Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Opposing British Intervention in Syria: A Democratic Socialist Stand.

with 3 comments


This Blog believes that Her Majesty’s Government’s plans to join armed intervention in Syria are fundamentally misguided.

We also consider that much of the furore against  the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corybn,  is manufactured.

It is beyond sadness that a decision which will affect the lives of Syrians is affected by those who wish to stoke up opposition to the Party’s democratically elected head.

Those who wish to join National Labour and support David Cameron over this issue do so on the basis of, firstly, a misleading reading of the Labour Party Conference’s decisions on the issue, and, secondly, on a willful misunderstanding of the effects of the military operations in the Syrian civil war.

There is a large constituency of people who are opposed to the government and the wider international ‘coalition’ on this issue.

To those who point to the French Socialist President’s support for war we say with our comrades within the Front de gauche and France’s internationalist left: Non à la guerre !

This does not mean absolute opposition to all forms of intervention, including support for armed democratic players, above all the Kurdish PYD.

The below offer some ideas for how democratic socialists might develop a stand in line with Labour Party policy.

Labour Party Conference position.

Conference notes the evidence of an increased Russian military build-up in Syria; the announcement of talks between US and Russian military leaders aimed at avoiding the risk of clashes in Syria on Friday, 18th September; the meeting between the Israeli PM and Russian President in Moscow on Monday, 21st September, focused on preventing accidental conflict between their forces in Syria; and the growing international diplomatic effort to achieve a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Syria.

Conference also notes the likelihood that David Cameron will seek House of Commons support to extend UK participation in the bombing of Iraq to Syria in the near future.

Conference believes the Parliamentary Labour Party should oppose any such extension unless the following conditions are met:

  1. Clear and unambiguous authorisation for such a bombing campaign from the United Nations;
  2. A comprehensive European Union-wide plan is in place to provide humanitarian assistance to the increased number of refugees that even more widespread bombing can be expected to lead to;
  3. Such bombing is exclusively directed at military targets directly associated with ‘Islamic State’, noting that if the bombing campaign advocated by the British government in 2013 had not been blocked by the PLP under Ed Miliband’s leadership, ‘Islamic State’ forces might now be in control of far more Syrian territory, including Damascus.
  4. Any military action is subordinated to international diplomatic efforts, including the main regional powers, to bring the Syrian civil war to an end, since only a broadly-based and sovereign Syrian government can ultimately retake territory currently controlled by ‘Islamic State’.

Conference believes that only military action which meets all these objectives, and thus avoids the risk of repeating the disastrous consequences of the 2003 war in Iraq and the 2011 air campaign intervention in Libya, can secure the assent of the British people.

Important Comment from Shiraz Socialist.

Corbyn Must Back Labour’s Policy, Not the Stop the War’s. 

So it is clear that, on the basis of  Labour Party policy, Jeremy Corbyn would have little difficulty in motivating his opposition to Cameron’s plan for Britain to join the bombing campaign. Unfortunately, all too often Corbyn’s approach seems guided not so much by Labour Party policy, but by Stop The War’s. This means that he comes over as opposing any military action against ISIS/Daesh under any conceivable circumstances – and indeed, often gives the impression of doubting that they need to be fought at all.

The Stop The War Coalition position is at best bourgeois isolationist/anti-internationalist and at worse – as exhibited  in this article by a founder of Stop The War  ‘defeat imperialism, not isis‘ and by Stop The War tame celeb Mark Rylance – on ISIS not being enemies and “sitting down with them” – simply apologism for the fascists.

Equally, the idea that if only we only left “them” alone “they” wouldn’t attack “us” at home (put forward in one form or another, by Stop The War, Diane Abbott, and Corbyn himself) not only ascribes rational motives to these demented fascist nihilists but also ignores and insults the thousands of Syrians, Kurds and Iraqis murdered, enslaved and raped by ISIS.

Corbyn should break with the bourgeois isolationism and appeasement of  Stop The War, and make it clear that if the conditions set out by Party policy were met, he would not rule out military action. In addition (as John McDonnell has very wisely advocated) he should allow a free vote to avoid a damaging split in the PLP and Shadow Cabinet over the wrong issue.

The Tory Motion (from Labour Briefing).

The Tory motion…and Cameron’s “plan”

That this house notes that ISIL poses a direct threat to the United Kingdom;

  • further notes the clear legal basis to defend the UK and our allies in accordance with the UN Charter;
  • notes that military action against ISIL is only one component of a broader strategy to bring peace and stability to Syria;
  • welcomes the renewed impetus behind the Vienna talks on a ceasefire and political settlement;
  • welcomes the Government’s continuing commitment to providing humanitarian support to Syrian refugees; underlines the importance of planning for post-conflict stabilisation and reconstruction in Syria;
  • welcomes the Government’s continued determination to cut ISIL’s sources of finance, fighters, and weapons; notes the requests from France, the US and regional allies for UK military assistance;
  • acknowledges the importance of seeking to avoid civilian causalities; using the UK’s particular capabilities;
  • welcomes United Nations Security Council Resolution 2249 which determines that ISIL constitutes an ‘unprecedented threat to international peace and security’ and calls on states to take ‘all necessary measures’ to prevent terrorist acts by ISIL and to ‘eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria’;
  • notes the Government will not deploy UK troops in ground combat operations;
  • welcomes the Government’s commitment to provide quarterly progress reports to the House;
  • and accordingly supports Her Majesty’s Government in taking military action, specifically airstrikes, exclusively against ISIL in Syria;
  • and offers its wholehearted support to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

Link to the plan document: PM-Syria-Plan

 None of which answers this:

This report just how far from reality talk of a ‘coalition’ uniting these forces is:

EDDAH: Saudi Arabia has a crucial role to play in uniting the opposition in war-torn Syria during an international conference to be held in Jordan in mid-December, a UN official has said.

“I believe that the conference is very important. It would have a direct impact on the efforts aimed at starting a political process in Syria to put an end to the atrocities being committed there,” Jan Eliasson, deputy UN secretary-general, told the Al-Arabia news channel.

The Vienna meeting has urged Jordan to host the conference to decide which were the terrorist organizations among the warring groups, he said, adding that the Kingdom has been given the task to forge unity among the Syrian opposition.

 Eliasson said the UN was preparing for talks on Syria, which would be at the earliest. There is hope for a political process in that country, as long as there is an intensive dialogue between Moscow and Washington, he said, adding that the presence of Saudi Arabia and Iran on the negotiating table was very important.

 “Insurmountable atrocities have been committed in this war, resulting in awful sufferings,” Eliasson said.

 “It has placed a heavy burden on the shoulders of neighboring countries. It also allowed Daesh to dominate and shake the political map of Europe,” said Eliasson.

 “In my view, this war affects all of us. I also believe that now there is an acceptance of this reality,” he added.

“We have a very practical agenda. I hope that with the help of Saudi Arabia, we can determine the representatives of the opposition for peace talks,” said Eliasson.

Arab news.

Draft Resolution (from Facebook left activists).

We express our outrage at the recent atrocities by the far right political-religious movement ISIS/Daesh – and our solidarity with its victims.

We oppose Western bombing in Syria, and Russian bombing. Russia’s bombing is intended to bolster the murderous Assad regime. US bombing will serve only the aim of containing the conflict, with continued bloodshed until maybe the big powers can negotiate some deal (if that). It is the continuation of a policy which we cannot endorse, including the US’s record of destructive interventions in the region and its alliance with the Saudi Arabian, Turkish and other reactionary governments. British bombing in Syria will serve only the purpose of maintaining the UK’s position as a US ally.

We note that party conference policy set down criteria for military action in Syria which have not been met. More importantly, bombing will cause death and destruction while being no more likely to improve matters than bombing was, for instance, in Afghanistan. It can serve no rational purpose from the point of view of democracy or human rights. We call on Labour MPs to oppose bombing in Syria.

We support the beleaguered forces of democracy, secularism and the left against the Syrian regime, ISIS and the other sectarian militias. We support the Kurdish movement in its fight for self-determination against Assad, ISIS and the Turkish government. We support military aid to the Kurdish forces.

On the Kurdish issue and Syria more broadly see this post for food for thought: Anti-Imperialism for Dummies: Ignoring Syrians and Their Own Contradictions.

Right on cue one of the biggest dummies writes,

Our job is to defeat imperialism, not Isis Alex Callinicos. Socialist Worker.


Written by Andrew Coates

December 1, 2015 at 5:38 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Military annihilation of Daesh, however achieved, is something to be fervently wished for. (Civilians will die in the course of this, as they are dying right now).

    Limited UK bombing is not a part of a strategy to achieve this.

    Make a start:

    Safe zones
    Attack the funding – especially Saudi
    Deal with Turkey –porous borders, stop their war on the Kurds
    Back and arm the Kurds – delist the PKK
    No deal with Assad
    International relief effort for the refugees

    Boleyn Ali

    December 2, 2015 at 1:20 pm

  2. Beirut (AFP) Nov 26 –

    “US soldiers are in Kobane, the town in northern Syria nearly destroyed in fierce fighting with the Islamic State group, to train Kurdish forces to battle the jihadists, Kurdish sources said Thursday.

    Mustapha Abdi [Kobane Mayor], an activist in the town on the Turkish border, told AFP the American instructors had arrived “in recent hours”, in what is the first official deployment of US ground troops in Syria.

    A source with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) said the Americans would help plan offensives against two Syrian cities held by IS — Jarablus and the jihadists’ Syrian “capital”, Raqa.”

    I have to admit to being unsure about extending UK air strikes into Syria against Isis. However, if it is the case the air strikes are going to used to provide cover and support for the Kurds and other democratic, secular forces (as above) against Isis, then they should be supported. Why should the Kurds wait for Isis to prepare and re-group to attack them again, after all? A change of Govt in the US could well leave them dangerously isolated again in the next year or so.

    As I pointed out in another thread, Jeremy Corbyn’s solution to the siege of Kobane last year was to say the UK Govt should call on Turkey to provide “humanitarian aid” and “safe passage” to Kobane. This was his alternative to American air strikes.

    His “alternative” was screamingly absurd in its ridiculousness. Would he have suggested that Slobovan Milosovic provide “humanitarian aid” and “safe passage” to the Bosnian Muslims as Radovan Karadžić and his forces were slaughtering them? I hope not but who knows what he said at the time?

    Remember, Corbyn still opposes all air strikes in the region whether or not they defend the Kurds or anyone else. Maybe he will repeat this view today in the House of Commons.

    Perhaps he will also make his suggestion again that Turkey help the Kurds. That should be a cue for some grim laughter.


    John R

    December 2, 2015 at 1:30 pm

  3. John, Corbyn’s attitude on the Kurdish forces is tea and sympathy and a promise of a quiet word with the right people to help get an agreement off the ground.

    If you found him saying that about Turkey, you could probably find him saying the same kind of thing about any power in the region, not to say any conflict.

    Quiet word – or, to be more accurate, making his concerns known – this approach, well, he directly said as much when challenged (okay by me) about what he’d done during a visit to the bloodstained Iranian regime to defend imprisoned leftists, democrats and…the rest.

    Not actually wrong at all, just as irrelevant as humming.

    Though he was not quite as absurd as John Rees, who suggested (as I have mentioned before) – no doubt out of a desire to get on the bandwagon when he realised many on the left backed the Kurdish fight for dear life in Kobane – that they get arms from Venezuela.

    But we are now talking about the British government, another believer in quiet words to the right kind of chaps.

    In this case a government with real, if limited, power and not a backbencher (as Corbyn was).

    Cameron’s main plan is to aid the Syrian Opposition and within that some kind of ‘third force’ which will eventually emerge strong enough to play a major role in a post-Assad government.

    I cite,

    “Cameron: “He said that there are 70,000 “Syrian opposition fighters on the ground who do not belong to extremist groups”. The impression given is that there is a “third force” in Syria which will provide a powerful ally for the US, France and Britain. ”

    This would be very convenient but, unfortunately, its existence is very debatable. “The notion that there are 70,000 moderate fighters is an attempt to show that you can fight Isis and [President Bashar al] Assad at the same time,” says Professor Joshua Landis, the director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and an expert on Syrian politics. But he is dismissive of the idea that such a potential army exists, though he says there might be 70,000 Syrians with a gun who are fighting for their local clan, tribe, warlord or village. “The problem is that they hate the village down the road just as much they hate Isis and Assad,” he said.

    The armed opposition to President Assad is dominated by Isis, the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and the ideologically similar Ahrar al-Sham. Some of the smaller groups, once estimated by the CIA to number 1,500, might be labelled as moderate, but only operate under license from the extreme jihadists. Aymenn al-Tamimi, a fellow at the Middle East Forum and an authority on the Syrian armed opposition, says that these groups commonly exaggerate their numbers, are very fragmented and have failed to unite, despite years of war.

    He recalls that one group he met during a recent visit to Latakia province in north-west Syria claimed to have 2,000 fighters, but probably numbered only 500.

    He warns that they pretend to the outside world that they are more moderate than they really are, speaking of “the equality of all Syrians before the law” when they are outside Syria or communicating with people who have never been to the country, but express “hatred for Shia and Allawites” on all other occasions. ”

    And so it goes.

    Britain is on the verge of entering into a long war in Syria based on wishful thinking and poor information…
    Patrick Cockburn was invited by Jeremy Corbyn to brief MPs on the facts about today’s Common’s vote on air strikes in Syria. This is his briefing to you


    Andrew Coates

    December 2, 2015 at 5:31 pm

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