THE Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) presents as a welcome antidote to all things extreme. It also claims to be “fiercely independent” in the intro to its recent report on far-right influence on social media, which was given prominent coverage in the Irish Times last week. However, the ISD was created in 2006 by some interesting characters and its current geo-political direction appears to be strongly pro-western.
Its principal personality for the first 10 years of its existence to 2016 was George Weidenfeld, aka Baron Weidenfeld (1919-2016), whose other British distinctions includes an OBE. The baron initially founded the Club of Three in his home city of Vienna as a policy venture bringing together French, German and British elites. One of the club’s four trustees was Sir Ronald Grierson, a banker who also held several British government posts, including that of head of the SAS in post-war Britain.
The Club of Three was subsumed into the ISD in 2006, with Baron Weidenfeld as its driving force. Just one of his credentials early on was his service as chef de cabinet and advisor to the first president of Israel, Dr Chaim Weizmann.
According to Powerbase, “your guide to networks of power, lobbying and deceptive PR”, ISD trustees have many connections with the banking and finance sector but “focuses much of its activities on the question of Islam… and on defence and intelligence matters”.
Is ISD yet another anti-extremist ‘think-tank’ whose real target is Muslim and anti-western groups across parts of the world?
An interesting comment contained in the institute’s report on far-right influence in Ireland was under the heading “Russia-Ukraine Conflict Topic Analysis”. There it was stated that pro-Kremlin actors spread “false narratives” that “seek to blame the US, NATO, or the West in general for the current conflict and often deny, deflect or downplay evidence of atrocities committed by Russian forces… Popular narratives about the war in Ukraine largely echo pro-Kremlin talking points regarding the supposed role of Nazis in governing the country and the alleged responsibility of NATO and the West in instigating the conflict.”
It must be said that many Irish people as well as large numbers of people in, mainly but not exclusively, the east and southern parts of the globe have reached similar conclusions about the Russian war in Ukraine, even if they hold more nuanced views than those described by the institute.
Views that were anything but nuanced were clocked by the ISD and its recent report noted: “Posts calling for the use of firing squads against specific members of the government, notably Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin, were observed.”