Last week the Prime Minister made a statement to Parliament concerning what he referred to as “the war” in Syria. What was evident from David Cameron’s comments was that his government took no responsibility for this war, nor for the thousands of deaths and millions of refugees it has produced. At the same time he made it clear that his government has the same objective as its predecessor – that is, regime change in Syria, whatever the cost to Syria and its people, or to neighbouring countries. This week the government hosted a meeting of the so-called Global Coalition Against ISIL and Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, paid a brief visit of Britain’s chief allies in the Gulf region – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – ahead of the talks on the conflict in Syria that took place in Vienna. These talks not only included Britain, the US and their allies but also Russia and Iran.
In the last four years, the Syrian conflict has accounted for the lives of over 250,000 men, women and children. There are reported to be 7.6 million people displaced from their homes in Syria and over 12 million – half of the country’s population – in need of humanitarian assistance, of whom over 7 million are children. Some 4 million Syrians have been forced to flee as refugees to neighbouring countries and increasing numbers of these people are making their way to Europe.
There can be no doubt that successive governments in Britain, as well as those of the US and the other big powers, have fuelled the crisis in Syria. The current government refuses to recognise the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and instead gives its support to the so-called Syrian National Coalition, which is fighting against the al-Assad government as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Syrian people. In addition the government of Britain and its allies have provided military support to what is referred to as the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a coalition of those fighting to overthrow the Syrian government. There is now a growing body of evidence that the FSA was always a shadowy entity and that military support that it received was soon transferred to even more sinister organisations such as ISIL. What is evident is that Britain and its allies are in breach of all international norms of conduct and the UN Charter by their open involvement in an internal conflict within a sovereign country. It is this intervention that has destroyed so many lives, produced so many millions of refugees and led to the emergence of ISIL, which the government of Britain and others claim to be opposing.
Regime change was aimed not only at destabilising Syria, a country that has a key geopolitical position on the shores of the Mediterranean, but also aimed to put pressure on its neighbours and allies, particularly Iran and Russia. It is therefore not surprising that the current conflict has assumed the character of a regional war with intervention from many neighbouring countries that see the outcome as key to their own interests. Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have all played a key role in supporting the opposition to al-Assad, alongside Britain, the US and France. The interventions of Iran and particularly Russia in the military conflict are themselves being used as justification for even greater intervention by Britain and its allies. It is in this context that there is again talk of another parliamentary vote on air-strikes, or other direct military intervention by Britain’s armed forces in Syria.
The direct military intervention Iran and particularly of Russia has contributed to a new situation in Syria, which makes it even less likely that the regime change desired by the British government will be easily accomplished. The balance of power appears to have shifted and there have even been reports that Iraq’s parliament will encourage the country’s government to invite Russia to extend its air-strikes against ISIL into Iraq. Russia’s air-strikes have targeted ISIL but also others fighting against the Syrian government, much to the concern of the British government and its allies. They issued a statement to the effect that Russia was bombing the wrong targets. The Russian government countered by stating that the air-strikes of the US and its allies, reportedly aimed against ISIL for many months had been ineffective.
The Vienna talks have been designed to re-establish a political solution to the Syrian crisis, an approach that is favoured both by China and Germany, the country that has taken the greatest responsibility for Syria’s refugees in Europe. However, it seems unlikely that the contention between the big powers and their allies will be easily resolved and there remains the danger of an even greater armed conflict across the whole region.
The conflict in Syria, the human suffering it has caused and the dangerous situation it has created are all a consequence of the warmongering and interventionist policies of successive governments in Britain, as well as those of the other big powers. The crisis in Syria cannot be solved by the actions of those who have created all the conditions for conflict, armed and trained the belligerents, and unleashed sinister anti-people forces throughout the region. The government of Britain must cease all intervention in Syria and elsewhere in the world. It is the task of all democratic people to find the means to bring such intervention to an end, to rid Britain of the warmongers who create such death, destruction and human misery and to create the conditions for an anti-war government.