Sunday, 3 June 2018

It's a Long Story...

  • Crooked Fingers - Luisa's Bones
  • Menew - Don't Give Up On Us Now
  • Walk the Moon - Shut Up and Dance
  • Cheryl Cole - Under the Sun
  • Ward Thomas - Push for the Stride
  • Reporters Notebook Saturday Good Morning Scotland 2nd Dec 2017 - COMPLETE
  • Big Hooses - Tankerness House - 21st December 2017
  • Big Hooses (Archive Edition) - Thursday 23rd November 2017
  • In conversation - James Angus from Sanday and another chance to hear 'When Phil met Angy Muir' - COMPLETE
  • In Conversation with Colin Blake - COMPLETE
  • In Conversation with David Partner - 30th November 2017 - COMPLETE
  • In Conversation with Linda Gask. - COMPLETE
  • In Conversation with Billy Jolly - COMPLETE
  • In Conversation with Reverend Jack Muir in 2014 - COMPLETE
  • Musical Milestones with Kathryn Sclater
  • Musical Milestones with John Fergusson
  • Friday Requests with Dawn Copland - Friday 23rd March 2018 - COMPLETE
  • An Orkney Gathering presented by Ken Ross - COMPLETE
  • The Orkney Gathering - COMPLETE
  • Tatties and Point - November 2017
  • Tatties and Point 7th December 2017
  • Tatties and Point January 2018 - with Huw Williams and Dave Gray
  • The first ever edition of 'Mercy Me' (with a bonus 'Orkney Connections')
  • The Wey Hid Wis - 14th February 2018 - Interviewing Maggie Harcus from Papay - COMPLETE
  • The Wey Hid Wis December 2017 - COMPLETE
  • The Wey Hid Wis January 2018 - COMPLETE
  • The Wey Hid Wis November 2017 - COMPLETE
  • The Wey Hid Wis October 2017 - COMPLETE
  • The Way Hid Wis 14th March 2018 - COMPLETE
  • Dustin Off The Stoor - Monday 26th March 2018 - COMPLETE
  • Whassigo 1st November 2017 - COMPLETE
  • Whassigo 29th November 2017 - COMPLETE
  • Whassigo 7th February 2018 - COMPLETE
  • Whassigo 7th March 2018 - COMPLETE
  • Whassigo 4th April 2018 - COMPLETE

  • Sunday, 19 November 2017

    Road Trip Middle Eastern Podcast Update

    For the last two months, I've been trying to track two big stories in the Middle East: the ongoing Qatar crisis, and the independence referendum (and its aftermath) in Iraqi Kurdistan. I get a most of my news from my morning news reviews, but I also get a lot of my news (particularly deeper context) from podcasts. A wedding, a cross-country move, and three months of unemployment disrupted my normal podcast diet, but I'm getting back into it. I had about five hours of driving today, so I was able to catch up on podcasts I'd missed about Iraqi Kurdistan. I've also listened to most of my downloads about Qatar as well. There are lots of different perspectives on these two matters to be heard in these two lists, so enjoy - and take all of them with at least a tiny grain of salt.

    Qatar Dispute
  • In Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s fight, Iran’s the real winner (War College)
  • Inquiry: What's So Special About Qatar? (BBC World Service)
  • What is Happening between Qatar and the GCC [English] (Status Hour)
  • The Qatar Crisis with Lori Plotkin Boghardt (The Washington Institute's Near East PolicyCast)
  • Qatar Gets Cut Off (CSIS)
  • Energy & Geopolitics: Qatar (CSIS)
  • The Showdown in the Gulf Gets Nasty (Foreign Policy Editor's Roundtable)

    Kurdish Referendum
  • Iraqi Kurdistan's Independence Referendum with Michael Knights (The Washington Institute's Near East PolicyCast)
  • Kurdistan Referendum with Bilal Wahab (The Washington Institute's Near East PolicyCast)
  • Iraq & Kurdistan: Energy and Geopolitics (CSIS)
  • Must the War Go On? Let's Talk About Iraq and the Kurds (War on the Rocks)
  • The Kurdish Problem | Episode 80 (Covert Contact - The Blogs of War Podcast)
  • Thursday, 2 November 2017

    New Job, New Photos

    I moved back home in August. After two years of intermittent applications, and over a year of fairly diligent applications, I finally landed a job. I'll be continuing my work in information security. Without getting into detail, I'm optimistic that it will be a good fit in the short term, and set me up for continued career success in the long term.

    As I've done before starting previous positions, I've begun getting things ready for my desk and workstation. That includes things like professional files that I've collected over the years, but it also includes something a bit more mundane: photos. On my last workstation, my desktop background rotated through photos that I took on Operation Highlander. So, I'll be replicating those. I've spun through my photos from my 2003, 2004, and 2012 to 2013 trips to Europe, most of which was spent in Scotland, and copied a bunch of those photos for loading into a wallpaper rotation. One of my favorites, still, is the attached photo of a December 2013 sunset, witnessed atop Wideford Hill on the Orkney Mainland with my friend Michelle (AKA "Rock Sniffer").

    For the entirety of the time I spent in my last job, I thought that I needed to add a bunch of my photos from time spent in the Middle East, and particularly my photos from the Sultanate of Oman. So, I went through all of those photos, picked my favorites, and copied them as well. The attached photo made the cut, even though it's not one of mine. (Frequent readers of this infrequently updated blog might remember it from this post, where I discussed my efforts to find the village of Hamaam outside the Omani capital of Muscat. I wish I'd been the one to take this photo, and I'm grateful to the Internet for providing it!

    I'm adding another group of desktop background photos as well: photos from my long-removed life in the Mojave Desert. More than a decade ago, I cut my teeth as a federal contractor by participating in U.S. Army training operations. I didn't take many photos back then, because we were regularly reminded about security requirements; but there were some occasions to do some desert photography, and my waning days in that neck of the woods provided me with a couple of opportunities to snap some photos (including from a helicopter on my last day). I took the attached photo of a Joshua tree between my apartment and the facility where I worked, using actual black and white film - those days are long gone! So, as I work on one project or another, I'll be able to reminisce about my younger days in the heat and the sand. I chose a few that show various aspects of the base itself. I recently spent some time downloading some of the photos from the National Training Center/Fort Irwin and 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Facebook pages. I'm not sure if they'll get added at some point or not.

    These desktop background images will be supplemented by something I've maintained at both of my last two jobs: a picture frame with actual, bona fide photographs. I know that electronic picture frames have been available for a few years, but as an information security professional, I consider them to be nothing more than non-secure Internet-of-Shit garbage. So, I went to Fred Meyer and printed off a ton of photos to add to those that I'd been using since 2014. There are a bunch of pictures of me and Lady Jaye. Then, there are photos of me with other folks (and one of just me). Next up are photos of Scotland, some of which are redundant to the desktop photo gallery, and some of which I didn't even take. Then, there are some pictures of my home state and my alma mater. Next up are pictures from various desert locales, some that I took, some that were offered up by my Facebook feed. After that, there are overhead and/or satellite pictures of various places that are important to me. Then, there are some photos of public figures whom I respect: Presidents Washington and Lincoln, Sultan Qaboos, General Mattis (pictured), Wilfred Thesiger, T.E. Lawrence, and various Orcadian Gordon Highlanders. Next, it's motivational images. After that, there are some fine art selections - dogs playing poker, for example. Finally, there are a bunch of funny pictures.

    So, at the very least, all of these real and digital images will help to make me more comfortable as I work on one project or another. In addition, I expect that some of them will turn into conversation pieces that will help me to establish relationships with my co-workers. I mean, who's not going to be game for chatting with the guy who's got a picture of St. Mattis of Quantico at their desk?

    Friday, 20 October 2017

    Kurdistan and the Kirkuk Dispute

    I continue to follow events in and around Iraqi Kurdistan with some interest (in addition to concurrent, related events in Syria). Here are the headlines.

  • Kurds offer talks with Baghdad over airport, banks ban (al Arabiya)
  • Can Putin stop Erdogan from shutting down Iraqi Kurdish pipeline? (al Monitor)
  • Iraqi Kurds send reinforcements to Kirkuk amid army 'threats' (BBC)
  • How Turkey's nuclear plant could curb KRG ambitions (al Monitor)
  • Kurds on high alert as Iraqi forces mass near Kirkuk (al Jazeera)
  • Kurd fighters in Iraq briefly block roads to Mosul (al Jazeera)
  • Kurdish VP : Thousands of troops sent to Kirkuk to face ‘Iraq threat’ (al Arabiya)
  • Why is Israel supporting Kurdish secession from Iraq? (al Jazeera)
  • No, the Israeli Air Force Won’t Race to Iraqi Kurdistan’s Rescue (War is Boring)
  • Turkmens unite against Kurdish designs on Kirkuk (al Monitor)
  • Cascading Crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan (Institute for the Study of War)
  • King Salman stresses kingdom’s support for united Iraq in phone call to Abadi (al Arabiya)
  • King Salman makes telephone call to Iraqi PM Abadi (al Arabiya)
  • Turkey’s Erdogan says may shut Iraqi border any moment (al Arabiya)
  • Turkey ‘ready to cooperate with Iraq’ against Kurdish militants (al Arabiya)
  • Turkey pledges to back Baghdad against Kurds (al Monitor)
  • How Strongly is NATO Ally Turkey Pivoting to Russia and Iran? (Christian Science Monitor, via Small Wars Journal)
  • Deal with Iran boosts Turkey’s hopes of trading in national currency (al Monitor)
  • Erdogan, Rouhani stand together against Iraqi Kurdish state (al Monitor)
  • Iraq says Kurds brought PKK fighters to Kirkuk in ‘declaration of war’ (al Arabiya)
  • Peshmerga Command: Iraqi Military Attack on Kirkuk is ‘Declaration of War’ (Rudaw via Small Wars Journal)
  • Peshmerga: Baghdad to pay heavy price for declaring war (al Jazeera)
  • Kurdish infighting opened way for Iraqi advances (AFP)
  • How a shocking reversal of fortunes unfolded in Kirkuk (al Jazeera)
  • Kurdistan never intended to engage in war with Iraq, foreign minister says (al Arabiya)
  • UN concerned by reports of forced displacement of Kurds in N.Iraq (al Arabiya)
  • Iraqi, Kurd forces in Kirkuk standoff as tensions rise (al Jazeera)
  • Iraq conflict: Peshmerga 'deadline to leave Kirkuk' passes (BBC)
  • Clashes between Iraqi, Kurdish troops close to Kirkuk city (AFP)
  • Iraqi forces launch 'major' Kirkuk operation (al Jazeera)
  • Iraq army seizes Altun Kupri from Kurdish Peshmerga (al Jazeera)
  • Kirkuk: Iraqi forces capture key sites from Kurds (BBC)
  • Kirkuk: Iraqi forces seize largest oilfields near city (BBC)
  • Iraqi forces gain control of main Kirkuk military base from Kurds (al Arabiya)
  • Iraqi forces complete takeover of Kirkuk province after clashing with Kurds (al Arabiya)
  • Iraq takes disputed areas as Kurds 'withdraw to 2014 lines' (BBC)
  • Kurdish forces withdraw to June 2014 lines: Iraqi army commander (al Arabiya)
  • Iraq Kurds: Army claims full control of Kirkuk province (BBC)
  • Iraq's military declares mission accomplished in Kirkuk (al Jazeera)
  • Baghdad says mission accomplished in Kurd operation (AFP)
  • Iran denies reports Tehran closed border with northern Iraq (al Arabiya)
  • Iran wary of Trump’s plans in Iraqi Kurdistan (al Monitor)
  • Iran sees challenge of Kurdish referendum as opportunity (al Monitor)
  • Turkey, Iran could unite to overcome their Kurdish worries (al Monitor)
  • Iran’s Soleimani reportedly in Kurdistan as Iraq denies setting Kirkuk deadline (al Arabiya)
  • Iran Quds commander pays respects at Talabani's tomb as Kirkuk crisis escalates (al Monitor)
  • Iran denies role in recapture of Kirkuk (al Monitor)
  • How Iran helped Baghdad seize back Kirkuk (al Monitor)
  • The fall of Kirkuk and U.S. Kurdish allies: Iran has completed its strategic reversal of America’s regional influence (Washington Times)
  • The United States Serves Up Kurdistan to Iran on a Silver Platter (Tablet Magazine)
  • Assessing impact of shifting Iran-KRG relations (al Monitor)
  • Abadi orders the withdrawal of all military forces from Kirkuk (al Arabiya)
  • Iraqi president Masum calls for urgent Baghdad-Kurdish dialogue (al Arabiya)
  • Baghdad court issues arrest warrant for Iraqi Kurd VP (al Arabiya)
  • Court in Iraq orders arrest of Kurdistan VP Kosrat Rasul (BBC)
  • Congress threatens to withhold arms from Baghdad (al Monitor)
  • US strategy sees Raqa fall but leaves Kurds in lurch (AFP)
  • Iraq conflict: Kurdish leaders refuse to reject referendum result (BBC)
  • Despite potential trade sanctions, Kurds continue with exports (Christian Science Monitor)
  • What price have Iraqi Kurds paid for secession vote? (al Jazeera)
  • What does the future hold for Iraq's Kurds? (al Jazeera)
  • Is the Dream Of Kurdish Independence Now Over? (Voice of America via Small Wars Journal)
  • "Phil-Kurdism" Like Philhellenism? The Role and Impact of the Western Volunteers Alongside Kurds (Small Wars Journal)

    Since I last posted on this topic, the Kurdish Regional Government reiterated a pre-referendum claim to the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, which led Iraqi national forces (suspected to have consisted largely of Iranian-sponsored Shiite militias) to launch a military operation to retake the city and its surroundings. Iran has denied having played any role in those events, though other actors and commentators disagree. I'm personally of the mind that the KRG may have intentionally fallen back from Kirkuk, partly to give the various Peshmerga factions something to rally around that wasn't traditional Kurdish territory; but also to give the government in Baghdad an opportunity to overplay their hand in the secession dispute by escalating the conflict. In one of my prior posts, I linked to a BBC interview with KRG President Massoud Barzani in which he said:
    "When have we ever had stability and security that we should be concerned about losing it? When was Iraq so united that we should be worried about breaking its unity? Those who are saying this are just looking for excuses to stop us... We were hoping the constitution could unite us, but it didn't happen. So many rules were neglected. So now it is our right to seek independence."
    The thing is, regardless of where you stand on the Kurdish referendum or the territorial integrity of the Iraqi nation-state, Barzani has a point. As of 2011, a viable political settlement was in place to balance the interests of Iraq's three largest population groups: the Shiite Arabs, the Sunni Arabs, and the Kurds. I watched the American withdrawal from a vantage point in the Gulf in 2011; and I was there in early 2012 when Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, lacking American support, found himself subject to influence from Tehran. The result was the violation of the Iraqi constitution, a collapse of the political settlement, the persecution of Sunni Arabs and their leaders by Baghdad, and the de facto abdication of Baghdad's obligations to the Kurds. In the case of the Sunni Arabs, this left them receptive to the promises from DAESH, empty though they turned out to be, that they had learned their lesson and were ready to bring Iraq's Sunni population into a new caliphate. In the case of the Kurds, they found themselves under assault by DAESH, without the backup that Baghdad owed them. That included protecting Kirkuk from DAESH while cities like Mosul were overrun, forcing Arab forces - including a lot of heavy lifting by Tehran-sponsored Shiite militias - to root DAESH out, house by house.

    That's the history of the dispute, in a nutshell. How it will play out in the coming weeks and months is anyone's guess. America has a vested interest in maintaining good relations with the Kurds, but supporting their secession efforts puts Washington at odds with Ankara, Baghdad, and Tehran. Moscow has an interest in keeping Kurdish oil flowing, but maintains a tight relationship with Iran (particularly in Syria, but also by way of Iran's controversial nuclear program), and is working to drive a wedge between Turkey and the rest of the NATO alliance. Baghdad has a vested interest in retaining the oil-rich areas around Kirkuk; and in avoiding the precedent of Iraqi Kurdistan seceding. Tehran also harbors a vested interest in avoiding that precedent, as Iran's own Kurdish minority in the region bordering Iraqi Kurdistan are watching the secession effort with great interest. The same goes for Ankara. It leaves a difficult situation for the folks in Erbil to manage.

    I'll keep track of further developments and post as appropriate.
  • Thursday, 5 October 2017

    Kurdish Independence Referendum Update

    My good buddy Irish Jay (AKA Code Name: Silverback) has been sending me questions about the recent Kurdish referendum, particularly how it relates to the Syrian civil war. Rather than restrict my response to him, I wanted to post an update of some of the stories I've been keeping track of. Unlike the string of stories I posted before the referendum, I haven't had a chance to read through these yet; but the headlines alone provide a great deal of useful context. Go ahead and have a look - and remember that al Jazeera has a Qatari slant, al Arabiya has a Saudi slant, and al Monitor has a sort of international flavor to it. Process accordingly.

  • Regional implications of the Kurdish independence vote (al Jazeera)
  • Syrian Kurdish commander: We're 'ready to engage' with Damascus (al Monitor)
  • Iraqi Kurdistan referendum: High turnout in independence vote (BBC News)
  • Israel denies Turkish claim of involvement in Kurd vote (AFP)
  • Kurdish secession tops Erdogan's agenda in Iran visit (al Jazeera)
  • Iraqi Kurds watch nervously as Erdogan heads for Tehran (al Monitor)
  • Turkey’s Erdogan in Iran amid tensions over Iraqi Kurd vote (al Arabiya)
  • Turkey’s threat of sanctions against Iraqi Kurds rattles its own traders (al Monitor)
  • Turkey’s Erdogan says will impose further sanctions against northern Iraq (al Arabiya)
  • Ankara could misplay its hand again (al Monitor)
  • Turkey’s military options in Iraq and Syria hinge on US and Russia (al Monitor)
  • Turkey raises oil threat after Iraqi Kurds' referendum (al Jazeera)
  • Erdogan and Putin agree Iraqi Kurdish referendum has no legitimacy (al Arabiya)
  • Russia keeps eye on Kurdish oil contracts, referendum (al Monitor)
  • France offers to mediate between Baghdad and Kurds (al Arabiya)
  • Tensions mount as Iraqi militias boost numbers in contested areas while Kurds hold referendum (Long War Journal)
  • Iranian, Iraqi government forces to hold joint border drills (al Arabiya)
  • Iraqi military preparing to take control of Kurdish borders (al Arabiya)
  • Iran’s pressure on Kurds could backfire (al Monitor)
  • Iran’s Leaders Opposed Kurdish Independence Vote in Iraq. Iran’s Kurds Celebrated on The Streets. (Washington Post via Small Wars Journal)
  • Iraqi Kurdish opposition welcomes Abadi's post-referendum measures (al Monitor)
  • Abadi Wins ISIS War, Maliki Wins Elections: Time for US to Shift Policy on Kurdistan (Rudaw via Small Wars Journal)
  • The Kurds Are About to Blow Up Iraq (Michael J. Totten via World Affairs Journal)
  • The Trump Administration Just Stabbed the Kurds in the Front (Michael J. Totten via World Affairs Journal)
  • Tuesday, 26 September 2017

    For the Love of Coal Fires

    This is a post that could have easily appeared over at Operation Highlander, but I've been pretty consistent about posting over there lately, so I'll post it here. Something I enjoyed during my days in Orkney was a nice coal fire. The photo I've featured above, which somehow never made it on to the Operation Highlander blog, was taken during the Winter of 2013 when I was yet in Orkney. I know that coal is taboo due to environmental concerns, but it was so cool to come into Helgi's off the cold, blustery street and warm myself by the fire while enjoying a dram or a pint. In November of last year, I discovered that there's an hour-plus-long video of a coal fire (apparently filmed in Poland, not Orkney, but I'll take it), so I figured I'd share it.

    As you can see from this second photo, I used the occasion of some cold nights in my since-vacated East Coast apartment to pour myself a dram or cuppa, light candles in my since-liquidated (and dearly missed) Moroccan lanterns, bundle myself into a cozy blanket, and enjoy a good book (like the Orkneyinga Saga, pictured) - or possibly a Washington Capitals game on the radio - while the coal fire burned happily on the television. Someday, I hope to have a house with an actual hearth in which Lady Jaye and I can build and enjoy a nice fire - maybe even burning a few chosen lumps of coal! Until then, I'll have to enjoy the spark and crackle of that YouTube video. Less heat, inferior ambience, but I'll take it.