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Posts Tagged ‘War

New Arms Race? Putin announces new strategic, nuclear-capable weapons

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Putin, “new high-speed cruise missile” “unlimited range” “can penetrate any missile defence”

The Guardian reports.

Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia had developed and was testing a new line of strategic, nuclear-capable weapons that would be able to outmanoeuvre US antiballistic missile defences, suggesting a new arms race between Moscow and the west.

Speaking in a nationally televised address to Russia’s political elite, the president showed both video and animation of Russian ICBMs, cruise missiles, and other weapons that he said Russia had developed as a result of the US pulling out of the 1972 antiballistic missile treaty signed with the Soviet Union.

“You didn’t listen to our country then,” Putin said during the speech, where he said that some of the weapons were already being tested. “Listen to us now.”

The remarks came during a state of the union speech heavy on economic promises for the Russian people and sabre-rattling against the US in a presentation widely viewed as Putin’s first stump speech for Russian elections, set for 18 March. He is expected to win a fourth term as president.

More details soon …

The Russian state funded French language Sputnik adds that ‘supersonic’ weapons are planned,

La Russie possède des armes hypersoniques, a déclaré jeudi le Président Poutine dans son message annuel au Parlement.

«La Russie possède des armes de ce type [hypersoniques]», a déclaré Vladimir Poutine jeudi en prononçant son discours annuel devant l’Assemblée fédérale (parlement) russe.

Sky News has just confirmed this,

Russia developing nuclear arsenal ‘immune to interception’, Vladimir Putin claims

The Russian President claims a new high-speed cruise missile has an unlimited range and can penetrate any missile defence.

Comment.

There will doubtless be  renewed concern about nuclear weapons.

It would be unfortunate if left-wing opinion were now  to focus on this issue.

It would be extremely unhelpful if, for example, the Stop the War Coalition were to mount a campaign on a potential new nuclear arms race.

The horrors of Syria, in which Russian intervention and the actions of Assad’s regime, Turkey’s armed incursion against the Kurds and their allies, not to mention the killings by the genociders of Daesh, have have taken place without nuclear arms playing any part.

One may not agree with everything Patrick Cockburn says but his latest article puts these issues where they rightly are, centre stage.

Syria: Attack on Afrin will bring devastation and suffering like that seen in Eastern Ghouta, Kurds warn

The Wars in Syria: In the first of a new series, a senior Kurdish official tells Patrick Cockburn that conflict in Syria will last at least another four years, with no end in sight for civilian suffering

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2018 at 12:49 pm

Morning Star Joins “Counter Narrative” – “White Helmets” linked to Terrorist Factions.

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Image result for white helmets

“Leadership of the White Helmets is some of the most hardline terrorist groups in Syria” says Morning Star.

There has been a lot of very distasteful material circulated about the White Helmets in Syria.

This began to be widely noticed last year.

Amongst others former leftist Tariq Ali joined in the smears against the humanitarian organisation just after the murder of comrade Jo Cox,

Yesterday the Guardian published a robust defence of the White Helmets.

Olivia Solan reported in great detail on the continuing efforts to besmirch them.

The main charge is that they are “a fraudulent terrorist organisation”.

Before reading some of the article we should recall that the “Daily paper of the Left”, the Morning Star,  recently published this:

Is BBC Panorama just a useful propaganda tool?  Alison Banville. Morning Star, 14th December 2017.

Two days before the episode was aired, independent investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley published a deep expose of the entire affair based on her own on-the-ground, investigations inside Syria.

“During my time in East Aleppo in 2016/17 with Syrian journalist Khaled Iskef, we translated documents (in Arabic) found by Iskef that referred to two British organisations, Adam Smith International (ASI) and Integrity Global in connection with the funding of Syrian ‘opposition’ structures in East Aleppo,” she recalls.

The next thing Beeley says is crucial to understanding what this story is really about. “These documents were found among the debris of the various Nusra Front (al-Qaida in Syria) centres, East Aleppo Council buildings and White Helmet centres. It is noteworthy that these three entities operating in what was terrorist-occupied East Aleppo until December 2016, always worked alongside one another, either sharing facilities and buildings or next door to one another in the various districts of East Aleppo where they centred their activities.”

Now, let me first point out that you may not be used to the phrase “terrorist-occupied East Aleppo” if your only sources of news are western corporate ones which routinely and reflexively describe the exact same place at that time as “rebel-held East Aleppo” in line with the official government narrative..

But if, like myself and my travelling companion, fellow independent journalist Mike Raddie, you had walked the streets of East Aleppo in April this year and listened to the people there who came out to meet us, you would have heard them talk not of “rebels,” but only of “terrorists.”

Because that’s what you call people who terrorise you. And when a man stands in front of you and tells you that these occupiers killed his six children, you simply do not have the right to call them anything else. If you’re in any doubt about the correct nomenclature here then more first-hand testimony from East Aleppo residents gathered by Beeley can be found at 21stcenturywire.com, and you might ask yourself as you read why it wasn’t brought to you by Channel 4 News, ITV News or the BBC?

……

This brings us to my second point regarding Beeley’s quote. “Nusra Front (al-Qaida in Syria) centres, East Aleppo Council buildings, and White Helmet centres,” where the documents confirming the Adam Smith Institute’s involvement were found, represent entities which “always worked alongside one another.”

Oh dear. This would be difficult to explain to the public wouldn’t it?

The White Helmets are eulogised by the entire western establishment and its duteous media. How could Panorama have accommodated the affiliation of these civil defence “heroes” with Nusra Front terrorists without undermining the entire edifice of propaganda propping up the White Helmets’ mythology? And without exposing them as what John Pilger has described as “a complete propaganda construct in Syria”?

Again, Beeley has done the on-the-ground work that so-called journalists in the “mainstream” media should have done and compiled “categorical” evidence that “the leadership of the White Helmets is some of the most hardline terrorist groups in Syria,” all the while being funded to the tune of £200 million by the British government.

White Helmets have been filmed standing on the dead bodies of Syrian Arab Army soldiers, celebrating executions, staging fake rescues and sawing the head off a 12-year-old child.

White Helmet members have been photographed in their “civil defence” uniforms and then the same individuals pictured holding guns as they pose with their terrorist factions.

The White Helmets are not recognised by the Switzerland-based International Civil Defence Organisation (ICDO) but the REAL Syrian civil defence is.

Oh yes, they do exist and, unlike the White Helmets, this genuine group works in all areas, saving civilians without discrimination, not just in the areas controlled by terrorist groups. They even have an emergency phone number that citizens can call for aid. it’s 113, in case you were wondering.

Panorama could have made their programme about this and included the evidence that the Free Syrian Police — that’s the Orwellian use of “free” by the way — and the local councils being funded by the British taxpayer through the secretive and unaccountable Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) and doled out by the Adam Smith Institute and Integrity Global are, along with the White Helmets, working alongside Nusra Front.

That is the real story, but they didn’t tell it.

No corporate media outlet is going to expose this huge propaganda exercise that is designed to destabilise Syria rather than, as the Foreign Office’s claims, “make communities in Syria safer by providing basic civilian policing services.”

This is not the first time they have used this ‘source’ as Paul tweeted earlier this year.

Yesterday the Guardian published this:

How Syria’s White Helmets became victims of an online propaganda machine

The Russia-backed campaign to link the volunteer rescuers with al-Qaida exposes how conspiracy theories take root: ‘It’s like a factory’

by

The Syrian volunteer rescue workers known as the White Helmets have become the target of an extraordinary disinformation campaign that positions them as an al-Qaida-linked terrorist organisation.

The Guardian has uncovered how this counter-narrative is propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government (which provides military support to the Syrian regime).

The White Helmets, officially known as the Syria Civil Defence, is a humanitarian organisation made up of 3,400 volunteers – former teachers, engineers, tailors and firefighters – who rush to pull people from the rubble when bombs rain down on Syrian civilians. They’ve been credited with saving thousands of civilians during the country’s continuing civil war.

They have also exposed, through first-hand video footage, war crimes including a chemical attack in April. Their work was the subject of an Oscar-winning Netflix documentary and the recipient of two Nobel peace prize nominations.

In spite of this positive international recognition, there’s a counter-narrative pushed by a vocal network of individuals who write for alternative news sites countering the “MSM agenda”. Their views align with the positions of Syria and Russia and attract an enormous online audience, amplified by high-profile alt-right personalities, appearances on Russian state TV and an army of Twitter bots.

The full article is long and can be read through the above link.

But one point should be underlined.

The source the Morning Star relies on, Vanessa Beely, and her 21stcenturywire.com, stink to high heaven.

Some of the most vocal skeptics of the UN’s investigation include the blogger Vanessa Beeley, the daughter of a former British diplomat who visited Syria for the first time in July 2016; a University of Sydney senior lecturer, Timothy Anderson, who described the April chemical attack as a “hoax”; and Eva Bartlett, a Canadian writer and activist who said the White Helmets staged rescues using recycled victims – a claim that’s been debunked by Snopes and Channel 4 News.

It continues,

Beeley frequently criticises the White Helmets in her role as editor of the website 21st Century Wire, set up by Patrick Henningsen, who is also an editor at Infowars.com.

In 2016, Beeley had a two-hour meeting with Assad in Damascus as part of a US Peace Council delegation, which she described on Facebook as her “proudest moment”. She also was invited to Moscow to report on the “dirty war in Syria”; there, she met with senior Russian officials including the deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov and Maria Zakharova, director of information and press at Russia’s foreign affairs ministry.

RT duly responded,

Question less: The Guardian whitewashes all criticism of Syria’s foreign-funded White Helmets

The Guardian has cast aside self-awareness, seized the moral high ground (its self-proclaimed permanent base), and jumped to the defense of Syria’s ‘White Helmets,’ painting the group as victims of an “online propaganda machine.”

Journalist Olivia Solon, in an article headlined ‘White Helmets became victims of an online propaganda machine,’ is keen to make sure that any questions about the motives of the group are dismissed as a ‘counter-narrative.’ That’s what others might call the ‘other side of the story.’ In full effect is the journalistic trope of our times… RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE!

The White Helmets, officially known as the Syria Civil Defense, is a humanitarian organization made up of 3,400 volunteers – former teachers, engineers, tailors and firefighters – who rush to pull people from the rubble when bombs rain down on Syrian civilians. They’ve been credited with saving thousands of civilians during the country’s continuing civil war.”

Even someone who eats lentils for every meal would have to admit that the passage above lacks a certain journalistic cynicism. Whether you like it or not, there are very definite questions hanging over the White Helmets – some of them are raised by Solon, but only in a mumbly, out-of-the-corner-of-the-mouth, staring-at-the-floor kind of way, before being roundly dismissed.

How can they be bad? the White Helmets starred in a movie that won an Oscar for heaven’s sake. (Of course it’s not relevant, but so did Kevin Spacey).

These guys wear white helmets and surely only good guys wear white! They’ve reportedly fallen victim to the worst villain there is, Darth Vad… erm… Russian Social Media!!

The way the Russian propaganda machine has targeted the White Helmets is a neat case study in the prevailing information wars,” Solon writes.

Indeed! Just as this article is itself a case study in lacking self-awareness, strategically balancing non-sequiturs and omissions and displaying a complete unwillingness to engage with the complexity of life, geopolitics and Syria.

The UAE based National describes those joining with the above,  “Alongside these channels there have been online attacks by a loose coalition of vocal activists and trolls, including anti-Western bloggers and far-right conspiracy theorists railing against the MSM [mainstream media], as well as evidence of Twitter bots furthering the reach of the smears.”

And the Morning Star.

I will conclude with one of the latest Tweets from the, no doubt also lentil-eating,  ‘terrorists” themselves.

Hilary Benn: Many on the Left Underestimate his Speech in the Syria Debate.

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“Greatest oratory can lead us to the greatest mistakes.”

Many on the left gravely underestimate the power of Hilary Benn’s speech in the House of Commons debate yesterday.

Not so John McDonnell who has shone with his good sense and judgement throughout the debate on Syria.

“His oratory was great. He reminded me of Tony Blair’s speech taking us into the Iraq war and I am always anxious that the  as well.”

He dismissed the 66 Labour MPs who voted with the government as a “small minority” and said Mr Corbyn had the backing of the majority of Labour members, the party’s national executive and the shadow cabinet.

He also condemned the abuse directed at Labour MPs who backed military action.

“We have said if they are Labour Party members we have disciplinary processes and they will take place. We cannot have intimidation in our party,” he told Today.

BBC

We can only endorse this statement:

Momentum strongly disapproves of anyone who engages in abusive behaviour towards MPs or anyone else, and threatening or bullying, whether they are outside the Labour Party (as most are) or inside it. We specifically asked our supporters to emulate Jeremy Corbyn, and to keep their messages about the issues and to refrain from any personal attacks.”

Momentum is not a threat to MPs who voted for bombing. We have made clear that we will not campaign for the deselection of any MP and will not permit any local Momentum groups to do so. The selection of candidates is entirely a matter for local party members and rightly so.”

Those determined not to respect the opinions of those they oppose on UK intervention should pause.

If there is one place to start from it’s from reading or watching Hilary Benn’s speech.

These extracts give some flavour of Benn’s intervention.

Now Mr Speaker, no one in this debate doubts the deadly serious threat we face from Daesh and what they do – although sometimes we find it hard to live with the reality. We know that in June four gay men were thrown off the fifth storey of a building in the Syrian city of Deir al-Zor. We know that in August the 82-year-old guardian of the antiquities of Palmyra, Professor Khaled al-Assad, was beheaded and his headless body was hung from a traffic light. And we know that in recent weeks there has been the discovery of mass graves in Sinjar, one said to contain the bodies of older Yazidi women murdered by Daesh because they were judged too old to be sold for sex. We know they have killed 30 British tourists in Tunisia, 224 Russian holidaymakers on a plane, 178 people in suicide bombings in Beirut , Ankara and Suruc, 130 people in Paris – including those young people in the Bataclan, whom Daesh, in trying to justify their bloody slaughter, called them apostates engaged in prostitution and vice. If it had happened here they could have been our children, and we know they are plotting more attacks.

Sister Socialist Party.

So the question for each of us and for our national security is this: given that we know what they are doing, can we really stand aside and refuse to act fully in our self defence against those who are planning these attacks? Can we really leave to others the responsibility for defending our national security when it is our responsibility? And if we do not act, what message would that send about our solidarity with those countries that have suffered so much, including Iraq and our ally France. Now France wants us to stand with them , and President Hollande, the leader of our sister socialist party, has asked for our assistance and help. And as we are undertaking air strikes in Iraq, where Daesh’s hold has been reduced, and we are already doing everything but engage in air strikes in Syria, should we not play our full part?

From Iraq to Kobane.

Now Mr Speaker, it has been argued in the debate that air strikes achieve nothing. Not so. Look at how Daesh’s forward march has been halted in Iraq. The house will remember that 14 months ago people were saying, ‘They are almost at the gates of Baghdad.’ And that is why we voted to respond to the Iraqi government’s request for help to defeat them. Look at how their military capacity and their freedom of movement has been put under pressure. Ask the Kurds about Sinjar and Kobane. Now of course air strikes alone will not defeat Daesh, but they make a difference because they are giving them a hard time and it is making it more difficult for them to expand their territory.

International Brigade.

Now Mr Speaker, I hope the House will bear with me if I direct my closing remarks to my Labour friends and colleagues on this side of the House. As a party, we have always been defined by our internationalism. We believe we have a responsibility one to another. We never have and we never should walk by on the other side of the road. And we are here faced by fascists. Not just their calculated brutality, but their belief that they are superior to every single one of us here tonight, and all of the people that we represent.They hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt. They hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt. They hold our democracy, the means by which we will make our decision tonight, in contempt. And what we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated. And it is why, as we have heard tonight, socialists and trade unionists and others joined the International Brigade in the 1930s to fight against Franco. It’s why this entire House stood up against Hitler and Mussolini. It is why our party has always stood up against the denial of human rights and for justice. And my view, Mr Speaker, is that we must now confront this evil. It is now time for us to do our bit in Syria. And that is why I ask my colleagues to vote for this motion tonight.

Mirror

This is not rhetoric.

It is a carefully constructed argument studded with language of some grandeur.

We stand with the victims of Deash, for its defeat, and this sets out a deep ethical dilemma.

That its premises and conclusions are contestable does not take away from the fact that it, this has to be said, is ethically kilometres away from the slogan mongering of those who say, with Alex Callinicos, of the Socialist Workers Party, “Our job is to defeat imperialism, not Isis.

We are not going to wait for the “Arab Revolution”, as these voices suggest, to resolve the Syrian civil war.

But we can express more than doubt that the forces Benn backs are a vehicle for human rights and justice.

Who can answer his arguments?

The Stop the War Coalition has issued this statement, in the name of Andrew Murray and Lindsey German.

The Stop the War Coalition believes that the decision taken by MPs tonight is profoundly mistaken and dangerous. The prime minister made no good case for war, and his abuse of those who differ as “terrorist sympathisers” gives a measure of his small-mindedness. There is no good case for British airstrikes in a war which is already seeing the two major military powers, the U.S. and Russia, bombing Syria. A new war will not increase the prospects of peace in Syria, nor will the British people be safer from terrorism. And the record of two years’ bombing of IS in Iraq shows that it will not be dislodged by a great-power air war.

How far can this be taken seriously? Are they the people to persuade us for an anti-war movement based on human rights and justice.

Andrew Murray is a member of the Communist Party of Britain, which supports the legitimacy of the actions of one of these “major military powers”, Russia.

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.

Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffith

It hardly needs adding that having to rely on figures like George Galloway and Tariq Ali to convey their message at demonstrations does not add to the Stop the War Coalition’s moral authority or popular appeal.

Galloway is too well known to bring up further.

On Ali can only note this,

Tariq Ali spoke at a Stop the War rally in London on November 28, 2015, on the need to oppose any Western interventions in Syria. He did so by propagating, again, conspiracy views and actually legitimizing Russian imperialist interventions in Syria.

But, for all Hilary Benn’s power of persuasion,  he has not presented a convincing case for Cameron’s actually existing plans.

These rely on many forces who are very far from a new International Brigade. 

The Coalition rests on Saudi Arabia (Islamist totalitarian state), Turkey (authoritarian Islamist democracy – violently opposed to the Kurds). It requires the tolerance of Iran (semi-totalitarian Islamist theocracy), and Putin’s Russia – not to mention some kind of modus vivendi with Assad (for the moment…).

As for the forces on the ground that Cameron and his allies place hopes in,  many of them “hold our values in contempt. They hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt. They hold our democracy, the means by which we will make our decision tonight, in contempt.”

‘Britain is on the verge of entering into a long war in Syria based on wishful thinking and poor information…’ Patrick Cockburn

“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.
pg-8-syria-map.jpg

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.

Sectarian Hatred.

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.

Mr Tamimi says that the smaller armed groups, which sometimes have good weapons supplied by the Americans, had acted as auxiliaries to Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham when they captured Idlib City in fierce fighting with the Syrian army in May.

Even if such groups are not extreme Islamists, they do not have the strength to refuse to cooperate. This will make any ceasefire very difficult to arrange because such moderate fighters as there are who might be willing to accept a truce, are intermingled with powerful Nusra forces which will not do so.

Radical Islamic Ideology.

Moreover, radical Islamic ideology has been gaining ground in all parts of the Syrian opposition. James Harkin, the author of Hunting Season about the kidnapping of foreigners in Syria and a frequent visitor to opposition-held areas, says that it is important to grasp that “none of these people [the armed opposition inside Syria] like us”.

They see the US, Britain and France as enemies. This includes the non-jihadists, whom the West hopes to enlist, who suspect they will be used as cannon fodder and then discarded.

Kurdish Forces.

The one group that has some claim to be non-sectarian, secular and a powerful fighting force is the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) who claim to number 50,000, but probably total half that. It has been the most effective anti-Isis ground force and, heavily supported by US air strikes, its territory now stretches across northern Syria between the Tigris and Euphrates.

It claims to be non-sectarian and that it does not persecute Sunni Arabs, but sectarian fear and hatred is today so deep in Syria – partly but not entirely because of the atrocities of Isis – that people flee the attack of every other sectarian or ethnic group different from themselves. The Sunni population in Raqqa, Isis’s Syrian capital, or in Mosul in Iraq, may dislike Isis, but they are even more terrified of the Kurds or the Shia militias.

Are these, seriously, the vehicles to help defeat fascism? 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 3, 2015 at 5:52 pm

“Terrorist Sympathisers” Against Syrian Bombing.

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“Desperate slur which demeans his office.”

The Guardian reports,

David Cameron has appealed to Conservative MPs to give him an overall parliamentary majority in favour of military action in Syria by warning them against voting alongside “Jeremy Corbyn and a bunch of terrorist sympathisers”.

MPs will vote late on Wednesday after a10-and-a half-hour debate in the Commons.

Amid Downing Street concerns that support among backbench Labour MPs is weakening, the prime minister told a meeting of the 1922 committee that he needed to win the vote solely on the basis of Tory MPs’ support to achieve his goal of securing a clear consensus.

“You should not be walking through the lobbies with Jeremy Corbyn and a bunch of terrorist sympathisers,” the prime minister reportedly told told the committee.

His remarks, echoing an attack on Corbyn at the Tory conference in October, were confirmed to the Guardian by a senior MP who attended the meeting and came as the Labour leader accused Cameron of adopting a “bomb first, talk later” approach.

In a Guardian article, Corbyn asks Labour MPs to think of the “terrible consequences” of the wars in the Middle East over the past 14 years.

“David Cameron … knows that opposition to his ill-thought-out rush to war is growing,” Corbyn writes. “On planning, strategy, ground troops, diplomacy, the terrorist threat, refugees and civilian casualties, it’s become increasingly clear the prime minister’s proposal simply doesn’t stack up.

“Cameron’s approach is bomb first, talk later. But instead of adding British bombs to the others now raining down on Syria, what’s needed is an acceleration of the peace talks in Vienna.”

Labour dismissed the prime minister’s attack on Corbyn as a “contemptible and desperate slur which demeans his office”. A party spokesman said: “He clearly realises he has failed to make a convincing case for military action in Syria and opinion is shifting away from him.”

The Independent adds this,

John Baron, an ex-army Tory MP and Foreign Affairs Committee member who is vocally opposed to action, criticised his own leader when asked on BBC’s Newsnight how he felt about being described as a “terrorist sympathiser”.

“I was a platoon commander in Northern Ireland and I do think we must not resort to such language,” he said.

“Instead we should look at the actual evidence before us. There is clearly a lack of ground force to take Daesh on and that is one of the key issues we have got to address.”

A YouGov poll for The Times found public opinion moving against air strikes – with the proportion in favour dropping from 59 per cent to 48 per cent and those against rising from 20 per cent to 31 per cent with undecideds unchanged on 21 per cent.

Last night, Mr Corbyn’s spokesman described Mr Cameron’s comments as “a contemptible and desperate slur which demeans his office”.

“He clearly realises he has failed to make a convincing case for military action and that opinion is shifting away from him,” he said.

There really isn’t anything left to say when a Prime Minister accuses his opponents of being “terrorist sympathisers”.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 2, 2015 at 1:07 pm

Opposing British Intervention in Syria: A Democratic Socialist Stand.

with 3 comments

130828_Syrie.png

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

UN resolution: George Galloway to Back United Bombing Campaign Against Da’esh?

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Gun’em George?

The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a France-sponsored resolution Friday sending a unified message from the world powers to the international community “to redouble and coordinate” programs to suppress terrorist acts by “all necessary measures.”

The resolution singles out the territory under the control of the Islamic State or Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS, ISIL and Da’esh, in Syria and Iraq, but also points to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, including the Al-Nusrah Front, while it condemns the “horrifying terrorist attacks” in Tunisia, Turkey, Lebanon, France and over Sinai. The text condemns hostage taking and killing as well as terror attacks, calling them “a threat to peace and security.”

CBS news.

Our old friend George Galloway has been having a bit of a change of heart recently,

George Galloway on shoot-to-kill

20 November 2015 Last updated at 00:47 GMT

Former Respect MP George Galloway says Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn should be clear in his backing for shoot-to-kill powers for police officers in the event of a terror attack.

Speaking on the BBC’s This Week, he says it is important officers are backed to “gun them down if necessary”.

He adds: “I would gun them down myself if necessary.”

BBC.

These are some of his most recent retweets which reflect Galloway’s interest in getting this kind of UN resolution.

 

We understand that a full Galloway public statement supporting the UN resolution, and “programmes to suppress terrorist acts by ‘all necessary measures.’, including bombing and other uses of military forces, by countries, including Russia and France, may well be in the pipeline.

Meanwhile his former comrades in the Stop the War Coalition are sticking to the limits of this position:

Defeating ISIS means firstly cutting its support from some of the most reactionary regimes in the region, including Saudi Arabia. Secondly it means not creating further grievances which help to fuel its support. That means rejecting the idea that bombing and intervention can make things better. We are told that we need to be ‘doing something’ in the face of these attacks. It is precisely because what we have been doing in the region that we face this threat.

Stop the War works for a world without terrorism and imperialism, and will continue to campaign for a peaceful solution to the crises in the Middle East.

StWC

Written by Andrew Coates

November 21, 2015 at 12:54 pm

Stop the War Coalition Confusion on ‘Bombing Syria’.

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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