Monday, 14 December 2015

It's not okay to say you don't understand the Syrian situation!

One of the scariest aspects of the war in Syria is that so many supposedly interested people are willing to admit that they don’t understand it. 

A supremely intelligent friend of mine told me after the Paris killings he was worried that 'it was all about to kick off.’

Have to say I was a gobsmacked. The fact that he didn’t feel the situation had already ‘kicked off’ was disturbing.

Last week I watched the BBC news after the Commons vote on bombing Syria. Interviewed on the street, person after person said they didn’t really get it, but that’s what they’d got politicians for, so they had to trust the politicians.

Hoh mumma! Why would you do that? Because it worked so well last time in Iraq, where British planes are still bombing, or in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are on the verge of retaking the entirety of Helmand province?

Taking only one strand of this apocalyptic bowl of spaghetti, what part of the USA and Russia simultaneously being on the same side while not actually fighting the same war feels good?

Come again? Exactly: it’s complex, but we do not have to understand everything. The warring factions have so many splits and splinters they could fry your mind, so let’s not go there.

The simple and sad truth is that there are many different wars going on, in the same place, at the same time, which is precisely why we need to grasp at least the fundamentals of the situation.

This being the Middle East, we don’t try to find the beginning, because this area of the planet has had more border lines engraved in it and erased from it than Gordon Ramsey’s chin. There’s have been Assyrians and Romans and Macedonians and I’ll spare us the full list, as it would fill the rest of this space.

Suffice that we understand that the most recent lines drawn, the modern borders of Israel, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, are only part of an historical chain. 

After the last Iraq war and the Arab Spring, there grew a collection of rebels in Syria who wanted to overturn President Assad and his brutal regime. Under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army they had the spoken support of the West and were doubtless given covert intelligence and arms by NATO countries.

Russia, Iran and Hezbollah (based in Lebanon) all support President Assad, while 30 million Kurds long for the return of Kurdistan, tragically now split into parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Armenia and Iran.

Meanwhile, the influence of Saudi Arabia oils the wheels of the region’s war machine, aided by billion of dollars of western military hardware.
Driven by the differing Islamic philosophies of Sunni, Shia, Wahhabi and Salafi, these ingredients were already there when Isis declared an Islamic caliphate, ignoring the lines on the map, taking control of linear swathes of Syria and Iraq that offered the oil that fueled their war.

Built from shattered Iraqi lives, disenchanted European Muslims who could not support what they saw as their nations’ Crusades against Muslim countries, and Syrians who didn’t ally themselves with the Free Syrian Army, Isis are at war with any who dare to be different.

These are the main ingredients of this horrendous dish, which when combined in war make my stomach muscles clench. The West, in the shape of the USA, UK, France and others are trying to destroy Isis, which they clearly cannot, but they don’t want to help Assad defeat the Free Syrian Army.

The Russians are saying they are fighting Isis but in fact are supporting Assad, by attacking the Free Syrian Army. The Turkish are taking the opportunity to fight the Kurds, and have not helped by shooting down a Russian plane.

The twisted nature of this contorted conflict creates so many potential disasters, it’s hard to believe it could become more intractable, but you can always rely on politicians to make things worse.

Just as Tony Blair lied about Saddam Hussein’s ability to attack Europe in 45 minutes, Prime Minister Cameron has created the lie of this war, by claiming there are 70,000 moderate Syrian militiamen ready to fight against Isis. 

The fact that those soldiers are fighting Assad, not Isis, is ignored. Tragically, the Commons debate was won by the frankly empty rhetoric of Labour’s Hilary Benn, who roused the British Bulldog.

An hour later British bombs were falling on Syria.

It saddens me so deeply when warmongers cravenly ignore the lessons of history. Not once has bombing from the air ever succeeded as a tactic.

We cannot do nothing about Isis, but bloodthirsty revenge is never reasonable. There is much talk of how medieval and barbaric Isis are: they behead people and burn others alive. What do hundreds of bombs falling from the sky do to people? Do their victims enjoy a less barbaric death, or are they ripped asunder as they lie in their beds?

Well over 1,000 years ago, while we were busy being medieval, Muslims were building universities, discovering the Andromeda galaxy, inventing algebra and algorithms. They were identifying spinal nerves and demanding their doctors were qualified. They were creating hydropower, opening psychiatric hospitals and using ophthalmology.

Just after Parliament’s bombing debate, there was a by-election in Oldham. Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn had been ridiculed for refusing to vote in support of the war, watching Benn, his own Shadow Foreign Minister steal the show, by doing the Conservative’s dirty work for them.

Inevitably the politicians voted for war. However, the people of Oldham defied the combined efforts of the British media and Establishment to discredit Jeremy Corbyn by speaking with their votes. Labour won with an increased majority.

The British people do not want war. They’ve heard this all before and know that by attacking Isis with bombs, yet more bombs will explode in England.

Both Isis and NATO want war, yet there are other avenues. Who is buying oil from Isis? Stop their funding, rob them of their ability to wage war and eventually, maybe, people might be able to sleep safely in their beds.
Charlie Adley