Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

Syria: Iran holds the answer, not Russia

April 11, 2017

Christopher Lee

London11 April 2017

The White House is confused about Syria. It does not know what it is supposed to think which, is a difficult position for President Trump having ordered the cruise missile strike.

It gives every indication that the President of the United States knows nothing about the Syria Situation and cannot measure up to being a real President – one at whom the buck stops. He can be briefed. But he does not understand power beyond running Trump Property Development.

Here then is a simple briefing for the man who has everything but displays nothing.

The Trump Administration (and it seems the British Foreign Office run by Boris Johnson also) believes that the way to fix Syria is to hammer the Russians and then bring them on board.

Wrong.

The people to be sorted are first the Iranians, then the Saudis. It is true that the Russians appear to be the muscle in President Assad’s punch against the rebels. But the real and long term allies are not the Russians. They could change sides any day. The real war chums are the Iranians.

The Iranians are Shias. Assad through his Alawite family are Shias. Iran is the proxy war fighter of the Middle East. Iran sees the battle with the rebels as a battle with Sunnis – therefore this is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia (Sunni ruled) and Iran.

So how do you fix it?

America has to deal with Iran by saying Assad can stay but must run elections with Iran providing security.

A deal has to be done with Russians to maintain its port, the only constant access it has in Med. That is not difficult. Apart from anything else militarily, satellites can have a permanent watch on the Russians alongside and produce on-the-hour Intelligence of capabilities.

Also, by leaving the Russians in Syrian (they were there anyway) America would be tacitly accept that the theatre map of today is the one to work. A treaty would be produced involving Gulf Council. Syria, Iran, Russia and US and it will reviewed in 2 years.

All sounds simple and of course it is not. It could take another couple of years to fix and the real hope of a solution – a palace revolution in Assad’s own house – has to be hoped for. It is the only chance of a long lasting peace.

There is one simple fact that fed to Mr Trump may give a thought to play with: he believes the sarin attack was bad news. Yes. But every day there is worse. Conventional weapons kill more and maim more than a chemical attack.

Last month the Syrian airforce dropped 495 barrel bombs and killed more Syrians doing so than died in the gas attack. Last year the Syrian airforce delivered 12,958 barrel bombs. Mr President ask why the US (and the rest of us) did nothing.

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Why Trump Bombed Wrong Bomb

April 7, 2017

 

Christopher Lee

London 7 April 2017

President Trump called Prime Minister May and said this is what we have in mind. Prime Minister May said Go for it.

Defence Secretary Fallon took a call from Defense Secretary Mattis who said he was putting 59 cruise into the Homs air base. Defence Secretary Fallon said Have a good one.

President Putin sat by the phone. No one called.

This morning (Friday) it was all done. The newly shaped National Security Council of generals in Washington (McMasters, Dunford, Coats, Mattis) had a good day.

The President needed to respond to the gas attack on Kahan Sheikhoun. He needed to back away from Obama policy of do nothing. Mr Trump was, maybe still is, an ideal man in charge on the day for the generals.

Donald Trump suddenly had his top people asking Mr President, what do you want us to do?

Man alone eats hog, was how Willie McCobb used to say it when he ran the Mississippi Delta. Big appetite for power but it fades when you’re the only one at the hog roast. In crude terms that’s what has happened.

So two questions: who gets what out of the US response? What happens next?

Syria: The destructive power of that attack could destroy President Assad’s palace and bunker in Damascus. Assad knows now that Russia cannot be guaranteed to defend him. There were Russian anti-missile systems at the Homs air base. No attempt was made to fire them. The US isn’t afraid of Russia.

Russia: They read Trump wrongly. His policy on Syria has not changed. Still no boots on ground. But his readiness to do something Obama would not do (one-shot game changing) they never anticipated. Putin will need revenge and that can only be diplomatic and he has no options.

Iran: In the Middle East Iran is the most feared state after Israel. Iran controls or backs policies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen and threatens others in Saudi Arabia and Israel. Iran is protective military cousin to Assad. Iran has failed on this one. It has lost image among other countries. It will try to freeze on bi-lateral agreements with the United States, but Trump is now a tried and tested arse-kicker.

UK: Other NATO and European countries did not get the calls from Washington. The past 24 hours showed Washington regards London as people on-side, trustworthy. Downing Street matters. Mrs May did well to be the first into Trump’s Washington. It rings Thatcher-Reagan times.

Next? We are to believe this was a one-off. It happened because Assad, or whoever in his bunker ordered a gas attack and the way the Western world reacted. This in itself compares ideologies.

A gas attack kills fewer people and cause less long term wounds than a 500lb conventional bomb raid.

Yet in the West, still with images of World War One, gas is a far more sinister weapon. It is illegal whereas a conventional warhead that can cause far greater catastrophe is polished and sold to anyone at public annual exhibitions.

Therefore, logically, America should be cruising every Syrian bomber airbase. But warfare obeys made-up rules.

The world doesn’t think about the gassed child who got a shot of atropine in time and will be back at school next week.

The world doesn’t compare that poor wretch with the kid in the conventional and legal bombing raid with both legs blown off for the rest of his or her life and a demolished hospital that cannot save the rest of the family. This is really the story of the past 24 hours. We all got mad with Assad for using a wicked weapon whereas the bigger killer goes unpunished. Trump has not got that far in the moralist’s warfare manual. There may be worse to come.

Trump wanted power. How to respond to the sarin attack was his first experience. It is hoped he did not like it.

What Chance Russia & US Going To War Over Syria

October 10, 2016

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Christopher Lee

New York

8 October 2016

Think about the scenario: Putin needs Assad to win his civil war otherwise Russia will be chased out of Syria. So Putin supports bombing easiest and most telling targets – Aleppo hospitals.

US with help from the UK and France says this Russian tactic amounts to war crimes.  Putin gets mad at that and calls off nuclear warhead agreements.

The next stage? America within the NATO system reinforces that area supporting the Baltic States.  Moscow says that amounts to provocation.  NATO says it amounts to a sensible precaution and shows its Baltic allies as well as Russia that it will not abandon its obligations in the region. In other words: come closer Russia and we will push you back.

The next stage (reached this week)? Russia moves an Iskander ballistic missile battery  with a kilotonage level nuclear warhead capability into Kaliningrad – that is, next to NATO allies Lithuania and Poland.  This, as it is supposed to, raises tensions among NATO states in the region who do not know what next to do and mostly want to do nothing.

Here in New York, to use the diplomatic jargon, Russians and Americans are not nibbling the same canapés.  The negotiations over Syrian peace possibilities are abandoned. Even the never ending margin meetings of low level diplomats are nothing more than individuals reporting back to the Lavrov and Kerry front offices on who is saying what in private.

There was a rare weekend meeting at the UN over the weekend.  The French (one of the five permanent members of the Security Council) tabled a motion to stop the Aleppo bombing and open a humanitarian aid corridor.  It would have gone through if it had not been for Russia.  The Russian delegation had instructions from Moscow to veto any cease fire resolution, whatever the motives. Russia vetoed.

The Syrian ambassador Bashar Jaafari got up to speak and in protest at the whole farrago the British permanent representative, Matthew Rycroft led a largely Western walk out.  Rycroft turned on the Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin and told him, thus Putin, that his veto was a death signature on Syrians in Aleppo.  Churkin did not even look uncomfortable.

Talk to diplomats who spend their lives at this level and they talk in whispers, not to be secretive but to reflect the seriousness facing governments seeking the wisdom for solutions rather than the distinctions of triumphalism.

They talk of miscalculation, not in the UN chamber, but on what could become a battlefield.  A Russian or American aircraft shot down when both aircrews fly with instruction not to back off. An artillery commander unsure of his own rules of engagement and so a calamity occurs, such as the shooting down of the MH-17 airliner.

There are two truths whispered in the UN corridors: the Russo-Syrian offensive will succeed without hindrance from the US because no President is likely to commit a military action just as the nation goes to vote and anyway, no Congress would support it.

Secondly, Putin’s shifting of the Iskander launchers into Kaliningrad will frighten most European members of NATO into taking no action.

They say here that Putin can no longer be stopped in his Tsarist ambitions to have the fear driven respect of all the so-called world leaders.

There is a third truth: tsarism, historically, was so very vulnerable to miscalculation. Putin on the edge could turn miscalculation into determination and yes that is when the extra step that Lavrov, Kerry and the Security Council try to avoid will lead to confrontation.  The weaponry of war is this week in place.  The diplomacy appears very fallible.

 

 

 

Syria:Why Has the US Not Won the War?

August 1, 2016

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Christopher Lee

1 August 2016

New York

Why has the mighty US not won the war in Syria?  Missiles, drones, laser bombs, satellite Intelligence, allies from all over the world and still the war goes on.  Refugees are being abandoned.  Russia is calling the shots – literally.  President Assad Must Go posters in the White House have faded.

With all the military might that could destroy the world in an afternoon’s war gaming (and for real if worry struck) the United States has failed to do what it thought so easy in 2011.

President Assad was expected to step down with a few weeks of the demonstrations that spread from Daraa where the first real signs of protest had emerged.

President Obama had made it clear from day one in the White House that he saw the Middle East as a military and political quagmire where only the legacy of failure would survive. The pressure on America from within the reason was consistent on Obama.  He had to chose sides or risk even greater pressures from US allies like Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, apart from its oil and dollar attractions had become the centre of US military options.  The Saudi’s were and remain America’s political and military landlords in the region.

Obama ran out of stand-off options.  On August 18 2011, Obama said Assad should step aside.  That was not what the rebels not Washington’s allies wanted to here.  They wanted a sharp get out of town notice pinned on the Assad’s Presidential door. Assad was never going to pack his bags. Assad was not Saddam Hussein.  No Colonel Gaddafi.

The protest became an armed confrontation within months.

Opposition groups took up weapons. They killed 120 Syria troops.  The bodies were desecrated. Anyone who wanted to join the fight was welcomed.  The result obvious: a desperate and disparate armed opposition to Assad demanding support – political and financial and military – from the major outside players such as the United States, the United Kingdom, the Saudis, the Turks. Without understanding what they were doing, many of US allies supported the so-called Coalition against Assad. It was called a coalition.  It was nothing of the sort. It was split armed opposition that soon included al-Qaeda and then IS.

What went wrong from the start?  The so-called Western alliance did not understand what was going on.  The leaders, including Obama, were badly advised and no one could publicly at least stick firmly to ambitions because they did not know what they were and how to get to them.  The scale of the conflict demanded on the ground military intervention.  To have made that strategic jump would have meant unacceptable commitments from countries such as the US and UK only just out or still in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Furthermore, none of the apparently sophisticated military outside forces had any idea whatsoever how to fight Assad and gradually they did not trust the side upon which they would have to fight.

The internal coalition of opposition was being seen as a group who would in power run a bloodbath of revenge.  Obama and Co kept out other than mounting distant warfare against Islamist groups and arranging arms to rebels.  The insertion of Western special forces made little difference.

Then of course, the Russians arrived.  They backed the Assad regime, moved without any discretion rebel positions and helped destruct much of Western Syria.

The Turkish war against kurds was but a side show but an example that Syria had become a battlefield of such consequence that apart from downtown Damascus- a futile but telling description – Syria no longer existed.

And what have we got from desolation?  Assad in power. Russia the leading outside power. A proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. A refuge population that the world does its very best to forget – if ever it took notice.

There is one other aspect: the surviving rebel groups whose blatant ambitions neither suited American understanding of the conflict nor made military sense now hope with considerable fervour that Hilary Clinton makes it to the White House. To do what?

Whatever Hilary Clinton’s mood there is no way she wants to get involved in a tough military commitment anyway in the Middle East.  Moreover, Congress will not let her.  Hilary, who naturally thinks two terms as President is fine with that.

Two people know that for sure: Presidents Putin and Assad.  There is nothing that will get home political support that American and her allies can do.  Moreover, there is nothing at all in the latest military adviser’s think tank that will change that.

The armed opposition groups from 2011 are powerless figures at fringe meetings of What To Do About Syria. Today real opposition in Syria are mujahedin groups who have taken the 2011 rebellion much further. The ambition is not simply to unseat Assdad; it is to replace the government and its ways in Damascus with rule by sharia law – the other caliphate; but the commitment of Russia may prevent that.

Barring a palace revolution, the outcome looks simple: Assad stays in a possible split territory with Russia in much the same position as the United States is in Saudi Arabia.

Curiously, Russia’s position may therefore benefit America and her allies.  Mr Putin actually wants what American thought it wanted. The fact that President Assad is still there is therefore what Russia wants and what America cannot publicly admit it wants.

War & Peace – Civil Wars Leave The longest Memories

March 14, 2016

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Christopher Lee

Memphis 14 March 2016

Driving through the Mississippi Delta and it’s shining like a National guitar. Gracelands playing in the dashboard because the car’s old enough for that. Long John Morgan reckons this is the bleeding heart of the Civil War.

Not the Syrian, the Iraqi, the Libyan or any other ‘Goddammit fig eating civil war boy’.  Long John taps the bakelite steering wheel in time to Paul Simon. The war.  I understand.  So I have for the 20, maybe 30 years he and I have driven this trail. We’re talking four years – 1861-65. `The American Civil War.  The scar on all American lives even today.

In 1861 there were 34 states in an America not then a hundred years old.  That year seven southern states refused to give up slavery and pulled out of the Union and formed the Confederate States. The continent went to war. States went to war. Regions went to war. Families went to war. Brothers went to war. About three quarters of a million die – more Americans than died in two world wars and Viet Nam.

Long John Morgan  – he stands six seven in his cotton socks and butt-kicking boots  and comes in at 275 lbs – knows the name of every one of the Morgans (and the Delleys) who died in that thing. He knows the name of every skirmish and gut spilling moment in that four years.  Forte Munro, Pickens, Taylor and especially Sumter.  The lands were angry he says.  The ones who were not cut down were made prisoners of that war. 56,000 of them, 56,000 Americans died in those prisons. That’s somewhere near the same number of GIs who died in Vietnam.

We’re on Route 61 the Blues Highway. Greenville, Leland, Cleveland. South of Memphis.  No monuments but still in the American psyche. The black people rode this highway in search of a future. The hopelessness of it all in the music Muddy Waters, Bessie Smith, John Lee Hooker and B. B. King. Not in the uptown of Paul Simon. Simon and I were born on the same day. The directions weren’t so different.  They all, he said, led to Gracelands. Monuments. The symbolism of a ghost of America’s past.

Bad Joe is big on symbolism.  He did nine years in Parchman Farm, the state pen. So did Elvis’s old man, Vernon Presley. So did Stokely Carmichael. Remember Stokely? Long John rhythms the wheel.  “Hell no-We won’t go!”  That was him.  “He sang that against the draft. Against Nam”. The civil rights activists the 300 Freedom Riders were jailed in a 6×8 cell in Parchman. Jailed, stripped, chain-ganged.  “You remember that” says Long John. “You remember Deputy Tyson. A tobacco mouth that would have backed the devil hisself into the darkest corner. Peace marchers? He knew everyone. They still quote him.  ‘Y’all all a time wanna march someplace? Well y’all gon’ march right now, right t’yo cells. An’ ahm gon’ lead ya. Follow me. Ah’m Martin Luther King.'”

We pull into the dustiest gas station ever seen.  A truck with the shiest cleanest highest pointing exhaust alongside.  America is full of contradictions. Long John Morgan rests his belly into the counter and orders two coffees and chocolate cake. “Now they’re telling us we have to burn the flag.” The symbol of the Confederates. He calls it stamping out the past but not the soul. These seem nothing things.  But they are big.  You want to talk about the tragedies on Syria? Of Libya?

To Long John Morgan and the truck driver, the bar tender, the help out back with the bucket and swab, the highway patrol officer with the cop-show blank look of a leather face US lawman Syria, Libya, Iraq are sad places for “those folk over in that place”. It is not that they do not care.  It is that they do not know. The American Civil War all that time ago they do know about, even when the facts are only folklore. They know it because it has not left them.

That’s the point the big man makes. A nation doesn’t forget even if it is not sure what it is it’s not forgetting. He repeats repeats repeats.  The Civil War has left a scar. Understand that you will begin to understand even modern America. Those folk over there, he says,will not forget.  Three four generations on from what we have let happen will still remember.  Suits in Geneva may one day call a truce. But just as 1865 was about identity so Syrians, Iraqis and all will only call truce on their memories.

What they are negotiating in Geneva this week has a hundred years to go.

 

 

 

Terrorism & War – Looking Good says Colonel Steve

February 26, 2016

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Christopher Lee

27 February 2016. London.

The colonel from the Pentagon looked the part.  Cleaner cut than a saint, with more medal ribbons than a pantomime hero.  He landed in the UK this past week with a word perfect mission.

He had come to to every newspaper and broadcaster that the war on IS (he uses Daesh) is right on schedule and IS/Daesh is taking a beating. He says the US-led coalition is killing terrorists leaders most days. Their bases are taking big hits, the armoured vehicles are been wasted.

Colonel Steve Warren was here to tell us that Daesh was beginning to lose. “We see them in a defensive crouch” he told us. No journalist mentioned that a panther springs from a crouch.

The fact that IS is on a killing high hit and having nauseating fun using beheaded cadavers as road blocks is a side issue for the colonel with a message.  He says we’ve got it wrong.

Who sent the colonel?  Answer: the people who believe that too many media reports from Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Libya are telling a different story.  They are undermining the reports, especially those relayed in Washington, that it is not long now before IS collapses.

About five or six months ago the same US sources were briefing British and French TV and newspaper hacks that ISIS was a second rate bunch of no-hopers that given political guts could be wiped out inside the Christian winter holiday.  The message is dulled. Hence the colonel’s visit. A regional scan shows why. From the Bosphorus to Tripoli via the Gulf there is a tragedy that just a few years back would not have got off the staring block.

The Turks are hitting the Kurds, the Kurds are hitting the Turks.  Sunni and Shia states and peoples are at war face to face or by proxy. The coalition is hymning the Syria ceasefire but the two main teams – IS and Bashar al-Assad are not signatories. IS does not care about a ceasefire.  Assad is bombing rebel backyards and is ready to go the extra 100 meters with I Told You So banners when the ceasefire crumbles. The Russians are happy to help them out.

Across the almost non-existent border in Iraq on Friday about 20 people were killed in a bombing of a Shia mosque (the government is Shia seeking revenge).  Who did it? Surely not IS who is on the run according to the colonel.  Yup.  The very same IS.  Ask the mourners at the Rasul al-Zam mosque.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah are training Houthi rebels to fight in Yemen and the Saudi are looking at target planning into Hezbollah.  Imagine the death toll.  Imagine the knock-on.  Meanwhile the Saudi bombing in Yemen appears as casual as cruelty can be in warfare.   Hitting civilian targets is good terrorist bombing.  It causes confusion and terror.

Before we leave that bit of the dusty world, two pipe bombs were found in Jerusalem at Herod’s Gate. Lots of shooting.  Lots of dying. Also Friday, a prediction that Gaza will be a death bed scene by 2020.  Next door in Egypt, President Sisi is telling his people, do not listen to others.  Just do as I say.

And in Libya, there is a meeting Monday to see if Libya may be split into three. The West recognises one group, detests and will fight the other while everyone will be hit by the third. It is a simple example of bloodbath created when the British, the French and the colonel’s employers go into something blazing saddles without guaranteeing the result they claim to be promising. Other examples? Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan with the dankness of Syrian dead joining the tragic tapestry of failure.

So best the colonel goes home. Best someone who writes the propaganda tours gets to understand that what we call the Middle East is seeking a new identity that is different from the one the West created for it in the 1920s. IS emerged because the Western-led coalition got it wrong.

And, let us hope and those who do these things, let them pray that the crouching IS not about to leap with another Paris.  When a well turned out colonel tells them they are losing, they may just have to prove they are not in the crudest manner.

 

 

 

Is Putin Committing War Crimes?

February 15, 2016

 

 

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15th February 2016

London

You cannot fix Syria by military means.  That’s what we’ve heard from Western diplomats and politicians for five years. The last year President Putin sent in his bombers. President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron repeated the mantra.  You cannot do it with bombs.

“Just watch me,” said Putin.

He was reminding the Obama-Cameron axis that they had done more hand-ringing than a new widow but had fixed nothing with their tactics – backing useless rebels and thanks to pressure from $contract rich Saudi Arabia failing to back the two states that could take on ISIS, Iran and Syria.

Putin went in firstly because he could see that Syria needed nothing more than back up to beat up on the rebels.  True, or so the corridor Russians agree, he knew he was about to bomb places like Aleppo back to the stone age, but so what?  That is the Russian way.  The Soviet Union and capitalist driven Russia have always done it this way.

Diplomacy?  Fine.  Go along with it. Even suggest 1 March cease fire. In the meantime bomb anyone who thinks Russia is going soft.  When there is an agreement to move in aid Russia is not tactically stupid.  If you move in aid, rebel groups get a breather and move in more weapons.  So just keep bombing.

Putin wants the old days of flotillas Kashins and Krivaks in command of the Eastern Mediterranean.  He would like a submarine loitering anchorage off Hammamet. He wants his bit of the Mediterranean back. It is not an East Ukraine-like  power grab. He simply says he is hand enough of being the guy they are condescending about or shot at when he arrives at G-something phot0-shoots.  Look at his body language when has to get on the end of conference picture.  He is not urbane.  He is Putin, ex-KGB thug in a suit that does not fit his gym-built frame.

All that is understandable and the West has never grasped it and couldn’t do much about it anyway. The West has no power other than to set up yet another Geneva-Vienna meeting to which the main players do not go.

But there is anther question to be asked: has Putin’s bombing operation been so murderous that it is more than a conventional raiding.  Putin is fighting on invitation of the legitimately elected leader of a country threatened by rebellion.  That may get right up the frocks of a lot of anti-Assadists but most international constitutional lawyers would albeit reluctant have to nod that through.

The question mark is the tactic of terror bombing.  Putin’s air force has the hell-fire signature of the Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu written all over it. Civilian communities, hospitals including emergency war surgeries are being bombed repeatedly.

One UN report says the Russians are using un-guiding weapons. They are dropped, they kill and that is the purpose. Death top rebels armed to the teeth by the Western led coalition? Yes.  But also women and children.  UN figures show that more than 50 recorded dead from these raids were under 18.

So maybe the UN should start labelling statistics like this with War Crimes tags.  A waste of time.  That could be the case.  But so far Putin has justified every raid.  Western Intelligence has squadron names and commanders. Maybe, just maybe they do not want the War Crimes indictment.  Putin? Just maybe.  But just watch him.

 

 

 

ISIL: why Cameron needs a quick kill

December 1, 2015

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1 December 2015

Westminster

Prime Minister Cameron needs a quick missile kill in Syria – an ISIL leader rather than a playgroup. But in warfare, there are few guarantees.

The Royal Air Force is on standby to go with a reinforcement of two Tornado bombers – making ten in the Akrotiri squadron and six multirole FGR4 Typhoon jets.

The RAF Reaper drone crews in Kuwait have been tracking targets for weeks. The dry runs have been done. The Brimstone laser tracking missiles have already been used from the Tornado and the Americans in particular cannot wait for them to go-strike in Syria. The special forces to laser spot targets deep inside alien territory know the job.

The operational brief is signed off.

All that remains is for the Speaker of the House of Commons to call The Ayes Have It! The Ayes Have It! The green benched chamber will erupt with a roar to rival a Typhoon afterburn and 3,589 kilometres away the Akrotiri base will be on go.

Prime Minister Cameron will then wait.

In a meeting at Westminster after the Friday 13 November murders in Paris Cameron was overhead fuming that he intended to ‘kill the bastards”. Not the tone of the cool calm and collected but that soon returned. He, his whips and a leaderless Labour Party have, barring Parliamentary coup de theatre given Cameron his prize.

Cameron needs a Thatcher moment that will restore him to the sanctum sanctorum of the American and French leadership. President Obama, with finer sense of history than the British regards France and not Britain as America’s oldest ally. That hurts in Downing Street.

And so Cameron needs a Tornado’s Brimstone or a Reaper’s Hellfire to bring him the news he longs for: Al-Baghdadi down. That in Number Ten would be perfect although it is hardly clear that the RAF knows the exact location of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Cameron wants it this week. His bendy people (aka spin-doctors) want the political victory roll any time very soon after the Commons vote. Cameron wants to hit the networks with a good kill.

He wants the video play of a scurrying ISIL team disappearing in a silent puff as their Toyota – surely the most photographed rebel/terrorist truck of the decade – is no more and they even less so.

The Prime Minister has taken the UK into another stage of war that has like all warfare, few promises of success. No military commander nor tactician believes bombing does it for them. A mythical follow on ground force is just that – wishful.

So Cameron needs a fireball. Truck. Oil tanker. Command centre. Dodging 4-wheel caught in the laser track. Strike one makes him right. Forget what happens next. Strike one is everything. He got it wrong over Libya. He needs another chance at the toughest of all shots a Prime Minister gets to call. It makes him a political hero – a euphemism for I told you so.

What he does not need is a mistake. He does not need a school bus. He does not need the world broadcast of a solemn spokesperson of Medecins Sans Frontiers.

War produces no guarantees.

 

 

 

UK Bombing Syria: is it legal?

November 20, 2015

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20 November 2015

London

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The Blair-Cameron Rule of War

November 18, 2015

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18 November 2015

Westminster

Those who criticised the way Tony Blair took the UK to war may reflect that the present Prime Minister David Cameron expresses similar sentiment.

Here at Westminster, in the mother of all parliamentary democracy Mr Cameron announced that as far as he is concerned it is not necessary to get the consent of the United Nations to start British bombing in Syria.

Of course, that is an image of the transition to war adopted by Tony Blair in 2003.  It was an apparent flagrant sweeping aside of the authority of the UN.  So it is again.  The bigger picture is different but there is one disturbing similarity between the Blair and Cameron reasoning.

In 2003 Tony Blair had been told by the then US President George W Bush that if there were to be political hassle for him (Blair) then there was no need to send in the British forces.  Political support would be just fine.

Blair believed that if the UK military was not on the start line then his famed support of the US after 9/11 would be meaningless.  He must have known also that Britain and he personally would be seen as what the former US Secretary of State Dean Rusk called a nation that had lost an empire but  had not found a role in the world.

Blair would be a second team player. Nice guy but what the White House would always see as someone in the Unsigned Christmas Card column.

And Cameron?  Go back to the intervention in Libya. There is every indication that Cameron joined the Libya operation in a hurry because the then French President Nicolas Sarkozy was leading on this, had decided to go in and that Cameron was being left behind. That could not happen again.

So Cameron told the Commons this lunchtime that whatever the UN said and presumably however his law officer the Attorney General described the legality of bombing, he Cameron would be going to the House to say the UK was joining the A Team of the US, France & Co.

Cameron may be right in what he said but best to remember four things: the UK’s bombing capability will make little difference to the campaign; a military role that has status value only  is not today needed – best stick to reconnaissance; re-read Dean Rusk and most importantly, mission creep.