In Syria, Britain Is Making the Same Mistakes All Over Again

December 6th, 2015 - by admin

Adam Holloway, Member of Parliament / The Telegraph – 2015-12-06 23:36:10

In Syria, Britain Is Making the Same Mistakes All Over Again

David Cameron’s 7-Point Plan for Syria Action

1. Protect the UK at home by maintaining robust counter-terrorism capabilities

2. Generate negotiations on a political settlement, while preserving the moderate opposition

3. Help deliver a government in Syria that can credibly represent all of the Syrian people

4. Degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL, through Coalition military and wider action

5. Continue leading role in humanitarian support and forestall further migratory flows towards Europe

6. Support stabilisation already underway in Iraq and plan for post-conflict reconstruction in Syria

7. Work in close partnership with allies across the Middle East to mitigate the impact of ISIL and other violent extremist groups

In Syria, Britain Is Making
The Same Mistakes All Over Again

A Conservative MP explains why he cannot back a plan to fight Islamic State that does nothing about the toxic politics that feed it

Adam Holloway MP / The Telegraph

LONDON (December 1, 2015) — Since 1984, when I was an 18-year-old spending part of my gap year with the Afghan resistance to the Russians, I have seen wars in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. And throughout those years, as a schoolboy, a soldier, an ITN reporter and a Parliamentarian, I have learned the blindingly obvious: the problems of these countries only get fixed when you fix the broken politics.

And yet for the last 15 years I have watched British governments join or create international “coalitions” that have used military force without understanding what drives each conflict on the ground. This ignorance has had disastrous consequences for tens of millions of people in the Middle East and North Africa.

So last week, on the plane back from a visit to Iraq and Turkey, I knew that in the imminent “bomb Syria” debate I would have stand up and say that I simply do not know enough about the big plan to fix the broken politics. That after the last “bomb Syria” vote in 2013 (Assad that time), I do not have confidence that there is any such plan at all.

Indeed, some of the people pressing for bombing now are putting it about that, had we bombed the Assad regime two years ago, Syria would not have descended into the chaos we see today. How are they getting on in Libya?

We are now being asked to extend the activity of manned British aircraft into Syria: a tiny tactical level contribution — unless you are on the receiving end of a bomb — which we are asked to believe will transform the strategic situation. This is not a meaningful defence of the British people, nor the people of Beirut, or Paris, or Mosul, or Raqqa.

One Middle Eastern ambassador with a medical background put it this way: “You must diagnose a sickness properly before you can treat it — and you must treat the root cause. Palliative therapy does not result in a cure.”

ISIL is a combination of a heady theo-fascist ideology colliding with the hard reality of Sunni discontent. It is Syrian Sunnis and Iraqi Sunnis who make up most of what we think of as ISIL in those Shia-run countries. The main effort should be towards separating these populations from ISIL; additional bombers are a bit further down the “to-do” list.

For over 100 years our friends in Saudi Arabia have been narrowing Islam by spending gazillions of petrodollars exporting the teachings of Muhammad al-Wahhab. Partly as a result, huge populations now live under ISIL’s even harsher implementation of that teaching — many getting on with life with their heads down, but fearful of the alternatives.

For example, I asked one Western diplomat what percentage of the population of the Iraqi town of Mosul might want to be liberated from ISIL, she answered that her best guess was only around 20 percent. There is great fear of the Iranian-backed Shia militias inflicting punishment on the populations of Sunni areas once ISIL has been driven out.

Someone very senior in the coalition’s war effort told us: “We have a military campaign, we don’t have a political one.” At every turn the Baghdad government thwarts efforts to build political structures that can secure Sunni areas once ISIL are driven out.

Meanwhile, although the Vienna talks are a start, the international community remains hopelessly conflicted in our attitude to the Assad regime (the process of deciding which opposition groups are terrorists and which are not will be interesting to watch).

Every player now wants to destroy ISIL, but they won’t give up on their conflicting interests to do so. The West wants to avoid deploying ground troops but is hung up on dismantling of the regime in Damascus — the only player on the ground with a credible if brutal presence on the ground.

Russia is working hard to keep to keep the regime in power (in time, probably without the Assad brothers, by whom they must feel let down) and to keep their influence and Tartus base.

The Turks are terrified that when the music finally stops 25 percent of their territory will be in a de facto Kurdistan; they are furious with the Assad regime for not heeding their call to reform, understandably terrified of the appeal and threat posed by ISIL in their cities, and all the while Ankara bombs the Kurdish groups that the US is busy arming.

The Iranians on the other hand have to keep the regime in power to maintain a link to Hizbollah in Lebanon, and are keen to avoid the emergence of strong Sunni states on their doorstep — so work tirelessly to strengthen their fellow Shias in Damascus and Baghdad.

The Saudis want to stay in power and are probably now beginning to see that their century-old export of Wahhabism is an existential threat to the survival of the House of Saud. Meanwhile ordinary people will continue to suffer in ISIL territory and in what ISIL call “crusader” countries.

And into this rather crowded situation the UK wants to deploy a few more fast jets in support of 70,000 phantom “moderates” and what it refers to as a “comprehensive approach.”

It’s not good enough. War planes are indeed part of the mix. But the immediate battlespace is the Sunni population of Iraq and Syria, and if we are not addressing that another Brimstone missile is futile.

If we really want to help, we should be using the influence we think we don’t have. We should be using it to communicate the message in every possible corridor that the US, Russia, Turkey, Iran and Saudi need to decide that they are serious about a cure — and that if they continue to apply palliative care in their own interests it will result in the sickness getting a lot worse.

Adam Holloway is a former Army officer and war correspondent who now serves as Conservative MP for Gravesham.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

UK Attacks Syria with Bombs and Enraged Attacker Screams ‘This is for Syria’in London Tube

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