For a peaceful democratic resolution to Syria’s civil war

Hands off SyriaThe Cameron government decision to pull back from an immediate vote on military action against Syria is entirely motivated by a fear of losing it. The Labour leadership’s refusal to give the Government carte blanche ahead of a full report by UN weapons inspectors is to be welcomed and Diane Abbott’s speaking out against intervention in principle should be applauded. This breaking of the usual bipartisan consensus is real progress, but it is only a stopgap.

Pressure will be mounted by the Blairites inside the Party and their co-thinkers outside for the Labour front bench to get into line. But this temporary respite creates a window where peace and labour movement activists can redouble their efforts to keep the pressure on Labour MPs to not only vote against military action but to speak out and mobilise against the government’s warmongering policy — and any future attempt by Labour’s leadership to go along with it.

Once again western powers, Britain included, are (still) poised to intervene militarily in the Middle East. Twelve years ago, US-led forces stormed into Afghanistan in an intervention that has achieved none of its stated goals – destroying Al Qaeda, defeating the Taliban or safeguarding the world from fundamentalist terrorism. Ten years ago, the invasion and occupation of Iraq left a million Iraqis dead and one in six uprooted from their homes. More recently, the west’s intervention put Libya into the hands of armed militias and caused widespread civilian casualties in Mali and Yemen.

Nothing has been learned from these failures and the cycle is set to repeat itself. As Seamus Milne observes in The Guardian:

Once again, UN weapons inspectors are struggling to investigate WMD claims while the US and its friends have already declared them “undeniable”. Once again they are planning to bypass the UN security council. Once again, they are dressing up military action as humanitarian, while failing to win the support of their own people.

It’s unclear which side in Syria’s civil war is responsible for the apparent attack by chemical weapons that has triggered the latest build-up to intervention. The Assad regime has both the capability and the ruthlessness, although in terms of outcomes generated, the opposition may have more motive. There is also evidence that the rebels may have used chemical weapons before. In any event, the US has already decided who are the perpetrators and is preparing to act accordingly.

The use of chemical weapons is a war crime and should be utterly condemned. But it is by no means the only threat to civilian life in Syria, where 100,00 people have been killed in the conflict and 4 million internally displaced. . Furthermore, western governments’ apparent humanitarian concerns ring hollow. Since seizing power a month ago, the Egyptian military has killed more civilians than died in the latest atrocity in Syria, yet they are said by US Secretary of State John Kerry to be ‘restoring democracy’. As so often, a double standard is operating.

Direct military intervention, although qualitatively different from earlier support, would be only the latest form of US-led hostilities against the Syrian regime, whose military opponents have been armed and supported by the US for some months. As Sami Ramadani pointed out in the July edition of LRC Labour Briefing:

During the past two years, an assortment of terrorists flooded in from Libya, Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Europe. Some are flown to Turkey to receive their arms and funds, an effort coordinated by a specially set up CIA HQ in Turkey. Saudi rulers generally back the Wahhabi Salafis and pro-Saudi secular forces associated with the Lebanese right wing, while Qatar backs the Muslim Brotherhood. However, Qatari and Saudi funds were given freely, especially during the 18 months of the fighting, to anyone who wanted to fight in Syria or defect from the regime. Qatar’s dictatorial rulers alone have spent $3 billion within two years in its efforts to topple Assad’s regime.

As in the past, in Afghanistan particularly, the US has ended up supporting an array of brutal and ruthless forces, out of a desire to isolate the Assad regime and with it, its regional ally, Iran. As in Iraq, this policy is motivated as much by commercial considerations as security issues.

The tragedy for the Syrian people is that what began as a mass movement for democracy, as part of the wider Arab spring, has been largely hijacked by western-backed and Gulf-funded anti-secular and anti-democratic groups, some linked to Al Qaeda and extreme forms of Islamic fundamentalism, as Owen Jones recently pointed out (Independent – Owen Jones). The success of such forces could lead to a wholesale sectarian bloodbath.

There is nothing in what western governments are proposing that will take Syria an inch towards democracy, free elections or human rights. If anything, it sets back the cause of progressives and democrats as well as attempts to find a political solution. The Assad regime will be able to pose as the defenders of the Syrian people against western intervention. The US and UK governments will dress up its proposed ‘punitive bombing’ as ‘surgical strikes’ but as in every other circumstance where this tactic has been deployed there will be innocent civilian casualties. And both the US and UK regularly use munitions enhanced with radioactive depleted uranium warheads that in Iraq and elsewhere have contributed to birth defects and long-term civilian health risks.

The proposed attacks on Syria have very little support in British public opinion. It is vital that sentiment is translated into action. The LRC fully supports the Stop the War Coalition’s and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s call for a demonstration against intervention on Syria on Saturday August 31st, 12.00 at the Embankment, London. We call on the labour and trade union movement to mobilise against any attacks on Syria.

The Labour leadership must stand firm against the US-led demands for intervention. Diane Abbott’s opposition to intervention must not be a lone voice – it needs to be supported across the parliamentary party and the broader movement. Above all, Ed Miliband must resist the inevitable demands from the Blairites to support military action or he will forfeit the support of the tens of thousands of members who elected him precisely because of his opposition to war on Iraq.

No military intervention in Syria!
For a peaceful, democratic resolution to the Syria’s civil war!

With the exception of the first two paragraphs written to take account of the latest developments, this article was agreed by the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) as a statement of its policy on Syria

  1. The Muslim brotherhood have been in Syria for a very long time we have to also remember whom helped the Assad’s into power the same as Saddam and we have to remember the people who went to Gaddafi kiss him on both cheeks and told him how great he was while seeking money.

    TONY BLAIR’S government considered asking the Queen to bestow an honorary knighthood on President Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator, official papers reveal.

    Tony Blair has called on the west to stop “wringing our hands” as he endorsed intervention against the regime of Bashar al-Assad and warned governments against ostracising the military dictatorship in Egypt.

    Peace envoy the little man must be annoyed perhaps Assad did not pay him a few quid to his faith charity.

    Where is Blair now, oh yes sorting out Labour’spolicies.

    Ah the good old days of the New labour regime.

    The fact is every time we have got involved and then left, look at Iraq, the US and the UK stated they would rebuild Iraq, but of course once the Oil was sorted the USA and the UK decided that Iraq had enough Oil to rebuild the country it’s self.

    God help Afghanistan when the troops move out but those people who will then die through internal conflicts will be nothing to do with anyone that’s just life.

    Assad’s problem he did not buy a few Nukes from Russia or Tony Blair.

    Russia is sending aircraft carriers lets hope to go China does not we will have another Nuclear stand off.