Nick Clegg on Syria: Government “is not going to act outside the remit of international law”

Here’s Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg commenting on the Government’s actions on Syria:

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28 Comments

  • Oh dear. I suppose this means the government is going to act outside the remit of international law.

  • John Roffey 27th Aug '13 - 7:51pm

    I think that means that we are going to do what Obama [or is it John McCain] tells us to do!

  • So if we do act then the Attorney General must publish their advice to the government

  • ray cobbett 27th Aug '13 - 8:50pm

    This humanitarian trope was something I never thought I would see the lib dems use.
    I marched with million others opposing the bombing of Arab countries. The conversion of the lib dems
    Reads like animal farm.

  • Screw international law. Do we really need the UN to tell us when an action like this is immoral, and neither liberal not democratic?

  • @ray cobbett,

    Lib Dems were among the first to suggest military action in Kosovo. It was never a knee-jerk pacifist party like the Greens.

  • @Richard S,

    If only it were, maybe then Clegg would think twice right now.

  • @Richard S,

    If only it were, maybe then Clegg would think twice right now.

  • Why did that post twice o.O

  • Seriously, I’ve listened to that several times, but I still can’t hear a hint of a legal justification for intervention in it.

  • If the Assad regime has used chemical weapons it is obviously illegal – Nick labours the point rather. But with Russia and China in a position to veto any action that might be agreed by the UN I can’t see how the US, UK and France would be able to claim that any action they might take against Syria was legal. Syria is not a threat to any of these countries so self-defence would be no justification either. The use of chemical weapons is a war crime, but so is the indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas which has been going on in Syria for months. The difference between the two actions is that Obama made the use of chemical weapons a red line, and now feels obliged to do something, but it is very difficult to see what can be done that will be legal, proportionate and effective. I’ll listen to what is proposed, but I think that Nick’s conditions are impossible to meet, and I would hope that when the time comes he will have the guts to oppose any actions that do not meet his conditions. I don’t have much confidence though.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Aug '13 - 11:11pm

    An emergency party conference and vote should have been called for this. Nick should not be able to make party policy without an internal vote, unless we are in immediate danger. We also need to implement online voting to speed up the process and Louise Shaw’s recommendation of one-member-one-vote. We best get working.

    You could argue that a referendum should have been called, but democratic parties would be a start.

  • As I listened to Mr Clegg parrot the words that his civil servants had written for him, I looked for the strings. He is acting as a mouthpiece for the military and economic elites in Europe and North America, something we were assured he would never do when we were asked to make him leader. Given that Mr Clegg is fed broadly the same information/misinformation by his civil servants as we are fed by our sweetheart media, we have to ask how he knows that what he is telling us is true. How does he know that the Assad regime did use chemical weapons against civilians? How do we know it wasn’t a false flag attack launched by the USA and/or Israel? The Syrian rebels look to me to be every bit as nasty as Assad and his backers. They include hardline Islamic fundamentalists. The European and North American elites couldn’t give a stuff about the lives and human rights of Syrians. What they care about is helping themselves to Syria’s resources. Obama and Cameron are their puppets. The US military dropped napalm and agent orange on the Vietnamese, so the US government is in no position whatsoever to excoriate another government for using chemical weapons against civilians.

  • Alisdair McGregor 27th Aug '13 - 11:44pm

    Any military intervention in Syria must satisfy 4 criteria;

    1) Consent of Parliament
    2) Compliance with International Law
    3) Clearly defined limited objectives & exit strategy
    4) Genuine Casus Belli

  • The problem is that “compliance” with international law is all a bit vague.. The BBC talk about the “responsibility to protect” idea but in reality without a specific mandate from the UNSC then in some peoples eyes it would be an illegal war.

    But one step at a time, firstly to avoid early charges of hypocrisy the legal advice must be either published or at least shared with the opposition leaders under Privy Council rules.

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Aug '13 - 2:09am

    The most moral argument for military intervention seems to be to protect the Syrian’s, but there is no evidence that the Syrian’s want us to throw missiles in.

  • Bill le Breton 28th Aug '13 - 6:49am

    No.no, no.

    I wish our leaders had been spending their summer reading about the First, Second and Third Balkan Wars (the latter of course becoming the First World War). See for instance Christopher Clark’s – The Sleepwalkers.

    Robert Fisk this morning is also essential reading: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/does-obama-know-hes-fighting-on-alqaidas-side-8786680.html

    It is appallingly difficult NOT to *want* to take direct action in response to what is going on in Syria – our humanity screams for us to ‘do something’, but the first priority for the long term is to ‘contain’ what is happening in that tragic and bloody mess, to support surrounding countries receiving refugees and not to make Al Qaeda stronger.

  • Little Jackie Paper 28th Aug '13 - 8:01am

    Bill le Breton – Well….That sort of is the problem though isn’t it? The policy has been basically containment for the last few years and it has not really done anything and arguably has made things worse. We could, I suppose, pursue some sort of more, ‘active containment,’ but that surely would be conflict/intervention by a polite term. The stark truth is that there is not suddenly going to be a wave of pacifism across the region because everyone asks nicely.

    I do rather worry that we are starting to outsource policy. Having a policy that is effectively, ‘we’ll let you know our policy once the UN tell us what it is,’ doesn’t really cut it in government. After all, if (stress if) there has been the use of chemical weapons then so what? OK, they kill an awful lot of people/create lots of refugees etc, but so then does conventional warfare too. What exactly is so special about chemical weapons – the distinction probably doesn’t matter too much to the innocent Syrian bystander who, presumably, is the important person in this picture.

    There is not a middle option here really – either we accept that the R2P is real (and I most certainly do not) or we say that we have no responsibility to actively do anything. Intervention is intervention and it is what it is.

    There is a lot of huff and puff on here and elsewhere about what is, basically, legal nicety. That’s all well and good but the underlying tone of it is basically that conflict is all OK provided someone at the UN says so. Personally, I would have opposed Iraq as a conflict even if there had been a UN seal of approval and even if there had been WMD. Syria, like Iraq, isn’t this country’s business – at most it is regional. In Kosovo, at the very least, there it was an authentic European matter. Either, ‘our,’ (whatever that means) outrage over events in Syria warrants intervention, or we accept that, however ugly, it is not for the UK to involve itself. Personally I’m happy with the latter though I realise others take a different view. Just at the moment it looks like dithering.

    You are right 100%. It is difficult just to stand and do nothing but we may not be far away from being in government and having, ‘do nothing,’ as the policy position effectively backed by a majority the public at large. I get a sense that some in this party don’t quite see what that means.

  • John Roffey 28th Aug '13 - 8:07am

    I am afraid it is the Industrial Military Complex, of which Eisenhower warned, that is most keen for the West’s involvement in Syria – because there is nothing we can do to help the situation apart from not becoming involved.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y06NSBBRtY#at=29

    Unlike ordinary people, the Industrial Military Complex do not see war in terms of death and destruction. They see it in terms of ‘profit’.
    I am not sure what the profit is on a dozen Tomahawk Cruise Missiles at $2m[?] apiece – but I am sure it is significant.

  • jenny barnes 28th Aug '13 - 9:01am

    Suppose the Syrians then decide to retaliate against civilian airliners with their S-300 anti air missiles, because of the collateral damage from the Tomahawks? What then?

  • Cllr David Becket 28th Aug '13 - 9:17am

    Where is the Liberal Democrat Party that stood up to oppose action in Iraq.

  • John Roffey 28th Aug '13 - 9:45am

    Perhaps NC should consult the Dalai Lama!

  • John Broggio 28th Aug '13 - 10:05am

    I am, for one, relieved by Nick Clegg’s statement. For “the Deputy Prime Minister thought it was reasonable for the Cabinet Secretary to request that the Guardian destroyed data” that had already been widely copied and was stored on multiple computers around the world…

  • Andrew Boultby 28th Aug '13 - 10:27am

    It seems the decision was made before the UN inspectors even went to Syria.
    A main problem is that the media reports are biased and inaccurate as was noted with reports of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing to Iraq but no mention that there were 2 million refugees from Iraq in Syria so those fleeing back would be simply going home. There are/were millions of refugees in Syria from all the surrounding countries and many from Palestine escaping Israels expansion.

    Syria was a safe haven to refugees , a stable country with free secular education and a country that wanted to unite Arabs, that is the reason behind all of this and the people who will benefit most will be Israel and the USA who never want the Arabs to unite.

  • @ Alisdair McGregor

    You 4 succinct criteria are spot on. Subject to these being met, I believe intervention by force is necessary in the context of R2P (responsibility to protect). R2P must be a guiding principle for our military policy … I would thus add 3 other criteria – (1) Do we have the means to intervene? (2) Can we afford to intervene? (3) Will our intervention make the situation better rather than worse? This last criterion, is one of the most difficult to assess and one of the most critical.

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