Airstrikes on Syria Could Lead the Entire Western World Into Disaster
by Derek Gardiner
On Saturday, 7th of April, yet another chemical attack took place in Syria, this time, it is believed, killing 70 people. Such attacks are a tragedy for all those involved and a clear breach of international law which should be roundly condemned. However, they should not be used as a pretext for potentially disastrous intervention of foreign powers which has the potential to spark a global war. I often fear after hearing news of such an attack that we are on the eve of a global catastrophe the likes of which we have not seen since 1940 or 1914.
During his presidential campaign Donald Trump criticised the US “interventionist” foreign policy that had prevailed since the Bush administration in the post 9/11 years. He condemned the war in Iraq as a mistake during the presidential debates and attacked Hilary Clinton and George W Bush for supporting the war. He seemed to understand that the effect of the Iraq war to destabilise the country, destroy millions of lives and create an avalanche of the Islamic extremism which the war had been fought to defeat. Why now does he think the situation would be any different in Syria were the Assad regime to fall? This is especially true considering many of the rebel groups are radical Islamists, some affiliated to Al Qaeda.
In the early hours of Saturday, 14th of April, the United States backed by the United Kingdom and France conducted airstrikes on targets around the country including in the capital Damascus, however, did not bomb the presidential palace or seek to take out President Assad. It has not been confirmed at the time of writing whether this would be a one-time strike or whether there would be multiple strikes, but the damage has already been done and the international situation has become more unstable as a result. Russia has condemned the actions taken by the West and has threatened to shoot down missiles fired from Western fighter jets, potentially resulting in a direct confrontation between the US, UK and France on the one hand and Russia and Iran on the other. Such a confrontation is not in anyone’s interest.
In 2003 we were told there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that we had to remove Saddam Hussein to get rid of them. These weapons were never found. We are being told the same story today and there has not yet been a full investigation as it seems the West simply could not wait for the investigation to conclude before carrying out airstrikes.
President Trump did not seek congressional approval for his actions nor did Prime Minister Theresa May seek the approval of Parliament. This is in violation of the constitutions of both countries. Surely such a decision that could potentially have major geo-political consequences must be approved by the legislatures of both countries. It makes a mockery of parliamentary sovereignty that the United Kingdom’s Cabinet took unilateral action without a motion in the House of Commons which could be voted on by MPs, especially to take action which is only supported by 22% of the British public. There will be a heavy political price to pay, for both Theresa May and Donald Trump, should there be an escalation in this conflict.
The leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn along with many MPs from all parties are right to call for a vote in parliament. Jeremy Corbyn (of whom I am not a supporter) is also right when he says “bombs won’t save lives or bring peace” especially if we are by default on the side of Al Qaeda and the army of Islam, which have, in some cases with Saudi backing, conducted massacres of Christians and Jews and beheaded and crucified their enemies. The Assad regime for all it’s faults is a secular regime which is tolerant of religious minorities.
Jeremy Corbyn is right to say that “Theresa May should have sought parliamentary approval not trailed after Donald Trump”. It’s time the United Kingdom developed an independent foreign policy and not simply follow the US over a cliff, especially considering the US has a poor track record in coming to Britain’s aid in our wars such as the Falklands.
The US, UK and Russia should use the structures of international law and the United Nations to come to an agreement on the future actions to be taken in relation to Syria and if that must include allowing Assad and his Baathist regime to remain in power, as Russia will no doubt demand, then so be it. As Winston Churchill said “Jaw, jaw is better than war, war”.