Don’t bomb Syria

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MPs will soon vote on whether the UK bomb Syria. I am absolutely convinced we shouldn’t. Just as I was convinced and argued against bombing ISIS in Iraq. If you disagree or have any doubts whatsoever, I urge you to read this article by Jurgen Todenhofer who in October 2014 was the first western journalist to spend time with ISIS and return safely.

Whilst it is clear that the brutality of ISIS and the Assad regime must be stopped, David Cameron lacks a comprehensive strategic plan that will bring about a much needed peaceful solution and make life better for the Syrian people and increase security for the UK.

Please lobby your MP and urge them to vote against bombing Syria. Here’s some text you can use which I have adapted from text courtesy of Momentum, but you can of course adapt it yourself or write your own:

Dear MP,

I am writing to you to urge you to oppose proposals for the UK to join military action in Syria against ISIS.

I am sure we would both like to see the defeat of both ISIS and the Assad regime, but it is not clear that this is an achievable aim through such action. The military forces of the US, France and Russia (among others) have already been bombing ISIS targets in Syria for some time – there is no shortage of bombs. But the case for UK military involvement has not been made.

What is lacking is a comprehensive strategic plan that will make life better for the Syrian people (not to mention safer for people in Britain). The danger is we send British forces into a region in which our supposed allies have very different objectives and are, in some cases, in conflict with each other. It could make matters even worse and a political solution to the Syrian civil war more remote.

There is no authorisation from the United Nations – resolution 2249 carried last week does not invoke Chapter VII of the UN charter authorising the use of force and does not provide a legal basis for military action by the UK. This could be the start of another illegal war.

There isn’t a comprehensive EU-wide plan to provide humanitarian assistance to the consequent increase in the number of refugees. In fact, the EU refugee plan is unravelling and the approach to refugees is increasingly fragmented.

There is no way bombing can be exclusively directed at military targets directly associated with ISIS. There is no guarantee that the population of areas currently controlled by ISIS would be protected.

The shooting down of a Russian plane by Turkey on top of differing approaches to the Assad regime and continuing ethno-religious conflict make a broadly-based, sovereign Syrian government that could retake territory currently controlled by ISIS a diminishing prospect, but this needs to be the goal and eventual outcome otherwise defeating ISIS will simply create a power vacuum and as with Libya, things could go from bad to worse.

We need to focus on international diplomatic efforts, that include the main regional powers, to end the Syrian civil war. 

In that light, I’d urge you instead to argue for measures to cut off the flow of funds and arms to ISIS and for action against those that trade with them.

Second, the west has to help Turkey seal its long border with the “Islamic State”, to stop the flow of new fighters joining ISIS.

Third, ISIS can only exist because it has managed to ally itself with the suppressed Sunni population of Iraq and Syria. They are the water that carries the ISIS project. If the west managed to bring about a national reconciliation in Iraq and Syria, and integrate Sunnis (which in Iraq would have to include former Ba’athists) into political life, ISIS would be finished.

To wrap up, as Jurgen Todenhofer puts it:

“Is it really so hard to see that the attempt to defeat terrorism with wars has failed? That we have to rethink the war on terror? That we have to finally start treating the Muslim world as true partners, and not as a cheap petrol station we can raid when we feel like it? Bombing civilians will recruit new terrorists. Again and again.”

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