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William Hague: There are ‘no palatable options’ in Syria

17 June 2013

17 June 2013

While the G8 begins today with splits already clear on Syria, David Cameron will be aware, as he sits down for talks with world leaders, that the splits in his own Parliament are becoming increasingly vocal.

It’s not just Boris Johnson’s column in today’s Telegraph in which the Mayor of London warns that ‘we won’t get a ceasefire by pressing weapons into the hands of maniacs’. Tory MPs have started openly discussing the lack of support for arming the rebels. Johnson’s intervention could be read by some as yet another attempt to undermine the PM who appears to be considering arming the rebels out of a deep personal conviction, given he commands very little support even within his own party on this. But it also underlines what a quagmire this situation is.

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William Hague told the Today programme a few minutes ago that ‘there are no palatable options… there are no easy options at all, of course it’s not easy to take a decision to send arms into any conflict’. It is becoming clear that the leadership wants to make a case that it is possible to avoid arming those ‘maniacs’ that Boris warns of in his column. Hague said assisting the rebels would ‘make sure a democratic, legitimate opposition is not exterminated’. But those less confident than he might fear that this will simply bloody the killing field further.


The next Spectator Debate on 24 June will be debating the motion ‘Assad is a war criminal. The West must intervene in Syria’ with Malcolm Rifkind, Andrew Green, Douglas Murray and more. Click here to book tickets.


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Show comments
  • Old Fox

    Well done, Boris; he’s cracked Hague’s bald pate against Cameron’s crowning oil slick and forced them to see sense.

  • Drakken

    Sure there is a palpable option, get out the lawn chairs, a good cigar and a good glass of Kentucky bourbon and watch as the Islamaniacs tear each other to pieces. What is bad for them is good for us.

  • HookesLaw

    Boris says
    “It is time for the US, Russia,the EU, Turkey, Iran, Saudi and all the players to convene an intergovernmental conference to try to halt the carnage.”

    Yes well good luck with that – there have been appeals to end the carnage for months and Assad has ignored them, he has ignored them because no one is putting pressure on him or his dodgy backer, Russia.
    Does Boris give any reasons why such a conference would work? ‘Turkey’ he says? Turkey? Like Turkey has time to spare to worry about Syria?

    Unless there was a willingness to give such a conference teeth, unless there was a threat to be made to Assad to force a change in policy, then why would a ceasefire work? Who would monitor it and if and (as would be certain) when Assad broke the ceasefire who would intervene to punish him? Why would Assad obey a ceasefire? What would make him? Assad can only govern his country now through violence and suppression. And that is what he will do if left to his own devices. Does Boris have a view on this and what the British government view should be?

    Boris’ article is a good demonstration of why running a bus service is not good training to be a PM.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …perhaps, but that’s infinitely more experience than your boy Call Me Dave ever had.

  • Alexsandr

    One could argue that the middle east descending into mayhem would be a good argument for getting going with shale gas then we have some security of fuel supplies.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Is “there are no palatable options” Hague-speak to prep us that his knee-jerk, ‘something-must-be-done’ government are about to do something unpalatable and foolish?

    Why do they always have to do something? Why can’t they just make a statement that the situation in Syria is appalling, call for the factions to negotiate and leave it at that? Where does Mr Blobby see this pressure to do something coming from? Are there unelected fake charities and quangos busy at work behind the scenes? What is Common Purpose’s policy towards Syria?

  • Hexhamgeezer

    !$lam has utterly failed to produce a civilised civic society worth the name. Sending arms to the Notting Hill Dinner Party Brigade in Syria isn’t going to help.

    • chan chan

      It would be better to send them Farrow & Ball paint…

      • Alexsandr

        and a macrame wall hanging.

      • Hexhamgeezer

        I believe Osborne and Little hope to be heavily involved in post-Assad refurbishment.

      • Hexhamgeezer

        I wonder if dave and george use farrow and ball when paintballing on staff awaydays?

  • Tom Tom

    He does. He knows it is the Sunnis that are sending US-Saudi mercenaries
    to Chechnya. he knows that the MOST extreme Muslin terrorists are
    Sunnis funded by Saudi Arabia. He knows that the US let the Saudi
    organisers of 9/11 slip away in private jets and that the US is so far
    up the backside of the House of Saud that they are pushing the Muslim
    Brotherhood as their new allies, the same Muslim Brotherhood that has
    its base in Homs in Syria and which fought Assad Sr in 1982

    • HookesLaw

      The US did not let the ‘Saudi organisers of 911’ slip away in private jets. You dissolve into a miasma of hysteria.

      The 911 Commission stated
      ‘The FBI interviewed all persons of interest on these flights prior to their departures.They concluded that none of the passengers was connected to the 9/11 attacks and have since found no evidence to change that conclusion. Our own independent review of the Saudi nationals involved confirms that no one with known links to terrorism departed on these flights.’

      Do you have a view of Mrs Thatcher’s relationship with the Saudi Royal family?

      Hague’s comments are plain common sense – which is why the usual nutjobs cannot get their heads round it.

  • paulus

    This axis already exists since the americans deposed Saddam. This is a reality.

    • Tony_E

      Correct, but if Syria falls then it’s strength is weakened. As in Iran, this is the Russian spere of influence stretching unbroken from the borders of Pakistan all the way to the EU which Putin wishes to protect. If Syria comes under the control of Hezbollah forces/ Iran, what’s to suggest that Iranian interventionism (potentially Russian backed) will stop there – what of Jordan and Lebanon? Iran has sent 4000 troops to Syria. Russia is sending the hardware to arm them.

      • paulus

        Syria wont fall unless the Americans use their air power. Jordan and the Gulf states are protected. Their is an American fleet in Bahrain, lets not start getting paranoid. What ever cray daisy says the iranians and the russians wouldn’t last a week out in the open of the desert. Its only if you go into the mountains of the Lebanon or Syria would you be trapped.

        The Americans have overwhelming firepower. I remember travelling down to San Diago passed the marine base that stretched for hundreds of miles, til I caught sight of the Paciifc fleet, four aircraft cariers and assorted battleship, so I turned to the driver and asked is that the pacific fleet and he laughed and said…yea thats one of them.

        Familiar with our own dear Royal Navy, i was taken aback and thought ot myself how can we wrest hegemony of the anglo-saxon world as my normal response would be the reply the spartans sent to the Macedons when asked to join the persian adventure… spartans lead armies not follow them. Quickly followed by a quick re-evaluation of how we could win a potential war.So I said… Its called compensation theory, we dont need a big one like that.

        • Tony_E

          Despite the US ability to project massive power, they have no strength to resist insurgent style operations. If the dominoes are to topple, it will be through excitement of civil uprisings, then the application of external power through neighbouring states.

          I’m not sure that either the USA or Israel can really protect Jordan or Lebanon, but I certainly think you are correct about their abiity to protect the gulf states as the centres of power are well entrenched and surounded by difficult and sparsely populated territories. So much open space to use air superiority on rival forces.

          • Vexxed

            Do not underestimate modern Russian military equipment. Our weakness in the West is the weakness of our people. We’ve been spoiled lately so imagine how the people will react when boats are sunk and entire plane squadrons are lost.

            The West’s only hope in a war they start is to win quickly or the people lose the stomach for it. This of course does not apply if the perception is that we are warring in self-defence.

    • Vexxed

      The Shia/Sunni backing from the super powers is nothing new. With the current powers this goes back to the fall of the Ottomans.

      Prior to that, every super power in the history of the world has intervened and eventually collapsed, in this conflict.

      Both Russia and the U.S would have rather seen the hard-line dictators in place in the Middle East, keeping strained peace between the two sides. The Middle East is like Ireland on steroids.

      This all changed when the Shah was overthrown in Iran decades ago and the Persians turned into an Islamist state.

      I know on the internet conspiracies are ripe but in my opinion, American actions since 9/11 show that they believe Iran to be the main culprit behind that attack. Al Qaeda (Afghanistan) and Iraq are not resource wars in my honest opinion but are strategical beachheads for a greater conflict with Iran with the knowledge that said conflict could draw in opposing superpowers on principal alone. Which means American “Shock and Awe” from the air and se would be rendered ineffective as the Super powers are well aware of Blitzkrieg tactics.

      • paulus

        To be honest if the Americans thought that Iran was behind the attacks they would already be in Tehran as we speak.

        The Americans lashed out Al qaeda is a nebulous organisation, it satisfied the Americans to blame a nation, it was catharthic to see their troops storm Baghdad.

        To the other question, the Russians have backed Assad at this moment they can declare victory and give terms, but with American air superiority that could change in a week. its in everyones interests to settle now esp the russians in a proxy war you do not want to be beaten.

        • Drakken

          If the west declares a no fly zone in Syria, the Russians will flood Assads forces with anti-aircraft missles. Have you folks noticed that the so called jihadist fighting Assad have not messed with the Russians at their naval base? Interesting isn’t it?

      • telemachus

        American interest in Iran has only recently been awakened by the Israel’s afraid for the first time for their safety because of the prospect of a Nuclear Iran.
        There is in truth no real interest in the Shia Sunny question but an interest of the American Christian Right in the relationship of Armageddon to Palestine and the potential role of Iran in this issue

  • Tony_E

    There is another process at play here, one that has gone on in cycles for over a millenium: the Sunni v Shia conflict for control of the Holy Lands and the ‘Caliphate’. A long held ambition of both sects is control of the middle east, and then the victory over Israel that would surely follow the restoration of the caliphate.

    Other nations have intervened over the years, especially the British, setting up arbitary states and territories which may have delayed the inevitable and coming conflict, but eventually the fight will commence in earnest.

    The Arab spring, where the dictators who have held the lines in the sand for so many years fell, may well prove to be the opening shot in that war. But is it in our interests to allow that war to happen? In the short term, quite possibly, but in the longer term almost certainly there would be one clear winner, and something approximating the old Caliphate might emerge. It could be a force that threatened both Europe and Russia’s ability to move goods and buy resources such as energy.

    I get the impression that Putin’s real politik in this is that he sees the Shia as the ultimate victor (Iran/Iraq/Syria axis), and therefore is backing the side which eventually gives him most leverage geopolitically.

    • Keith D

      He’s no-ones fool.The enemy of my enemy is my friend.Unlike our challenged political class Vlad is perfectly aware of the Sunni threat to his own country and is unafraid to defend his own people.Again,unlike our own challenged political class.

    • itdoesntaddup

      Putin is not pro Shia. He understands the origins of terrorism all too well, as Russians have suffered plenty.

  • Alexsandr

    There is one totally palatable option:- leave well alone. The UK has no business in Syria. And putting arms there will cause tears before bedtime.
    Lets stop being perfidious Albion.

    • HookesLaw

      Leave it to Russia then? Why is it that we should leave these things to others to pursue their own interests and ambitions? How is that in our interests?

      Britain has foreign interests and should pursue them to the best of its ability as its always done, its perfectly legitimate. Leaving the opposition to Assad to the lunatic parties is not a good policy when there are non lunatic opposition parties available. Selling them down the river would just make the claim of ‘maniac muslims’ a self fulfilling prophesy. Maybe thats why nutjobs like it.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Good. You go then, laddie.

        Take up your rifle and get on with it.

  • Austin Barry

    It would be reassuring if the G8 were to consider a question framed as “What are we going to do about the advance of militant Islam in our own countries?” than reduce the issue to the death cult’s typically hellish symptoms on display in Syria.

    • telemachus

      We do not need the G8 to tell us to do the right thing
      Respect and integrate

      • Hexhamgeezer

        Looking forward to Obama’s updates on his ‘Religion of Peace’ Dividend he promised.

        • telemachus

          “The phrase jihad has a lot of meaning within Islam and is subject to a lot of different interpretations, but I will say that first Islam is one of the world’s great religions. More than a billion people practise Islam and an overwhelming majority view their obligations to a religion that reaffirms peace, fairness, tolerance. I think all of us recognise that this great religion in the hands of a few extremists has been distorted by violence,” Mr. Obama said.

          Yes and he went on to say it was distorted by a. Few extremists
          As for Christianity
          As for Zionism
          As for Buddhism

          The problem is not the religion but a fewe hotheads that we cook by our attitude to the religion as a whole

          • zanzamander

            But for the hotheads (that you speak of) who wage wars on non-Muslims, invade their lands and forcefully convert a whole lot of them, Islam wouldn’t have any followers to speak of.

            Even now, our media, journalists, politicians and academia are scared into silence leaving the floor open for these hotheads to run free.

            But don’t worry, Islam will conquer the West, but it won’t be done through love but by sword. We’ve already lost the war.

            Happy days for you.

            • telemachus

              I despair of the defeatists in our midst
              We need to embrace our Muslim Brothers and bind them into our dynamic multiethnic multicultural multifaith society

              • Hexhamgeezer

                Best of luck on that one.

              • Drakken

                I fell off of my chair laughing so hard at your complete utter stupidity. The only way your Muslim brothers are going to embrace idiots like you is to convert or kill you, good luck with that. I call you nothing more than a future Darwin Award winner.

                • telemachus

                  Many of us live and work happily with Muslims and we have mutual respect
                  There is no attempt to convert either way

                • Drakken

                  Living on your knees in fear of offending the poor precious darlings is not mutual, they demand and you respect.

          • Augustus

            If Russia and Iran want to play in the Syrian dung heap, let them. Muslims killing Muslims on this sort of scale only proves how complete is the evidence of Islam’s constant failure to produce societies in which justice and personal security can exist alongside democratic governments. In our modern world Islam is a failed religion.

            • telemachus

              Before developing that argument you have to remember what Catholics and Protestants were doing to each other in the North of Ireland before Tony Blair sorted it out

      • James Strong

        I do not respect a belief system that has, at its core, the goal of dominating non-members of that system and denying them equal rights.
        Why do you think such a system is worthy of respect?
        (For those relatively new to a study of Islam: in an Islamic society dhimmis have to accept their inferior status and pay a tax, called the jizyah. I won’t say any more now because all of this is easy to find out and you are more likely to be convinced if you find out for yourselves rather than take my word for it here. It’s also possible to find out how untrue is the claim that it is a religion of peace.)
        Now, back to our old friend tele: why do you think such a system is worthy of respect?

        • telemachus

          Tell me about the radical Christian Evangelical movement

          • Hexhamgeezer

            Idiotic evasive answer

          • Drakken

            There isn’t any, next time you hear of one of those characters strapping on a bomb, please let the rest of know, the worst that they do is give you a headache.

        • Vexxed

          Islam and Christianity sound the same to me, In fact the doctrine is almost mirrored. Some Christians take that type of doctrine more seriously than others, no different that Islamists.

          The deserve respect because as a people, they have the same right as us to define their own social and political systems even if it is in stark contrast to our own.

          I myself do not agree with most of what all religion teaches, beneath all the fine words is almost always bigotry and hate. That being said, I believe you, your family and anybody reading this have the right to decide.

          “Equality” as we define it in the west is not in fact equal and in practice it is even less so. Our way of things is just one way of doing things and there are positives and negatives to all systems; from the most free to the most oppressive.

          • Hexhamgeezer

            If they sound the same that must be because you have your head in the sand. This muffles the sounds of explosions and machetes through necks.

            • Vexxed

              If you read the scripture for both, and not just what propaganda you read about it, you would have to be blind to not see the similarities.

              All it takes is a quick read of the Cole’s Notes of history to see the killing, war, murder, rape, sexism, racism etc… that Christianity has also perpetrated and endorsed. To me the problem is religion itself but as I said above, I think that you and everyone has the right to believe what you want.

              Frankly, your posting sounds no different than that coming from the leaders you are attempting to bash.

              Hypocrisy is of course an almost inevitable result to religion since I have read nothing in any of the scriptures I have studied in my years of life that resemble anything natural to us or life in general

              • telemachus

                You are correct to point out the similarities
                However a system of belief is essential to personal wellbeing and the cohesiveness of society
                I believe communism(as opposed to Christian Socialism) imploded because it denied personal belief

                • HookesLaw

                  No, a ‘system’ of belief is not essential to personal wellbeing.

                  You regularly talk rubbish but rarely have you compressed such a voluminous amount of rubbish into two short sentences..

              • Hexhamgeezer

                Your key word there is history. I am referring to now. !$lam now is responsible for large scale and a wide ranging bestial acts and behaviours explicitly endorsed by it’s governing book and guiding figure. Christianity isn’t and it’s guiding book (the NT) doesn’t endorse hatred. They are not the same and never have been.

                Put Cole’s notes to one side and pick up the k0r@n and the New Testament. Read both. There is no comparison.

              • Drakken

                There are zero similarities between Islam and Christianity. In case your a little short on the uptake, look at what is happening where Islam rears its ugly head and you will find death, destruction and mayhem. The Christians you so self righteously declared as the same, aren’t doing it now are they? So can you please tell me when is the last time a Christian flew a plane into a building? Chopped off a head yelling Jesus ahkbar? Yeah that is what I thought, you can’t. What exactly do they teach you folks in those re-education camps they call schools nowadays?

  • Roy

    Nice the way the decisions are made in accord to having the Americans going along. Does William Hague have any inclination to what he is about? They are crack pots to think good will be done. Sarah Palin has the right answer: “Let Allah sort it out”.

    • telemachus

      I guess what you are saying is that Cameron is supine and Hague is vacillating as usual
      My good friend Julia Middleton would have something to say on all this
      Politics is about Government
      And Government is about leadership
      Leadership here requires reading the runes which are clearly against intervention

  • Abhay

    It is time for Hague to retire from active politics and consider taking up the lecture circuit, ‘peace’ missions, UN positions, charity, spreading goodwill generally, book deals, writing columns etc.

    • Roy

      Wrong! He should take up farming, and stay quiet, well away from any serious tittle-tattle of which he might get carried away.

  • pinkgunnergirl

    Brilliant column by Boris. Totally shoots down Cameron and schools him in the reality of the situation. Along with Putin’s absolute humiliation of Cameron yesterday, it’s not been a good weekend for the Cameroons.

    Let’s hope the Tory party comes to it’s senses asap and removes Cameron from the leadership. Cameron is walking them over a very steep cliff. It would also be an excellent day if Billy Hague were to resign his position in order to go to Syria and fight for the rebels.

    • Tony_E

      I think you are misreading the stance of Mr Putin. He wants Syria in his shpere of influence, along with Iran. That is his sole motivation.

      The Middle East is being carved up, with the Rusians backing Shia dominated groups and the West the Sunni dominated ones (which is surprising really when you consider the origins of AQ in Wahabi Saudi). Putin wants to control as much of the potential energy supply routes of the Middle East as possible, thereby making it harder for the West to compete economically – a reverse of the food and materials issues that drove the collapse of the Soviet empire in the 80’s. His eyes are also to the arctic circle, which he will grab comprehensively once we are truly dependent on what he already has to keep the lights on.

      Putin is making a play to put his foot on our throat – so we had better make a quick play of making that impossible by changing energy policy, making places like Syria less of a geoplitical issue.

      • paulus

        Well written but our oil supplies dont come thru Syria. There is no need to arm the rebels they are already being supplied only dialogue can contain this situation.

        • Tony_E

          No, but in the final assessment, and Iran/Iraq/Syria axis pressing its influence further south with Russia as its ally would be dangerous to Western interests, which is why I think that Putin takes the stance he does.

          • Alexsandr

            Why would the islamists ally with russia? They are communist/christian infidel same as the West. They will turn on them eventually.

            Just like Hitler did in 18/12/1944
            Putin should read history.

            • Drakken

              Not to defend ole Putin but, Putin is playing chess and is already 10 moves ahead, while our leaders are still trying to put the game pieces on the board for a game of checkers.

      • Tom Tom

        Putin is protecting Russia. If Britain went to war in 1939 over Danzig – “Mourir pour Danzig ? ” because it was an issue of national security 1500 km away then Putin sees Russian interests at stake when The West starts destabilisation 1180 km away from his borders. It might even be worth the major war that is needed to stop rampant US-UK aggression and interference

      • itdoesntaddup

        Nice attempt, but wrong. Russians recognise Islam as a threat – think Chechnya. That is why they prefer a secular authoritarian such as Assad – or Saddam, whom they armed to take on the Shia theocracy in Iran.

        • http://www.facebook.com/martin.adamson.75 Martin Adamson

          No, the Russians realise that Islam is not a threat to them, because when the time comes to fight they will not feel themselves obliged to tie both hands behind their back the way that we in the West do.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          The Russians are surrounded by former Sov republics which have large Sunni populations, which they’d like to keep weak and within their sphere, so naturally the Shiites are more likely to get Russian support abroad. NATO and the US have always used the Sunni populations to tweak the Russians and the Sovs, which also feeds into the geo-strategic polarity here.

          Iran has never been a direct threat to the Russians because they’re not directly inflaming anybody in the former Sov republics, which is Russia’s first concern.

          • itdoesntaddup

            So why was it that the Russians invaded Afghanistan on Iran’s East, and armed Iraq on its West, and suppressed Shias throughout the Soviet republics, not to mention their support for the Tudeh as opposition to the Iranian clerics?

            • the viceroy’s gin

              The Sovs were fighting the Sunnis in Afghanistan, as everywhere else.

              The Sovs suppressed all religions, and any Shia suppression was nothing unusual. They were atheists, remember.

              The Sovs backed Sadaam, but only if he carried out an avowed secularist policy, and didn’t support the Sunnis in the Sov border republics. And Sadaam even lost that Sov support, once he invaded Iran and the US began to support him. The Baathists were socialists, remember, as were the Assads in Syria and the Egyptians under Nasser. They were planning on establishing socialist republics, which is what the Sovs wanted.

              The Tudeh was a commie group, and quite naturally the Sovs supported them, same as in these other countries. Socialist were their natural allies.

              It isn’t that the Russians like the mullahs, it’s just that their interests are partially aligned.

              • itdoesntaddup

                You forget Henry K “It’s a pity both sides can’t lose”. That was also the view of the Russians, and the superpowers carried on the war by propping up whoever was losing via some interesting proxies: remember Iran/Contra? South Africa’s arms for oil? Exocets for Iraqis?

                The Russians stopped supplying Saddam when he couldn’t give them enough oil in payment: they were his largest creditors when the war ended at $30bn or so. By then, Russia was more concerned with Perestroika and its own revolution – a nation economically exhausted by its wars. But Russia never armed Iran: the Chinese did, the US did. The US only gave satellite intelligence as support to Iraq – never arms.

                You are also probably unaware of the extent of internal repression in the Soviet Asian republics over the years.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  I don’t forget anything, laddie.

                  And I wouldn’t be guessing as to what I’m unaware of, lad, particularly as you’re not providing anything of insight here, as you fill up another post full of trite anecdotes.

                • itdoesntaddup

                  I suspect I was rather closer to these events than you were. I had a professional interest.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …nothing you type into these posts would indicate you have any knowledge deeper than the trite anecdotes you’ve typed here.

      • Vexxed

        I don’t think its about their influence as much as it is about keeping the U.S in check and limiting the extremists that they have on their borders. The Americans of course do not have the problem of proximity.

        We all know what happened when Russia played games in our part of the world though. I would say the Russian reactions are far more levelled and make sense.

        I am not ignorant to the fact that Russia does have geopolitical reasons to support Syria but every player has their reasons, in my opinion they wash out. In terms of how to handle the situation, I have always believed that it is wrong for another country to intervene in civil wars.

        It was wrong for France and the U.K to interfere with the American Civil War. The end result may be messy but thus is nature. These people need to find their own way or they will be sentenced to constant strife. We cannot tell them how to live which is an inevitability once our soldiers feet touch the ground.

        • HookesLaw

          France and the UK did not interfere in the US Civil War which in itself was not a war to decide who ruled the country and how but a war of secession where one side was appealing for recognition.
          Britain and France had interests in the American Civil War in that it was significantly effecting their economies.

          These people do need to find their own way but doing nothing will perpetuate a vicious status quo where Assad will continue to abuse opposition to him. These people first of all need an opportunity to freely find their own way – certainly more freely than they can at the moment.

          Who has said our soldiers feet will touch the ground?

          • the viceroy’s gin

            Yes, France but particularly the UK interfered in the US Civil War. That’s why they had to pay compensation at the end of the war, and both were intimidated out of Mexico shortly after the US Civil War ended, as they’d been interfering there while the Americans were distracted in their Civil War. The Americans eventually ended their Civil War and turned their attention to dealing with the interferences.

            • itdoesntaddup

              I can imagine you doing a Maurice Chevalier rendition of “I remember it well”

              • the viceroy’s gin

                …and I can’t imagine you doing anything useful at all.

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