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Opinion polls show that a majority of the British public are opposed to the government escalating UK intervention in the Syrian war. On Thursday 9 May 2013 at 3pm, Stop the War Coalition delivered the following letter to David Cameron, UK prime minister, at 10 Downing Street, urging the government to abandon its interventionist policies.
Jeremy Corbyn MP Chair, Stop the War Coalition
Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing to express our alarm at the increasing intervention by the UK government in the civil war which is now taking place in Syria. We believe that the future of Syria is for the Syrian people alone to decide, and that your actions can only worsen the situation.
Your campaign to increase the provision of arms to the Syrian opposition in response to allegations of chemical weapons being used makes no sense. There is no clear evidence that chemical weapons have been used, or by whom. Carla Del Ponte, a member of the UN Commission of Inquiry taking testimony from victims of the Syrian conflict, has recently expressed ‘strong, concrete suspicions’ that sarin nerve gas is being used by opposition forces. And even in the event that chemical weapons have been used, you have failed to make the case as to why arming one side would improve rather than aggravate the situation.
There has long been covert arming and provision of aid to the opposition by various powers, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UK, France and the US. Israel has now engaged in its second bombing raid on Syrian territory, in flagrant violation of the rules of international law.
The lifting of the EU arms embargo and the direct arming of opposition groups can only further fuel what is already a bloody civil war which is causing immense harm to many Syrians and which is threatening to further destabilise the whole region. Already fighting has spread to parts of Iraq.
The aim of the intervention so far has been to effect regime change, again illegal under international law. The solution in Syria cannot lie in further militarising the conflict, or in intervention by Western powers.
We fear that the aim of those intervening is to change the face of the Middle East, by weakening the influence of Iran through attacking its allies such as the Syrian government and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The recent Israeli air strikes on Syrian targets are part of this process and represent an act of war against another country.
We believe that it is for the people of the Middle East to decide their own future and that the Western powers have a record and history of intervention there which has been a key source of the region's problems. We also believe that majority opinion in Britain, according to recent polls, is against such intervention, especially if it is designed to effect regime change.
We therefore urge you to abandon your interventionist policy.
Jeremy Corbyn MP Chair, Stop the War Coalition
Lindsey German Convenor, Stop the War Coalition
NATO's withdrawal of its personnel from all Afghan ministries today is an indication that they are losing control of the situation in the country.
Earlier two senior NATO officials were shot dead in the most secure section of the Interior Ministry in Kabul, itself the the most heavily guarded building in the capital.
The shootings coincided with demonstrations across the country in protest at US soldiers burning copies of the Koran. Those protests in turn indicate an intense bitterness towards the NATO forces and that the Afghan people want the occupation to end.
This is hardly surprising. The level of violence in Afghanistan has been rising year on year since 2006. Afghans have become so used to NATO attacks on their public ceremonies that, in the most contested areas, traditional outdoor weddings have all but disappeared.
Meanwhile the much promised reconstruction has not materialised and the country remains near the very bottom of the UNDP development index.
Continuing the occupation will only prolong the violence and the immiseration of the country. Isolated as they are, the foreign forces are only being kept in Afghanistan to save face for the politicians who have backed the war.
NATO forces should be withdrawn immediately in order to allow the Afghans to determine their future.Stop the War Coalition, February 2012
Ten years ago terrorists used hijacked aeroplanes to destroy the Twin Towers in New York City, killing nearly three thousand people. This was a crime which Stop the War Coalition condemned at the time, and it reaffirms that condemnation today.
It was a terrible crime for which there can be no justification. It was not, however, an act of war. That has been the view of the anti-war movement from the outset. It is an opinion which even a former head of MI5 has recently gone on record as endorsing.
For the US administration of the time, with the British government of Tony Blair in close support, it was however the signal to initiate a war which continues to this day and has cost hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives without justification or gain.
This war has laid waste to Iraq at immense human costs in an aggression without lawful sanction conducted on a basis – to secure non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” – at best specious and at worst mendacious. It imposed on the Iraqi people an illegitimate, bloody and ineptly-administered occupation, which has entrenched sectarianism and failed to produce a functioning government, and which continues to this day.
It has also consumed Afghanistan in a war which has continued long after its initial objective – the removal of al-Qaeda's infrastructure in the country – had been achieved. The occupation seeks to maintain a corrupt and dysfunctional client regime which is an affront to the Afghan people.
The war in Afghanistan has spread to Pakistan, destabilising the state there and raising the dangers of a wider regional conflict involving nuclear-armed powers. And thousands of Libyans have died as a result of a NATO attack ostensibly about protecting civilians but really designed to impose a pro-western goverment on the country.
The “war on terror” has also undermined civil liberties and human rights across the world, from the scandal of state-sanctioned torture to the outrage of Guantanamo Bay. And far from reducing the danger of terrorism worldwide, the war has reinforced all those discontents which can lead to such a response.
Our view, from 2001 onwards, that the war has nothing to do with fighting terrorism but was about projecting US power around the world and in particular extending its control over the resources and peoples of the Middle east and South Asia has been abundantly confirmed.
In all of this the British government has been deeply complicit. The war in Iraq was imposed on the British people by Tony Blair against the wishes of the majority. The government broke international law, ignored the United Nations, connived at torture and other crimes and sent the British Army into two illegitimate and futile wars in which hundreds of soldiers have lost their lives and thousands have been physically or psychologically maimed.
The British people have paid a price for this. Civil liberties and community relations have been placed under great strain. Billions of pounds have been wasted on war. Trust in the honesty and integrity of politicians and our democratic process has been deeply damaged. This is the bill for Tony Blair’s determination to subordinate this country to the foreign policy of the USA.
The Stop the War Coalition takes pride in the movement is has developed against the war since 2001, a movement which has articulated the views of the majority of the British people.
We are proud of our alliance with the Muslim community in Britain, in particular with the British Muslim Initiative (and earlier the Muslim Association of Britain), which has been a source of immense strength and has broadened our political perspectives. Stop the War will continue to stand alongside the Muslim community in resisting the Islamophobia which has been stoked up by the war.
We also salute the brave families of British soldiers who formed Military Families Against the War, an unprecedented political development. Stop the War pays tribute to the school students and trade unionists who walked out against the Iraq war, to our alliance with our sister organisation CND, and to all the hundreds of thousands of people who have campaigned against the war and Britain’s involvement in it.
They have all been the real voice of our country, and have helped redeem its standing in the eyes of the world, so damaged by the actions of Tony Blair and his successors.
On this tenth anniversary of 9/11, Stop the War renews its commitment to continue to oppose the war until it is ended. We demand in particular:
- The full and immediate withdrawal of all British troops from Afghanistan, and support for a political process to end the conflict there.
- An end to NATO bombing in Libya and an end to all interference there.
- The withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, as previously agreed.
- No extension of the war through attacks on Iran, military intervention in Syria or elsewhere.
- An unconditional commitment by the British government to abide by international law and the decisions of the United Nations
- An end to the subordination of British foreign policy to that of the USA
- The rejection of Islamophobia and all racist attitudes stoked by the war
- The full defence of civil liberties.
The fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya marks yet another turning point in what has been a truly remarkable year in the Middle East. The victory of the rebels, backed by Nato bombing in a six month campaign initiated by the British and French governments, also heralds the rehabilitation of a discredited doctrine -- that of 'humanitarian intervention' -- after the debacle of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The defeat of Gaddafi is now being used to justify military action on the grounds that it has helped the Arab revolutions. David Cameron declared outside Downing Street 22 August 2011, 'This has not been our revolution, but we can be proud that we have played our part..'
The hypocrisy of Cameron is staggering, given the role of British and other western governments in backing up dictators and despots in the region -- only halted in some places by the actions of the Arab people themselves.
The Nato intervention has not been for idealistic values. It has been about regime change, so that a leader more acceptable to western governments and business could replace Gadaffi.
Right to the end, NATO was bent on a military victory and bringing the Transitional National Council (TNC) -- the Benghazi administration -- to power in Libya by force of arms. All proposals for talks to achieve a political solution – whether from within Libya or outside - have been brushed aside.
While many Libyans may welcome the outcome, and will be glad to see the back of Gaddafi, it has a number of negative aspects.
From the international point of view, the most significant thing is that the government of another Arab state has been changed by external force applied by the big imperial powers. There is no real suggestion that the TNC could have come to power unaided. The NATO military intervention, stretching beyond breaking point the mandate given by the United Nations, has been decisive.
This will not be the end of the story. The experience of Iraq teaches that the overthrow of a regime under such circumstances by no means signifies the end of the war. Whether those who have supported Gaddafi will meekly accept the authority of a new government imposed under such circumstances is open to question.
Whatever happens, the deep divisions within Libyan society remain. Likewise, given that the TNC is an amalgam of forces, ranging from the democratic to the Islamist to leaders who are the direct employees of western interests, it may have neither the capacity to resolve existing differences nor the ability to prevent the emergence of new ones, within its own ranks.
David Cameron spelt out the close role Britain and the other western powers will expect to have in running Libya, and in how much detail they have been planned, including ‘stabilisation experts who have been planning for this moment…for months.’
Under these circumstances, the main demand must be an end to all forms of NATO interference in Libya – not just the end of the bombing, but the withdrawal of special forces and a halt to all forms of political interference. The only solution to the crisis in Libya will have to be a Libyan solution. Recent history, from Iraq to Afghanistan, teaches that too.
But beyond that, we must recognise the danger that even a passing 'success' in Libya may embolden the US, British and French governments to believe that the idea of 'liberal interventionism', discredited after Iraq, can be revived on a broader scale. Of course, however it ends the Libyan conflict has not gone as expected and none of the leaders of the aggression have dared introduce ground troops into the war. Nevertheless, the danger of extending the intervention to Syria as part of a programme to control and suppress the “Arab Spring” is not inconceivable and must be mobilised against.
The old rulers will not be missed if and when they depart. The decisive issues – genuinely democratic and popular regimes across the Arab world, the exclusion of great power interference in the region and justice for the Palestinian people – remain in the balance and require our solidarity.