Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Stop the War Coalition Confusion on ‘Bombing Syria’.

with 10 comments


Yes, but whose Hands?

The official position of the Stop the War Coalition on UK intervention in Syria could not be clearer,

Syria, Labour party policy, and Russian intervention: Stop the War Statement. Stop the War Coalition  (StWC) 30 September 2015.

Stop the War warmly welcomes the Labour conference vote in opposition to British military intervention in Syria.  It shares the view of conference delegates that this would only risk repeating the dreadful consequences of previous such interventions in Iraq and Libya.

We believe that every possible pressure must be put on Labour MPs to support the Party’s position if and when David Cameron decides to bring the issue to the Commons for a vote.  It is vital that the strong lead given by Jeremy Corbyn in favour of peace and in opposition to western interventionism, now endorsed by conference, be supported by all Labour MPs, whether or not there is a ‘free vote’ on the matter.

Just as Stop the War has criticised US bombing, and the possibility of British intervention, in Syria, so too we cannot support Russian military action.  It remains our view, supported by long history and experience, that external interference has no part to play in resolving the problems in Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East.

Only strong, sovereign and representative governments in Syria and Iraq can take the fight to Islamic State and provide a real alternative on the ground to its rule.  External powers should refrain from any direct or indirect military intervention and concentrate instead on assisting a negotiated end to the Syrian civil

They have more recently explained the reasons for this stand,

Syria: Safe Havens and No-Fly Zones

  1. The creation of safe havens or no-fly zones requires the ability to engage in military operations and to take out the enemy’s air defence systems.
  2. Military intervention would risk a military clash with Russia.
  3. Islamic State would not be threatened by a no-fly zone since it lacks an air force. The Assad government and those supporting it can be the only target of such military operations: the goal is regime change.
  4. Previous no-fly zones did not prevent attacks on minorities and endangered populations (e.g. the Iraq government’s attack on the southern March Arabs) but escalated the levels of violence.
  5. The 2011 no-fly zone in Libya helped to create a full-blown war, tens of thousands of casualties, regime change and a collapsed state.
  6. The war in Syria includes a complex combination of actors: the Assad government and Russia, IS, the US and its international and regional allies (including Saudi Arabia, the Free Syrian Army and the local al-Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front), as well as Kurdish groups (some of which are being attacked by Turkey).
  7. Instead of getting involved militarily in this dangerous quagmire, Britain can provide much greater help to the people of Syria by seriously focusing on humanitarian aid and on helping to facilitate peace talks.

We must expresses scepticism, bearing in mind all of the complexities in Syria involved – not to mention the re-election of the Islamist AKP party in Turkey that there is any such thing as “non-intervention” in present conditions. These forces are involved. The question is what to do with it.

One issue stands out.

If the US (and not, as Counterfire’s leader John Rees once imaginatively suggested, Venezuela) stopped  arming the Kurdish-led Democratic Forces of Syria (the YPG) – which has not had great success but remains the only barrier to the genocidal intentions of Daesh against the Kurds and their allies – where would that leave them?

But to return to the main point.

Andrew Murray is StWC chair, and a  Communist Party of Britain (CPB) member.

On the 19th of October he expressed this judgement,

The only solution to the dreadful civil war which has laid waste to Syria is a negotiated diplomatic end, says Andrew Murray.

The clear need is not for Britain to jump further into this toxic mix. It is for a negotiated diplomatic end to the dreadful civil war which has laid waste to Syria. Ultimately, only the Syrian people can determine their own future political arrangements.

But the foreign powers could assist by all ending their military interventions, open and clandestine, in Syria – ending the bombing and the arming of one side or another.

They should further promote peace by abandoning all the preconditions laid down for negotiations. Such preconditions only serve to prolong the conflict and to give either government or opposition hope that foreign military and diplomatic support could somehow lead to all-out victory.

On the CPB’s site he has added this, (no date),

Our bipartisan armchair strategists are obviously riled by Russia’s escalating military involvement in Syria.  But it is a fact.  What form of military intervention could now be undertaken which would not lead to a clash with Russia they do not say.  Even the head of MI6 has acknowledged that “no-fly zones” are no longer a possibility, unless the NATO powers are prepared to countenance conflict with Moscow.


This is the CPB’s view, expressed on the 14th of October.

In a statement today Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths said:

The Communist Party maintains its opposition to US, NATO and British military intervention in Syria. Whatever the pretext – whether to defeat the barbaric ISIS or to rescue civilian populations – the real aim is clear: to strengthen the anti-Assad terrorist forces (Islamic fundamentalists who have largely displaced the Free Syrian Army ‘moderate opposition’), create areas in which these forces can operate freely (in the guise of ‘no-fly zones’ and ‘safe havens’) and ultimately to partition Syria and replace the Assad regime with a compliant puppet one.

Russian military forces are now attacking all the anti-Assad terrorists, including Isis, at the invitation of the Damascus government – which has every right to issue such an invitation as the internationally recognised political authority in Syria.

  • Is Andrew Murray saying that his comrades should change their opinion that Russia has “every right” to bomb in Syria?
  • Or is he indicating to the StWC that Vladimir Putin is effectively helping their call for the UK not to get involved?

There is also this, adding to the confused fog;

It is the fashion to show deference to Seamus Milne, such is the man’s elevation, beyond the dreams of say, a mere Malcolm Tucker.

But perhaps on the basis of his expertise on Russia, he can inform us of what’s really going on: A real counterweight to US power is a global necessity. 

Iron grip: Jeremy Corbyn's pro-Kremlin aide Seumas Milne pictured shaking hands with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, at a propaganda summit in Sochi last year



Written by Andrew Coates

November 4, 2015 at 1:14 pm

10 Responses

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  1. The sheer incoherence of Stop The War’s leadership (ie ‘Counterfire’) has been well and truly exposed over Syria. At least their neo-Stalinist allies are clear and coherent in their political support for Putin and Assad.

    Jim Denham

    November 4, 2015 at 2:58 pm

  2. Hi,

    who are the ‘neo-stalinists?’

    Counterfire has been well and truly exposed. How did this tiny group of nobodies get the leadership of stwc and peoples assembly? Can they be voted out and a new leadership elected to STWC?


    November 4, 2015 at 3:11 pm

  3. Andrew and Jim,

    sadly this is what you helped enable when you voted for Corbyn (at the time Chair of STWC, still a member) as Labour Party leader. You can express your revulsion at the likes of Milne, Archer, Murray, German, Rees and co, but they are all Corbyn’s mates and in some cases appointees. This was well known before the leadership election, and you are hardly naifs in the world of left-of-Labour politics; you knew better than most people. Don’t act shocked now when what a lot of us told you would happen has promptly happened.

    So now, what are you going to do about it?


    November 4, 2015 at 8:47 pm

  4. Ta muchly Andrew x

  5. Why not start a petition to get Corbyn to drop his association with StW? I’m sure plenty in Labour would sign.


    November 4, 2015 at 11:16 pm

  6. “So now, what are you going to do about it?” (asks Lamia):

    Answer: fight within the Labour Party.

    Jim Denham

    November 5, 2015 at 2:07 am

  7. “Why not start a petition to get Corbyn to drop his association with StW? I’m sure plenty in Labour would sign.”

    Unfortunately, Corbyn’s inner circle are all STWC or sympathetic to it. There is no way he will drop it. Again, this was warned of – and a lot of people who should know better went ahead and backed Corbyn anyway. Now we have a Labour leadership which is more sympathetic to terrorists and their apologists than to British soldiers. If Labour members want that, knock yourselves out; just don’t kid yourselves that it will win you many votes outside of London.


    November 5, 2015 at 2:58 am

  8. Essential reading: The Syrian government is now a vampire state feeding off its own people.

    Amnesty International

    The whirl and churn of the news cycle means that even cataclysmic events like the ever-widening war in Syria usually make only fleeting appearances. Amazing, really, that a human catastrophe of this magnitude – a quarter of a million dead, a staggering two million (out of 22 million) injured, and 11 million uprooted from their homes – can so easily slip from our TV screens. Then again, it was probably the same during the Vietnam War …

    But whether or not it’s news, the horror continues. Still experimenting with their trademark shock tactics, the Islamic State armed group have recently blown up captives they’d tied to ancient Roman columns at the Palmyra archaeological site, following this with fresh territorial gains in Homs province.

    Meanwhile, Russia’s sudden acceleration of military support for the Syrian government has seen a wave of new aerial attacks, with Russian forces conducting up to 60 air sorties a day, while cruise missiles have been fired from the Caspian Sea. Unsurprisingly, the Russian onslaught has given rise to multiple reports of civilian casualties, including with MSF hospitals apparently being hit. Russia’s intervention comes after the US-led coalition has already conducted thousands of attacks in Syria (2,720 as at 3 November), with a worrying lack of information about how many civilians may have been killed or injured as a result (the USA’s recent MSF hospital blunder in Kunduz in Afghanistan hardly instils much confidence).

    And of course the Syrian government continues with its own bombardments – including with massive barrel bombs – of places like Aleppo and Daraa. Government barrel bombs alone have killed something like 9,000 people in the last 20 months (nearly all of them civilians), more than all those killed in Syria by Islamic State in the same period.

    None of this is exactly unknown – it’s just … dispersed among deadeningly over-familiar news reports.

    More: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/press-release-me-let-me-go/syria-government-now-vampire-state-feeding-its-own-people?

    Andrew Coates

    November 5, 2015 at 12:56 pm

  9. And then there’s this:

    Andrew Coates

    November 5, 2015 at 5:35 pm

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