Today David Cameron made his case, such as it is, for Britain extending their air-strikes from Iraq into Syria. British bombing will make Britain “safer” he says. “There are 70,000 moderate fighters ready to control the territory we free from ISIS hands”, he says. And on and on in that vein.
Jeremy Corbyn – outspokenly pacifist – expressed his doubts through his “Seven Questions”. While I applaud Corbyn’s reluctance to send Britain into yet another Imperial war at the behest of Washington, his questions were soft, subjective and delivered with all the power of subsitute geography teacher asking for overdue homework.
Here are his seven questions:
1) Will British action make a difference on the ground? Will it contribute to a war-winning strategy.
2) Can the conflict be won without troops on the ground? Would the Kurds take over, or other extremists?
3) Would there be mission creep? Can Cameron rule out troops on the ground?
4) Does the UN resolution give clear legal authorisation for action? And what is being done to cut off arms supplies to Isis? And would there be a greater risk of incidents like the shooting down of the Russian warplane this week?
5) How would this contribute to an end to the Syrian civil war?
6) What assessment has Cameron been given of the impact of air strikes on the chances of terrorist attacks in the UK? And what are the chance of civilian casualties from air strikes?
7) Does Cameron accept air strikes could risk more unintended consequences?
And here, in our view, are the more pressing issues:
1. What evidence does Mr Cameron have to support his assertion that there are 70,000 “moderate” rebels waiting to fight ISIS? Who are they? Where are they based? Who are their leaders? Is it not the case that “our rebels” are actually al-Qaida, Al-Nusra front and other Jihadist groups?
2. Given, as Mr Cameron and others predicted, that Russian involvment in Syria resulted in a terrorist attack on a Russian plane, and given that ISIS (allegedly) attacked the streets of Paris in retalliation against French aistrikes, what is his reasoning behind suggesting that British air-strikes will make British civillians safer?
3. What is the legal basis for this action? The UN resolution was not written under Chapter 7, and does directly provide for military intervention on foreign soil. Given this: does not the dropping of bombs on foreign soil, without permission from the legitimate government, constitute a war crime?
4. Is Mr Cameron not concerned by the emergence of evidence that (at least) one NATO member, and supposed anti-ISIS coalition ally, is actually trading with ISIS? And recently shot down a Russian plane, resulting in the deaths of three Russian service men?
5. What measures can and will be taken to ensure that British bombers do not, in any way whatsoever, come into conflict with Syrian Government forces or (God forbid) the Russian Air Force?
6. Is he conscious of the potential consequences of entering into a theatre of war in possible opposition to a nuclear power? Does he consider the pursuit of regime change in Syria worth this risk?
7. Given the stated aim of all nations involved is a political solution, what possible harm can there be in cooperating with Russia/Iran/Syria in order to remove the threat of ISIS?