Bombing Syria?

Mr Fallon has told us that he is seeking to win over more MPs to the idea that the UK should join in bombing ISIL in Syria. He tells us it makes no sense for us to bomb ISIL in Iraq, but not to bomb them if they step over the border into Syria.

There are of course two ways of dealing with this apparent anomaly. We could decide to bomb them in both places as he wishes, or we could decide to bomb them in neither. At some point war in Iraq and Syria has to give way to a peace settlement. At some point people have to lay down their arms and turn to the much maligned arts of politics to seek a way of living together. When that happens in Syria a  thug government has  to talk to terrorist opponents, and the potential moderates have to find their voices and voting support in order to  offer some solutions that are more palatable.

There are reasons why the UK has  not rushed to bomb in Syria as well as in Iraq. Mr Fallon has to recall that when the government last wanted Parliament to vote to support bombing, it was to support bombing against Assad in  the name of his opponents. I refused to do so then not   because I have any love of Assad’s brutal regime, but because I could not see a friendly democratic opposition who could rise up, win the war and offer a peaceful transition to better government. I was worried that harming Assad more could either give opportunity to extremists to take over, or might just prolong the war and bloodshed further.

Iraq and Syria are different, not least because the Iraqi government has asked us to help them by bombing ISIL, whereas Assad does not. The UK sees the Iraqi government as different in kind from the government of Syria. Legally the case is easier for Iraq than for Syria. Politically and morally the UK government is happier to help the government of Iraq than the government of Syria.

In  other ways they are similar. Both countries contain entrenched warring factions. Both have terrorist problems not just from ISIL but also from groups like Al Qaeda and Jabhat al Nusra. Both are split between Sunni and Shia groups. Both have Kurdish areas where the people want an independent state.

The best the UK could offer might be to seek to lead a very difficult initiative to get the forces and factions on the ground and the great and regional powers circling the two conflicts to sit down and discuss borders, systems of government, and who is best equipped to lead. Russia’s intervention is clearly trying to move the forces in Assad’s favour in Syria, not something the west welcomes. The longer the west delays in seeking a negotiated solution, the worse the position on the ground may become.

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98 Comments

  1. Lifelogic
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    I agree fully.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 5:19 am | Permalink

      Yesterday I had to ring HMRC corporation tax section. On three occasions I was held is a queue (with an irritating jingle & for quite some time) only to be told in the end to try again later and then it hung up. What is wrong with an engaged tone if they are not free!

      Eventually I got through after about 30 minutes of wasted time. I was only ringing due to sort out their error.

      I wonder how many billions this incompetence, tax complexity and inconvenience for the productive costs the country. If we had less complexity, time wasting and inconvenience businesses could afford to pay more tax, be more competitive and not have to employ so many accountants and tax lawyers.

      • agricola
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 7:36 am | Permalink

        Your experience is mirrored by another major government department I have tried to communicate with. They answer e-mails by sending out irrelevant computer generated e-mails because they are too damned lazy or totally disinterested.

        What you say about HMRC I have had confirmed in spades from within. How good is it for morale within when the organisation is run , not by tax inspectors but by civil servants who have failed in previous posts. I conclude that the UK civil service is either politically motivated, or totally disillusioned with the organisation they spend their time in.

        • Qubus
          Posted October 9, 2015 at 10:55 am | Permalink

          A few months ago, I had cause to write to HMRC because I wanted a so-called Certificate of Residence: I was going to give, and be paid for, a series of lectures at an EU university. Attached to my letter were full details, including a copy of the official invitation with dates. After four months I had had no reply to my letter. I then telephoned and telephoned HMRC, all to no avail, I was never able to get a response; the telephone was never answered. One week before I was due to leave the UK, I tried one final time and got through. I managed to get the certificate, literally 24 hours before my departure.
          A couple of weeks after my return, I had a demand to complete a Tax Return; this I did, but have since had no response at all.

          Is this typical of our public services?

      • Stephen Berry
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

        Do stop moaning Lifelogic! Dealing with the Inland Revenue should be a mandatory part of the British Citizenship course.

        At one time in my life I was working for two firms simultaneously, Monday/Tuesday for one and the rest of the week for the other. Could the Inland Revenue get there heads around this? Not easily. I sent them two letters and made one phone call. Got over twenty letters back in reply followed by a dose of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

        Of course we want lower taxes and simpler taxes. The prospect of a simple flat tax must have the staff at the Inland Revenue quaking with fear. Unfortunately, the last Chancellor to seriously attempt to simplify the tax system was Nigel Lawson. I think I will vote ‘No’ as a tribute to him.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 5:45 am | Permalink

      What are we to make of the Tory Party now?

      We have Cameron and Osborne moving well to the left of new labour even stealing many of Labour’s daft policies. Also increasing taxes (and tax complexity) hand over fist, while blatantly lying that they are no doing such thing. Even absurdly banging on about “discrimination” with silly anecdotes.

      Then we have Gove (allegedly on the right) endlessly talking about rehabilitation in prisons, with no mention at all of deterrents. Does he know how many (and serious) crimes most criminals have commit to get into prison nowadays? If you deter you do not need to rehabilitate, and get far fewer criminals in need of rehabilitation.

      Then we have Theresa May, who has abjectly failed (for five+ years) to get immigration to the “no ifs no buts tens of thousands” giving us her, “numbers are of the essence” and “I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood” speech.

      All studiously ignoring the elephant in the room, the EU.

      Did they agree this bonkers strategy together?

      • zorro
        Posted October 10, 2015 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

        The fig leaf has been removed and it gives a lie to the claims that Cameron was being stopped from being a Tory by the Lib Dems. They are now out in the open. I have said previously that if Cameron had possessed a majority of 200 in the last Parliament it would not have made any difference in reality to the policies which were followed. In fact, for sure, it would have been worse as there would have been no promise of an EU referendum and the EU sceptics would have been ignored or purged…..

        zorro

        • Lifelogic
          Posted October 10, 2015 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

          Indeed.

    • alan jutson
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 6:45 am | Permalink

      I also agree.

      Have we learned nothing from our wars against Saddam, Gadaffi, and the Taliban.

      All Countries now left in absolute chaos.

      We should only get involved if British Interests are actually threatened (Falklands) otherwise we should only get involved when the UN has a coalition of forces acting as one.

      • Old Albion
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 8:49 am | Permalink

        Spot on AJ. Saved me a lot of typing.

      • Mitchel
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 9:54 am | Permalink

        It is hard to see the UN having a “coalition of forces acting as one”on any contentious issue;due to past US adventurism and duplicity, any interventionism they propose will be vetoed by Russia and China,and vice versa.

      • Timaction
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

        I agree entirely. We should not involve ourselves in foreign wars that are none of our business. We do not want to satisfy Cameron’s desire and ego to get involved in foreign wars for his legacy. Look where all the recent wars got us………………….no where other instability. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya!

      • Richard De Witt Jans
        Posted October 18, 2015 at 10:24 am | Permalink

        Has the Middle East challenges ever really been about The State of Israel and the Arab World? Yes there has been and is still conflict and differences between the two which is, as we know, on-going and exacerbated by the impotency and lack of strong decision making and Leadership by the West but ACTUALLY is it about that?
        Religion is the defining challenge presenting itself in the M.E – Wahabi versus Shia and if the 19th Century had its ‘Great Game’ this one is infinitely more dangerous. Whilst everyone remembers that the Iran Revolution brought with it a bold proclamation from the Islamic Revolutionary Republic of Iran that they would export revolution (religious) round the Region however the Saudis (always low key in what they do) were already quietly exporting Wahabism by stealth firstly in supporting and tipping the balance of power in Afghanistan through the Taliban(wahabis of course) and playing ‘the Greater Game’ with the West whilst all the while ‘being our friend?’ So what of other areas in the Region ? Yemen:conflict between KSA supported by smaller Gulf States against Iranian backed rebels. Libya: Qatar quietly destabilising groups not supporting the interests of KSA? ISIS a major scourge funded and supported by KSA (wahabism). Lebanon: long a polical chasm between Sunni and Shia. Iraq: a vicious political divide between Sunni and Shia. Syria: a religious war between Sunnis/ISIS supported by KSA and Alasad backed by Shia Iran.
        Already referred to as the ‘Christian Crusader’ the West cannot be involved in an inter- religious Islamic struggle which is and has engulfed the whole of the Middle East. They need to be left to sort this out for themselves and they will and it is not for us to interfere in something that they collectively have to resolve. But then what about Refugees? In the same way that we must leave the Governments of the Region to solve their challenges we must also leave them to solve the humanitarian crisis that they have created and THEY CAN if we put them in a position where they have no choice! It’s time for us to get a little hard with these regimes in the M.E and stop tiptoing around them.
        We are always made the easy targets and pay the price for it and it’s time to put an end to it.
        It’s all about oil we are repeatedly told. Remember the Arabs and Iranians need to sell it to remain in power.The other thing we are always told is ” in our National interest”. That’s another cop out and everybody uses it. Getting involved in a war between different persuasions of the Islamic faith is NOT ‘in our National interest’. Making sure Supermarket Retailers pay a fair price to our farmers IS ‘in our National interest’. Our National interests are here not the deserts of KSA and Khorrasan. They need to sell it we need to buy it – if not their Regimes and Royal families will be swept away whereas our Government and our Royal family will remain strong as ever supported by the people.

  2. Iain Gill
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    Do what Switzerland does, ie not much.

    Unless they are actively killing Brits in the dessert when we should go all out to dramatically kill them.

    We are a small country with ever smaller forces we should start acting like it.

    • Cheshire Girl
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 6:29 am | Permalink

      I agree. Despite asssertions to the contrary, our Armed Forces have seen constant cuts. However our politicians go abroad promising help to all and sundry, at the same time bragging that we are second only to the United States in the help we give. They seem to be ‘drunk with power’ and the poor Taxpayer who has to fund all this is never consulted. We are constantly told that this is to ‘keep us safe in the UK’ , but the threat to our safety is already here in our own country, and probably getting worse by the day – after all, who knows who is coming here. In my opinion, it is only due to the diligent work of our security services that we have not had a nasty incident on our streets. It is no thanks to our politicians.

      • John Hartley
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

        Indeed the cuts to our forces have seen UK forces have ever shrinking manpower and reach. And of course the fact that Calamity Dave Cameron(CDC) now wants to renew Trident means we will eat even further into the budgets for armed forces we will actually have use for. But that’s o.k. CDC can posture on how effective and patriotic he is, and continue to send weapons to ISIS, sorry I mena the Syrian Free Army and aiding and abetting the US and Turkey in neutralising the Kurds whilst pretending to bomb ISIS whom we have just given weapions to. Oh and in the eman time he’s take your freedoms away in the name of protecting you. Sometimes you have to wonder who’s side your own government is rooting for …

      • Timaction
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        Spot on. We haven’t a clue who they are allowing through at Calais and elsewhere. I like many English people fear for our safety, especially when you see the behaviours of those people rioting to get into our Country. They are not wanted or welcome. The first duty of any Government is the safety of its citizens. I’m afraid our Government are abject failures!

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      But your criterion for intervention has already been fulfilled several times over, plus Islamic State adherents have killed, and attempted beheadings, elsewhere around the world including in the UK. I would not normally say that we should go to war with a country just because one of our citizens has been murdered on its territory or even murdered by some of its citizens elsewhere, but while Islamic State claims to be a state it cannot be regarded as a just another hellhole of a country where bad things happen, it is intended to be the start of a global caliphate and as such it must be destroyed while that is still relatively easy to do.

      • Mitchel
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 10:04 am | Permalink

        There are others better placed to destroy the Islamic State than us-Russians,Iranians,Hizbollah,the Shia militias – they will not be constrained by the terms of engagement and legions of human rights lawyers examining any footage they can get their hands on,they will be looking to totally eradicate the enemy.Let’s allow them get on with it.Such resources as we have to offer will make no material difference.If Cameron wants to make himself useful perhaps he might like to condemn Saudi Arabia and Qatar for funding and equipping the jihadis.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted October 10, 2015 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

          The UK could still do its bit, even if that is much diminished.

      • Peter Stroud
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        I agree with you entirely. Frankly, I really cannot seriously believe that ISIL will ever enter into meaningful peace talks. They are people who love the thought of martyrdom, so would prefer to die rather than surrender. We have seen this before: the Japanese were of a similar type of fanatical warrior, and we all know what had to happen to bring them to heel. But we cannot go down that road again: so the fanatics can only be defeated by conventional war – air attacks plus ground fighting. But we must keep away from actions by ground troops. The surrounding Moslem countries have an abundance of well armed troops.

      • Bob
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

        “@lifelogic”

        “I wonder how many billions this incompetence, tax complexity and inconvenience for the productive costs the country.”

        With such poor customer service, no wonder people prefer to take their business elsewhere.

      • Iain Gill
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        Yes but my criteria demands firm action there and then, not waffling for months afterwards. If I got the RSM of 22 SAS in (wouldn’t bother with the officers) and asked him what could be done about British hostages what would he say? I bet a whole lot more than we have done.

      • Stephen Berry
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

        But is the global caliphate of ISIL really plausible, Denis? This movement has absolutely no traction amongst the billions of people in the non-Moslem world. That goes without saying. Then there are the many Moslems who oppose ISIL and regard it as a perversion of Islam. We can now see that Communism never came near to sweeping the world, but it at least did have an message which could easily appeal to different peoples.

        ISIL seems to flourish in conditions of revolution and social breakdown. What’s required to defeat ISIL in Libya, Syria and Iraq is stability and the West should not be too fussy how this is achieved.

        A general point. As countries modernize, it seems that religion becomes less and less important to people. In Europe, religion is dead on its feet. When the Pope of Rome visited the US recently the commentators, obsessed by Global Warming, were asking the wrong questions. They should have asked him why Roman Catholicism was declining in support in the US and in crisis in one of its main strongholds, Latin America.

  3. Rita Webb (Mrs)
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    Has the great genius told you what he is actually going to “bomb”? Is the UK taxpayer going to see many millions of pounds go literally up in smoke, as the RAF goes flying off from Cyprus to chase after a Landcruiser in the desert? Or does he have any specific targets in mind? Remember after Gulf War 1 the RAF was bombing herds of Iraqi sheep so hot was their intelligence.

    After the trillions the US and UK spent in Iraq for absolutely nothing, let Russia do it if they want to. After all how is Fallon going to react when an RAF pilot pops up in the next Islamic State atrocity video?

    • Bob
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      @Mrs Webb

      “RAF was bombing herds of Iraqi sheep “

      How do you know it wasn’t Al Qaeda in sheep’s clothing?

  4. Rita Webb (Mrs)
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    Jeremy Hunt says we have to become more Chinese. I could not agree more. After the billions we spent in Iraq who is now getting its cut price oil? While we were chasing after the Taliban who was helping itself to Afghanistan’s copper at zero security cost to itself? Guess who the Chinese. Be Chinese let some other mugs do all the heavy lifting.

    • Rita Webb (Mrs)
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 6:20 am | Permalink

      Remember it will be Cameron who will have his finger on the trigger here. According to one general’s recently published memoir. Dave was more interested in organising a BBQ for some returned servicemen than listening to him and his colleagues on what the likely outcome would be if he bombed Libya. And somebody mentioned a coup against Corbyn?

    • Anonymous
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      Not only does Mr Hunt think that we have to be more like the Chinese – his government is darn well close to making us live like them.

      Mass immigration is so out of control under the Tories that it looks deliberate to me.

  5. Mark B
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    Thank god for, President Putin. No lover of the man, but he has fulfilled a basic requirement of foreign policy – only get involved when your ‘interests’ are threatened. As I have said before; “What are our interest ?” We simply do not have any, so why get involved.

    Reading between the lines, it seems that Russia is dealing with ALL the terrorist organisations and not just those that are not supported by the West and KSA. That is why, Fallon and all the others are getting a bit upset, their plans are being thwarted  .

    Assad is no less or more bad than any other MENA despot. But he does have the advantage of actually being democratically elected and allows religious freedom for ALL. That’s something you do not get in say the KSA.

    Personally, I am happy for Russia to spend both money and even blood over this. We have intervened far too often and with disastrous results. Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. I would like for the Defence Secretary to explain to the Parliament and the Nation what will be so different this time compared to all those just mentioned. We the outcome for those there be any better ? I fear not.

    This is none of our business and if therefore none of our concern. Russia by intervening is making it clear that Syria and Assad are and that we will be messing with them if we become involved.

    My advice is to sit back and watch a real Statesman (Putin) with real and clear interests do the job. You never know, some people might actually learn something.

    • Rita Webb (Mrs)
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 7:02 am | Permalink

      Fallon will be no doubt saying “ooh if we do not bomb them they will come to the the UK and do all sorts of horrible things”. FFS where did the 7/7 bombers come from and the team that tried to emulate a couple days later? If you want to give our armed forces something to do, get them to remove anybody that should not be here and anybody who agrees with Islamic State either.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 8:53 am | Permalink

        Where did those implicated in the repeated attempts to assassinate Elizabeth I come from, and why were they moved to attempt that? If your population includes people with strong religious beliefs who look to a spiritual authority which is openly antagonistic to the regime as heretical or infidel then there will always be the risk that some of those devotees will be tempted into subversion and treason, and that is the case whether it is instigated by a religious authority based inside the country or based outside the country but able to communicate with adherents inside the country.

    • DaveM
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      Mark,

      Generally agree. I’m sure the West is just criticising them because they didn’t have the minerals and the capacity to make a decision and do something themselves.

    • Jon
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      If it wasn’t for Russia the Middle East and Africa wouldn’t be awash with kalashnikov ‘s.

      Had Russia never intervened two generations ago they would have nothing much more than clubs, spears and a few ancient fire weapons. It was the weaponizing of the middle east by the Russians that meant they could inflict the damage they do now.

      • Jon
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

        And yes he is putting a new generation of weapons there that they could never have developed themselves.

      • zorro
        Posted October 10, 2015 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        Thank God that the US,Uk and Israel have never supplied ME countries with such weapons and can take the moral high ground…..

        zorro

  6. Lifelogic
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    It seem the Independent thinks the IN campaign is lagging and suggests a cross party team of a combination of Kenneth Clarke, Vince Cable and Alan Johnson. Saying it would put the OUT campaign in the shade!

    Why do they think this list of “wrong on almost everything”, rather elderly, unpopular & failed politicians would help in the slightest?

    It sounds like a very good way of helping the OUT side to me. The problems for the IN side is not the team, the problem is the IN side have not coherent arguments to put. The more they try the more empty their position will look. Just saying 50% of our trade endlessly will get them no where.

    How can anyone argue that giving away, in perpetuity, your democracy, border controls, defence, regulatory framework, tax framework, human rights agenda, trading rules, control of agriculture & industry, health and safety, employment laws, even currency ……… to a group of other countries and unelected bureaucrats (that you have no say over is a good plan?

    Only Ken Clarke & Vince Cable types I suppose.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      Astonishingly, in his closing remarks to the EU Parliament Hollande suggested that leaving the EU would be leaving democracy:

      “There is no other way. It’s a horrible path, but it’s a logical path. Leave Europe, leave Schengen and leave democracy. Do you really want to participate in a common state? That’s the question.”

      I really wonder about the mentality of these people who think that despite the absence of any coherent pan-European “demos” the EU Parliament provides democracy, and a democracy which is better than national democracy.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted October 10, 2015 at 3:26 am | Permalink

        Indeed I too heard that. Hollande surely should have said “leave the EU (as we have hardly leave Europe), control our own borders (as we are not it Schengen) and restore democracy (as the EU is clearly anti-democratic by its very nature). Still you cannot really expect Hollande to have any grasp of reality.

    • zorro
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake…..

      zorro

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      Dear Lifelogic–To the (in any event limited) extent that the “50%” argument by the EUmaniacs has much (specious) traction the answer should be, every time, that Canada exports 75% to the USA and gets by very well. Never any response on this simple point. Also Canada is a smaller economy than ours with even fewer (meaning none at all) other nearby nations to trade with (we do not have many but we do have some). A lot of the pro EU case is based on the fear that the Continentals will be nasty to us if they form in to a state. There may even be some truth in that but if so even that boils down to our being much better off Out.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

        Postscript–I have said here and elsewhere (to my MP for instance) many times that one never gets a response to the 75% vs 50% point and I doubt this time will be any different for there simply is no possible answer

        • Lifelogic
          Posted October 10, 2015 at 3:28 am | Permalink

          Indeed.

      • Chris
        Posted October 10, 2015 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

        LS, this fear about trade should be hit on the head as there are provisions in the Lisbon Treaty with regard to “protecting” a country (during the intervening 2 year period of detachment) which decides to invoke Article 50. Furthermore there are WTO obligations. For speed I have used an excerpt from the Better off Out website (figures from 2011, but the principle is the same):

        “If Britain withdrew from the EU it would preserve the benefits of trade with the EU by imposing a UK/EU Free Trade Agreement.

        – The EU sells a lot more to us than we sell to them. In 2011 there was a trade deficit of nearly £50bn, which had risen to £109.2bn by 2014. It seems unlikely that the EU would seek to disrupt a trade which is so beneficial to itself.

        – Moreover, the Lisbon Treaty stipulates that the EU must make a trade agreement with a country which leaves the EU.

        – World Trade Organization (WTO) rules lay down basic rules for international trade by which both the EU and UK are obliged to abide. These alone would guarantee the trade upon which most of those 3 million jobs rely.”

  7. Denis Cooper
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    The leaders of Islamic State are religious fanatics who are determined to set up a global caliphate. That is not my invention, it is what they themselves say.

    They may sometimes engage in what we would regard as “normal politics” but only if that seems to serve the end of eventually ending “normal politics” and establishing a religious rule; and that is religious, Islamic, rule for the whole of the world not just for the parts of the Middle East they already control. Put simply, either we destroy Islamic State or eventually it will destroy the freedom and democracy we take for granted.

    I would point out that this is not exactly new. I have previously tried to recount how during the 2001 general election campaign stickers appeared on street furniture in some parts of this town urging people not to vote because there was only one law and that was the law of Allah, not manmade law. That was 14 years ago and actually before 9/11.

    Some time afterwards I was watching a TV programme with a young British Muslim man extolling the virtues of Islam, and he did quite well right until the end when he finished up with the outburst “And it will come to dominate the world”.

    The political establishment in the UK may choose to turn a blind eye to the truth, they may condemn those who point out the truth and accuse them of being “hate-filled” or “divisive” or “irresponsible” or whatever, and they may take steps to conceal and disguise the truth from the general public, but the reality is that Islamic State and its followers pose an existential threat which has to be dealt with. If that means laying off Assad and assisting the Syrian Army rather than trying to fight against it, then so be it; of the two evils, Islamic State is much worse and more dangerous to us than Assad.

    • zorro
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      Clearly obvious but all you get from Cameron is ‘Butcher Assad’ repeated verbatim in every quote….

      zorro

      • Chris
        Posted October 10, 2015 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        Zorro, I think Cameron is both naïve and ignorant of the complexities of the situation in Syria. Peter Ford’s recent interview on RT and his articles earlier this year in the Guardian were very informative. He was former ambassador to Syria. I am apparently not allowed to post the links.

        • zorro
          Posted October 10, 2015 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

          He’s not naive but he is ignorant (particularly about Syria). He should listen to some of the previous Ambassadors like Ford or Lord Green. John doesn’t tend to post RT links but he’s let you post the information so readers can search for it.

          zorro

  8. agricola
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    We and the USA missed an opportunity in not coming to an agreement with Russia a little while ago in New York. Russia is now dealing with what it sees as the threat to Russia in it’s own way. I cannot say I blame them.

    We had the opportunity to neutralise Assad’s power, disengage the warring elements who oppose Assad and go flat out for the elimination of ISIL. Once done, Russia and the West could have imposed military governance until they were in a fit state to govern themselves with Assad having no more power than our own monarch. The way things are now we have all the ingredients for an even bigger disaster.

  9. Antisthenes
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    A political solution is of course the one that would be the very best of outcomes but it is as things stand not going to happen. Russia entering the fray has made the possibility of a political solution even more difficult and complicated. A political solution now is possible only if some are willing to accept conditions that gain them nothing and may even make them worse off and as yet none are prepared to do that.

    ISIL are not going to accept anything other than outright victory even if in the end they are defeated they will continue the struggle and will destabilise the region for decades and will take the fight to the wider world. Assard now cannot be driven from power which given the lessons of what happens when other tyrants have been is probably not a bad thing. Russia is seeking advantage over the West and influence in the region and as distasteful as Russia’s actions are the West should have beaten him to it.

    The West with Obama’s capitulative foreign policies for that is what it has been as US haters take advantage as what they perceive is a US that no longer has the stomach to police the world or oppose their obnoxious ambitions. Western leaders as a whole instead of taking practical positions on world matters take moral ones that always seem to backfire. Good intentions rarely lead to good outcomes yet nobody heeds that lesson.

    In the end some time in the future the problem will be resolved and there will be winners and losers and as usual the West will be one of the latter.

    • John Hartley
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      In what way are Russia’s actions distasteful in comparison to those of US/Turkey/UK? And thats before you get onto KSA and Gulf states? I see no clean hands here and the Russians have the least dirty ones as far as I can see. They at least appear to be playing straight bat unlike the duplicity displayed by our own government.

      • Antisthenes
        Posted October 10, 2015 at 5:16 am | Permalink

        Indeed. Western leaders are hypocrites who condemn one nasty regime to only to cosy up to others who are just as distasteful. However that is the way of things my enemies enemy is my friend and self interest is the way foreign policy is formulated. Unfortunately it has to be that way as there is no other practical solution.

        What is wrong is that the West encourages or participates in regime change for the wrong reasons and without understanding the consequences. We have no right to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign states and we should not become embroiled in regional politics unless there is direct threat to us. Most of time when we interfere there is not a real threat to us only an imaginary one and where there was not a threat to us it then actually does become one.

        The West should always except in exceptional circumstances take a non partisan stance and try to have good relations with all regimes. That way the West has a better chance of being a peacemaker and have greater influence on those regimes and their behaviour. That does not mean to say that that we allow a regime to see us as weak or take advantage of us as we should always be prepared to stand up to states that wish to export their nasty ways and not keep it within their own borders. Iran the Soviet Union are a couple of example of states where offer of friendship and cooperation is not the best option unless conditions change.

  10. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    What you want to know is when the turf wars will cease along with its financing. It’ll end when the financing is cut off and bombing odd bods here and there won’t achieve that. Blaming any air force for collateral damage is largely looney tunes. But we have to listen to looney western leaders and military experts daily…I don’t anymore.

    President (in waiting) Trump gave a clue and that was to wreck area oil wells. Either that or find the buyers and stop them. Just cut the legs off them!

    BBC informs us this am that the Russian people don’t know that Russia banned EU/US food imports…that was about cheese with a smack of palm oil. I find it rather amusing to see Putin roaming the world and have meetings with some of those who wish to cut Russia’s legs off. He’s certainly got the brass stuff!

  11. The PrangWizard
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    The West is seriously miffed by the action Russia is taking. It is attempting to undermine its actions, with from the outset talk of the killing ‘innocent’ civilians and attacking the wrong targets. The brass neck is too much for me in view of the US bombing of the hospital in Afghanistan. But that talk seems to have dried up a bit.

    Then today we hear that according to ‘unidentified sources’ (could be anyone or no-one) four of their cruise missiles went adrift in Iran; a BBC reporter adding that if this would be a big blow to their prestige if it were proved to be true. Why should she say that? Does she demand perfection from them, or is she happy? Is this more anti-Russian propaganda, we shall see. If it is true we should find out what happened, if it is a lie we’ll hear nothing more of it.

    Obama has been incompetent and negligent in handling IS, as have we, and now when Russia takes action, it is painted in the worst possible light. The idea that the UK has enough credibility and moral influence and superiority whereby we can take a lead in some kind of peace process reflects a view of ourselves in the world which is completely out of date and is typical of the arrogance and self delusion which grips our establishment.

    If we want influence and we are afraid of Russia we should be building our forces here to defend our shores, not cutting them. Bragging talk of aircraft carriers might make Cameron feel good, do we have the means even to defend them? Yet Russia has more ships in their Caspian sea flotilla than we have in our whole Navy. Where is the long range air surveillance capability? Jut how many planes like the ones Russia is using in Syria do we have?

    We need to wait and see the outcome of Russia’s actions in the short term. The big enemy is IS. Russia, unlike the pathetic, and ill-led West quite rightly sees other groups as little different and terrorists too, so it makes sense to get rid of them and move to IS later if that’s the plan. This will reduce the pressure on Assad whose forces who will then be able to re-establish control in his country. Like it or not he is the legitimate power and our actions so far have been wrong; we should not be joining in calls and actions for his overthrow with IS and its barbarism running ahead. IS and its ideology and beliefs are a danger to the entire world and Russia is entitled to defends her interests against IS expansion; after all is that not what the West has attempted too?

    Its no good whining about what Russia has done. If their action bring about an end to IS it’s good we should be grateful. If they gain influence in the region as a result its no good our complaining. Its too late; we must accept our failures.

    As for Assad there are many other cruel governments around the world, should we call for their violent overthrow too and provide support to do it?

  12. Bert Young
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Syria ,like the rest of the Middle East ,is a convoluted mess ; whatever position we take in this quagmire will not change the problem of inter-tribe hatred that has lasted for centuries . Once the present dust has been settled by brute force , hatred will re-emerge and the conflict re-start ; we would then – if we had been drawn in , look back and count the cost in wasted lives and money . Moral to this scenario is ” Stay Out “.

  13. Denis Cooper
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Once again, JR, I appeal to you not to use the shorthand “Bombing Syria”. In the Second World War the RAF dropped bombs on France as well as on Germany, but the two cases were very different albeit the targeting of the bombs against the German enemy was not always as accurate as would have been wished. If it had been put to a vote in the House of Commons, would you have voted against “Bombing France”? The UK government has got itself into a terrible tangle by wishing to support the foolish policy of Obama, and then finding that there was little appetite for more military intervention to overthrow another brutal dictator when what would follow would probably be far worse, on several recent precedents, and now some years later wanting to switch to attacking Islamic State while still insisting on the removal of the brutal dictator who is fighting Islamic State.

    • Anonymous
      Posted October 11, 2015 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      Denis – The political class have lost so much respect and credibility over this sort of confused policy.

  14. DaveM
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    I say this every time bombing is mentioned – you can’t win anything from the air, no matter what politicians and elevated Staff Officers might think.

    Ask Arthur Harris or the Luftwaffe.

    The more you bomb, the harder you make it for your ground troops when you finally realise the truth, and the easier you make it for the defenders.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      Neither Harris nor the Luftwaffe would entirely agree with you on that.

    • zorro
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      Tell that to Gaddafi (2011) or Saddam (1991)…. Having good air support is a prerequisite for military victory particularly in the desert (when you are trying of course). If you don’t try hard enough then the army makes the case for troops on the ground more energetically…

      zorro

      • DaveM
        Posted October 10, 2015 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

        To Zorro and Denis:

        I didn’t say you didn’t need air superiority or some precision bombing, I meant you win nothing by bombing alone. Sorry if I was unclear.

        Harris said himself that all he won was the morale battle. The Luftwaffe, unless I’m much mistaken, didn’t win anything.

        And having been “on the ground” in Iraq 3 times, I assure you that the battles were won on the ground.

        • Anonymous
          Posted October 11, 2015 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

          Dave M – The Americans didn’t have to set foot in Japan to get their surrender.

          We didn’t have to fight the Russians at all – because they saw that we didn’t balk at the idea of bombing European cities during WW2

  15. Kenneth
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Every tribe around the world has its delicate power balances and which foreigners either cannot or will not understand. The pecking order has usually come about after centuries of warfare, negotiation, capitulation and so on. Eventually peace and stability arise from the mess.

    Then the clumsy jackboots come in from outside can quickly upset the balance. This results in more years of violent reckoning. The jackboots come in again – often beckoned by tv reports – in an attempt to put right their previous mistakes. More mayhem.

    The best thing we can do is to get out and keep out and protect our own borders.

  16. JJE
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    How fortunate are we to have the strategic and tactical genius of Mr. Cameron to guide us. His objectives may appear woolly confused ill thought out and no business of the U.K. to us mere mortals but I am confident the calibre of his intellect will soon become apparent.

    Those petty minds that would merely wish to construct armed forces that can actually defend our small island will soon be confounded.

    Any notion that you should have some weight before throwing it round, or some clue what you are trying to do clearly belongs to the old fashioned ideas of our youth.

  17. Iain Moore
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Having had the experience of Iraq and Libya, where removing dictators led to something worse, I was shocked that the British Government thought is a really , really good idea to replay the strategy in Syria.

    Cameron when he sulkily says Parliament stopped him bombing Syria, forgets to recall he wanted to bomb Assad not ISIS, bomb Assad when he should have been trying to work with Assad following the constitutional changes Assad had made.

    As for bombing Syria now, sorry what is the point ? There are enough nations already bombing the country with out adding the few aircraft we can spare from our knackered air force. It would not make any material difference whether we bombed Syria or not, it would just be posturing to join in.

    • backofanenvelope
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      For twenty years the Americans have violated other people’s airspace. Aircraft, drones, cruise missiles they just don’t think the rules apply to them. The airspace over Syria belongs to the Syrians, exercised at the moment thru’ the legal government run by Assad. Up to now, the Syrians have been unable to do anything about all this American stuff above their heads. Now, though, they have the means to exercise control. Aircraft, radars, fighter controllers, missiles, the whole nine yards. Soon they will oblige the Americans to clear off. And the Turkish and Israeli aircraft making free of Syrian airspace.

  18. Edward.
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Misapprehended? Syria, Geopolitik, so many nuances, we do not need bellicose statements and all of it at cross purposes or worse mendaciously – deliberately misconstrued.

    And rushing in RAF jets to ‘bomb targets’ in Syria – exactly just who, would we be helping?

    Notwithstanding, the sobering facts on the ground, where British jets would be invading Russian dominated airspace and who have superior jet aircraft – but pitting aging kit ie Tornados travelling over newly installed and very sophisticated surface to air missile batteries and SU30/SU25 jets – the UK may as well send Spitfires over to Syria.

    Evidently, Britain needs to retreat from this one but the NATO clowns and EU behind them are jumping up and down about Putin’s superior strategies and tactics and Britain is being forced to back the French up – who have always viewed Syria and Lebanon as their sphere of influence, though its funny to record how since the Fifties the French always accommodated and courted Russian influence in the Levant – snubbing Britain and America in the process.

    Undoubtedly, Putin has finessed NATO and the EU but never let it be said that President Putin ever tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the west, President Putin made it clear at the outset, that, he was aiding an old ally and Bashar al Assad is: that old comrade.

    I also beg – why does no one ever mention that the Turks are bombing our allies in Syria – ie the Kurds – HMG – what say ye?
    Secondly, if President Putin and with giving logistical support to the Syrian Army and bolstered by Iranian efforts calmed the situation in Syria, helped to clear the majority of insurgents out of Eastern Syria and – would that be such a bad outcome for the west?

    We need to sort out and PDQ! who are are friends in this conflict and just who are the real enemies and yet it still ain’t our fight – and unless we start communicating, better coordinating – with the Russians, Syrians/Iranians we need to pull out our special forces and yesterday would not be soon enough.

  19. Atlas
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    John, I agree.

    There is an old saying “Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread”. With the arrival of the Russians, I suggest that bombing inside Syria by the RAF just got more fraught – with the possibility an accident greatly increased.

  20. oldtimer
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    You do not mention the role of Iran in Syria. Spiegel International posted an interesting article on this a few days ago. It opened with these words:
    “Iran has long been sending troops and material to help Syrian autocrat Bashar Assad wage war against his own people. But now Tehran is busy establishing a state within a state — which is why Assad now wants help from Russia.”

    The link is here:
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/syria-leader-assad-seeks-russian-protection-from-ally-iran-a-1056263.html

    Assad is now a puppet ruler – the question would now appear to be who is, or will be, the puppet master? Will it be Russia or Iran? This conflict is also another proxy war (as in the Yemen) between Shia and Sunni, between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The thrust of the Russian effort (mainly against groups supported by the Saudis) suggests that ISIL will remain a sideshow until this broader proxy war has been decided. Iran of course is also a major supporter of the anti-ISIL effort in Iraq.

    It seems to me that any military intervention should only be made in the context of a clear analysis of what is actually happening on the ground in Syria, how UK interests will best be served and the political route the UK government seeks to chart through the complications that are there for all to see. Assad will be dumped when it suits Russia/Iran to do so. What will matter is the nature of the regime that follows – and the new phalanx of refugees that will decide that they will be better off fleeing from it. Has HMG thought this through?

  21. English Pensioner
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Our policy seems to be to get rid of dictators in certain countries regardless of the subsequent consequences. Our politicians are obsessed with every country having a western style democracy. Thus Saddam had to go, then Gadaffi, and now Assad.
    Strangely, this policy doesn’t seem to apply to some African dictators such as Mugabe!
    We also ignore the most repressive Arab country, Saudi Arabia; indeed we see them as trading partners, particularly for armaments.

    It’s time our government faced the facts. There are no genuine democracies in any of the Arab countries and the ones that are peaceful are only so because they have a strong dictator in charge. Russia realises this and probably sees Assad as the best available for Syria. On the other hand, we seem to have no policy other than possibly to bomb ISIS and bring Assad to trial. What then?

    So until the government has viable plans to address the “What then” question we should keep out of Syria and any other country in the region. It should concentrate on its primary duty of protecting its own citizens at home.

    Syria as it was under Assad was no threat to the citizens of this country. If ISIS is now considered a threat, we should support Putin in his efforts to help Assad and restore the status quo which at least was benign as far as the UK was concerned.

    We need to ensure that any refugees that we accept are genuine refugees, and in that respect it is worth nothing that the Bradford based charity “The Human Relief Foundation”, set up to help refugees, has decided that 97% of those trying to get to this country from Calais are not refugees, and has stopped giving aid to those in the camp.

  22. Bill
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Agree with your analysis and the weight of the comments above.

    It seems to me that the intention to set up an Islamic State is with the prior assumption that states have certain rights in international law and that the nation state, once in existence, can award passports, defend its borders, raise taxes and so on. The bombing of ISIS, like the war on the Taliban, will not defeat the ideas behind the restoration of the Caliphate. To do this, a battle of ideas needs to be entered.

  23. forthurst
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    “Why is the UK and US hellbent on destroying such a country, causing Chrisians to flee and in the process increasing terrorism risk all over Europe and the World?”

    Because under CMD, the UK is the US’ poodle, the US foreign policy is determined by neocons and the neocons do not particularly like Christians. Furthermore, continuous chaos in the ME is a strategic objective of the neocons.

  24. forthurst
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    “Both [Syria and Iraq] have terrorist problems not just from ISIL but also from groups like Al Qaeda and Jabhat al Nusra.”

    On public television, Senator John McCain ‘confirmed’ that the the Russians have not only being attacking ISIS but “‘other groups’ armed and trained by the CIA”.

    Have MI6 been involved in arming and training terrorists in the ME? We know that no authorisation has been given by Parliament but perhaps the Defence Select Committee were briefed? Most of these terrorists are mercenaries whose allegience is weighed in dollars; are we so stupid as to train Islamic terrorists in the ME and then claim that our interventions there make us more safe here? Many terrorist mercenaries will be fleeing Syria once they’ve seen what damage a precisely guided thermobaric bomb can do:
    expect an increase in the density of trained Islamic terrorists amongst the ‘refugees’ seeking asylum in the ever welcoming (its own destruction)

    • forthurst
      Posted October 10, 2015 at 7:14 am | Permalink

      …EU.

  25. graham1946
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    John, I totally agree that the legal case for Iraq is easier than Syria. Syria, is a sovereign nation, however Assad came to power, which may not be to our liking, but that’s how they do things in that part of the world. Where do we stop? China, North Korea? It’s ludicrous.

    I don’t agree that it is yet time for the enemies to talk. Man is by nature not peace loving but acquisitive and violent and nations come into being after fighting until one side is beaten down. Artificial nations don’t in general work. Israel is not secure and is constantly battling for life and I think that is their lot for ever. It is the same where other nations intervene, which is why Iraq and Afghanistan will never work properly.

    Unfortunately, with modern weapons, when such parties fight, it means their destructive power is such that at the end, when one proponent is defeated there is not much left to inherit and the innocent population always suffer for the political aims of the leaders. We must try to help those people in whatever way we can, but bringing them here to an alien environment is not the answer. Cameron is right, we must make a home for them as close to Syria as possible. Turkey seems to be the best bet as it is a massive land and they already have a segregated area for their Kurds, so they know how to do it. If they are willing, we should be pouring our aid money into them, to make it worth their while. Make an offer they can’t refuse. When Syria is fit to live in again, maybe they’ll return, but I doubt it.

    Russia and the West taking different sides will only prolong the agony and may end up in a far more dangerous situation, if for instance a Russian bomber is shot down accidentally by the Americans.

    I am sorry, but there is nothing here for us, we should withdraw and let them get on with it and if Russia ends up taking over, well so be it. It is already in their sphere of influence. What have we taken over since the fall of the USSR? The Russian Bear will not forget and wants his revenge.

  26. lojolondon
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    John, I believe that Syria has long been seen as neutral to the West, in that they behave in a way that is not detrimental to us, but are generally most things are negotiable. I feel that all this changed with the lovely ‘arab spring’ that the BBC was to delighted to promote, when Saudi-backed terrorists tried to take over every middle-eastern country. This resulted in the unbelievable situation a couple of years ago, where the British PM and government, together with the American President, were actually trying to muster the votes required to assist Al Quaida in this regard!! Thankfully, it never came to pass, but I still remain concerned that we have learned nothing from the last 15 years. I strongly believe we should support benevolent dictators in areas where the alternative is the brutal religious sects, which see the overthrow of western governments across the world as their religious duty. Not to exaggerate the situation, these people have declared war on us, and we seem to be sleepwalking into one fatal error after another, continuously underestimating our enemy without realising the severity of the situation. Naturally, our Mainstream Media is on the wrong side of the argument every step of the way!

    • Gary
      Posted October 10, 2015 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      it’s called clinging to empire building. it’s outdated, immoral and obscene. If they can’t succeed on decency and fair trade, they feel they must unilaterally plunder it.

  27. Chris
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Better to read/listen to Peter Ford, former ambassador to Syria, on Cameron’s mistakes with regard to Syria – he describes Cameron’s policy of wanting to remove Assad immediately as “dangerous” and says there has been no planning for what happens after he has gone, with a vacuum left (memories of Iraq and Libya). He states that the situation in Syria is extremely complex with a lot of different groups about which Cameron appears to have little or no knowledge. Very recent interview on RT can be found on youtube. I apparently was not allowed to post the link. Also article in Guardian last April about how Cameron’s policy has apparently fuelled the rise of jihadism. All very informative and contrasts refreshingly with some of the “information” that our Press feeds us with about Syria and the Russians.

  28. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I do not know if all of Ex-MP Mr George Galloway’s speech to Parliament on Aug 29 2013 in which Mr Corbyn and Mr McDonnell were seated to his immediate left was entirely correct.
    I can confirm however that the bit about the UK entertaining the Syrian President Mr Assad and seeing him as a friend is correct unless many BBC documentaries and news items were telling us all blatant lies at the time. ( no sensible person can rule that one out of course. )

    In another speech, he indicated ISIL did not have barracks where they could be conveniently bombed by an attacker as they were immersed in the populace. I can confirm this is true if numerous reports and footage on our TVs are to be believed. They indicate these ISIL terrorists also live with numerous slave women who have nothing to do with their terrorist politics and activities but merely warm their beds so to speak.

    So, the bits and pieces left out by our media, from time to time, is just how exactly ISIL is able to train and function in an area the size of France without air and rail transport and with such cratered farm-track roads, presumably hold mass political pep talks with its fighters and supporters, navigate the intricacies of its own internal local politics ( a door to door leaflet campaign? Not likely ) and have such an excellently well-trained set of soldiers that they can out-fight, out-manoeuvre, out-think, both hand-to-hand and in set battle with the air and best trained ground forces the West has to offer.
    Judging by rag-tag-and-bobtail ISIL’s success on the battlefront let alone politically, heads should roll though not literally, in the higher positions of NATO, USAF, RAF, British Army. American Army to name just a few of the Goliaths pitted ineffectually against them.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 10, 2015 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      Apart from small numbers of trainers the British Army hasn’t been sent to fight Islamic State, so we don’t know how it would acquit itself against that particular enemy. However I would really prefer not to find out, because our troops would no doubt be expected to do too much with little, they have already shed enough blood in that part of the world with precious little thanks, and getting them out could be much more difficult than sending them in.

  29. barryjones
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Fallon will no doubt be cowering behind the concrete and steel barriers he has forced us to pay for to keep him safe as he does his warmongering. Let him lead the attacks if he feels so strongly about it, or better still get out to Syria and do the 2 weeks of training then fight alongside the rebels, I bet that would change his mind pretty quickly.

  30. Chris
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Google Peter Ford and RT interview. He was former ambassador to Syria, and in an excellent and informative interview he exposes the dangers and naivety/unthinking nature of Cameron’s policy. I tried to post the link but was apparently blocked. I think it is vital that people see what is really going on and how we are apparently led by politicians who have little experience concerning the complexities of the Syrian situation. I fear also the influence of Liam Fox and Michael Gove who apparently supported strongly the US neocons position in their determination to invade Iraq.

  31. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    When one reads the likes of Thomas More (b. 1478 ); Shakespeare (b. before 1564 ); John Milton ( b.1608 ); in that, their English-usage has been translated/updated properly and, of course books by unremembered Muslim wisemen, ancient Indian and Chinese scholars, it is hard not to shed tears. Relatively advanced “civilisations” have always managed to kill a hundredfold more innocent people in their fervour to eliminate dictators, tyrants than those barbaric individuals would ever have been capable had they been left alone. It should be remembered in this connection as one of my lecturers once instructed me correctly, who happened to be Jewish, Germany prior to World War One and World War Two was in fact industrially superior to the UK and everyone else on Earth. So it comes not from a wholly ignorant frame of reference when I say that The West, as we call America, although arguably more advanced in so many ways than the rest of us, generates despair and pain with the ferocity and razzmatazz of a Catherine Wheel of a size commensurate with ownership by the Grim Reaper Himself.
    We should all put pen to paper and write of America, its role in Syria, the Middle East,Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as they don’t have their own literary heritage. Not one good book between them.

  32. LondonBob
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Given we won’t make any difference, and that we do not have the legal basis to get involved, I support your colleague Crispin Blunt’s position. Jaw jaw not war war.

    I will repeat what Colonel Patrick Lang, perhaps the expert on the Middle East in the US, has suggested as the course of action the West should take:

    What to do?- I was asked today to state what I think should be done:

    * Accept the truth that we destroyed the Iraqi state and from that act of vandalism all present chaos in that country derives.

    * Don’t do it again in Syria.

    * Stop saying that no “Assad cronies” can be in the government or head the government. They ARE the government. Assad himself is dispensable, but not the government of Syria.

    * Act like Russia, China and Iran matter as something other than rivals and adversaries.

    * Ignore Erdogan’s Turkey. It is a manifestation of the jihadi enemy. They will deny us use of Incirlik and the other bases? Fine, that would clarify the situation. Move onto Syrian bases or the big, unused NATO built base north of Tripoli in Lebanon.

    * Ignore Saudi Arabia’s wishes with regard to Syria. They are jihadi supporters.

    * Ignore Israel’s wishes with regard to Syria. Natanyahu’s government is pursuing a mistaken and short sighted policy of eliminating coherent government in Syria for the purpose of crippling their Lebanese Hizbullah adversaries whom they think exist because of Syrian and Iranian help. The Likud’s imagined interest in Syria is not America’s interest.

    * Accept Russian and Iranian co-belligerence in the war against the jihadis, ALL JIHADIS.

    * Fully coordinate operations, intelligence analysis sharing and logistics with the co-belligerent partners.

    * FIGHT THE JIHADIS, NOT THE SYRIAN GOVERNMENT.

  33. Maureen Turner
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    When the US/and allies went after Saddam in 2003 both appeared to have different agendas, the US regime change and the allies WMDs. Night after night Baghdad was bombed killing thousands of its citizens but for what purpose? No WMDs ever found and now an Iraqi government is struggling to contain its warring factions.

    Then for some reason the French President and our PM decided to remove Gadaffi which was successful only in that his own people despatched him but left Libya deemed a failed state and of course then followed Egypt whose people got in on the act by removing Mubarak who was the most western leaning of all the NA countries’s leaders.

    Now we have Syria and Mr. Putin, a much greater concern. who have left the west drumming their fingers while unsure if he is merely in Syria to keep Assad in place or destroy IS. I would imagine both as Russia has had its share of Islamic terrorism. Whatever the outcome Russia is building itself a large military base in Syria similar to that in Ukraine and only the Black Sea and Turkey separates the two. Mr. Putin it seems is in there for the long haul.

    There is an old military expression (Chinese) – know your enemy – and going back as far as the Iraq war I doubt if Bush or Blair gave this any consideration. In the West we see rulers such as Gadaffi and Saddam as despots but it is only by being tyrannical can they begin to govern their tribally fractured nations and perhaps if still around they would have been an asset in fighting IS. Sometimes it takes one to know one.

    JR is correct in saying the Syrian problem will eventually be settled by diplomacy but at present all we hear from our For. Sec. is until Assad is removed there can be no talks. Surely the boot is on Assad’s foot here as the US/UK can be seen as the gatecrashers and Putin the invitee. To quote Sir Max Hastings “We will have to sit down with Putin like it or not”. Yes, IS is our mutual enemy and the sooner we accept the seriousness of the situation the better. To misquote Margaret Thatcher – this is no time to go gung-ho.

  34. Anonymous
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    How about Europe arms and train the millions of pushy young blokes who have fled from IS (so terrifying that they have left their families there) so that they may go back and liberate their own country.

    Or are we to expect these chaps to make (adopts posh politician accent) ‘… a massive contribution to our ‘conmy ‘ and look after our own ageing population after they’ve abandoned their own ?

  35. zorro
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Indeed, threats to attack Russia via Islamic proxies (not for the first time)….. All is being uncovered so that even the dimmest can see what has really been going on. The ineffective coalition air strikes compared to the incisive strikes made by Russia are plain for all to see…. The motives – oil pipelines, geo-political control, buddying up with dictatorial crucifixion/beheading addicts – are all very enlightened…

    zorro

    • zorro
      Posted October 10, 2015 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Thanks – yes of course gas pipelines is what I meant particularly the one of main interest to Qatar through Iran/Iraq/Syria.

      zorro

  36. zorro
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    It is the legitimate government and Assad is the legitimately elected ruler whether the West likes it or not….

    zorro

  37. zorro
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Of course they do…. and the Toyota pickup trucks, and don’t forget the Nike trainers.

    zorro

  38. Gary
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    ah, sounds to me that he wishes to bomb Syria by proxy. Any old excuse will do. Or else, as you say, his proposal makes absolutely no sense.

    This Russian operation has turned over a few rocks and what is scurrying out is either comical or tragic, depending on your viewpoint.

  39. zorro
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    I see that Obama has allegedly ended the hugely successful (not) US$500 million program to train Syrian rebels…. about US$50 million per active rebel (until caught or sold weapons to ISIS) if the figures are to be believed….

    zorro

  40. Gary
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    by far the best headline from multiple american news outlets and some from the UK was that Russia was bombing CIA trained rebels !

    you cannot make it up. We are led by grifters, grafters and fools. And one or two good people

  41. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    The US is making fun ( in a bloody war ) of Russia. It says its cruise missiles aimed at ISIL in Syria are hitting Iranian cows. OK so the cows aren’t getting married, so what?

  42. Jon
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    In the West we like to depict and define era’s by economic or intellectual development. Currently we are in some sort of IT come robot come communication era, some may even have already defined it with a name.
    There are other developments that can define an era such as WW1 and WW11 as they overpowered so much.
    There is another era playing out right now that is not part of the above. On a mass scale we are understanding how we are very different from Islam as they are from us. Did us growing up with stories of Lawrence of Arabia cloud a reality that affected our judgement for a while?
    For most of my life I was ignorant and naive of the ways of the Middle East and Islam. I projected our Western reasoning on it, I often agreed with many a politician on what was needed, Iraq was a 50 : 50 as none of us know outside of that small circle what was the intelligence.
    It’s since become clear there is a serious cultural difference and we can’t solve what or sort what is going on there. I don’t think I was the only one 20 years ago who was a bit naïve and ignorant of this.
    We know the horrors going on in Syria and we see thousands of fit single males very readily saying they left their family, wife, children to escape and no doubt taking the family money. Leaving them to the fate of either ISIL or Assads forces or other. Yet they show no remorse other than what they lost to themselves and nothing beyond that.
    We will not benefit from these “males” here. Cameron was right to just take on families direct from the camps. We don’t have a solution for them, we should back away from trying to sort out Islam issues and that means no arsenal, no troops. A resolution will be quicker without our weaponry.

  43. paul
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Bombing syria, i hear wet&mad plays with his paper planes in the bedroom.

  44. sm
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    I do not trust or understand our foreign policy here or our objectives or our national interest. Why is that? What are the real objectives and motives for UK involvement. Never mind understanding US policy.

    Our concern should be helping to form some stability, it would make sense in the NEW multi-polar world.

    Generally co-ordinate with the current Syrian government via a UN team and mandate. Russia seems to want to take the lead, i think the UN route might work best here. China would probably be supportive. Listening to the UN speeches it seems it is the US that is not listening. Who or what is driving policy?

  45. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted October 11, 2015 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    Normally, I don’t like over-reacting to Russian propaganda and actions. However, Russia and NATO have different war aims in Syria and Turkey is a NATO member. Therefore, NATO has an absolute right to shoot down any Russian fighter that intrudes into Turkish air space.

    Russia may come to regret its recent bellicosity. It earns its money mainly by exporting commodities, and commodity prices – notably that of oil – have slumped. That and Western sanctions have caused a deterioration in Russia’s fiscal position. Russia cannot afford much war, and making war on Ukraine, a major debtor, is just plain crazy. They already have Crimea.

    There is a widespread problem of Russian and other minorities in States bordering Russia. These minorities should enjoy freedom of worship (and non-worship), recognition of Russian as a language, and the right to separate education in certain areas – notably the teaching of history. That’s all. There should be no transfer of territory. In Georgia, where sovereignty has been transferred away from Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazi are economically backward and starved of international investment because of their pariah status. They have a bleak future.

    There may be a deal to be had with Russia. Accept no transfer of territory from neighbouring states with Russian minorities to Russia, and the West will lift sanctions. That’s what is known as win-win. Whether anybody has the sense to make it happen is doubtful.

  • 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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