Duplicity of UK policy towards Syria exposed

4th May 2018
Duplicity of UK policy  towards Syria exposed

(Photo: Creative Commons)

There is so much hypocrisy within the three permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the US, the UK and France – as they fail to live up to the most basic rules of the UN. And there is clear disinformation about Syria’s civil war. For seven years the conflict has been raging, exacerbated by external inference, and the UK Prime Minister is claiming it is in the ‘national interests’ of Britain to bomb Syria.

The bombing attack took place in the aftermath of the Syrian army’s victory over the Saudi-backed Jaysh al-Islam rebels who were allowed with their families to leave the area.

Relying primarily on the controversial ‘White Helmets’ who sent a video showing a suspected gas attack on civilians in Douma, eastern Ghouta, Theresa May told Parliament after the bombing: “All indications are that this was a chemical weapons attack. UK medical and scientific experts have analysed open-source reports, images and video footage from the incident and concluded that the victims were exposed to a toxic chemical.”

Without due process, the alleged perpetrators had already been found guilty. “A significant body of information, including intelligence, indicates that the Syrian regime is responsible for this latest attack,” she said.

Not only was there no hard evidence or confirmation by the independent Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), there was no UN mandate for carrying out the military strikes nor any prior approval by any parliament or Congress, including the House of Commons. The justification was also at best legally questionable, according to the published summary of the advice of the Attorney General.

It stated that the UK is “permitted under international law, on an exceptional basis, to take measures in order to alleviate overwhelming humanitarian suffering.” But certain conditions were needed which, arguably, were not met, including that it “must be objectively clear that there is no practicable alternative to the use of force if lives are to be saved and the proposed use of force must be necessary and proportionate to the aim of relief of humanitarian suffering and must be strictly limited in time and in scope to this aim.”

Particularly cynical has been the British Government’s raging again the “normalisation” of chemical warfare and to prevent it becoming a part of ordinary warfare, a return to the terrible days of the First World War. No mention is made to their use by Saddam Hussein when he was supported by Western powers during Iraq’s 1980-88 war against his own people, the Kurds, and Iran. There were never any calls to put him on trial for war crimes before he fell out of favour.

With regards to the apparent justification, Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said during the debate in Parliament whether “the humanitarian crisis in Yemen entitle other countries to arrogate to themselves the right to bomb Saudi airfields or its positions in Yemen, especially given its use of banned cluster bombs and white phosphorus?” He pointed out that three UN agencies said in January that Yemen was the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world” and rhetorically asked if the Prime Minister would “commit to ending support to the Saudi bombing campaign and arms sales to Saudi Arabia?”

Green Party co-Leader, Caroline Lucas, spoke out over a glaring plot-hole in May’s Syria story. Along with France, the PM joined a US-led bombing campaign against three Syrian Government sites that they claim stored or researched chemical weapons. But Lucas points out that two sites bombed were compliant with having no chemical weapons on site as of five months ago.

“Can she confirm exactly when the UK identified Him Shinsar as a chemical weapons storage facility, when it identified the chemical research facility at Barzeh as a chemical weapons research centre, when this information was reported to the OPCW and whether the UK has asked the OPCW to inspect both sites?” But from her nonchalant response, it seemed May was unaware of such simple facts. In 2016, the OPCW reported that it had overseen the destruction of Syria’s declared chemical weapons. Since then the US, UK, and France have had the right to report any chemical weapons sites to the OPCW.

Also speaking in Parliament, Conservative Chair of the Defence Select Committee, Julian Lewis, further exposed Britain’s duplicity in Syria. In December 2015, the House of Commons voted to bomb Daesh terrorists in Syria, as it had done with allies in Iraq for more than a year. “For the next 17 months, we mounted more than 800 airstrikes in Iraq but only 95 in Syria. Why the huge disparity? It was because in Iraq we want one side, the Iraqi Government, to win and the other side, the Islamist fighters, to lose, whereas the situation in Syria is totally different.”

Several days before the response by the three leading Nato countries, alarmingly it had been Israel who fired the first missiles following the alleged gas attack and decided to perilously target Iranians who were stationed in Syria at the request of the Assad Government. According to the Wall Street Journal, Israeli bombing was with “tacit American support.” It followed Israel clashing with Iranian military forces in a series of audacious cross-border strikes in February that resulted in an Israel F-16 fighter crash after coming under heavy Syrian antiaircraft fire.

In the previous two weeks, it had been Israel whose troops shot over 30 unarmed Palestinian civilians and killed over 2,200 in 2016 in its bombings of Gaza but faced no consequences for its action because of US vetoes in the Security Council.

The Government’s refusal to codify a War Powers Act as requested by Corbyn sets a further dangerous precedent that will open the floodgates for Britain to launch future military action much more freely without any thoughts of seeking the support of Parliament. Previously the prior approval by MPs has been sought since the fiasco of joining the US in invading Iraq in 2003. The dismissal of the convention is seen as the latest contempt by ministers to be held to account for their actions.

When Trump first became president just over a year ago, all countries distanced themselves from the rather unpredictable and unstable eccentric. His first military venture was carried out unilaterally in April 2017 without the involvement of any of the traditional US allies. It was against Syria and for the alleged chemical attack by the Syrian army.

Since then Trump has been embroiled in a war dance with North Korea as well as threats to renege on the nuclear deal with Iran and build an Israeli-style wall to keep Mexicans out of the US. His threat to world peace has been shown by his xenophobia, particularly towards Muslims.

It is rather shameful that the previously toxic US President has been given support from two other permanent members of the Security Council, demonstrating no respect to the UN or international law. Bombing is rather a strange way of helping Syrian casualties, especially when doing little about the mass of refugees fleeing the conflict with the Nato allies are pouring petrol on. Yet everyone knows the only solution in Syria is political.

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