Let me explain, in layman’s terms, some of the misrepresentations being made in the furore surrounding David Cameron’s proposal to ‘Bomb Syria’, probably being brought before parliament in the middle of the incoming week.
Misrepresentations are rife throughout the media and amongst politicians. I am not convinced they are considering what is correct for the UK and merely using a crucial debate to beat their arch-enemy David Cameron with, playing politics in a most undignified way.
Firstly, consider the following facts:
- ISIS did not start in Syria, they started in Iraq in 2006 (officially, they were feeling their way since probably 1999, even pledging allegiance to Al-Qaeda in 2004).
- ISIS only expanded into Syria in April 2013, after co-forming al-Nusra and using them in Syria to establish an organisation there.
- The UK (joining her allies) have been carrying out Air Strikes against ISIS, in Iraq only, since August 2014.
- At the end of August 2013, David Cameron asked the UK parliament to vote on whether or not we expand our Air Strikes into Syria. Ed Miliband changed tactics at the final moment and Labour voted en masse against the government. This was a surprise, as he had previously hinted he would support the government.
- In 2013 we intended to bomb Assad forces in Syria. The idea was to allow the ‘moderate’ groups there (FSA, Kurds, etc) to overthrow Assad regime and move Syria towards some sort of democratic solution (whilst halting the growth of ISIS into Syria from Iraq).
- The vacuum we left with non-intervention in Syria since 2013 has left a stalemate, a vacuum of power, in which a bloody war rages throughout Syria, on many fronts, with nobody gaining overall control. This stalemate has permitted ISIS to cement their position and grow their forces.
- Now, David Cameron intends to expand our anti-ISIS bombing actions into Syria, from our existing campaign in Iraq. This is what MP’s will vote on this week in parliament.
- The bombing campaign being presented is not a blanket ‘Bomb Syria’ campaign as is being represented by socialist MP’s and media, it is merely an expansion of the current strikes against ISIS, who can simply disappear across the Iraq-Syria border with impunity at present.
- We no longer have the option of bombing the Assad Regime. Russia is now too heavily involved in supporting them. Russia now have Anti-Air defences in Syria, capable of taking our aircraft down if hostilities commenced.
- Russia may not have had the option of supporting Assad, as they currently do, back in 2013 if we had taken steps to remove Assad with the plans David Cameron presented at the time. Moot point now, they are there and nobody wants hostilities with Russia.
- All of the ‘moderate’ Syrian Rebel factions (FSA being a main player) have proven to be less ‘moderate’ than everyone had hoped, fundamentalism and minor allegiances to extremist groups is now rife.
- None of the rebel groups opposing Assad (and ISIS) in Syria are capable of maintaining a regime of any sort in Syria. It will take a peace deal between ALL of them (including Assad regime) to get some form of unity restored in Syria.
- The Civil War in Syria had reached a stalemate prior to recent Russian intervention. Since the Russians have started bombing (only partially against ISIS, they are bombing all of Assad’s enemies) they have caused major headaches for ISIS, allowing Assad and rebels to retake some strategic towns.
- David Cameron proposes to ask parliament to extend UK Air Strikes into Syria this week. This will allow the UK to take her place alongside US and France (among others) and attack ISIS on both sides of a border that ISIS themselves do not recognise.
- Whilst ISIS class themselves, their Caliphate, as a ‘state’, they are not. They are merely a terrorist organisation, a fundamental Islamic extremist group, who have taken control of land spanning two troubled countries. Bombing them is not covered by the normal conventions that govern action against a recognised country/state.
- UK bombing in Syria will do nothing specific against Assad or the various rebel factions, they will merely target specific ISIS targets. Removing ISIS resources, oil stocks, weapons and PR capability is an absolute MUST, doing nothing is no longer an option.
- The removal of ISIS from Iraq and Syria will not bring about a peaceful solution to Syria – it will however remove a major thorn in the side of peace, one which must be removed before peace can ever be considered.
Yes, David Cameron has suggested he still wants regime change in Syria and the removal of Assad. This is still most rational people’s wish. It will not happen as a result of UK Air Strikes in Syria, but the removing of ISIS at least takes a major toxic influence from a volatile situation.
Russia has hinted that Assad could go. Once we remove ISIS, we could potentially negotiate a peaceful solution within Syria. This will require Russian involvement, they can wield influence over Assad and potentially convince him to stand down.
Gaining any form of peace in Syria will be very complex, there are many vastly-opposed forces involved, though none on as apocalyptic a route a ISIS. There will NEVER be any chance at peace for Syria whilst ISIS are entrenched there, controlling vast swathes of the country and infrastructure.
What happens if we do nothing in Syria?
Our current handicap in our campaign against ISIS (being unable to follow them across the Iraq-Syria border) has allowed ISIS to flourish. They now have support among rebel groups, more fundamental Islamic extremists, across many countries, including:
- West Africa
- North Caucasus
- South East Asia
If we continue to permit them to grow, to sell oil to fund their worldwide campaign of terror, then we can expect further atrocities like the Paris Attacks or downed Russian airliner we have witnessed lately. The UK have foiled 7 attacks in 2015 already, we can be sure there will be many more to come.
If we continue to refuse to get involved militarily, instead calling for an impossible ‘diplomatic’ or ‘peaceful’ solution, we are nothing other than mere bystanders, witnessing but ignoring the daily atrocities carried out by an ever-growing band of dangerous extremists that are ISIS.
If we continue to permit the existence of ISIS, we allow them to continue their worldwide expansion as the poster-boys for Islamic Extremism, a rallying point for all the fragmented minor groupings already existing and causing problems in the countries I’ve listed above.
If we do nothing, we risk the further expansion of ISIS and the ultimate increase in atrocities in the West, with the UK being a prime target.
Some arguments debunked
I get the same counter arguments raised on Twitter when debating this situation and the potential for expanding our bombing into Syria.
The UK (and allies) caused the ISIS problem by our intervention in Iraq
No, not true. Our intervention in Iraq was based on a poor decision by Tony Blair and his timid cabinet. ISIS was allowed to flourish only once the Obama Administration decided to withdraw US peacekeeping troops en masse from Iraq too early, leaving an unprepared military in the region. Obama and his administration were well aware of the potential from such groups, but ignored it.
We will cause further radicalisation in our own country and throughout the West by bombing ISIS in Syria.
Nonsense. ISIS have a well-oiled recruitment machine which has been working very well worldwide. ISIS are thought to have up to 20,000 foreign fighters (3,400 from Western countries), they don’t need much assistance with an already very successful recruitment procedure.
ISIS use a mixture of puritanical, fundamental Islam, backed up by a brutal justice system, to control their followers. It is the expansion using their Wahhabi/Salafi based Islamic belief which is drawing confused young fighters who have been instilled with traditional Sunni Islamic dogma since birth.
Does the PR they create, blaming the West for all their woes, assist them in their recruirtment?
Yes, up to a very limited point it does. A rational, normal person does not decide to take up arms half a world away to fight against the reasonable country they were born in, based on some misreporting of a military campaign.
The bombing and specific targeting of ISIS infrastructure in Syria, assisted by the targeting of leaders, will allow the West to begin to dismantle the recruitment machine of ISIS. This recruitment machine can only happen with funding and expertise, both of which we can reduce with bombing.
Many experts say ‘bombing Syria’ will not help the situation
Agreed, some have said that. Some have made sweeping politicised statements too, without even having heard the PM’s plans. Many also agree that we must have the capability of following the ISIS war machine across the border into Syria from Iraq, if we are ever to make any inroads towards defeating them completely.
I would also point to you the success Russia has brought about in Northern Syria against ISIS, in a very short period of time. Assad’s regime have pushed forward and are retaking ground they lost some time ago.
We will be bombing civilians
I cannot say, and I doubt anyone can, that some civilians will not be killed as a result of UK Air Strikes in Syria. There are always some civilian casualties in a war of this type, the very locations used by ISIS tend to be close to civilians, used as a human shield of sorts.
The fact is, civilians are dying en masse in Syria (not least at the hands of indiscriminate bombing by the Assad regime), many dying horrible death at the hands of a brutal ISIS ‘Sharia Justice System’. Our bombing will not be targeting civilians, we will not be blitzing Syrian cities like London or Berlin during WW2, we will specifically target ISIS strongholds, ammunitions, oil stocks and HQ.
Will some civilians be killed?
Yes, some will, accidentally. The idea is to remove a brutal regime which is blocking any potential solution in Syria, move the country one step towards peace and eventually eliminate the massive civilian death toll.
Some will die, but many will be saved. As opposed to doing nothing, where some will die, indefinitely.
Mission Creep will demand troops on the ground
Yes, troops on the ground will have to eliminate ISIS completely, this cannot be done solely from the air.
Yes, the FSA and Kurds do have feasible forces on various frontlines against ISIS (also Assad, who is fighting everyone). I’d doubt the ‘70,000 moderate rebels’ figure being quoted, but it could well be close to that in numbers, not so much in percentage being actually ‘moderate’.
No, the UK will not need to put boots on the ground in Syria. We couldn’t even if we wanted to, are you forgetting Russia has intervened on the side of Assad and is currently assisting his forces against ALL who oppose him in the region?
The removal of ISIS will only come about when the UK and her allies use our Air Superiority to destroy the ISIS machine, it’s supplies, ammunition, oil stocks, selected leadership, HQ, weapons, etc. This then permits those who are currently in a stalemate in their war against ISIS, on the ground in Syria already, to advance and retake key positions ISIS forced them from in the past.
Will this be helping some of the very groups we don’t want to control Syria?
Yes, unfortunately it will. We can only remove ISIS, a major thorn in Iraq and Syria. This allows another look at those remaining, to see what peaceful solutions can be considered. There can be no peaceful solution with ISIS still in the mix.
UPDATE: ‘Syria’ Vote in House of Commons
Today, 2nd December 2015, saw a lengthy debate over the plan to extend UK bombing campaign against ISIS into Syria.
Vote taken tonight:
- 397 In favour
- 223 against
- 174 Majority
Never an easy decision, but the correct one. We can now answer the call of our ally France.