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Latest Troop Deployment Is a Reminder That the UK Is Intervening in Syria

Those moved by the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo should not be fooled by Osborne and Co


Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and his former US counterpart Chuck Hagel

The announcement by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon that 20 British troops have arrived in the Middle East to help train ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels may not appear the most dramatic news, especially since it is confirmation of an announcement two months ago. But it is a disturbing reminder that – in the very week that we are seeing the fall of Aleppo – this war is very far from over.

While reports quite rightly focus on the humanitarian crisis and tragedy which is enveloping Aleppo, the situation is one from which no one can take comfort. Stop the War has always condemned all bombing, from whichever source. We also oppose all foreign intervention whether from Russia and Iran, or from the US, Saudi and Turkey. The terrible situation today highlights the need for a ceasefire, humanitarian aid and a political solution.  

Fallon’s announcement is also a reminder, however, that our own government is already directly involved in the conflict, alongside a range of other countries all supposedly involved in dealing with the threat of ISIS.

Yet one of the lesser remarked pieces of news this week is the recapture of the ancient and highly symbolic city of Palmyra in retaliation for Assad and the Russians’ assault on Aleppo. It is a sign that, despite the weakening of ISIS, and in spite of the major offensive on ISIS controlled Mosul in northern Iraq, the terrorist organisation is still capable of winning objectives. It is also a sign that Assad’s forces are over stretched, reliant on its Russian and Iranian allies, and still only in control of part of the country.

Talk about more intervention from the west and its allies is therefore back on the table. The debate in parliament this week was full of regrets that it had voted down a call for bombing Assad three years ago. Led by the man who delighted last year that Britain had ‘got its mojo back’ when it voted to bomb ISIS in Syria, George Osborne, it would seem that the only consistency in his approach is bombing Syria – whatever the target.

But those moved by the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo should not be fooled by Osborne. The idea, as argued by Ranj Alaaldin in the Guardian that further military intervention in a country already wracked by it will actually help the people suffering now may seem a solution, but we have to look at the record here. Alaaldin argues that ‘It would take merely a fraction of the armed forces the west has at its disposal to start enabling a political and security environment that can help alleviate the plight of the civilian population in Aleppo – and that can help prevent similar atrocities elsewhere as the conflict develops.’

This implies that British or US forces are benevolent and neutral bodies. They are not. They see this war as part of a wider struggle for control of the region, and they will act accordingly. The idea that they are just bystanders in this war is also untrue. They have already intervened on the side of the opposition in Syria and they are at least contemplating going further in this, using the sympathy for the plight of Aleppo for their own ends.

Those who blame ‘western inaction’, the failure to impose no fly zones, and the failure to put ‘boots on the ground’ are seeking an end which will only intensify the rivalry between the different powers and which will lead to further death and suffering. We have been sold the same story so many times: that intervention will help to alleviate a worse evil – only for it to lead to even worse consequences. That has happened in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.

Comparisons with Libya are instructive. It was sold as a no fly zone under UN auspices in order to prevent a massacre in Benghazi by Gaddafi. Instead it turned into regime change, with 30,000 killed in the bombing which ensued. Libya still suffers from a brutal civil war, which is barely commented on in the media here. Incidentally, it was at this point that Russia (which backed the 2011 intervention) much weakened compared with its role during the Cold War, went along with much of the ‘War on Terror’. The escalation of the intervention in Libya changed that, and partly explains its determination to intervene in Syria.

This war cannot be ended by more war. One of Stop the War’s statements in the summer of this year made the point. It bears repeating, especially since we are regularly accused of not opposing this war:

‘All attacks on civilians should be condemned. This war has been intensified and prolonged by a series of interventions from regional and global powers. We oppose all of these interventions, including the current Russian bombing of Aleppo. The humanitarian corridors that have been proposed must be guaranteed as safe passages for all civilians and for humanitarian aid. Western powers must not use the siege of Aleppo as a pretext for escalating their intervention. Only a negotiated, political solution can end the terrible suffering of the people of Syria.’

Unfortunately, that end is still not in sight.

Source: Stop the War Coalition

Tags: syria

no more bomb first graphic v2