No to supplying arms to Syria

The EU is lifting its arms embargo against Syria. Many Conservative MPs are against us supplying arms to Syria once the embargo is lifted. Our advice to the Foreign Secretary is simple – do not use this new UK authority. Why not instead negotiate a new deal for the UK with the EU so we can always make up our own mind about these matters? Once we have the power back to make our own decisions on these important questions, use the right and opportunity very sparingly, to avoid making bad situations worse.

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53 Comments

  1. The PrangWizard
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Off topic, I’m afraid but this is a statement from one of your colleagues who I think you said would do a good job. I wonder if you agree with this statement.

    “The sum of human happiness that is created by the houses that are being built is vastly greater than the economic, social and environmental value of a field that was growing wheat or rape.”

    Syria is another example of where your leaders are completely out of touch.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted May 28, 2013 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      TPW Last night, I watched for perhaps the third time, David Attenborough’s now famous documentary on the world’s population, in which he questions sustainability. It’s available to view on YouTube if anyone is interested. It shows we need to plan ahead!

      One other point worthy of note, is the projected fall in the EU population, and the increase in population on the Indian sub continent, that will outstrip even China before too long. So if exports are the key to our own sustainability……………..

      Tad

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted May 28, 2013 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      Spot on. Because of the stupidity of successive governments, I am never going to get to watch my grandchildren grow up. My children are going to have to emigrate to afford any sort of decent life. Whose bright idea was it to base our ‘wealth’ on inflated house prices. Surely any half wit can work out that if you allow house prices to triple in the course of a few years (that’s you Messrs. Lawson and Brown) – the next generation will either not be able to afford them or they will spend so much of their money on housing they won’t have anything left over for anything else.

      The rank stupidity of this is astonishing – yet still politicians try to keep the housing market inflated. Any and every economy in the world needs LOW energy and housing costs. With those essentials out of the way, people have money over to spend and create demand.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted May 28, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      Wizard–The man who said that is light years away from being any kind of conservative that I might recognise. He should wash his mouth out with carbolic.

  2. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Quite. However, your colleague Hague seems like a man with a mission. He is determined to get arms into the Syrian rebels whoever they may be. He has plummeted in my estimation since he became Foreign Secretary. Yesterday in interviews he told an obvious lie when he said that every type of weapon invented had been used against the Syrian people by Assad’s regime. Why is he such a warmonger?

    • Robert Taggart
      Posted May 28, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      Methinks ,nay, fears – ‘Billy boy’ has gone native – to the FCO !

    • Cliff. Wokingham
      Posted May 28, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      I agree: Mr Hague has gone down a great deal in my estimation since he became a minister in Mr Cameron’s government. I always thought the very Conservative young man that spoke at thje party conference all those years ago was the future of a true Conservative party…..How wrong was I!

      What ever we think of the government of Syria, it would be wrong for us to arm the rebels: one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. Wh have already interfered far too much in the Arab world and we are reaping now what we’ve sown in the past. We used to be quite liked and respected in the Arab world, but now we are seen as the enemy of their way of life and too close to the USA. The problem we have which the states do, is that we, in effect, have a border with the Arab world, thanks to our involvement with the EUSSR.

      I wonder how our government would have felt, if a foreign power decided to arm the protestors and rioters that we recently saw in London? They were unhappy with the state and were protesting about the state, in their eyes, killing a citizen and they were generally dissatisfied with the government’s policies. I see those in Syria protesting and resisting the state for similar reasons. If those London protests did esculate, would our government have welcomed another country arming those protestors to help facilitate regime change?

      The other problem with countries like Syria, is that there are factions that are historical enemies and each group wants power. Although we may not like some of the regimes in some countries, a strong government does atleast keeps some level of order, albeit in brutal ways sometimes, which when that regime is changed, it often leads to more unrest as each faction tries to cease power…..In my opinion, we interfere in other country’s civil wars and unrest at our peril and it saddens me that we appear to have learned little from our past in that respect.

    • zorro
      Posted May 28, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      I don’t it’s too difficult to come up with reasons for Mr Hague’s behaviour. Rest assured, I suspect that within days weapons will flow even more freely to the rebels via certain thief parties who are very much allied with the rebels. I also see that there is news of a new ‘unverifiable massacre’ in Syria helpfully filmed by the Syrian Army allegedly…….just as this resolution has been passed.

      zorro

    • Stuart
      Posted May 28, 2013 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

      Well now the Russians are supplying advanced surface to air missiles, there goes any option for a ‘no fly zone’, and who will be manning these missiles, it will be a certainty that they will be manned by Russian military ‘advisers’.

      So any attack on the missile sites, will involve an attack on the Russians, and what do you think their response will be if that happens?

      If William Hague thinks that getting us more deeply involved in this mess is a good idea, he needs his head examining, as the phrase ‘Playing with fire’ springs to mind…

    • Mark B
      Posted May 29, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      I have found the Foreign Secretary’s behavior over matters that needed to be handled diplomatically a little too bellicose for my taste. Whether it be over Syria or the matter of Julian Assange and the Ecuadorian embassy saga, he has demonstrated to me that he is not a ‘safe pair of hands’.

      In international matters of diplomacy, the use of language is a very important skill. Not only in ones own native tongue but in that of the recipient, one must be careful.

      Russia is not about to standby and lose a good ‘client state’ in an important region. This has all the hallmarks of a disaster in the making, much like the last one nearly 100 years ago.

      And as for those weapons. What assurances can our government make that those same weapons will not be used at some point in the future against us ?

    • lojolondon
      Posted May 29, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      It seems that Hague has the same problem as Cameron – engaging in a crusade with no consideration for the opinions of the people he represents. Like Cameron went for the gay marriage issue against public opinion (where T. Blair feared to tread), alienating his ground root supporters, Hague desperately wants to tear into Syria, supporting (opposition of varying kinds -ed) against a local dictator. Saudi, Hesbollah and Iran are also deeply involved, so picking sides here is certainly going to have long-lasting repercussions. Time to keep British soldiers, British weapons and money right where they belong, here in Britain.
      Lastly, note that the killers in Woolwich never thanked the British government for our support in Bosnia/Serbia or for freeing Iraq from Saddam. So there will be no thanks, and nothing to be gained, not from any quarter, and certainly not from British conservative voters. Who will vote UKIP. Because they listen. And tell us what we want to hear.

  3. Javelin
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    The EU like to say that by standing together the members will be stronger.

    What I have seen this week is our foreign secretary having to ask permission – basically going through a layer of red tape – to save lives. This felt like the disgraceful delaythe the EU caused in the Balkans.

    Put very simply – how can a layer of red tape help our country. The EU is not a federal authority with its own budget. Going to the EU will not create any extra resources. The EU can never be anything but a burden in defence issues.

    Dealing with Syria should be done on a country by country basis. NATO – or a similar organisation could deal with this. The EU is a federal authority without federal resources or benefits.

  4. Jerry
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Not sure if there has been any “authority” given by the EU, just that the old ban ended and no other agreement could be reached. That said, indeed I agree with the substance of your blog, we should not get involved in any way shape or form – have we not learnt anything from the shambles of Iraq.

    But of course this has little to do with the EU or even the UK’s own policies, it is being driven by the US and Israel, the head of Hezbollah let the cat out of the bag the other day when he confirmed their involvement in Syria supporting Assad loyalist whilst commenting that with no Assad there will be no Hezbollah…

    Not that I’m any supporter of Hezbollah you understand, I’m just pointing out the complexities of this ‘wish’ to supply arms to the anti Assad side.

  5. lifelogic
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Indeed and used very, very, sparingly indeed.

  6. Anthem
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    If I were a cynic, I might start to think that we’re almost picking a fight and getting ourselves into trouble over our head so that we need, and can call upon, the backup of the EU when the messy stuff hits the fan.

    How marvellous to be able to tell everyone “Now do you see why it is such a good idea to be a part of the EU?”

  7. TUCO
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    So let,s get this straight deny the use of certain firearms to legititimate law-abiding citizens of this country,but arm rebels whoever they are and whoever they follow in another country.Before you start arming all insundry the law abiding target shooter of this country wants his pistols back.

  8. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Foolish to supply arms to any side or sides in Syria, when we can reasonably expect that whichever side or sides eventually come out on top they will turn against us.

  9. Matthew
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Can’t understand what Mr Hague is thinking of in wanting to supply arms to the rebels. Such action may just encourage Iran to up the shipments to Assad.
    Arms that we supply could end up in the wrong hands and be used, at some point in the future, against Israel.
    Can we safely assume that the rebels, should they succeed, will be better than the present regime?

    It seems the US has learned its lessons regarding foreign interventions, we should do likewise.

    I’m all for providing humanitarian aid to the Syrian refugees.

  10. English Pensioner
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    There is no reason to believe that the”rebels” in Syria will be any better than Assad if they got into power. At least Assad, unlike other dictators, was not making threats towards this country and there is a lot to be said for the old adage “Better the Devil you know . . . “. Why don’t the major Arab powers, such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, sort out the problem? If they aren’t concerned, surely it’s not our concern either.

  11. ian wragg
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    He’s probably been instructed by the USA. Same as they want us to remain in the EUSSR.
    Not to our advantage but in their interest.

  12. Mike Stallard
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Syria is not England. It has a long history. They were building cities, worshipping their own gods, when we were still in skins. Islam has divided them into Shias and Sunni, each against the other, as at the end of the first rightly guided Caliphs. Syria has always been divided. And it has always been a battleground.

    So people who see the “rebels” as Democratic Americans rising against George III are simply (sorry) stupid.

    We have absolutely no business intervening any more than the Syrians have a right to come in here and suppress the EDL. Are we going mad?

  13. Tad Davison
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    ‘Why not instead negotiate a new deal for the UK with the EU so we can always make up our own mind about these matters?’

    Do you really think that is going to happen?

    The boy worries me. Hague used to like to be known as a Euro-sceptic politician who believed the UK should be free to determine its own foreign policy. The broad concensus here at home seems to be, that the Syrian govenment needs to be removed, but that giving weapons to all and sundry is a bad thing as one day, they might once again be used against us. What guarantees does Hague have, that recent history won’t repeat itself?

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

    • Tad Davison
      Posted May 28, 2013 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

      During the course of the day, this story has moved on. Russia has said if France and the UK arm the rebels, then they will provide anti-aircraft missiles to the government forces. Israel has indicated that if Russia places anti-aircraft defences at the disposal of the Syrian government, then they ‘will know what they must do’.

      Does anyone else see the dangerous potential for a much wider conflict and conflagration?

      Tad

  14. Cliff. Wokingham
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Sorry, this line
    “””The problem we have which the states do, is that we, in effect, have a border with the Arab world, thanks to our involvement with the EUSSR.””””

    Should read:
    The problem we have which the states don’t, is that we, in effect, have a border with the Arab world, thanks to our involvement with the EUSSR.

  15. Cheshire Girl
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    You’re absolutely right John, but will they listen? I’m betting they won’t – and we are never asked!

  16. Leslie Singleton
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Dear John–Totally agree with you

  17. lifelogic
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Osborne keeps telling us this morning he have made some “tough”, “hard” decisions on public expenditure. Sure (10% of some departments) so the state sector will continue to be paid at 150% of the private sector ones assumes even the ones doing nothing of any use at all or actually damaging.

    I suppose he simply does not know what tough actually is, unlike much of the wealth creating sector (or rather what is now left of it) after all the lack of banking, tax increases, the bloated parasitic state sector, expensive energy, daft regulations and lack of confidence in this government.

  18. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    It’s good that we now have a bargaining chip when negotiating with Russia over Syria. The way we should use this is to demand a huge reduction in the supply of Russian arms to the Syrian government. There is no guarantee of a political solution in Syria, no predicting who will win and no telling what sort of government might emerge if the current government fell.

    The pattern that appears to be emerging from the Arab Spring is that “democracy” enables the majority Islamic sect (Sunni or Shia depending on which country) to suppress the minority sect. Bahrain, not being democratic, is still governed (reasonably competently) by its Sunni minority; Bahrain is so dependent on Saudi Arabia that it is odds against the Shia being allowed to win. It appears that America and Britain back Sunni governments most of the time (in spite of the terrorist risk) and Russia backs Shia governments (or a minority sect in the case of Syria).

    All in all, the Arab Spring is a small step forward but no more than that.

  19. trevor james
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Can somebody explain to me who is going to pay for all this hardware?

    • sm
      Posted May 28, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      Me – and you, and you, and you………

  20. stred
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    This war is so dreadful and seems to be getting worse, with neither side able to win and more extermist factions appearing. To supply more weapons in the hope that they will stay with any particular faction makes Blair’s adventures seem sensible. What would make sense is a joint offer from the Arab Leage, the West and Russia to police a partitioning of the country on condition that the peacekeepers are not attacked. The UN would be useless and just run away if challenged. Something like the intervention in Bosnia may be worth offering.

  21. Max Dunbar
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    A complicated diplomatic juggling act with so many factors and imponderables to give careful consideration to. There is no straightforward answer to this – but if there is a healthy profit to be made……..

  22. zorro
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    All power to you John in stopping the spread of these maniacs…..

    zorro

  23. Normandee
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    We are absolutely as one on this Mr Redwood, who is this William Hague ? and what have they done with ours ?

  24. Mark
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Has Mr Hague learned nothing from the outcome of the Arab Spring so far?

  25. Vanessa
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Have we learnt nothing from Iraq ?

    Why are we governed by men who are so young and inexperienced they still want to play “soldiers” and beat their chests to show how powerful they are?

    I heard you on the R4 news today and absolutely agree with what you said. How can you be sure where these weapons end up? Do we know who these “rebels” are? How do we keep them out of the Syrian government’s hands? What are the consequences if the rebels win? Who will form the government then?

  26. matthu
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    As Roger Helmer reports today on his blog:

    The BBC Radio 4 Today Programme on May 27th (Bank Holiday) carried a discussion of Foreign Secretary William Hague’s efforts to persuade the EU to lift its arms embargo on Syria, so that Hague could pursue his pet project of arming “moderate” Syrian rebels, to help them overthrow President Assad. And I was struck by a question asked by the interviewer: “Didn’t we (the UK) once have our own foreign policy?” Good question. Yes we did.

    It seems that at the time of Libya, we did have control over our foreign policy and indeed we appeared to exercise our rights in that regard. But this time around we appear to have ceded the right to arm rebels to Brussels.

    So we have given up important rights in the interim?

    Some would argue that we only exercised our rights last time around with the tacit agreement of Brussels, but that would simply emphasize how much we have given away.

    So much for David Cameron’s assurance that no more rights would be ceded to Brussels.

  27. Leslie Singleton
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    And I wonder who pays for these arms–Now let me guess

  28. Chris
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I think you are absolutely right with regard to not supplying arms to Syria, but William Hague was the prime mover behind this initiative, along with Hague’s French equivalent. I personally am extremely concerned by what I consider to be a huge misjudgement on Hague’s part. Perhaps pressure from Obama is behind this too, as I understand that Obama wants to focus on the Far East and leave the EU to focus on the M East. Simplistic and disastrous for UK foreign policy I would say.

  29. muddyman
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Hague gets his instructions and obeys his masters, the problem is that they are in the US .

  30. ian wragg
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Listening to todays news, I see Osborne is going to cut expenditure again at the Home Office and the Military.
    Overseas aid will rise and health, education and welfare will be protected.
    Is you government mad John or pathalogcally stupid (or both)??

  31. uanime5
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Why is this even an issue? Just because we can sell arms to Syria doesn’t mean we have to. So there’s no need for a new relationship.

    Also the Government’s benefit cuts have resulted in many disabled soldiers, who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, loosing their benefits. Given that Ian Duncan Smith mentioned he could make further cuts to welfare I can’t help wondering if he plans to treat these soldiers even worse.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/benefits-crackdown-humiliates-disabled-army-war-veterans-8633610.html

  32. Alan Wheatley
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    While it is natural, and commendable, for well meaning people to wish to help others in trouble intervention can make things worse not better. I think Syria is such a case.

    For an example of what can happen when a discredited ruler is removed, only to find (at least from a UK point of view) that the replacement is far worse, I suggest Iran is a good example.

  33. Christopher Ekstrom
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Make a bad situation worse? Even in this awful region do you really think Assad will hang on? Civil war is a terrible fate: should the rebel forces be allowed to fight without necessary weapons? Is this the new Modern Party foreign policy? Along with eliminating poverty…

  34. William Henwood
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Hague likes to go where fools fear to tread. What a mess dragging this country into another war. Why has he not asked the people?

    How does Hague plan to control who uses the weapons and what is he going to do if his so called friends turn on us? Where will we stand if Assad wins, which looks likely? We left a mess in Libya does he want a repeat in Syria? If you give arms to destroy infrastructure who is to provided funds to replace it once war ends?

    One should not forget that the USA created Al Quada supporting them against Russia. Look what the world is reaping?

  35. waaramess
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Better still, if the slaughter of the civilian population is the issue, don’t provide any form of support for the rebels. The sooner the conflict ends the sooner the killing of civilians ends.

  36. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    This lifting is theoretical and it is still in the power of individual countries not to sell. If we could only find a way of monitoring where those weapons were used and who against, any decision to sell would be easier, although myself being a pacifist cannot agree to aggressive use of weapons. What is defensive and what constitutes aggressive use?

    I hope that we or other EU countries do not jump to sell prior to the meeting with Russia and US next month.

  37. Jon
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    We don’t just need a new relationship with the EU we need to accept that we need to re position our foreign policy to one of National priority. We are not the wealthy rich country we were with huge reserves anymore. Recent conflicts have also in part added to the risks of our subjects.

    Also if the EU is involved in decision making in this it just makes it more mad. Who we would be arming in this very troubled area of the world is mad, how much of it would end up targeted at Israel? What did the supply of the Kalashikov do in that general area ?

  38. rd
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps I am wrong but I back the Foreign Secretary on this. Syria is in the unfortunate position of being being a pawn in the growing Putin/Ayatollah alliance who’s ambitions are to control world energy prices via the Caspian and the Gulf. This cannot be allowed to happen.

    • Mark B
      Posted May 29, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      If we drill for shale like the US is doing, then we do not have to worry roo much about the aforementioned.

      Europe buys, and indirectly funds the Assad Government. The very same Government that has kept the peace in that country for many years without the need to slaughter other minorities. Assad is part of a minority himself (Allawite) and they know all about religious persecution, having been persecuted for a longtime by the Sunni’s.

      We need to stay well clear of this. Its NOT our fight !

  39. Dan
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    So, dunderhead Hague wants us embroiled in another war.
    Is this Conservative Party ever going to represent your views, Mr Redwood?
    What’s it take?

  40. Derek W
    Posted May 29, 2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    It does seem to go to the heads of PMs and cabinet ministers when they seem to have the power to go to war by proxy.Parts of our political class bathe in the reflected glory of the old British Empire.The provision of arms to the opposition to Syria’s legitimate government is as near as dammit to a declaration of war (whatever the humanitarian need to depose President Assad)Are our Governments as politically clever as they were in the past??

  41. Roger Farmer
    Posted May 29, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I think it is a bad idea to consider arming the rebels in Syria because we do not know who they are or what their end game is. They are by no means a coherent single movement. Internal revolutions in the Middle East have all turned into a bucket of worms with the more extreme anti western elements holding sway. Better by far to help out countries like Jordan with the massive influx of refugees who need food water and shelter.
    I think the Russian anti aircraft missile gesture is really aimed at making Israel think harder about any further airborne intrusions.
    There does seem , on the parts of both Haig and Cameron, a compulsive desire to meddle on the international playing field to the disadvantage of our overstretched military, and to their misguided sense of self importance for which long term they will get no thanks at home or abroad.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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