Friday, 30 August 2013

A few additional points on Syria

As a follow up to my post on Syria I thought this might be worth posting, summarising some important points. It was originally a comment I tried to post on Think Defence, but one that appears at the minute to have been eaten by the Internet goblins. It's worth keeping that in mind, as the tone and character of the post is one of responding to other comments on a forum:

A few points:

1 - Why are people talking about boots on the ground? There is absolutely no suggestion that boots will be put on the ground, other than the sort of boots that we neither confirm nor deny have set foot anywhere. We're unlikely to even see something along the lines of Libya. The government has done an exceptionally poor job of making this point, as evidenced by the number of people I've seen just this evening on Facebook making comments along the lines of "Syria. One word: Iraq!" etc.

2 - The point of missile strikes (likely to be a combination of TLAM, Storm Shadow and Yank Air launched missiles) is to i) punish the regime and send it a warning about chemical weapons use and ii) send a warning to other nations/dictators about chemical weapons use. There are ways of selecting targets such that we inflict a significant amount of damage on Syria without hampering too greatly Assad's ability to fight the civil war.

3 - The idea that the rebels did all this is almost laughable. The sheer scale of what we're talking about is likely beyond them. The areas hit are areas held by rebels, that have been holding out against conventional attacks for a while. The fact that the chemical weapons went off in the middle of a regime bombardment and preceded a limited ground offensive by regime forces means that while we have no 100% answer, it's very, very unlikely at this point that the weapons were employed by anyone other than the Assad regime.

4 - Note that reports are coming out tonight that the Assad regime has now switched to using Napalm (some has been dropped on a school), perhaps as a way of maximising casualties while avoiding stirring the pot further with chemical weapons. If that's true, then the mere threat of airstrikes has already put the willies up Assad.

5 - Just out of interest I spoke to a friend who is in the legal profession, though granted International law is not his speciality so take this for what it's worth, but his opinion concurs with that laid forth earlier by Phil, that the use of chemical weapons is the responsibility of the government, regardless of whether or not Assad personally ordered their use. He is the sole authority of that Regime, he would likely be held accountable. On a more interesting note, even in the unlikely event that it turns out to be the rebels who used the weapons, Assad and his regime could still be held legally accountable for that use on the basis that they have a duty of care to look after and monitor chemical weapons in their possession.

6 - People keep talking about the Rebels and Jihadists as if the two are interchangeable, which they are not. The Jihadists are just one chunk of the opposition. One of the grand ironies about the fear over supplying weapons to the opposition lest they end up in the hands of Jihadists is that the more secular groups are finding it hard to keep their people (and those that would like to join them) equipped... which is causing many to defect to the Jihadist groups that have more spare equipment.

7 - Assad ceased to be the better option a few months ago. He's now bringing groups like Hezbollah into help fight for him. If he wins, he will make Saddam Husseins retaliation against Iraqi rebels in 91/92 look like a mild disturbance. The fact that he's already gassing and dropping napalm on civilians in an indiscriminate manner does not bode well for those towns and cities that might find themselves on the losing side if the Regime wins.

8 - On that note, if you're worried about Jihadists gaining power and sponsoring International terrorist groups, then how is that really any worse than what Assad and his family have been doing for decades now? Hezbollah anyone? Hamas? Look up a chap called Nezar Hindawi, nice old fellow, who put his pregnant wife on a flight from Heathrow to Israel carrying 2 kilos of Semtex and a digital timer. Sponsored, trained and supplied by Syria. Then when it went tits up, they tried to help him escape detection and flee the country.


  1. All good points Chris - alas no one was listening...

    Heres my post from a thread on ThinkDefence:

    Well I see a number of ramifications from yesterdays vote.
    (Full disclosure – I was supportive of the Governments line)
    Constitutionally the Royal prerogative to declare war is dead and buried but is mortally wounded. The Government will be expected to ask the Commons permission before military action.

    I don’t usually mention politics on this site but I shall make an exception.

    Labour are the big winners from last nights vote. Ignore the fact their motion was little different from the Governments and was defeated – they will be seen as stopping the country rushing into war. This will counter the burden of Iraq and they will now be the reasonable peace not war party. Many activists who had left over Iraq may return, and many Lib Dem supporters who joined after the coalition formed will likely stay put.

    The Liberal Democrats will be the opposite – Labour will portray them as warmongers, at least locally, and many who joined over the opposition to the Iraq war may leave; more likely Clegg will face a leadership challenge – already there is talk of needing new leadership and not just from the usual suspects.

    Cameron’s position is badly weakened. I don’t know if that was a calculation of the Tory rebels (I haven’t yet checked to see how much overlap there is with the awkward gang) but he may well face a leadership challenge before the election, rather than after it if he had lost.

    Strategy wise, I’m afraid @Jedibeeftrix the Chatham House survey is no longer valid. The HoC has set a new precedent of listening to the public before Government and party and the public don’t want war, or much to do with foreigners. I hope the vote signifies a more realistic appraisal of our capabilities and cutting our cloth to match, etc, but think it represents a new mood of isolationism and withdrawing to our little island. Personally I think this is a huge mistake but hey…

    1. Hello Gareth,

      I'm going to write my own response to TD's four questions later. I'm absolutely gobsmacked that the vote didn't pass and I think it's done a huge amount of damage to us as a nation. Keep an eye out for it.

      And thanks for stopping by to comment.

  2. Chris this has all gone very fucking south for us. Fucked over by the US and DC not displaying statesmanship until he had lost. I commend him for not trying to wriggle out of the Parliamentary vote but it went very wrong prior to that. He moved too fast.

    Phil from TD.

    1. Evening Phil,

      Very fucking south is an understatement. This has been an unmitigated fuck up of epic proportions that could do some really serious damage. Why on Earth Cameron didn't bring in the Lib Dem and Labour leaders/whips/front benchers for a chat pre-vote is utterly beyond me.

      I'm just about to start work on a post responding to TD's four questions. That's if I can calm down enough to see it through.

      A day of mongness in our nations history for sure.

  3. I'm trying to find the silver lining in it all. I don't think it has any long term repercussions and I must be honest it might make the US treat coalition building a bit more seriously and not take it so for granted we'll be there.

    I was knocked for six when I read it. First headline was Labours amendment had failed and then POW, out of the blue that bombshell. It has been an intrepid fuck up indeed. I think Cameron did the right thing in the end but fuck me he didn't have to get himself on the ropes like that in the first place if he had played it cool.

    Phil from TD.

    1. I disagree, I think there could potentially be some quite serious long term consequences for us. Cameron made a balls up, but I'm beginning to think that no matter what evidence was brought forward (unless it was absolutely undeniable "Assad did it" proof), Miliband would have voted it down anyway, the tosser.

      I just hope Cameron turns on him now with everything he has. If it was me I'd be planning my revenge with relish and the next PMsQs would be an absolute slaughter.