Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

Labour’s cognitive dissonance over Syria

08/04/2017, 08:00:30 PM

by Kevin Meagher

It seems Labour is so full of policy ideas at the moment that it can afford to have not one but two foreign policies.

Backing President Trump’s missile attack on the Syrian airfield from which Bashir al-Assad’s warplanes bombed the town of Khan Sheikhoun with chemical weapons earlier this week, Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, described it as ‘a direct and proportionate response to a clear violation of international law by the Syrian regime.’

While agreeing this week’s attack was ‘a war crime’, Jeremy Corbyn instead emphasised that US military action ‘without legal authorisation or independent verification’ could make matters worse and risked intensifying ‘a multi-sided conflict that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people’.

This fault line between the leader and deputy leader of the Labour party is conspicuous.

And, so, the party is left suffering yet another damaging public bout of cognitive dissonance – holding two mutually exclusive opinions – while huddled in the political shop window rocking backwards and forwards, muttering to itself in front of the voters.

That’s the politics of it.

However, questions about military action – and whether or not to back it – obviously override domestic political concerns. Syria is not as straightforward as having ‘a line.’

And, so, in their way, both men are right, albeit for totally different reasons.

Watson spoke for many when he said that chemical weapons attacks on civilians ‘can never be tolerated and must have consequences.’

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Trump’s air strike took out domestic targets as well

07/04/2017, 03:08:23 PM

by Kevin Meagher

It’s not often an international leader gets to achieve their domestic political goals while making a bold foreign policy move.

But this is what Donald Trump has just managed.

In bombing the Syrian airstrip that was used to launch what seems to have been a chemical attack by Assad’s forces on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, earlier this week, killing at least 80 people, Trump has achieved three things.

First, he compares favourably with Barrack Obama, who dithered and backed down from a response to Assad’s sarin attack on east Damascus in 2013, outplayed at the time by Putin who offered to broker a deal whereby the regime would surrender its chemical and biological weapons.

Trump, the inveterate dealmaker, is clearly not prepared to give Assad wiggle-room. Especially as he plainly lied about dismantling his arsenal.

Second, he has immediately wrong-footed his home-grown critics who question his elliptical relationship with Vladimir Putin.

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The West must now tread very carefully in Syria

31/01/2017, 01:27:03 PM

by Julian Glassford

Rebel forces have just lost their last toehold in Aleppo. Now residents displaced by conflict may begin to return to (what’s left of) Syria’s historic second city. Whilst we should of course recognise the horrific devastation wrought, mourn the casualties, and put pressure on all sides to cease their use of indiscriminate/inhumane tactics, surely this is cause for relief? Downing Street and the Foreign Office don’t seem convinced.

Having openly criticised Saudi Arabian and Iranian involvement in regional “proxy wars” recently, alas, within days naughty boy Boris Johnson had rowed back on this bout of intellectual honesty. The British Foreign Secretary was back on-message in time to deliver a hastily reworked speech at the Manama Dialogue Summit, where he spoke of a need to engage and work with such countries to encourage and support reform. Emerging from a meeting of foreign ministers in Paris, a day later, he added: “there can be no military solution in Syria”. Notably among attendees at said event was the school-masterly US secretary of state, John Kerry.

Whether Mr. Johnson appreciates that a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to the Syrian civil war remains a prospect every bit as distant as meaningful, progressive reform across the Arabian Peninsula is unknown. Whatever the case, and however one feels about the UK’s idiosyncratic top ambassador, he certainly seems to be spending a lot of time on the road, actively seeking out foreign counterparts, stimulating debate, and occasionally shifting it significantly. All of a sudden the Yemeni  civil war has been back in the news, for example.

The Syrian conflict has now been raging for almost as long as the entire duration of the Second World War. So far, no attempt at a mediated civil settlement has gained any real traction, despite several attempts, with ceasefires having lasted no more than a few months. Scholars of international relations, ethnography, and conflict and security will tell you that there is a reason for this: the battle President Bashar al-Assad and his supporters are fighting is an existential one.

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Uncut’s festive top ten for 2016

27/12/2016, 12:16:55 PM

by Rob Marchant

In perhaps an early premonition of the 2020 election result, Labour Uncut regrets to announce that the truly terrible ‘JC for PM for me’ by Robb Johnson and the Corbynistas has not ultimately made the Xmas no. 1, nor apparently the top 100. However, we thought it fitting to note that there are still a number of other Christmas songs made popular over the years which perhaps fit even better with the party’s current zeitgeist. Here are our favourites for Labour’s top ten this Xmas:

  1. Mistletoe and Whine – The Corbynites
    Hot into the Top Ten, this festive tune respects the time-honoured, hard-left concept that it’s always someone else’s fault.
  1. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (But Not Any That Involve Russia, They’re Ok) – The Stop The War Singers
    At number 9, the Stoppers continue their age-old formula of nice-sounding tunes with a side order of staggering hypocrisy.
  1. S**te Christmas – The Labour Pollsters
    At number 8, fresh from their Xmas party, the party’s polling gurus reportedly recorded this in a Westminster pub: a poignant, whisky-fuelled counsel of despair at the party’s current polling being regularly in the twenties. And polling has also proved a popular theme, in at number 7:
  1. December Will Be Tragic (In The Polls) Again – Kate Bush
    Oh, why doesn’t she just go and join the Tories!
  1. Santa Corbs Is Coming To Town – The Cultists
    Yes, he’s making a list, he’s checking it twice. He’s going to give everyone exactly what they want from a Christmas list of ten impossibly vaguely-described presents known as “pledges”. Read ‘em and weep.
  1. Stop The Cavalry (And Start The Hand-Wringing) – Syria’s Fair-Weather Friends
    In this season of goodwill to all, a wonderful, irony-free message of “if only something could be done” about the world’s biggest refugee crisis, recorded by the very people whose actions have helped make that impossible.
  1. I Believe In Father Xmas (In Fact, He’s My Party Leader) – The Momentum Chorus
    And at number 4, our friends at Momentum really know how to do suspension of disbelief, don’t they? Whether it’s denial of entryism, denial of anti-Semitism or the impossibility of winning a general election from here. Literally blinding.
  1. Fairytale of New Economics – The Rogues ft Johnny McDonnell
    A beautiful Christmas duet about how Labour’s pledges will be paid for by the universal money tree. Gut-wrenching.
  1. Not Tonight Santa – The Great British Public
    At number 2: fast-forward to 2020, and the public delivers its verdict on the man with the beard.
  1. Do They Know It’s Not 1984? – The Moderates
    And finally, the Christmas number 1! In an echo of the celebrated single by Band Aid, a number of well-known political faces get together for another charity single, this time to try and save the life of a party in danger of vote-starvation this Christmas. Heart-rending.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

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Of course we need to support those 3,000 Syrian children looking for a home. We helped put them there

27/04/2016, 06:05:27 PM

by Rob Marchant

There are some times when Labour and the Tories divide on party lines, not because merely they are whipped differently – or that they have dark and evil hearts, see Uncuts passim – but simply because they have fundamentally different ways of looking at the world.

What might seem a no-brainer to ordinary folk – the desperate plight of children alone in the world and bearing no responsibility whatsoever for their fate – becomes a point of immovable principle to a pig-headed Tory party caught in a moment of blind, anti-immigration frenzy. And it is sadly difficult to think this is unconnected to the current turbulence within the party over its perennial, navel-gazing obsession, the EU. Along with Labour MPs, a few noble souls defied the Tory whip, but mostly the vote was a shabby affair on the part of the governing party; the parliamentary equivalent of a mumbled excuse.

No, if you need an example of why this country needs a Labour government, it was given to you on Monday night without too much fuss.

The Parliamentary Labour Party, having suffered a rather difficult few months, largely paralysed over how to respond to its politically disastrous new leadership, finally showed what it was made of and supported Lord Alf Dubs’* amendment. An amendment requiring the government to accept the 3,000 homeless, stateless and unaccompanied Syrian children into the country.

Bravo, PLP. Bravo. It was a good thing you did on Monday night, even if it ended in honourable defeat. We should, however, just remember one, painfully ironic thing.

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Jeremy Corbyn’s Syria consultation was flawed and undemocratic

11/12/2015, 01:59:38 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The Syria vote debate has been dominated by events inside the Westminster bubble, but an important development in the Labour Party has so far flown under the radar. This was the attempt at a ‘consultation’ launched by the leader on Friday 27th November – five days before the vote on December 2nd. Part of the ‘new politics’ which are now developing, the exercise needs close scrutiny.

Although consultation of members is not part of the rules of the party, nothing precludes it. However on this case, as Corbyn had already said he would vote NO to the proposal, he had prejudged the outcome. Given that M Ps were to be given a free vote on the issue, correctly in my view, there could be no question that this would set party policy on the topic – and it is doubtful whether this could ever be legitimate as this form of exercise is not one that appears in the rules as part of the policy making process as far as I can see.

However even as a straw poll, the process had serious flaws. It had not been announced in advance and most members would be unaware of its launch. There was no deadline, members merely being asked to respond “by the start of the week”. More seriously, the survey form – which seems to have vanished from the Labour Party website – did not pose a clear choice to voters, which is standard practice in polling. While it is rare that there is a simple Yes No choice in politics, on this issue the issue was stark. Why there was no choice posed that could be answered by a vote, either yes-no or a range of options makes the exercise unscientific.

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Hilary Benn has shown the way. Moderates must stay and fight for our Labour party

03/12/2015, 03:40:46 PM

by Samuel Dale

Every day I have to convince myself not to leave the Labour party in these dark days of the Corbyn nightmare.

I voted for Liz Kendall in the leadership along with just 4.5% of members. The party has clearly changed beyond all recognition since I joined at 16 in 2003.

Every day brings a fresh humiliation, a fresh moral and electoral disaster. Snubbing the national anthem. Shot to kill. Mao’s Little Red Book. Momentum bullying. Everything Ken Livingstone says. The Syria free vote shambles. No press release produced responding to autumn statement for the first time ever. And much more besides.

It is not so much the policies but the sheer incompetence of a shambolic and ramshackle leadership that has dragged the 100-year old Labour party into the moral and electoral abyss in just three months.

So it is natural to think about leaving. Many have. The FT reported as many as 1,000 members have left in the last month in despair at Corbyn’s leadership.  I understand why they have left and it is easy to lose hope. But we have to stay and fight.

That is why Hilary Benn’s speech in the House of Commons was so important.

He made the case for bombing Isis in Raqqa with passion and persuasive verve but it represented more than that.

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It’s time for Ken to call it a day

02/12/2015, 04:41:24 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Ken Livingstone used to be that rarest of things on the left of Labour politics: a popular populist.

The left is full of unpopular would-be populists, who, while capable of galvanising a following of the liker-minded, cannot translate that appeal into actual votes at election time. Even Tony Benn was hopeless at convincing actual voters, (famously losing his own seat in 1983’s electoral calamity).

Other left-wing firebrands like Nye Bevan, recognised the limits of protest and put away such childish things, going on to make their peace with high office. The NHS is his abiding epitaph for so doing. (Benn’s ministerial career left us with Concorde).

So Ken has been afforded incredible latitude by successive Labour leaders. Even after he quit the party to stand as London Mayor in 2000 (following, admittedly, some of the most cack-handed fixing of the New Labour years) Tony Blair was still more than willing to bend party rules to readmit him early and allow him to run for re-election in 2004 wearing Labour’s colours. He was a winner, pure and simple.

Blair, ever the pragmatist, recognised that Ken was a round peg in a round hole when it came to London. He was the perfect fit for a role that was two-parts cheerleader to one-part executive leader.  So Ken could safely dial-up his rhetoric, implement his signature policy on congestion charging and campaign for the Olympics. It was all low-risk, consequence-free stuff.

But the electorate’s patience eventually wanes and in 2008 he was well-beaten by Boris Johnson. Ed Miliband, in a characteristic misjudgement, then gave him another go at fluffing it in 2012, which he duly did.

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We need to hear Corbyn say: ‘Isil must be defeated’

01/12/2015, 11:17:08 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Outlining his reluctance to back air strikes against Isil in Syria, Jeremy Corbyn wrote in the Morning Star the other day, that:

 “Amid all the debate and emotion expended over Syria last week, there remains a terrible sense of déjà vu pervading this most difficult of problems. It is the sense of a government – and a nation – repeating previous errors by committing to air strikes without a comprehensive, long-term strategy involving regional powers and allies…

[I]n the absence of a proper strategy informed by better on-the-ground knowledge and intelligence, there is a real danger that any military intervention goes the same way of Iraq, Afghanistan post-2006, and Libya.”

Actually, these aren’t Jeremy Corbyn’s words; it’s an excerpt from a piece by Conservative MP John Baron, a former soldier and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, writing in the Mail on Sunday.

The subterfuge is merely to highlight that fact there are real reasons to proceed cautiously in joining US-led efforts to bomb Isil strongholds in Syria and these reservations stretch across British politics.

Indeed, there’s a decent argument to made that the case for military action will only prevail when we are prepared to wage war on the ground, winning and holding territory  (as Baron eloquently and persuasively argues). There is also a potent argument that David Cameron’s faith in the Free Syrian Army as the instrument to achieve this aim is seriously misplaced, as Jeremy Corbyn has pointed out.

Yet, even when Corbyn is right, as he is in pointing out that bombing is no panacea, he has no bigger argument to make. Where is the moral outrage about the fascistic, throat-slitting, mass-murdering rapist psychopaths of Islamic State? Or, indeed, the moral imperative in vanquishing them?

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Labour has reached peak groupthink

26/11/2015, 10:28:35 PM

by Rob Marchant

groupthink, n., [grüp-ˌthiŋk]: a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics

Merriam-Webster online dictionary

The saddest thing about party conference this year, as commentator Iain Martin remarked, was “otherwise nice/sensible people trying to persuade themselves it will be ok”.

If there were a fortnight to convince the world otherwise, this must surely have been it.

Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of Labour’s position on bombing Isil, the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris and the rebellion on an actual vote for renewal of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, have all been an unmitigated shambles.

Most immediately, there’s Corbyn’s amazing letter outlining his personal position on British involvement in bombing Isil, pre-empting Monday’s shadow cabinet discussion, astounding shadow ministers and MPs alike.

Then there was his refusal to condemn Stop the War Coalition’s toe-curling and hastily-retracted blog post, blaming the Paris attacks on France and her Western allies. Not to mention a subsequent mauling by his own MPs at the regular PLP meeting, over that, Jihadi John and the government’s shoot-to-kill policy. Then the unprecedented event of Labour MPs criticising their own leader in the Commons and his links to the Stoppers.

In the case of the vote to keep Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent, we had centrist MPs in the bizarre (and surely also unprecedented) position of defying the whip to vote for party policy, as Ben Bradshaw MP drily noted.

And let’s not forget (just 24 hours ago although it already seems longer) the unedifying spectacle of attempted political theatre gone badly wrong. John McDonnell MP – for it was he – chose to respond to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement by waving a copy of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book. Yes, that Mao, the 20th century’s greatest mass-murderer.

And thus did the tragedy of Labour’s last few months descend into farce.

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