James Forsyth

The threat of violence

The threat of violence
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Jonathan Powell’s new book and in particular his thoughts on talking to terrorists have been making waves in recent days. But the Guardian news story accompanying the paper’s serialisation of his book demonstrates the flaw in this thinking:

"Powell said it was right to make concessions to Sinn Féin. 'We certainly believed there was every chance that the IRA might go back to violence, just as they had with the Canary Wharf bomb [in 1996].'"

So, Powell is conceding that the government was always conscious that it was negotiating with a gun at its head. (This approach to negotiation is also fundamentally unfair to the peaceful parties that the government was dealing with). Now, just imagine how much more extreme the fear of al Qaeda returning to violence would be and you see the huge problem involved in talking to them.  

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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