Thursday, 3 December 2015

I respect those with different views. But bombing Syria was STILL the wrong call.


 The blog post I shared last night/in the early hours of this morning has caused a fair amount of discussion and debate, which I welcome. I should clarify one thing though:

While I like and respect many of the MPs - specifically Labour MPs - that voted in favour of air strikes - I profoundly disagree with them.

Joining the bombing campaign will not make us safer. Cameron's claim of there being 70,000 'moderate' Syrian fighters ready to seize ground that Daesh would lose as a result of the air strikes is deeply questionable, has been falling apart by the day, and looks set to be the equivalent to Tony Blair's '45 minutes' claim. As Tory MP Dr Julian Lewis put it, with Iraq we had a dodgy dossier - now there are 'bogus battalions'.

Whereas the bombing campaign in Iraq has the Kurdish fighters who were able to seize ground and we were able to plausibly treat as allied ground troops to take the ISIS territories that were bombed, with Syria we have nowhere near that kind of guarantee.

Many of the 70,000 Cameron has referred to are more interested in fighting the Syrian dictator, President Assad, than fighting ISIS. Assad however, is also fighting ISIS, and Vladimir Putin is a key ally of Assad. Both are opposed to ISIS.

Two years ago, the House Of Commons voted against action in Syria to remove Assad, because despite him being a brutal dictator that has killed more Syrians than Daesh, there was no guarantee that taking him out and destabilising the region wouldn't hand much of it to Daesh, in much the same way as happened in Libya with Gaddaffi.

By bombing IS in Syria, are we now by proxy helping Assad, who is still arguably the enemy?

If we do take the fight to Assad instead, are we helping IS? And one thing is certain - whether we are or not, getting rid of Assad at this stage could leave us in a proxy war with Russia.

Boots on the ground of some description are arguably needed, but putting British or other types of Western troops directly on the ground further feeds Daesh's narrative against the West.

So this would suggest we should be using boots on the ground of countries from the surrounding region, as with Iraq. Again, with Syria, there is much more uncertainty in that regard.

So, what is the remaining solution left?

As Jeremy Corbyn​ and Yannis Varoufakis have highlighted, a political solution (which is making signficant progress thaks to the Vienna talks), and to economically starve ISIS. Where are they getting their money from? Who buys oil from them? Where do they get their arms from?

Countries that are found to be funding IS should be sanctioned. We should not sell arms to them. We should cut off as much means as possible of their funding.

Is it quick? No. Is it simple? No.

Will innocent Syrians still die if we don't bomb? Yes. IS and Assad will still be there in the meantime.

Is it better than bombing in the meantime? Clearly, the majority of the House of Commons thinks no. I respect the views of many who do, but I respectfully and profoundly disagree.

France deserves our solidarity and moral support, but as Gerald Kaufman MP (Labour) said, we should not be killing innocent civilians for the sake of a gesture. As Toby Perkins MP (Labour) said, one of the kindest things you can do for a friend in their moment of torment is ask if they're really sure the action they are taking is the right one.

Am I 100% confident in this view? No, of course not. The Middle East and the situation there is incredibly unpredicatable and the situation is constantly changing. But as things currently stand, it is my belief that Parliament got it wrong last night, and that many MPs who voted for will come to regret it.

That is not to say the decision not to bomb makes the 223 MPs who took that decision morally superior, or that they would not have to live with the consequences of such a decision. As Shabana Mahmood MP (Labour) said, "if only the world were that simple. There are consequences and innocent people will die through action and in-action. Whatever we do tonight we will all bear a measure of responsibility."

As Jess Phillips MP (Labour) said, she did not sleep any more soundly last night having voted against air strikes.

But I have a horrible feeling Parliament got it wrong, and that last night's decision will come back to haunt us.

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