Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Is Labour Changing its position to back Military Action in Syria?

with 4 comments


Fighters Against the Genociders of Daesh.

Corbyn signals Labour could back military action in Syria without UN support.

(Hat-tip: PW)

Patrick Wintour. Guardian.

Jeremy Corbyn has signalled for the first time that Labour could support forms of military action in Syria without UN support if Russia blocks a security council resolution.

Taking a more flexible approach to UK military involvement in the Syrian civil war, the new statement urges David Cameron to try again to win support for a new UN resolution allowing military action, and affirms that the party supports the creation of safe zones within Syria to protect Syrians who have had to flee their homes.

In an article in the Guardian on Monday, Diane Abbott, the shadow international development secretary, rejected the idea of safe havens when proposed by Jo Cox, one of the backbenchers trying to assemble a broader Labour policy on Syria that does not just wait to react to government proposals.

The new positions, an attempt to assert a collective shadow cabinet policy, are laid out in a new article on Comment is Free by the shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn, and follow a meeting on Tuesday morning between Benn, Corbyn, the shadow lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, the shadow attorney general, Catherine McKinnell, the shadow defence secretary, Maria Eagle, and the shadow chief whip, Rosie Winterton.

In a bid to underline this as the agreed Labour leadership position, Corbyn issued a brief statement, saying: “I met with shadow cabinet colleagues today and Hilary Benn is setting out the position today.”

The new stance, taking into account the unexpected Russian air campaign in Syria in defence of Assad, is also significant since it is the Labour policy with which the prime minister will have to work if he is to build a clear consensus in the Commons for further UK military action as part of a wider diplomatic plan.

At present, Cameron is looking for at least 35 Labour MPs to give cast iron guarantees to vote with him on military action, but Downing Street may feel engaging with Benn’s broader strategy offers a superior route to winning broad Commons agreement for a new approach in Syria.

More has just been published.

Labour could support military action in Syria without UN authorisation.


Hilary Benn has suggested Labour could now support using British military personnel in Syria if Russia blocks a security council resolution.

Labour is shifting its stance and could support military action in Syria without the approval of the United Nations, the shadow foreign secretary has said.

During Labour’s conference in Brighton earlier this month, delegates voted to only support strikes in Syria if there was “clear and unambiguous” UN authorisation.

But in an article for the Guardian, which has been endorsed by Jeremy Corbyn, Hilary Benn has suggested Labour could now support using British military personnel in Syria if Russia blocks a security council resolution.

Mr Benn writes: “On the question of airstrikes against Isil/Daesh in Syria, it should now be possible to get agreement on a UN security council chapter VII resolution given that four of the five permanent members – the USA, France, Britain and Russia – are already taking military action against Isil/Daesh in Iraq or Syria or in both countries.”

Russia would most likely veto a UN resolution, as the Russian president continues to defend its own bombing campaign in Syria and his support for Bashar al-Assad.

He adds: “Of course, we know that any resolution may be vetoed, and in those circumstances we would need to look at the position again.”

Mr Corbyn has backed the change in position, saying: “I met with shadow cabinet colleagues today and Hilary Benn is setting out the position today.”

This marks a huge shift for Mr Corbyn, who has repeatedly outlined his opposition to military action in Syria.

During the leadership contest Mr Corbyn said could not think of “any circumstances” in which he would back the deployment of British troops in Syria.

Speaking in September, he said: “The issue would be we bomb, we kill people, we wouldn’t destroy or defeat ISIS, we probably make the situation considerably worse.

“If that doesn’t work the question is would you put boots on the ground? I don’t think so.”

Number 10 have said there are no plans for an “imminent” vote on Syria, but David Cameron has said he would push for a vote on air strikes in Syria without the Labour leader’s backing.

Mr Benn said: “We have a responsibility to protect people, but in Syria, no one has taken responsibility and no one has been protected. It is the great humanitarian crisis of our age and one of our greatest tests too.

“The way we take any decision will matter a great deal. MPs and others may disagree about what the right thing to do is, but we must never forget that we have a responsibility both to help the Syrian people and protect British citizens.

“Deciding to intervene militarily in another country is one of the most serious decisions parliament can make, but equally, nobody should be in any doubt that inaction is also a decision that will have consequences in Syria.”

It is unclear how British intervention will help the people of Syria.

But with the US and Russia actively involved in the battles, not to mention France, Iran, Hezbollah, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, nobody can claim that the country is a normal sovereign state which will be the fresh target of new interference.

Whether or how Labour is changing its stand, given that Guardian Political Editor Patrick Wintour is as much a political ‘player’ (and not for Jeremy Corbyn) as a journalist, is not certain.

Our own position remains, for all its apparent idealism, to stand behind the UNITE Labour Party policy in support of a UN sanctioned attack on Daesh.

If that fails, as these reports indicate, given the immense seriousness of what is at stake, we hope the Labour Shadow Cabinet reaches a reasonable settlement based on the need to destroy the genociders of Daesh and not the Conservative government’s plans, which include concessions to almost as bad Islamists funded by the Saudis and other reactionaries. Another concern is support for Turkish manoeuvres in the region – Erdoğan has shown himself an enemy of democracy.

We would like to see recognition and support for the Kurdish-led Democratic Forces of Syria, which says that it is is a “force for all Syrians, joining Kurds, Arabs, Syriacs and others groups. The Democratic Forces of Syria includes the YPG, various Arab groups including Jaysh al-Thuwwar (Army of Rebels), and an Assyrian Christian group.

A Kurdish militia in northern Syria has joined forces with Arab rebels, and their new alliance has been promised fresh weapon supplies by the United States for an assault on Islamic State forces in Raqqa, a spokesman said on Monday.

The alliance calling itself the Democratic Forces of Syria includes the Kurdish YPG militia and Syrian Arab groups, some of which fought alongside it in a campaign that drove Islamic State from wide areas of northern Syria earlier this year.


We are well aware of all the problems and the complexities of the terrible conditions in Syria.

But support for those democratic groups fighting Daesh is a priority.


Written by Andrew Coates

October 14, 2015 at 11:56 am

4 Responses

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  1. I wonder if this would be happening if not for Jo Cox and the work of the Syrians, especially at the Brighton conference? The trashing of Cox by Abbott was absolutely vile and deserved the condemnation it got.

    Cox’s brilliant Commons speech is here http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/b0c3fd11-0b34-4676-91d5-53c762b93f13?in=22:00:05 and here http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2015-10-12a.135.0&s=speaker%3A25394#g139.0

  2. Serious doubts exist over Wintour’s report.

    He is notorious for loathing Corbyn, with a long history of idealising Labour’s ‘modernisiers, going back to bour Rebuilt: The New Model Party. 22 Feb 1990. by Colin Hughes and Patrick Wintour.

    There are strong suggestions that this is an attempt to play politics – against Corbyn – on a serious issue.

    If you intrested you can buy a copy of his book from Amazon:
    Paperback. £0.01used & new(20 offers) (No this figure is not made up…).


    Andrew Coates

    October 14, 2015 at 4:04 pm

  3. “In an article in the Guardian on Monday, Diane Abbott, the shadow international development secretary, rejected the idea of safe havens…”

    Her @DianeforLondon account no longer exists but remember this –

    Diane Abbott’s Tweet of Sept 7 2015 –

    ” I remain strongly opposed to military intervention in Syria – it is only a matter of time before civilians are harmed.”

    John R

    October 14, 2015 at 4:50 pm

  4. I’m still waiting for someone to explain how they imagine bombing Syria will improve the situation there – or indeed, how anyone proposes to create a better Syria by means of high explosives.

    As for “safe havens” – there can be no such thing if there is war raging all around. In all probability, they’d just be another set of Srebrenicas to be taken by one side or another at their convenience.


    October 14, 2015 at 5:04 pm

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