Monday, 30 November 2015

Britain Enters the War in Syria : Cameron's Vote on Military Intervention and Corbyn's Defeat.

'Jeremy Corbyn is to offer a free vote to MPs on David Cameron’s proposals for UK to bomb Isis in Syria but will make clear that Labour party policy is to oppose airstrikes'.
Corbyn really had little choice, otherwise he would have potentially lost authority by trying and failing to exercise authority over the party so full of those prepared to back air strikes, not least because this issue was one that both they and Cameron sought to use in order to oust Corbyn from leadership of Labour.

While British military intervention was something Cameron has wanted in order to reaffirm Britain as 'global player', the rapid movement to join in the battle against IS is primarily about Britain's credibility as a world power, one capable of shaping a post-Assad Syria and to sit at the 'top table' when this diplomacy is going on.

To that extent, Corbyn offered an obstable to that which was then turned into a 'national security threat'. The British national security state created during the latter part of the Cold War on the US model is not there to be challenged by anything as unpredicatable as democratic accountability and so 'Corbyn must go'.

Those Labour MPs opposed to Corbyn are so because 'Britain as global player', no matter the actual dangers of the Syria 'strategy', is a fundamental interest both for their own careerist ambitions and also from an understanding that military action in Syria reassures the Gulf States that Britain is pledged to their defence.

Saudi Arabia is a source of huge investments in London and arms deals. Qatar is set to be an ever more important supplier of LNG ( liquefied natural gas ) for EU markets as European sources deplete-including Britain's North Sea reserves-and the Western Powers look for energy diversification away from Russia.

The real reason Syria has become a strategic battleground and such a brutal cockpit for regional and global proxy wars, is its position between the South Pars Persian Gulf gas field and the Eastern Mediterranean. Both Iran and Qatar want to run a gas pipeline through Syria in rivalry with each other.

With sanctions set to lifted on Iran, as a consequence of the nuclear deal and Iran's vital role in shoring up a Shi'ite dominated Iraqi state based in Baghdad and rolling back IS, the stakes in Syria have been raised further. The US risked alienating Saudi Arabia by seemingly allowing Iran to sell oil freely again and ceding control in Iraq.

Hence in Syria, Washington and London have sought to maintain the geopolitical fiction of a 'moderate rebel' force that should have a stake in determining a post-Assad political settlement. This has become even more important to maintain the Gulf States onside and to check Russia's recent direct military support for Assad.

Russian military intervention on October 29 2015 was the last straw for an increasingly humilated Cameron whose defeat in Parliament in a vote for air strikes on Assad halted the momentum towards Western intervention back in September 2013. Reversing that verdict -and the humiliation-is in part a vanity project.

Moreover, the IS role in blowing up the Russian airliner over Sinai and the Paris Black Friday Attacks provided the 'public diplomacy' opportunities ( pathologically referred to in the media as 'game changers' ) for Cameron to use the IS global threat as a pretext to enter the power contest in Syria as a military player.

Cameron is not naive enough to believe his own verbose memo about Britain's ability to 'make a difference' against IS or the fiction of 70,000 'moderate rebels' waiting in the wings to rally behind Britain's air strike in a massive assualt on Raqqa. It is more about being a 'global player' in determining events in Syria.

That clearly means not allowing the collapse of the 'moderate rebels' or 'third force' capable of checking Assad and defeating IS ( in theory ). With news of US special ops forces already fighting IS and William Hague calling for British ground troops, there are shades of the early years before US involvement in Vietnam.

As Patrick Cockburn drily pointed out with regards Cameron's case, ' In Syria, we are to look to 70,000 “moderate” fighters whose existence Mr Cameron revealed to the House of Commons, but nobody in Syria has ever heard of. Isis is not going to be defeated by these phantom armies which are to be Britain’s allies in Iraq and Syria.'

Britain obviously wants IS defeated but it is not the only priority. If it were, then Britain would have waited to see whether the Vienna agreement and the ceasefire between Assad and the 'moderate rebels' would first be put into place and, then, wait to see if it would stick before contemplating military action.

As it stand in the first week of December 2015, at least a month before the ceasefire was to have been acheived ( January 2016) , Britain's air strikes are about tilting the balance in Syria away from Assad back towards the 'moderate rebels' by backing unnamed militias first against ISIS.

Yet, unlike Assad's forces, the 'moderate rebels' consist of fissiparious militias that have proven incapable of working together. The Army of Conquest is dominated by militias whose ideology is not that dissimilar from IS. The real, more moderate secular forces, are concentrated in the south near Damascus.

The great danger is that, in contrast to Russia, the Western Powers would have to commit more ground troops in future to work along with rebel groups that have proven again and again incapable of being effective as a fighting force. Corbyn could have argued this, but reduced himself to platitudes.

Such is democracy. Corbyn will be defeated as communication and PR politics means that there are few who attempt to treat the British public as full of citizens capable of listening to or grasping coherent arguments as opposed to reacting to knee jerk policies designed to 'solve' the IS threat.

While Corbyn's arguments were not put as forceably as they might have been, his caution and arguments that the case has not been proven are far more convincing than Cameron's evasive and slimy spinning based on a media agenda and exploiting the fear of terrorism.

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