SNP calls on UK Government to rethink military heavy focus to Aleppo catastrophe
SNP MPs have urged the UK Government to focus on humanitarian aid to the besigned city of Aleppo instead of proposed military action in Syria.
In an emergency Westminster debate on the humanitarian situation in Aleppo today (Tuesday 11 October), SNP MP Patrick Grady challenged the UK government to abandon its coalition bombing policy if it did not have a full humanitarian strategy in place.
The call follows the ongoing international tussle for military and political dominance in Syria with the US, UK, Turkey and the Gulf States supporting a range of proxy armies determined to removed dictator Bashar al-Assad and Russia and Iran backing the Syrian leader.
“I have already said, if we have the technology to drop bombs, surely we have the technology to drop bread and aid.” Patrick Grady
Speaking in the debate in the House of Commons, the SNP spokesperson on international development said: “This is an emergency debate in every sense of the word. The situation in Aleppo and across Syria has dramatically and horrifically worsened.
“We were told in December last year that UK air strikes would cut off the head of the snake. But the chaos has only increased, and the people of Aleppo are paying the price. The UK government must re-think its military objectives and recommit to working across borders and interests to find a sustainable and lasting peace.
“I have already said, if we have the technology to drop bombs, surely we have the technology to drop bread and aid.”
275,000 inhabitants are trapped in the city.
In December 2015, all SNP MP’s voted against the UK’s participation in air strikes in Syria, however the UK Government went ahead with limited strikes along the border with Iraq. The Scottish Government, in March 2013, contributed £100,000 to the Disasters Emergency Committee Appeal (DECA), later doubling the amount to £200,000.
It is estimated that between 250,000 and 470,000 have been killed in the conflict to date, as a result of a civil war which emerged from the brutal crackdown of the regime on initially peaceful demonstrations in 2011. Around 4.5m have fled the country. The UN has also estimated that 4.6m civilians are internally displaced.
Aleppo, considered the heart of the revolution and dissent against the Assad family, has seen intense fighting in the Syrian civil war. A mixture of rebel groups hold the east of the city with the Assad regime holding the west. Successive attempts by both sides to encircle each other have left hundreds of thousands of civilians in the city trapped without running water, electricity, food or medical support.
"The SNP warned that becoming a party to the bombing in the conflict would reduce the UK’s ability to be an arbiter in any resolution.”
At the moment 275,000 inhabitants are trapped in the city with every major hospital hit by Russian and Iranian aircraft. Some backbench Tory and Labour MPs are demanding a no fly zone.
Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra is thought to have a presence in Allepo. The group was the was the originator of Daesh (Islamic State) and has been funded by Qatar.
At present the US and Russia disagree on how many fighters from the group are left in the city, with the US estimating around 800 Jabhat fighters and Russia 3,000, a figure used by Russia as a pretext for its air strikes on the city.
The deployment of a no fly zone would, according to military experts in the Pentagon, require an extensive number of ground troops and the targeting of regime defence installations in densely populated areas.
General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the US Senate Armed Services Committee last month that “for us to control all of the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia”.
“The UK government must re-think its military objectives and recommit to working across borders and interests to find a sustainable and lasting peace.”
Grady said: "The SNP warned that becoming a party to the bombing in the conflict would reduce the UK’s ability to be an arbiter in any resolution – and so it has proven to be. Getting aid – medical, food and non-food relief – into the country, and into Aleppo, must be the number one priority in Syria for the UK government.”
In 2016, a defence select committee report, ‘UK Military Operations in Syria and Iraq’ referred to the ministry of defence’s (MoD) strategy on Syria and its evidence for airstrikes and a no fly zone as “disappointing”.
It read:“Although the MoD’s rationale for doing so may be sound, their inability to provide detail may still undermine the Government’s assertion that “the bombing campaign in Syria is in support of credible moderate ground forces”.
“If the Government is to continue to justify and validate its policy of airstrikes in Syria, it should provide the necessary detail on what is being targeted. We therefore recommend that the MoD put this information, as far as possible, into the public domain so that realistic judgments on the effectiveness of the UK’s air operations can be made.”
Picture courtesy of European Commission
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