Tag Archives: syria

Tim’s best bits #2: That Syria vote

In December 2015, the House of Commons voted on whether to carry out airstrikes in Syria. Had I been a Liberal Democrat MP, I’d have voted against. However, Tim led 75% of ours through the voting lobbies in support of the Government’s plans.

I wrote about my mixed feelings at the time:

Yesterday, though, I could totally understand and empathise with our leader’s stance, driven as it was by the best of liberal, humanitarian and internationalist motivations. He made an absolute cracker of a speech, delivered with passion and confidence

I was glad, however, that my views were represented in the division lobbies by two of our MPs, Norman Lamb and Mark Williams. It’s a great credit to our party that we were able to debate this in a very serious manner and without rancour or recrimination.

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Observations of an ex pat: The fight for the spoils

Politics hates a vacuum. It especially hates a vacuum in the tinderbox cockpit of the Middle East where the conflicting issues of money, vital resources, religious extremism , religious conflicts, historic rivalries and the geopolitical link between East and West dangerously clash.

The virtual collapse in 2011-2012 of Bashar Al-Assad’s despotic regime in Syria created such a vacuum. It was filled by the even more despotic Islamic State Caliphate.

Now the Caliphate is on its knees.  The Western half of Mosul is recaptured.  Only a handful of IS fighters remain in the dangerously narrow winding streets of the Eastern half.

The fundamentalists once boasted that their Syrian-Iraqi base would become a springboard from which to launch an Islamic conquest of the Middle East and Europe. They  have retreated to their spiritual capital of Raqqa in Syria for the final battle to the death.

They will lose . But who will win? And what will they win? Assad, Russia, the US and its Western allies, Iraq, the Kurds, Turkey, Iran, a score  or more of rebel forces—all are directly involved in the fighting. Then there are there are the backers—or interested parties: Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar, Kuwait, the EU, the United Arab Emirates, Somalia, Afghanistan and the wider Islamic world.

It looks as if Assad will regain and remain in power for the foreseeable future—but he will be a political shadow of his former self.   Neither the Trump Administration nor any of its European or Arab allies have any stomach for removing a secular despot who can be replaced by another fanatic Islamic despot. And besides, he will have the military support of Iran and Russia.

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Idlib gas attack? Is “Not Proven” currently the least worst verdict?

 

Scottish juries have the choice of three verdicts – Guilty, Not Guilty and Not Proven. This multiple choice is much more real to life than the “English” binary or oppositional choice of guilty or not guilty.

In non-judicial or “everyday terms” the Scottish three-way choice when facing a decision is “yes”; “no”; “I don’t know.” The Scottish choice seems to be closer to real life and so is worth using when considering and possibly taking action on matters of and relating to armed conflict which deals in death, mutilation, madness, theft and profit as well as, if not always, bravery and altruism.

Here are some questions and comments which appear to indicate that a Not Proven verdict is currently the most accurate fit before, it is hoped, an accurate analysis of responsibilities for the gas attacks is made.

How do we know what we are told and shown is reasonably genuine?

Posted in Op-eds | 78 Comments

LibLink: Tim Farron: Why I support Trump’s Syria strike

Tim Farron has written for the Guardian about why he has decided to support the US action in Syria on Friday morning. There are caveats, though:

However, we disagree with the way in which he conducted it – unilaterally, without allies, outside of a wider strategy. Trump saw a wrong and wanted to react, no doubt in large part to differentiate himself from Barack Obama. But taking matters into his own hands without thinking of the consequences, without a wider plan, without considering what next, exposes both his naivety about how the world works and his potential to create instability on an international scale.

So, how should the UK respond now? Trump has made it clear that this was a one-off, which Michael Fallon has echoed, and we should welcome that. This wasn’t about intervention in Syria. The purpose was twofold: to send the strongest possible signal of condemnation of Assad’s actions, and to ensure he is much less likely to be able to act in that way again. The Syrian regime and their Russian allies may be acting outraged on their respective state television channels, but they have been sent a message they will surely not now ignore.

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Successfully defending a Syrian safe area

On Thursday on Question Time Tim Farron spoke in favour of protecting Syrian people from the murder visited on them by Assad’s military.  I applaud Tim’s decision to do so, especially in the light of earlier Lib Dem votes against military action. However, in doing so I have to insert the caveat that a solution based on air power alone is in fact no solution at all.

To illustrate my argument I must take you all back before the Iraq war and to the North and South Iraq No Fly Zones. In the north the NFZ was a success, with very few civilian casualties caused by the Iraqi military. In the south however, it could not have been more different, with villages being decimated and the genocide of an entire people very nearly enabled.

So what was the difference between the Northern and Southern No Fly Zones? Quite simply, it was the Kurdish ground troops protecting their people from murder by Saddam’s security forces. There was no equivalent in the south and so the armed forces were able to act with impunity (albeit without the comfort of air cover), murdering their people and even re-routing the Euphrates in order to starve the Marsh Arabs.

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Martin Horwood writes…Trump’s step into very dangerous waters

American bombing in Syria may make Donald Trump a hero on the streets of Idlib. Those fighting for simple democratic rights in Syria felt bitterly let down by the west in 2013 when we failed to take action the first time there was good evidence that the monstrous Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons on his own people.

We still live with the consequences of that inaction. We were warned our intervention against Assad might make the situation worse. The situation got worse anyway as Assad continued to kill his own people in their thousands with impunity. Millions fled their homes. The sudden rise of Isis/Daesh added a twisted new complication and cover for much larger-scale foreign intervention but by Russia instead of the west. But devastating Russian firepower was aimed much more frequently at the democratic rebels who were pounded into the ground at Aleppo. Increasingly it looked as though Assad’s relentless brutality had paid off and he could even get away with more chemical attacks in clear breach of international law.

So does this make Trump right to strike?

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Lib Dems respond to US air strikes on Syria

It was quite disconcerting to wake up this morning to see that Donald Trump had launched air strikes. There is no question that Syria needs to be dealt with. You just can’t have any government getting away with gassing its own people. I just feel uneasy about Donald Trump being in charge of this. Does he even have a proper strategy? I also feel uneasy about our Government just slipping into line behind him.

On Question Time last night, Tim Farron was talking about the importance of establishing no fly zones and of humanitarian aid, but made clear that doing nothing was not an option in the face of an attack as horrific as the one we saw earlier this week.

He has since described Trump’s action as “proportionate” but went on to say that our Government’s response was not sufficient:

The attack by American forces was a proportionate response to the barbarous attack by the Syrian government on its own people.

The British government rather than just putting out a bland statement welcoming this should now follow it up and call an emergency meeting of the Nato alliance to see what else can be done, be that more surgical strikes or no fly zones.

Evil happens when good people do nothing, we cannot sit by while a dictator gasses his own people. We cannot stand by, we must act.

I don’t always agree with what they say, but in situations like this, I always look for the views of three people: Paddy, Ming and Julie Smith

On Twitter, Paddy said:

I also had a conversation with Julie on Twitter:

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