Parliament is about to be asked to vote on bombing Syria. John Rees gives reasons why MPs should vote against, as they did in 2013.

John Rees

David Cameron will soon call a vote in the Commons on whether or not to bomb Syria. He will be relying on the ‘something must be done’ argument, as previous prime ministers have when they wished to get a vote for war.

This time the ‘something’ that must be done is to solve the refugee crisis. Cameron will argue that the Syrian conflict is so serious, and has lasted so long, that at least bombing might solve the problem, especially the problem of the growth of the Islamic State group (IS).

Here are some reasons why this approach is as badly flawed now as it has ever been.

1. It will kill innocents. There is no such thing as a bomb so smart that it always hits its target, even supposing the target is legitimately, legally and correctly identified. Some 20 civilians were killed in a US strike in Raqqa only last week. The US ‘has acknowledged that its rules to avoid civilian casualties are looser in Syria’ than elsewhere. As the current UK backed Saudi bombing of Yemen shows civilian casualties will be, as they are in every modern war, the majority of those killed. UK airstrikes maybe small in number as they are in Iraq, in which case they will be militarily ineffective and therefore pointless. If they are significant, they will kill civilians.

2. It will increase the flow of refugees. More bombs means more destruction of houses, hospitals, schools and infrastructure and this in turn will mean more people fleeing Syria. Over the last year of US bombing the number of Syrian refugees has rocketed from about 2.7 million to over 4 million.

3. Bombing is the best recruiter the IS could wish for because it entirely confirms their picture of the West as a lawless, colonial armed camp determined to wipe out Muslims. The IS recruited more than 6,000 new fighters in the first month of US bombing in Syria last September, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported: ‘A number of rebel commanders who oppose IS while continuing to fight the regime of Syrian president Bashar Assad have warned that the strikes are increasing local support for the jihadists’.

4. It won’t work. The US made over 1,600 bombing runs in less than year in Syria, with the covert and illegal participation of RAF personnel. During that time IS has massively advanced incorporating whole new swathes of Syria into its territory.

5. It will prolong the war on both sides. In 2013 Cameron lost a vote to bomb Syria…but then he wanted to bomb Assad. That would have benefited the Islamic State. Now he wants to bomb the IS, but that is bound to help Assad. Indeed the current US bombing is done in covert agreement with the Assad regime because if it weren’t the regime would use its formidable anti-aircraft systems and airforce to down US planes. This may even be what Cameron wants because they now fear an Assad collapse and an IS victory. But what this really proves is that bombing perpetuates the war by both boosting IS recruitment and strengthening the Syrian government.

6. More Western bombing will mean more Russian support for Assad. The Russians are already increasing their support for Assad because they fear his defeat by the ISIS. But the US and the UK want to cut the Russians out of any peace plan so any UK bombing will mean another twist to the arms race in the Middle East.

Source: Stop the War Coalition

22 Sep 2015

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