “It’s game-over for the planet.”

The math, McKibben explained, works like this. Global leaders recently came to an international agreement based on the scientific understanding that a global temperature raise of 2°C would have “catastrophic” consequences for the future of humanity. In order to raise global temperatures to this catastrophic threshold, the world would have to release 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Here’s the problem: Fossil fuel companies currently have 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide in their fuel reserves—and their business model depends on that fuel being sold and burned. At current rates of consumption, the world will have blown through its 565-gigaton threshold in 16 years.

To prevent the end of the world as we know it, it will require no less than the death of the most profitable industry in the history of humankind.

“As of tonight,” McKibben said, “we’re going after the fossil fuel industry.”

Obviously no easy task. The oil industry commands annual profits of $137 billion and the political power to match. As McKibben noted, “Oil companies follow the laws because they get to write them.”

However, there are some numbers on McKibben’s side. Recent polling data shows 74 percent of Americans now believe in climate change, and 68 percent view it as dangerous. The problem environmental activists are facing is in converting those favorable polling numbers into grassroots action.

Enter “Do the Math.”

Using McKibben’s popularity as an author, organizers are turning what would otherwise be a lecture circuit into a political machine. Before rolling into town, Do the Math smartly organizes with local environmental groups. Prior to McKibben’s lecture, these groups are allowed to take the stage and talk about local initiatives that need fighting. Contact information is gathered to keep the audience updated on those efforts. Instead of simply listening to McKibben, as they perhaps intended, the audience has suddenly become part of their local environmental movement.

It’s a smart strategy, and an essential one—because the problem of climate change is almost exclusively a political in nature. Between renewable energy and more efficient engineering, the technology already exists to stave off catastrophic global warming. Though its application is lagging in the United States, it is being employed on a mass scale in other countries. In socially-stratified China, with its billion-plus population and tremendous wealth inequalities, 25 percent of the country still manages to use solar arrays to heat its water. Germany—Europe’s economic powerhouse—in less than a decade, has managed to get upwards of half of its energy from sustainable sources.

The same can happen here in America—provided we have the will to make it happen. McKibben says the key to realizing that goal is to battle the lifeblood of the fossil fuel industry—its bottom line.

To start, he’s calling for an immediate global divestment from fossil fuel companies. “We’re asking that people who believe in the problem of climate change to stop profiting from it. Just like with divestment movement in South Africa over apartheid, we need to eliminate the oil companies veneer of respectability.”

In conjunction with the divestment regimen, continued protests against unsustainable energy projects will also be crucial. McKibben will be in Washington, D.C. on November 18 to lead a mass rally against climate change and the Keystone Pipeline. “We can no longer just assume that President Obama is going to do everything he promised during his campaign. We need to push him.”

“I don’t know if we’re going to win. But I do know we’re going to fight.” More

 

Ocean-based power plant previewed in North Side

North Side residents got a preview last week of a proposed electric power plant that will be moored off their coastline if its proponents get the necessary approvals.

Design for 25 Mw OTEC Plant

District MLA Ezzard Miller invited representatives of OTEC International LLC to the Craddock Ebanks Civic Centre on Thursday night to explain the ocean thermal power project to his constituents.

Eileen O’Rourke, the company’s chief operating officer, outlined the process by which heat in the upper layers of sea water can be turned into electricity. The process is known as Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion.

After years of research and experimentation, the technology to process this source of renewable energy is now commercially viable and a proposal has been made to be a wholesale supplier of electricity to Caribbean Utilities Company, Ms. O’Rourke said. Talks have already been held with the Caribbean Utilities Company and government officials.

The production plant would be on a purpose-built barge, or floating power platform, 140 feet wide and 200 feet long and moored less than a mile offshore. Most of the plant would be about 16 feet above the water line, with a small part of it rising another eight feet.

The structure would include pipes to circulate the sea water, moorings to the sea floor and a cable that would carry the generated power under the beach and under the road to a sub-station on land. The sub-station would connect to CUC, Ms. O’Rourke explained.

Meetings have already been held with such entities as the Department of Environment, Public Works and the Environmental Assessment Board. The plan is for necessary permits to be applied for starting in October.

“We hope to get all permits and approvals in the first quarter of 2015,” Ms. O’Rourke said.

The target date for operation of the offshore power plant is the first quarter of 2017.

Pilar Bush, managing director of AtWater Consulting, confirmed that an island-wide public consultation will be held later this month.

OTEC International chose Grand Cayman for its first commercial system because CUC was “an open and willing partner” and because the Cayman government wants to move away from relying on fossil fuels, Ms. O’Rourke said. She noted that one power platform would produce 6.25 megawatts of electricity and that quantity would eliminate the need for 2.9 million gallons of imported diesel fuel annually. CUC’s average production of electricity is around 70 megawatts, it was noted.

Another reason Grand Cayman was chosen was the “excellent sea conditions” – including water temperatures and deep water proximity to the shoreline. There is a well-documented history of local ocean conditions, including extreme storm conditions. North Side was chosen as the best location, she said.

In response to questions from the audience, company representatives referred to job opportunities and the development of safety protocols, along with design features for the protection of marine life.

Start-up costs for the building and installation of the power platform will be expensive, Ms. O’Rourke indicated, but sea water as a source of renewable energy means low operating costs and protection of the consumer from the volatility of oil prices.

Development of the requisite technology was funded by the Abell Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Maryland, USA since 1953, said Ms. O’Rourke, who is also treasurer of the foundation. One of its objectives is supporting innovative efforts to solve systemic social, economic and environmental problems.

In 2000, The Abell Foundation acquired an exclusive license to the OTEC technology developed over decades by Sea Solar Power’s J. Hilbert Anderson and his son James Anderson. In 2001, Abell established a limited liability company with the mission bring OTEC to commercialization. The company became OTEC International LLC (OTI). Bringing the economical, renewable energy solution of ocean thermal energy conversion to developed and emerging markets is important to both OTI and Abell. More

 

The Sunswift eVe solar-powered car broke a 26-year-old land speed record for electric vehicles

The Sunswift eVe solar-powered car broke a 26-year-old land speed record for electric vehicles on Wednesday at the Australian Automotive Research Center in Victoria. While the record still has to be ratified by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, it would make eVe the fastest electric car to ever compete a 500 km set distance course by a significant margin, Gizmodo reported. The previous record, set in 1988, was an average speed of 73 kilometers per hour; the Sunswift eVe reached 100 km per hour average over the 500 km course.

Sunswift eVe, designed and built by students at the University of New South Wales, seeks to overcome the traditional obstacles that have impeded solar-powered cars, namely, offering both speed and range in the same vehicle.

“There are many solar cars out there with a long range, and many other solar cars capable of even higher speeds,” Rob Ireland, business team leader at Sunswift, told International Business Times. “However, we’re trying to do something ground-breaking and overcome both.”

The zero-emission solar and battery storage electric vehicle is capable of covering 800 km on a single charge and has a top speed of 140 km per hour (87 miles per hour). The car’s solar panels have an 800-watt output and when the sun isn’t shining, eVe relies on its battery pack, reducing drivers’ range anxiety. The car’s motor, “supplied by Australian national science agency CSIRO, operates at 97 percent efficiency, meaning eVe consumes as much power as a kitchen toaster,” according to IB Times.

For Wednesday’s record attempt, the solar panels on the roof and hood were used to charge the battery, but were covered for the actual run, as the attempt had to be completed on a single charge.

While the Sunswift eVe is not fully road legal, the team believes that isn’t far out of reach, telling Renew Economy they hope to have the vehicle on Australian roads within the year as “a symbol for a new era of sustainable driving.” And Ireland said the practicality of the two-seat, four-wheel car is unmatched among solar-powered vehicles.

In the run-up to their attempt at the land speed record, project director and third-year engineering student Hayden Smith explained to Renew Economy why it was so significant. “Five hundred kilometers is pretty much as far as a normal person would want to drive in a single day,” Smith said. “It’s another demonstration that one day you could be driving our car.” More

 

How Saudi Arabia Helped Isis Take Over the North of Iraq

How far is Saudi Arabia complicit in the Isis takeover of much of northern Iraq, and is it stoking an escalating Sunni-Shia conflict across the Islamic world?

Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”

The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria. Since the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on 10 June, Shia women and children have been killed in villages south of Kirkuk, and Shia air force cadets machine-gunned and buried in mass graves near Tikrit.

In Mosul, Shia shrines and mosques have been blown up, and in the nearby Shia Turkoman city of Tal Afar 4,000 houses have been taken over by Isis fighters as “spoils of war”. Simply to be identified as Shia or a related sect, such as the Alawites, in Sunni rebel-held parts of Iraq and Syria today, has become as dangerous as being a Jew was in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe in 1940.

There is no doubt about the accuracy of the quote by Prince Bandar, secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council from 2005 and head of General Intelligence between 2012 and 2014, the crucial two years when al-Qa’ida-type jihadis took over the Sunni-armed opposition in Iraq and Syria. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute last week, Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, emphasised the significance of Prince Bandar’s words, saying that they constituted “a chilling comment that I remember very well indeed”.

He does not doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the Isis surge into Sunni areas of Iraq. He said: “Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.” This sounds realistic since the tribal and communal leadership in Sunni majority provinces is much beholden to Saudi and Gulf paymasters, and would be unlikely to cooperate with Isis without their consent.

Dearlove’s explosive revelation about the prediction of a day of reckoning for the Shia by Prince Bandar, and the former head of MI6′s view that Saudi Arabia is involved in the Isis-led Sunni rebellion, has attracted surprisingly little attention. Coverage of Dearlove’s speech focused instead on his main theme that the threat from Isis to the West is being exaggerated because, unlike Bin Laden’s al-Qa’ida, it is absorbed in a new conflict that “is essentially Muslim on Muslim”. Unfortunately, Christians in areas captured by Isis are finding this is not true, as their churches are desecrated and they are forced to flee. A difference between al-Qa’ida and Isis is that the latter is much better organised; if it does attack Western targets the results are likely to be devastating.

The forecast by Prince Bandar, who was at the heart of Saudi security policy for more than three decades, that the 100 million Shia in the Middle East face disaster at the hands of the Sunni majority, will convince many Shia that they are the victims of a Saudi-led campaign to crush them. “The Shia in general are getting very frightened after what happened in northern Iraq,” said an Iraqi commentator, who did not want his name published. Shia see the threat as not only military but stemming from the expanded influence over mainstream Sunni Islam of Wahhabism, the puritanical and intolerant version of Islam espoused by Saudi Arabia that condemns Shia and other Islamic sects as non-Muslim apostates and polytheists.

Dearlove says that he has no inside knowledge obtained since he retired as head of MI6 10 years ago to become Master of Pembroke College in Cambridge. But, drawing on past experience, he sees Saudi strategic thinking as being shaped by two deep-seated beliefs or attitudes. First, they are convinced that there “can be no legitimate or admissible challenge to the Islamic purity of their Wahhabi credentials as guardians of Islam’s holiest shrines”. But, perhaps more significantly given the deepening Sunni-Shia confrontation, the Saudi belief that they possess a monopoly of Islamic truth leads them to be “deeply attracted towards any militancy which can effectively challenge Shia-dom”.

Western governments traditionally play down the connection between Saudi Arabia and its Wahhabist faith, on the one hand, and jihadism, whether of the variety espoused by Osama bin Laden and al-Qa’ida or by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Isis. There is nothing conspiratorial or secret about these links: 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, as was Bin Laden and most of the private donors who funded the operation.

The difference between al-Qa’ida and Isis can be overstated: when Bin Laden was killed by United States forces in 2011, al-Baghdadi released a statement eulogising him, and Isis pledged to launch 100 attacks in revenge for his death.

But there has always been a second theme to Saudi policy towards al-Qa’ida type jihadis, contradicting Prince Bandar’s approach and seeing jihadis as a mortal threat to the Kingdom. Dearlove illustrates this attitude by relating how, soon after 9/11, he visited the Saudi capital Riyadh with Tony Blair.

He remembers the then head of Saudi General Intelligence “literally shouting at me across his office: ’9/11 is a mere pinprick on the West. In the medium term, it is nothing more than a series of personal tragedies. What these terrorists want is to destroy the House of Saud and remake the Middle East.’” In the event, Saudi Arabia adopted both policies, encouraging the jihadis as a useful tool of Saudi anti-Shia influence abroad but suppressing them at home as a threat to the status quo. It is this dual policy that has fallen apart over the last year.

Saudi sympathy for anti-Shia “militancy” is identified in leaked US official documents. The then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in December 2009 in a cable released by Wikileaks that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups.” She said that, in so far as Saudi Arabia did act against al-Qa’ida, it was as a domestic threat and not because of its activities abroad. This policy may now be changing with the dismissal of Prince Bandar as head of intelligence this year. But the change is very recent, still ambivalent and may be too late: it was only last week that a Saudi prince said he would no longer fund a satellite television station notorious for its anti-Shia bias based in Egypt.

The problem for the Saudis is that their attempts since Bandar lost his job to create an anti-Maliki and anti-Assad Sunni constituency which is simultaneously against al-Qa’ida and its clones have failed.

By seeking to weaken Maliki and Assad in the interest of a more moderate Sunni faction, Saudi Arabia and its allies are in practice playing into the hands of Isis which is swiftly gaining full control of the Sunni opposition in Syria and Iraq. In Mosul, as happened previously in its Syrian capital Raqqa, potential critics and opponents are disarmed, forced to swear allegiance to the new caliphate and killed if they resist.

The West may have to pay a price for its alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, which have always found Sunni jihadism more attractive than democracy. A striking example of double standards by the western powers was the Saudi-backed suppression of peaceful democratic protests by the Shia majority in Bahrain in March 2011. Some 1,500 Saudi troops were sent across the causeway to the island kingdom as the demonstrations were ended with great brutality and Shia mosques and shrines were destroyed.

An alibi used by the US and Britain is that the Sunni al-Khalifa royal family in Bahrain is pursuing dialogue and reform. But this excuse looked thin last week as Bahrain expelled a top US diplomat, the assistant secretary of state for human rights Tom Malinowksi, for meeting leaders of the main Shia opposition party al-Wifaq. Mr Malinowski tweeted that the Bahrain government’s action was “not about me but about undermining dialogue”.

Western powers and their regional allies have largely escaped criticism for their role in reigniting the war in Iraq. Publicly and privately, they have blamed the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for persecuting and marginalising the Sunni minority, so provoking them into supporting the Isis-led revolt. There is much truth in this, but it is by no means the whole story. Maliki did enough to enrage the Sunni, partly because he wanted to frighten Shia voters into supporting him in the 30 April election by claiming to be the Shia community’s protector against Sunni counter-revolution.

But for all his gargantuan mistakes, Maliki’s failings are not the reason why the Iraqi state is disintegrating. What destabilised Iraq from 2011 on was the revolt of the Sunni in Syria and the takeover of that revolt by jihadis, who were often sponsored by donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. Again and again Iraqi politicians warned that by not seeking to close down the civil war in Syria, Western leaders were making it inevitable that the conflict in Iraq would restart. “I guess they just didn’t believe us and were fixated on getting rid of [President Bashar al-] Assad,” said an Iraqi leader in Baghdad last week.

Of course, US and British politicians and diplomats would argue that they were in no position to bring an end to the Syrian conflict. But this is misleading. By insisting that peace negotiations must be about the departure of Assad from power, something that was never going to happen since Assad held most of the cities in the country and his troops were advancing, the US and Britain made sure the war would continue.

The chief beneficiary is Isis which over the last two weeks has been mopping up the last opposition to its rule in eastern Syria. The Kurds in the north and the official al-Qa’ida representative, Jabhat al-Nusra, are faltering under the impact of Isis forces high in morale and using tanks and artillery captured from the Iraqi army. It is also, without the rest of the world taking notice, taking over many of the Syrian oil wells that it did not already control.

Saudi Arabia has created a Frankenstein’s monster over which it is rapidly losing control. The same is true of its allies such as Turkey which has been a vital back-base for Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra by keeping the 510-mile-long Turkish-Syrian border open. As Kurdish-held border crossings fall to Isis, Turkey will find it has a new neighbour of extraordinary violence, and one deeply ungrateful for past favours from the Turkish intelligence service.

As for Saudi Arabia, it may come to regret its support for the Sunni revolts in Syria and Iraq as jihadi social media begins to speak of the House of Saud as its next target. It is the unnamed head of Saudi General Intelligence quoted by Dearlove after 9/11 who is turning out to have analysed the potential threat to Saudi Arabia correctly and not Prince Bandar, which may explain why the latter was sacked earlier this year.

Nor is this the only point on which Prince Bandar was dangerously mistaken. The rise of Isis is bad news for the Shia of Iraq but it is worse news for the Sunni whose leadership has been ceded to a pathologically bloodthirsty and intolerant movement, a sort of Islamic Khmer Rouge, which has no aim but war without end.

The Sunni caliphate rules a large, impoverished and isolated area from which people are fleeing. Several million Sunni in and around Baghdad are vulnerable to attack and 255 Sunni prisoners have already been massacred. In the long term, Isis cannot win, but its mix of fanaticism and good organisation makes it difficult to dislodge.

“God help the Shia,” said Prince Bandar, but, partly thanks to him, the shattered Sunni communities of Iraq and Syria may need divine help even more than the Shia. More