We are posting three pieces dealing with the situation in Syria. The first is the emergency motion passed overwhelmingly at the RISE National Conference in Glasgow on December 5th. The second was written by the World to Win Editorial Board just after the vote at Westminster to openly extend UK state involvement in the war in Iraq to Syria. The third by Allan Armstrong (RCN and RISE) was written just prior to the Westminster vote, and was included in the E&L special bulletin for the RISE conference.
1. EMERGENCY MOTION ON SYRIA PASSED AT THE RISE CONFERENCE ON DECEMBER 5th.
The British government’s decision to extend air strikes to Syria;
The EU/US attempt to deal with the problems of refugees and terrorism by military means;
The ongoing disaster of British imperial intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya;
and British imperial interventions acting as a contributing factor in the rise of IS
That the British state’s course of action is about imperialist power politics, rather than its stated aims of combating terrorism and solving the refugee crisis;
That Britain has a bad reputation as an imperialist power in the Middle East, both as an earlier Empire and as an American and Israeli ally;
That the Syrian Government is also culpable of war crimes – we do not support Assad or Putin.
That British intervention makes lasting peace far less likely in the region and reinforces the strategic imperatives of ISIS.
The proxy wars taking place between the great powers in the region threatens global peace.
That combatting climate change and allowing refugees to enter the EU is central to relieving the refugee crisis.
That the imperialist intervention of British troops in Iraq, Afghanistan & Libya have been a contributing factor to the rise of IS
To support and where possible initiate the broadest possible anti-war mobilisations, events and demonstrations.
To fight to extend rights to refugees in Scotland and within the EU.
To carry out RISE public meetings on imperialism, war and the bombing of Syria.
To call on the UK government to put pressure on those regimes who are supporting Daesh or allowing them to sell oil & import arms and foreign fighters. We call on the UK government to support the Kurdish fighters in the YPG & PKK who are the most determined fighters against Daesh and are promoting secular grass roots democracy. To this end we call on the UK to immediately lift the ban on the PKK & urge the UK & our legal representatives to press for the removal of the PKK from the UK, EU & UN lists of proscribed terrorist organisations.
To campaign against rising Islamophobia and the scapegoating of Muslim communities.
To support, campaigns and activities to challenge islamophobia.
ie : The Islamophobia conference in Edinburgh 12/12/15
To support the Stop the War Coalition.
Rise supports direct action to stop war, and will train and support our members to take part in direct action.
2. ONCE AGAIN PARLIAMENT FAILS THE PEOPLE
Parliament’s vote to join in the bombing of targets in Syria, with a majority made respectable only with the backing of 66 pro-war Labour MPs, will do nothing to defeat Islamic State (Isis) and everything to stoke international tensions and a drive to war.
The vote also shows once again how out of touch Parliament is. A majority of UK citizens remain opposed to the bombing and most do not think that they will make Britain’s streets any safer from an Isis-led attack along the lines that took place in Paris last month. In fact, the opposite view is held by a clear majority. In Scotland, 75% of the population were opposed to the bombing while similar figures were reported from cities like Liverpool.
There have been over 3,000 bombing raids in Syria since the United States launched its offensive in September 2014. Not all have been against Isis in a conflict that amounts to a proxy war between an assortment of states in and outside the region.
Russia has also attacked militants opposed to Isis but who have taken up arms against Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian dictator is Moscow’s ally and the Russians are keen to retain their naval base in the country and get payment for the arms they have sold the regime down the decades.
Turkey’s dictatorial regime has used the crisis in Syria to attack forces of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). This is despite the fact that the PKK and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party have been the most successful fighters on the ground in opposing Isis.
The country’s authoritarian president Recep Erdogan has turned a blind eye to those crossing the country’s borders to join Isis. According to the Financial Times, Isis earns some $1m per day from oil sales “to its biggest enemies” like Turkey. So, business as usual.
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States may be bombing Isis forces in Syria now but these regimes actually helped fund Isis in its take-over of northern Iraq. The Sunni Muslim-inspired Isis was seen as a counterweight to the Shia-backed forces which had the support of Iran. So the Saudis let the genie out of the bottle.
Other countries who have helped to flatten what is left of Syria include Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands. Into this maelstrom comes four fighter bombers from the RAF. God forbid that UK imperialism should feel left out.
Jeremy Corbyn, the beleaguered Labour leader whose democratic mandate was trampled on by his shadow cabinet, rightly says a political solution to the Syrian civil war is the only way forward.
But that is furthest from the minds of the major powers as well as the Saudis, Iranians and the Assad regime. Each has an interest which is separate from the well-being of the Syrian people.
The feudal monarchy of Saudi Arabia and the theocratic state of Iran will never agree a solution because they themselves are part of the problem. Western states like the US have little if anything to offer those who have flocked to the banner of Isis. The creation of a Palestinian state would do a lot to deflate Isis but where is the activity on this front? There is none.
Western capitalism is morally bankrupt, driven as it is by the struggle for markets and resources, privatisation of public goods and services and rampant inequality. The “values” of democracy that are held up as a shining example are tarnished to a point where they are positively rusty.
Of course, “the West” is not wholly responsible for the rise of Isis and the jihadist movement in general. Local states must bear some responsibility too. The Arab Spring was a secular attempt to revive an Arab Revolution that had lost its way and resulted in dictatorships around the region. But the Arab Spring was pushed back by local despots like Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt and Western meddling in Libya.
There is a real danger in Syria that the conflict will spill over into a war between the major powers. Turkey’s downing of a Russian fighter plane is an example of how incendiary the situation is.
The background is volatile. At home, many governments face a political crisis – the shambolic state of the US Republican Party is an example of this – while the world economy has failed to recover from the financial crash. Climate change is a clear and present danger but expect little from the Paris talks. Add the fact that the brutal Russia regime sees a conspiracy around every corner and the warning signs are clear to see.
Yesterday Cameron refused to apologise when called upon to do so by Scottish National Party MPs for denouncing those who oppose airstrikes as “terrorist sympathisers”.
In voting for air strikes, 397 MPs, egged on by shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn – how his father must be turning in his grave – descended into the depths of political and moral bankruptcy. Cameron and his supporters amongst Labour MPs are simply continuing the disastrous policies of the Labour government when it launched the attack on Iraq over a decade ago.
They refused to acknowledge the truth that is staring everyone in the face. The Western allies have no strategy whatsoever – military or political – to counteract the power of a relatively small organisation that is able to wreak havoc and strike terror in Syria and Iraq as well as the capitals of Europe.
Aerial bombing campaigns have never destroyed a determined ideological opponent. Neither the Nazi bombing of Britain, nor Allied air attacks on Germany succeeded in destroying resistance.
Organisations representing Syrian exiles in London strongly oppose the bombing which will kill indiscriminate numbers of civilians, reinforcing the genocidal policies carried out by Assad, whose barrel bombs have killed even more Syrians than Isis.
As Brian Eno and many others have pointed out, bombing targets in Syria is playing exactly into the hands of terrorist organisations like Isis. It reinforces their narrative that the West is carrying out an anti-Muslim campaign, a cowardly one at that.
The macho tones of Cameron, echoed by Benn, are a hollow admission of total moral and political bankruptcy. Worse than that, the rush to bomb sets up British cities as new targets for acts of terror. In voting for airstrikes, Parliament has shown once again that it is incapable of representing the majority of people in Britain and the interests of peace.
The vote for an unjust and reactionary war again shows why we have to reconstruct our political system from top to bottom, with the aim of creating a real democracy where ordinary people decide what’s best for their communities, cities and the country as a whole.
A World to Win editors
3 December 2015
3. FOR CAMERON AND THE BLAIRITES THERE IS ONLY ONE REAL WAR
– THE RULING CLASS WAR ON ALL FRONTS
David Cameron and his allies have been working overtime to get Westminster to vote to extend the current RAF bombing of ISIS/Daesh in Iraq to Syria. In this he has the backing of the majority of the media, including the tabloid press, the BBC, nearly all of his own party, the DUP, the Lib-Dems and the Blairite Right of the Labour Party.
Yet, prominent defence figure, General Sir Richard Shirreff, former NATO depute supreme commander in Europe, has pointed out that “UK air strikes will not defeat Daesh”. Even, the usually anti-Left and anti-SNP Tory correspondent on The Herald, David Torrance, former parliamentary aide to David Mundell, has come out against bombing, writing “the ghosts of empire still haunt politics.”
In addition to all this, the UK, France and USA continue to provide massive political and military backing to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, which have channelled funds and arms, that have ended up in the hands of ISIS and other jihadist forces, and who have have financed deeply reactionary Moslem clerics abroad (and who were first given a base in the UK when Thatcher was making overtures to jihadists in the fight to overthrow the USSR-backed Afghan regime). The western imperial powers all back Turkey, which buys ISIS oil, keeps its borders open for jihadist fighters to cross and relentlessly persecutes those Kurds who have provided one of the most effective anti-ISIS forces, despite the horrific casualties they suffered in Kobane.
Western powers are more than capable of in enforcing a strict embargo on any state’s military and financial operations, as highlighted by their isolation of Saddam’s Iraq after the first Gulf War and Iran up until very recently. So, why go into a stepped up military campaign, when these other more effective avenues are rejected?
Perhaps, one clue is less than two years ago Cameron was attempting to get Westminster support for a war against Assad’s regime in Syria, a primary target for ISIS, which wants to extend its Caliphate from Damascus to Baghdad. It almost looks as if a war, any war, is more important than the actual chosen target. To ensure that Cameron gets his way, the oil and arms industries and the banks, have to be kept on board. In giving his calculated support to France’s right wing social democratic Hollande, in the aftermath of the Paris jihadist attacks, he also hopes to win significant anti-migrant concessions in his current negotiations over the EU.
Cameron and most other bombing supporters, cynical rhetoric aside, know full well that war will make the Middle East even less safe, and increase the chance of jihadist retaliatory bombings in the UK. However, one thing the various ruling classes have learned over the last fourteen years, whether in the aftermath of the Twin Towers attacks in 2001, or the Financial Crash of 2008, is to use crises to promote a continuous climate of fear. The promotion of war has become central to the imposition of austerity, the clampdown on democratic freedoms, and the scape-goating of victims, especially through Islamophobia.
The recent UN Security Council vote provides a cover to permit each of its imperial members – France, UK, Russia, USA and China (and their chosen allies) – to ‘pursue ISIS’ in whichever way it sees fit. This just highlights the importance for these states of having a war to divert attention from domestic problems. In the case of the British ruling class, this includes recent opposition to Cameron’s anti-refugee stance and to Osborne’s tax credits cuts; in Russia’s case, simmering discontent over Putin’s continued attempts to act on behalf his own approved kleptocrats.
However, despite the shared Security Council vote, there is absolutely no shared agreement over who the main target of bombing in Syria should be – highlighted by the Turkish shooting down of a Russian bomber attacking non-ISIS forces. Therefore, the vote for ‘joint action’ was breath-taking in its cynicism. Cameron’s own wish for the RAF to be involved in airstrikes, will add very little militarily, apart from bringing about even more confusion and misery. It is designed to ensure that the UK will have its place at whatever imperial carve-up follows the current phase of the war.
Above all else, whether it is over renewing Trident or finding another war to fight, the exploited and oppressed are meant to accept whatever it takes – drastic cuts in social spending, curtailed democratic rights, and a stepped divide-and-rule offensive – all to maintain the UK as an imperial power and the British ruling class in the privileged manner to which it has become accustomed. They know how to pursue class war on every front. This is why opposition to their military war is central to our class war to create a new society to replace a global corporate capitalism, which is daily becoming more barbaric.