Britain bombing Syria will neither help the suffering of ordinary Syrians nor the national security of the UK, writes Dr Abdul Wahid.
Prime Minister David Cameron has laid out his case for bombing Syria, largely drawing on the emotional reaction to the Paris attacks earlier this month. He has argued “intelligence” estimates from the Joint Intelligence Committee – the organisation that got it so wrong in Iraq – suggest 70,000 ground troops in the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) – a coalition that is supposed to be fighting Assad’s regime – will move in, supported by US-UK-French-Russian airstrikes.
There are so many reasons against British military engagement in Syria, which the general public ought to consider.
Here are just a few questions that need to be asked:
What is the bombing supposed to achieve?
It is said to be aimed at degrading ISIS’s military capability. So far the bombing led by the US and Russia has not been focussed on ISIS. In fact, quite often it has been focussed on ISIS’s rival groups –most often by Russia, but also by the rest – who oppose Bashar al Assad, but who have been labelled “extremists” because of their Islamic sentiments.
In over a year, the number of civilian deaths is estimated between 682-2,057 from the US-led bombing. ISIS are no weaker than they were before. So, this aim needs to be questioned. Is it just ISIS that is being targeted, or is there a wider motive?
What is the root cause of the problems in Syria?
ISIS is bad, but Assad is far worse. Most of the estimated 300,000 people killed, and 4 million refugees have been as a direct result of the actions of the Assad regime. The first beheadings, mutilations and atrocities – and by far the larger number – were committed by a secular, Ba’athist ally of Washington, London, Paris and Moscow, who stood by him as the numbers of victims rose into six figures.
ISIS has made enemies of almost every sincere group fighting Assad; most of them devout Muslims – it fought them more than it fought the regime – but those same fighting groups and the Syrian opposition see Assad as the bigger threat. So, it is hard to see how bombing ISIS will deal with the greater evil – and could easily be argued to be helping the regime, particularly if the so-called FSA are expected to redirect their efforts on the ground.
Will the bombing reduce the “ISIS threat” to Britain?
Assuming for the sake of argument everything we are told about the “ISIS threat” to Britain is true – and not being exaggerated to justify greater powers for the state to push through draconian policies against Muslims – it’s hard to see how a military response is the right way to deal with what is effectively a threat to law and order in the UK.
Criminal acts, even on a massive scale, aren’t ordinarily dealt with by aerial bombardment. Even if you argue ISIS are quasi-state actors, asymmetric warfare doesn’t rely on responding to the aerial bombardment. And given the attackers in Paris cited France’s engagement in Syria as a reason to attack – and given that British security officials argued the security threat to the UK escalated after the 2003 Iraq conflict – it seems bombing Syria is exactly the wrong thing to do, killing more civilians (which will inevitably happen), and making a bigger mess in the region.
What is the end game?
When Cameron talks of a post-conflict Syria – with a broad-based government, with elements of the regime as well as acceptable members of the opposition – he could be accused of living in a parallel universe.
At the outset of the conflict, the Syrian people very soon learned who it was that the “international community” were backing – and it wasn’t them. Yet, against the odds, they managed to stand up to the tyrant – and they thanked Allah (swt) for that. They embraced an Islamic identity because they learned to trust in Allah (swt) – and because they started considering a post-Assad scenario.
The various conferences over the years have all been to try to find an opposition that is acceptable and subservient to the West, that might be acceptable to the Syrian people – and even those efforts came after the eleventh hour. To this day it hasn’t happened.
ISIS has hindered and not helped the opposition to the Assad regime, as has infighting between the groups.
But now its part is nothing more than an excuse to allow external powers to intervene to shape its future in their image – an image that excludes Islam, which forms such an integral part of the region’s belief and history.
Long term, it will not work. Sykes-Picot was almost a century ago and has failed to stabilise what was formerly a stable region.
Short term, there will be more death and misery for the people of Syria – and more of British tax-payers’ money spent on yet another neo-colonial venture.
Dr Abdul Wahid is a regular contributor to New Civilisation. He is currently the Chairman of the UK-Executive Committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain. He has been published in The Times Higher Educational Supplement and on the websites of Foreign Affairs, Open Democracy and the Prospect Magazine.