Sunday, 1 September 2013

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 ?

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