Sunday, July 14, 2013

MPs move to block arming Syrian rebels

 by Theo Russell
Peter Hain speaking
SENIOR Labour backbencher and former Labour Cabinet Minister Peter Hain is leading a cross-party group of MPs backing a motion barring any lethal support to anti-government forces in Syria “without the explicit prior consent of parliament”.
The motion, in the names of Hain and Tory MP John Baron, reflects mounting opposition to Cameron’s Syria policy amongst Tory and Lib-Dem backbenchers, and has the support of former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell,
Hain has also told Foreign Secretary William Hague it should be made "crystal clear" that any other actions short of arming the rebels, such as a no-fly zone or providing training, should also be subject to a vote by Parliament.
Speaking at a Stop the War Coalition meeting in the House of Commons last week, Hain savaged the Government’s aggressive Syria policy and said: “Current UK and US policy is failing on a truly monumental scale, with horrific consequences.
“Libya is hardly a good advertisement for supporting the same recipe in Syria. If getting rid of Assad is set as a precondition for negotiations it means the fighting and bloodshed will never end. The Northern Ireland peace process shows conclusively that if you set preconditions then talks will never get off the ground.
“Their good-guy-versus-bad-guy prism is hardly made convincing by the increasingly dominant role of Al Qaeda elements among the forces they are supporting. If the regime is toppled without a settlement in place it will in my view descend into chaos.”
Hain also predicted that “you will not get a settlement unless you engage with Russia and Iran, whatever opinion you have of them,” and said any transition in Syria has to be negotiated.
“All state employees must be allowed to keep their posts in order to avoid Iraq-style chaos, and a government of national unity could prepare Syria for elections,” he said.
Fellow Labour MP and veteran peace campaigner Jeremy Corbyn urged activists to contact their own MPs and ask them to support  the motion.
Lindsay German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, warned: “The only alternative to negotiations is a much bigger Middle Eastern war, and the Lebanon will definitely be a casualty in that war. My theory is that we are moving towards a wider Middle Eastern conflict.”
She also pointed out that under the Lisbon Treaty member states are required to allocate a certain proportion of spending to defence.
Iraqi peace activist Sami Ramadani pointed out that the current strategy of the West and Qatar is “to move in wherever democratic movements become too difficult to control, relying on the most reactionary elements.
“The West intervenes at every stage to prevent the development of democratic movements which have national independence as their goal. The Arab governments fear democratic movements and instead of supporting them they are undermining them.”
The Government has already been warned by the Commons Speaker John Bercow that it would be "undemocratic and inappropriate" for any weapons to be delivered to Syria without Parliament’s consent.
It already looks certain that the Government would lose a Commons vote on the issue as Labour and the Lib Dems already oppose military intervention. Hague has promised a vote before any arms shipments, but MPs fear being “bounced” into a decision. As John Baron put it: "This debate is about putting a marker in the sand."
Opposition to arming the rebels has also come from Boris Johnson, Norman Tebbit, deputy premier Nick Clegg, former army chief Lord Dannatt, and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu. Whatever happens in the Commons this week, it is increasingly obvious that the wheels have completely fallen off Cameron and Hague’s aggressive, imperialist Syrian policy.

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