Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Syria: The US, Kurdish Designs, Turkey, Iraq and Iran

No matter how President Obama and his team try to spin it a military intervention and 'upgrading' assistance to the insurgents against Assad backed by Qatar and Turkey would be tantamount to directly taking sides in the Syrian conflict. Up until now, Washington has only given CIA help to the Sunni dominated Free Syria Army;

Washington's foreign policy has consistently called for Assad to go. In refusing to engage with Iran diplomatically has made a slide into involvement in the civil war inevitable. There can be no political settlement if Washington demands that the precondition for peace is for Assad's Shia government to surrender.

The Alawites fear retribution from Sunni jihadists who have fought with the FSA including elements affiliated with Al Qaida such as the al Nusra Front who are fighting against Assad. They are not controlled by 'official' Sunni insurgents and the Syrian National Coalition and want to ethnically cleanse Alawi villages.

Turkey, moreover, is a NATO member threatened with the conflict between the Kurds and the radical Sunni jihadists of al Nusra. spilling over the border. Backing the FSA in Syria, Washington would face the prospect of Iran intervening more to back militant Kurdish separatists.
The danger of Kurdish separatist struggles with Sunni jihadists in northern Syria on the border with both Turkey and Iraq is that it threatens to destabilise border districts and towns in a way that could yet draw in other Western powers should it escalate. 

The Syrian government no longer has much control over the north east of the country and is content to see the al Nusra Front pinned down by Kurdish militias. Iran also gave support for those seeking Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq in order to increase its regional influence.

The reason for move towards separatism that the West opposes, in order to show solidarity with Turkey as a NATO member, is opposition to a potential future for an oil and gas rich Kurdistan with its own ideas about its role in the world that elude the control of regional and global powers.

As part of a fractured Iraq, the relative autonomy of Kirkuk from the Shia dominated government in Baghdad has yielded benefits for Western oil concerns who are willing to invest. But the West does not want to drive Baghdad towards Iran by pushing for Kurdish autonomy too much.

Nor does Iran want to back Kurdish independence more than is needed in order to only cause problems for Turkey alone because it is backing the Muslim Brotherhood against Iran's Shia client Assad. Iran has its own large Kurdish minority.

When Obama states that Syria is not Iraq and not Afghanistan, because of the history the US had in its invasions of both countries, he only wishes to emphasise the distinction between limited military intervention and war.

Unfortunately, Syria is very much a similar case to its Iraq neighbour in being a country more opened up to the competing energy interests of global powers since the US invasion of 2003. Syria is also similar to Afghanistan in being a geopolitically vital pipeline transit zone.

The 21st century is set to be an epoch of intense and bloody struggles and conflicts over resources. Western nations are necessarily going to be involved in them due their overdependence upon oil and gas in those volatile lands where they lie. 

Libya: The Failure of the Last Western Military Intervention.

As President Obama attempts to work with Congress to get a unity of purpose behind military intervention in Syria with only France being a willing ally so far, the last military intervention back in 2011 has proved to be a complete failure and offers a lesson.

Patrick Cockburn's brilliant special report in The Independent shows Libya has moved towards becoming a failed state.
'As world attention focused on the coup in Egypt and the poison gas attack in Syria over the past two months, Libya has plunged unnoticed into its worst political and economic crisis since the defeat of Gaddafi two years ago. Government authority is disintegrating in all parts of the country putting in doubt claims by American, British and French politicians that Nato’s military action in Libya in 2011 was an outstanding example of a successful foreign military intervention which should be repeated in Syria.
In an escalating crisis little regarded hitherto outside the oil markets, output of Libya’s prized high-quality crude oil has plunged from 1.4 million barrels a day earlier this year to just 160,000 barrels a day now. Despite threats to use military force to retake the oil ports, the government in Tripoli has been unable to move effectively against striking guards and mutinous military units that are linked to secessionist forces in the east of the country.
Libyans are increasingly at the mercy of militias which act outside the law. Popular protests against militiamen have been met with gunfire; 31 demonstrators were shot dead and many others wounded as they protested outside the barracks of “the Libyan Shield Brigade” in the eastern capital Benghazi in June.

Though the Nato intervention against Gaddafi was justified as a humanitarian response to the threat that Gaddafi’s tanks would slaughter dissidents in Benghazi, the international community has ignored the escalating violence. The foreign media, which once filled the hotels of Benghazi and Tripoli, have likewise paid little attention to the near collapse of the central government.

The strikers in the eastern region Cyrenaica, which contains most of Libya’s oil, are part of a broader movement seeking more autonomy and blaming the government for spending oil revenues in the west of the country.
For the rest read it here.

Syria: The Geopolitical Constellation and the Move Towards Military Involvement in the Syrian civil War.

'While stressing that Washington's primary goal remained "limited and proportional" attacks, to degrade Syria's chemical weapons capabilities and deter their future use, the president hinted at a broader long-term mission that may ultimately bring about a change of regime.

"It also fits into a broader strategy that can bring about over time the kind of strengthening of the opposition and the diplomatic, economic and political pressure required – so that ultimately we have a transition that can bring peace and stability, not only to Syria but to the region"' 
President Barack Obama, Tuesday Sepember 3 2013 ( The Guardian, Obama hints at larger strategy to topple Assad in effort to win over Republicans )
Washington has always wanted regime change from the outset of the Syrian Civil War in April 2011. That Obama is now indicating that a policy of siding with the Syrian 'rebels'  is back 'on the table' in addition to missile strikes. one advocated staunchly by the neoconservative John McCain, reflects a continuity in policy.

The rationale is clear: the US, France and UK will not tolerate any extension of Iranian influence in Syria through Assad and Hizbollah while they are tacitly backing the attempt by Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to extend their influence by backing the armed Sunni Islamist opponents of the government.

The bottom line is that Qatar is an ally with a strategic partnership with Britain in a variety of military and economic bilateral ties which is completely opposed to Iran's rival geopolitical designs for Syria in the future-if it has one-including proposed pipelines to pump gas west towards Europe.

Turkey is already has sections of gas pipeline to hook up to Qatar and that requires the potential Shi'ite axis of influence from Iran to the Eastern Mediterranean be broken and Assad removed in Syria. That requires the playing the role of a revived Ottoman Empire and extending greater friendship ties to other Arab states.

Turkey wants to stand with Qatar not only due to the desire to increase its prominence as an energy hub between Europe and Asia. Gas rich Qatar now provides most of Turkey's tourist revenue. As Professor Norman Stone emphasised, after the protests in Turkey back in June 2013,
'Arab money is behind the shopping malls and is underpinning the Turkish current-account deficit. The Saudis and Qatar seem to be mainly involved, and now they buy up land in Yalova, over the water from Istanbul, as well. This has delighted the foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu'.
The danger is that in pushing for the support for the Sunni insurgents aligned to the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran would step up its support for Kurdish militias who want autonomy in Syria and Turkey leading to the conflict spilling over into a NATO member. The al Nusra Front is already in conflict with the Kurds.

So Syria is the proxy war ground not only for external powers but also for ethnic and sectarian enmities that straddle borders and have created fault lines across the Middle East. It is a lethal theatre in the New Great Game being played by the world's largest powers for control over energy flows across the region and beyond.

The ultimate target is Iran. Hemmed in to the east by a government installed by the West through the Afghanistan war and occupation, Iran is also having its gas export routes west thwarted by the US and other allies who have opposed Iran as an independent geopolitical player since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

If the US embarks on military intervention through missile strikes, Assad could react in a dangerous way and Iran is not going to be prepared to see him removed or overthrown by pro-Washington opponents. Hizbollah will step up operations and Iraq under a Shia president leans towards Tehran as well.

That is why measures towards what  David Cameron  called the need to 'tilt the balance', in the rebel's favour is now back' on the table' in Washington. No doubt Britain will be a willing partner in funnelling aid to the Sunni militias in order to put Assad in the position of negotiating his exit at a second Geneva Conference.

Washington's foreign policy and the insistence that 'Assad must go' exacerbated the problems in Syria to the point where any political settlement looks unlikely and yet where military intervention could intensify the level of killing and instability as well as committing the West to the Sunni side in a complex conflict.

Syria: Patrick Cockburn on the Impact of Air Strikes

Patrick Cockburn of The Independent is no doubt the best journalist writing on the Syrian Crisis at present. His analysis here is well worth the read. How Syria action risks unsettling fragile Middle East balance of power Wednesday 28 August 2013
'Will air strikes help spread the Syrian conflict to other countries in the region? The important point here is to take on board how far it has already spread and the degree to which it already destabilising Syria’s neighbours. The al-Qa’ida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, which fights in both Iraq and Syria, has already become stronger thanks to Syria, and is responsible for bombings in Iraq more intense than anything seen since 2008. The same organisation is responsible for ethnically cleansing Syrian Kurds in north-east Syria, 40,000 of whom have already fled to the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq. If the Assad government becomes weaker then the Islamic State, al-Nusra Front and other jihadists, the most effective rebel fighting forces, will be strengthened.
Turkey is likely to support US actions, its importance depending on whether or not the US air base at Incirlik in south-east Turkey is used. Turkey has a 560-mile long frontier with Syria but it is vulnerable to Syria and Iran acting through Turkey’s Kurdish minority. Turkish government support for the rebels in Syria is also strongly opposed by the Turkish opposition who have been reinvigorated by mass street protests this summer.

Syrian Crisis: France's Stance and Its Strategic Partnerships.

“I am struck by how eager Great Britain and France appear to be in favour of military action. And I am also mindful of the fact that both of these two powers are former imperialist, colonialist powers in the region.” -former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski
France has been more hawkish over Syria throughout the conflict there than either Britain or even the US. When news of the alleged chemical weapons strike on East Ghouta broke on 21 August, the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, was first out calling for a 'reaction with force'.

A continuous stream of the most belligerent rhetoric has emanated from Paris since then, with calls from President Hollande that France was 'ready to punish' Assad to Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault claiming the attack involved a "massive use of chemical agents".

France's knowledge about Syria's chemical weapons stock may come from the fact that in the 1980s it was French pharmaceuticals that were imported for 'dual use purposes'. The French dossier is technically specific about Syrian CW capabilities but adds nothing towards exact responsibility for the attacks.

The 'public diplomacy' behind the dossier is to back up Washington's version on Saturday and John Kerry's rhetoric about 'we know' everything and 'we have assessed'. Indeed France has been more persistent in backing the Syrian opposition than the US as it was responsible for setting up 'Friends of Syria'.

The 'Friends of Syria Group' or 'Friends of the Syrian People Group' was set up in June 2012 by Sarkozy to bolster support for the Syrian National Council and to prepare for a post-Assad government. The aim is 'revolution' but the reality from the French perspective is its national interests.

France is a staunch ally and strategic partner of Saudi Arabia and Qatar both in the Friends of Syria Group and which support militias with arms and money against Assad. French military ties with the oil rich kingdom have put it at the forefront of the push to directly provide weapons to the Syria rebels.

The FT reported on June 21 2013 an analyst close to ruling circles, Jamal Khashoggi, revealing that Saudi Arabia would never let its Persian Gulf rival Iran 'win a victory in Syria' because Assad had had the upper hand until the alleged chemical weapons attack by his regime occurred.
'”Saudi Arabia has to do something now, even if it will do it alone. The goal now must be toppling Bashar, even if the US is not involved. If Saudi Arabia leads the way, Sunni tribes and o ther countries, including France, will eventually join.
France, concerned that Syrian opposition forces are losing ground, has suggested it is ready to push ahead with increasing the scale of equipment it supplies to the rebels, but it remains coy on what weapons it may be prepared to include.
Officials said this week that Paris had already “ticked the boxes” of materiel it was willing to deliver on a list presented to the Friends of Syria members by the Free Syrian Army. But they declined to say what these included.'
France's defence of Saudi Arabia's policy in Syria so as to check Iran, its main regional geopolitical rival and Shia enemy, is a lucrative and mutually beneficial partnership. On the August 30 news broke of 'a billion euro defence contract with Saudi Arabia to overhaul four frigates and two refuelling ships'.

France's bilateral ties with Qatar, the other main funder of the Islamist militias, brings numerous benefits from Total's stake in the liquefied natural gas ( LNG ) market and the supply of it as an increasing part of the gas energy portfolio for north west Europe via France's EDF group.

France's energy policy is interconnected to geopolitical strategy and competition with Russia and Gazprom for control over the global market for LNG. The volume of Qatari LNG threatens to displace the importance of Russian gas. The proposed Qatar-Turkey pipeline would rival Russian imports and so it backs Assad.

France's interest in energy diversification coincides with many EU states. However, only France ( apart from Britain ) is a military power that can assert those energy security interests in the Middle East. More than that, Qatar invests billions of petrodollars in French real estate and grand projets.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Syria : Why Britain's Political Elites Want Military Intervention

There is much delusion in Britain over the reprieve from military intervention. The proposed missile strikes are a bad idea. However, that does not mean that they are merely 'stupid' or 'senseless'. Evidently, they are designed as part of a policy of showing Assad that he can never win in the civil war.

The aim of a missile strike is in continuity with the policy Washington and London have had since 2011 that 'Assad must go'. By a demonstration of strength, the US wants to make it plain that Assad will negotiate his exit at the postponed Geneva Conference and make way for the opposition.

The Syrian National Council is backed by the Friends of Syria group which meets in Doha and Istanbul and regularly receives Western diplomats. Turkey and Qatar are backing the opposition and want Assad to go with the support of the West due to its strategic partnerships with them and energy interests.

Britain's position is not merely about neoimperial hubris, 'saving Syria', the vanity of politicians wanting to strut on the world state though these are important. It is due to the fact that the enemies of Assad, especially Qatar, are vital partners in shoring up the continued prosperity of the Britain's rentier economy.

With the decline of North Sea Oil, Qatar has made up an increasing proportion of Britain's supply of LNG. Britain and France want 'energy diversification' and to depend less upon Russian gas for geopolitical reasons that are evident enough over Syria and also in wars such as Afghanistan.

Qatar proposed a gas pipeline to Turkey in 2009. Assad stands in the way of such a project as does Iran, the Gulf rival of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which wants to export gas to the Eastern Mediterranean via Iraq and Syria. This would be a major setback after Britain went to war to control Iraq's oil and gas.

Just as there was a complete cross political party consensus on the value of the Afghanistan War, so too is there on Syria. The Labour amendment to the defeated government motion, also rejected, was only about caution over rushing in to intervention when the case had not yet been clearly formulated.

The reason the British government's attempt to join the US in a missile strike on Syria was defeated in Parliament was not so much about public opinion. Nor did Cameron take the vote to Parliament because he was genuflecting to public opinion. He did it because he believed it would vote for him.

True, Miliband wanted to exploit the anti-interventionist mood after his 'lack of leadership' had been subject to criticism over the summer. Yet Labour was for military intervention and just not the way that Cameron had proceeded which seemed similar to Blair's demand to trust his 'call of judgement' on Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons

Already, there are strong voices calling for a second vote on military intervention on Syria now that Obama has played for time and delayed military action until Congress reconvenes .Members of the government are blaming Miliband for making military action no longer an option in case new 'compelling evidence' turns up.

The reasoning is that if Washington gets more regional support, as it already has with the Arab League now demanding action *and a legal pretext could be used for missile strikes, then the British government would be able to put another vote before Parliament in light of changed circumstances.

Boris Johnson in particular has been putting pressure on Cameron to do so. In the Daily Telegraph Johnson claimed  "If there is new and better evidence that inculpates Assad, I see no reason why the government should not lay a new motion before parliament, inviting British participation".

The Mayor of London has every reason to be forthright as he is close to the rich elites in Qatar and has been relentlessly banging the drum for it as a major investor in London. In fact, Britain has strong developed strong bilateral trade ties with Qatar in energy,education and 'culture'.

Unfortunately, Britain's dysfunctional rentier economy has become increasingly interconnected with Qatar's in the wake of the 2008 crash and the need for Qatari petrodollars to boost investment in British real estate (especially in London ) and lure shoppers to spend more.

Whether the British public likes it or not, Syria and its geopolitical position is very much about Britain's business, keeping gas bills down and giving shots of investment to prop up an ailing and failing neoliberal economy too overdependent upon oil and gas from unstable regions.

* Correction- The Arab League Secretary General has decided the UN route must be pursued and "military action is out of the question". Saudi Arabia wanted US military action.
'Saudi Arabia and the Syrian opposition pleaded with League members to back a US military strike on the regime.
 Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal told the meeting that "opposition to international action only encourages the regime to pursue its crimes".

"It is time to ask the international community to assume its responsibilities and to take deterrent measures" against the Syrian regime," al-Faisal said.'

Syria: Same Issue, Different Question.

"I cannot foresee any circumstances in which we would go back to parliament again on the same question and the same issue," he said. "We can't go back asking the same question over and over. So no, I can't foresee such circumstances."
So opines Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister. Now he is blaming the 'cynical' and 'point scoring' Ed Miliband for having Labour vote against the government on the motion to involve Britain militarily in a US led missile strike against the Syrian regime.

I predicted yesterday that there would be a clamour for a second vote and that the new tack in 'public diplomacy' on Syria would take the form of the government blaming Miliband for diminishing Britain's global standing the better to box him into a position of having to support a new vote on a different question.

It doesn't seem as though that could include only chemical weapons. The question is what other pretexts could be cooked up to justify a military intervention that is wanted for geopolitical advantages and to advance strategic interests irrespective of whether Assad has chemical weapons or has actually used them,

For that is what Hague and Clegg are insinuating about another vote. Already Shadow Defence minister Jim Murphy and Ben Bradshaw are said to be voices in favour of a second vote according to the Daily Telegraph. They are positioning themselves for that should  more 'compelling evidence' come from Washington.

The 'public diplomacy' offensive now is to portray Miliband for having prevented the chance for Britain to have supported military intervention under any changed circumstances so that, if and when circumstances change, they can try to pressurise Miliband to get the party to vote for it the second time around.

It is both predictable and pathetic.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Syria : The USA's Coercive Diplomacy on Syria.

'Obama's draft resolution has a short paragraph on the need for a political settlement in Syria and even calls on the Geneva talks process to be resumed urgently. Is it cynical or just naive? Syrian rebels' intransigence and their unwillingness to attend without preconditions are the main reason for the failure of Geneva so far.' ( Jonathan Steele, Syria: the US public faces a grim reality TV choice  Guardian September 1 2013 )

Washington never wanted a political settlement on any other terms other than that of the US and the Syrian opposition it supported along with the Friends of Syria group. It continually made Assad's removal or agreement to 'go' the precondition of any negotiations. The foreign policy was and remains 'Assad must go'

That has been the aim of of US and its strategic partners in the Middle east such as Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The US and Britain does not want any Iranian influence in Syria because there are fears it was using that to plan a pipeline to the Eastern Mediterranean in rivalry to Qatar's proposed one to Turkey.

Syria is geopolitically the cockpit for rival energy interests. The US, France and UK support Saudi Arabia and Qatar because they rely on these countries for oil or gas. France has become increasingly reliant on Qatar for LNG and Total has a stake in it. Britain likewise in order to diversify supplies away from Russia.

Iran is seen as a threat because it is a rival to both these countries and feared as a source of sponsorship for disgruntled Shia populations in Saudi Arabia who live near the main oil producing zones of Saudi Arabia not to mention backing Assad's Alawite regime in Syria.

Engaging with Iran is the most sensible diplomatic option to bring about a political settlement but the US and Britain have continually rejected that because of the energy interests at stake and because Qatar and Saudi Arabia are going to pursue their interests no matter what the Wests wants.

The problem comes down to the fact that though US foreign policy on Syria is one of choice it is also dictated by the necessity of it depending on Saudi Arabia for 12% of its oil still and the more general overarching strategy of containing Iran and getting 'regime change' there.

Obama started talking more straightforwardly of 'national security interests' after the British Parliament decided the UK would not take military action alongside the US. These interests are crucially interconnected with energy interests and energy security no less than they were with Britain and more so France.

Evidently, Obama is attempting to drum up wider support for a missile strike against Syria designed to add greater pressure along with Kerry's statement that there would be assistance to 'the rebels'. The UN security council is dismissed as 'completely paralysed'. In reality, the US is asserting coercive diplomacy.

Syrian Crisis: The "Right" to Launch Missile Strikes.

'The Obama administration indicated on Sunday that it would launch military strikes against Syria even if it failed to get the backing of the US Congress, claiming evidence that sarin gas had been used in chemical attacks outside Damascus last month.
Less than a day the president vowed to put an attack to a congressional vote, secretary of state John Kerry said the administration was determined to act against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and did not need the backing of Congress to do so.
President Obama "has the right to do this no matter what Congress does", said secretary of state John Kerry, one of the leading advocates of a military assault on dictator Bashar al-Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons on 12 neighborhoods outside Damascus on 21 August.
Giving the vote to Congress was a mere formality. The next eight days will see a 'public diplomacy' offensive by Washington on a vast scale to marshal the US and other willing participants towards military intervention. The impression has to be of an irresistable momentum. As Kerry put it,
 "We have a coalition of more than a few but this is a situation that's going to grow as the evidence comes out."
The decision to put the matter to Congress was merely a ploy to buy more time. There is no absolute guararantee that with 'new evidence' and Washington pressurising it allies for a for or against us position that the British government and opposition might not strike up a new found unity of purpose.

It it looks unlikely given the political situation in Britain but the reality is that both the government and opposition are trying to use Britain's non- involvement in any future military intervention as the fault of each other, the better to present themselves as the best guardians of Britain's role as a 'global player'.

If Washington starts finding new and more reliable allies, a new vote might be put to Parliament to get it to vote the right way with the connivance of both political parties. Clearly, Kerry's message is that, unlike Britain, the US is not hamstrung by indecisive partisan politicians, a message that may be heeded....

Syrian Crisis : Politicking and Positioning Over Britain's Role in Syria.

Get ready for a week of intense 'public diplomacy' from Washington as it steps up a gear with the accusations of Assad's use of chemical weapons, now said to have contained sarin gas, and siren voices in Britain clamouring for the case for military intervention to be framed in a new light by the government.

In Britain, William Hague said: "We were saying in our parliament that there would be a second vote at a later stage if we wanted to go ahead with military action. So that, of course, would have been rather similar to President Obama setting out this timetable in Congress now"

The hawks are already regathering for a second swooping attempt to drag Britain towards military intervention in Syria. Osborne is clearly trying to blame Labour for humiliating not only the government but also Britain because its diminished role as a 'global player'.

The 'public diplomacy' being put forth by Hague is that if Congress votes for military action they would be able to portray the Labour opposition in a bad light if Washington spins out a new line on Syria other than the specific one on chemical weapons which was defeated in the Parliamentary vote.

If Washington cobbled together some sort of pretext for intervention based on 'humanitarian intervention' , or if other evidence of atrocities committed by the 'Assad regime' could be exploited to press the case in a 'new light', there could be noises about second vote, something Miliband has not ruled out.

The politicking going on in Britain now reflects both sides attempt to prove themselves better to lead Britain's role as a 'global player' and accusing each other of the failure to maintain its 'credibility' on the world stage. Hague knows Labour were not against military intervention in principle.

Hague is now insinuating that Miliband and Labour have played partisan politics and would destroy Britain's position if further evidence is found "Parliament has spoken. I don't think it is realistic to think that we can go back to parliament every week with the same question having received no for an answer'.

Of course, the government could go back to Parliament wit a differently worded question on the same issue should they be able to portray Labour as cynical should a blitz of propaganda come forth on Syria and the UN inspectors find 'something' that could be spun as part of a 'new' decisive case for military intervention.

Hague is already shifting tack to that position,
 "Parliament has spoken. I don't think it is realistic to think that we can go back to parliament every week with the same question having received no for an answer.
"Anybody looking objectively at this would see that, in order for parliament in any circumstances to come to a different conclusion, people would have to be more persuaded by the evidence. There is a great deal of evidence there but I'm not sure that the extra evidence that the United States presented would have made a difference to those doubting the evidence in the House of Commons.
"The Labour leadership would have to play a less partisan and less opportunistic role and be prepared to take yes for an answer in terms of the motions that we present to the House of Commons. We had taken on board all the points that they had made before the debate on Thursday. All those things would have to happen to get a different result in the House of Commons and I can't see any immediate possibility of that."
Moreover, Labour's position is not against Washington's on intervention. They were not against military intervention per se but against the case being made by Cameron for it. That is why Jim Fitzpatrick resigned from the shadow front bench because he was against intervention 'full stop'.

Labour have only learnt that there is a need for the case to be seen to be better and for the mistakes that it made in Iraq not to be repeated. But though Cameron used Iraq style techniques to spin Britain into intervention, Syria is not, in fact, the same as Iraq as military invasion was never on the cards.

Miliband is clever enough to know that and has tried to use the Syria Crisis to exorcise the spectre of Blair and pose as 'responsible'. Yet neither Miliband nor Alexander are against military intervention at some stage should the conditions they laid down on Thursday be subsequently met. Alexander stated today,
" The conditions we set down on Thursday apply on Sunday morning. But since then, of course, the prime minister has given his word to the British people that the UK will not participate in military action in Syria."
The implication is that the conditions for military intervention still apply but for the position of Cameron. It is a political manoeuvre to make his leadership look as though it could damage Britain's standing as a global player, the very basis for Osborne's attack on Labour.

Alexander is not stating that military intervention was conclusively ruled out. He is stating that the conditions for participation were not met and still have not by Sunday morning. This leaves the question open while boxing Cameron into a corner for having botched the case on Thursday.

Labour can now have both ways. If new 'compelling evidence' is provided ( as their condition two requested) and if the UN finds some evidence of chemical weapons use, then Miliband and Alexander could spin about and support military intervention with Washington later while criticising government incompetence.

This does not mean that Britain will definitely join the US in any operation against Assad's regime without another vote. But it means that if Washington and 'the international community' demands Assad be held to account for war crimes, Labour could vote for it if another vote were held.

Labour could then have it both ways, that it was Miliband who showed leadership and the best way to preserve the 'special relationship' while Cameron's irresponsible recklessness damaged Britain's credibility as a 'global player'. Alexander himself is a staunch and unquestioning Atlanticist.

Is nobody listening carefully to what these politicians are actually saying ?