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10 things you might have missed happening in the Middle East now

While Syria will now be the subject of diplomatic carve up, we should not imagine that this is a solution to the problems of the Middle East.


The vote for airstrikes on Syria took place nearly three weeks ago. Since then, we’ve had a barrage of media coverage, centred on alleged intimidation of MPs, supposed support for both terrorism and dictators, and the attendance of Jeremy Corbyn at the Stop the War Christmas fundraiser dinner.

Extensive coverage of what is happening in the Middle East is, with a few honourable exceptions, much harder to find. So, while there was detailed scrutiny of that dinner menu, here are some of the things that have been going on, that you might have missed.

1. The British airstrikes, which we were told were so essential to the fight against ISIS that to oppose them was the equivalent of supporting fascism in Spain, Italy or Germany in the 1930s, haven’t exactly been extensive or decisive. After great fanfare about British strikes on oilfields launched immediately following the December 2nd vote, there has been little news suggesting that they are continuing at any significant level.

2. The widespread belief that air strikes alone will not lead to dealing with ISIS is accelerating the deployment of troops on the ground. The US announced an ‘expeditionary force’ based in Iraq but which will be able to operate in Syria just recently. Germany will send 1000 troops in ‘non combat roles’ to the Middle East.

3. There are already nearly 1000 British troops involved in action against ISIS in support of air strikes and there is much discussion about further involvement or boots on the ground.

4. The deployment of troops gives the lie to David Cameron’s claim that there are 70,000 ‘moderate opposition’ forces willing to act as ground troops in support of western air strikes. The figure has been met with widespread disbelief across a range of informed opinion.

5. Turkey and Iraq have been involved in a stand off now for weeks over Turkish incursions onto Iraqi territory. There have been Turkish soldiers camped near the city of Mosul. Turkey has now withdrawn but only after a direct intervention by US president Obama.

6. Bombing of Syria continues with devastating consequences for the people of Syria. Recent Russian air strikes on Sunday killed civilians in Idlib. The refugee crisis continues, with regular reports of death at sea and of refugees who arrive in Europe facing terrible conditions.

7. Israel this week assassinated a leading Hezbollah member in Damascus by a rocket attack.

8. The UN has now paved the way for further peace talks over the future of the war in Syria. This is part of the process of carve up between international and regional powers, which will not have the interests of the mass of Syrian people at heart. As part of this process, US secretary of state John Kerry has announced that his government is not seeking regime change and that Assad can stay for the time being.

9. This changes the long term US policy of blocking talks with Assad, which according to Finland’s former president Martti Athisaari prevented any settlement as long ago as 2012.

10. Britain has announced that it is considering air strikes against ISIS in Libya.

What all this points to is that we were absolutely right to say that David Cameron’s motivation for arguing for air strikes was so that Britain would have ‘a seat at the table’ in any settlement of the war. As George Osborne put it in his Washington speech, it was about Britain getting its mojo back.

How ironic that those of us who oppose these wars have been accused of being supporters or apologists for Assad, even though this has never been our position, while it is the promoters of war who are completely cynical about their allegiances at different times.

We were right to say that the Syrian people should not put their faith in any of the outside powers to help them. And while Syria will now be the subject of diplomatic carve up, we should not for a minute imagine that any of this is a solution to the problems of the Middle East.

Indeed the strengthening of Saudi Arabia – busily bombing Yemen – and the continuing injustices waged by Israel against the Palestinians, ensure that they will persist.

Source: Stop the War Coalition