UK Government set to back down on bombing Syria following SNP, Tory and Labour criticism


Cross party report attacks lack of strategy and impact of joining Syrian civil war

HOPES FROM MILITARY HAWKS that British warplanes would join the Saudi-US coalition bombing Syria have suffered a setback after a new committee report looked likely to lead to a government climbdown.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who lost a vote on attacking Syria in 2013, has expressed his desire to extend UK bombing operations from Iraq into Syria when there was a “genuine consensus” in the House of Commons.

However, the cross-party foreign affairs committee (FAC) has dashed the possibility that the case for war had been made – leading to a Whitehall source conceding that a vote is now unlikely to take place.

According to The Guardian , the insider said: “It is very unlikely the PM will go for vote at the moment. It looks like there is not the certainty of support from Labour and Russia’s intervention in Syria has complicated the picture.”

This follows the publication of a FAC report, on behalf of six Tory, four Labour and one SNP MP, which concluded that the case for further military action was not convincing .

The report stated: “We believe that there should be no extension of British military action into Syria unless there is a coherent international strategy that has a realistic chance of defeating Isil (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and of ending the civil war in Syria. In the absence of such a strategy, taking action to meet the desire to do something is still incoherent.”

The Scottish National Party, which says a rush to war risks replicating the failures of the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts, welcomed the report and its recommendation that a UN Security Council resolution should lead to “negotiations between all parties and compromise to achieve an agreed response”.

The UK spent 13 times more on its bombing campaign against Libya (PS320m) than on any reconstruction project following the conflict (PS25m).

Commenting on the report, FAC member and SNP MP Stephen Gethins said: “It would appear that the UK has learned nothing of the lessons of Iraq and Libya in recent years. After taking evidence from a range of sources including former military personnel, academics, Syrian groups and a range of experts it is clear that the case for war has not been made.

“The UK would have a ‘marginal’ military impact and could risk further damage to its credibility given the lack of a legal basis for the airstrikes and any kind of long term strategic strategy for the conflict.

“However the UK does have a positive role to play in finding a diplomatic solution. Once the UK enters the conflict it becomes yet another belligerent, if it does not then it could become an actor in trying to find a long term solution to the conflict. Here the best use of the UK’s resources is not in more bombing but in continued humanitarian efforts and a putting significant political and other resources into finding a long term diplomatic solution to the war.”

In September it emerged that UK forces had killed UK citizens in a Syrian drone attack without the authorisation of parliament.

This raised fears that the refugee crisis was being used to propagate extending the war, despite previous failures of this strategy.

Recent reports by The Sunday Herald found that the UK spent 13 times more on its bombing campaign against Libya (PS320m) than on any reconstruction project following the conflict (PS25m).

The United States recently admitted that its attempt to arm rebels in the conflict had led to arms reaching al-Qaeda and Daesh (Islamic State) forces.

Millions of refugees have been displaced from the conflict and hundreds of thousands of people have been killed.

The regime of Bashar al-Assad has the support of Iran and Russia against rebel forces backed by Western governments. The war is further complicated by Kurdish autonomy groups, who have also faced brutal crimes committed by Islamic State militia.

Calls for peace talks and a no fly zone have so far not calmed the violence.

Picture courtesy of Syria Freedom