France’s Minister of Defence, Jean-Yves Le Drian, wants Britain to join him in bombing Syria (“Britain, France Needs You in This Fight”, The Guardian, 27 Nov). It’s nice to be wanted. And it’s nice to know that Jean-Yves Le Drian and Michael Fallon are such good buddies that they have already met ten times this year alone.
Jean-Yves would like British forces to help France “defeat” ISIS with our spiffy Tornados, ‘second-to-none’ Brimstone missiles and top-of-the-range armed drones. He says “we have achieved a great deal together”, citing Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq as examples of this. I’m surprised he did not mention Suez as one of the great examples of British-French military collaboration. At least in Suez, the British and the French were not just tacked onto a US-dominated coalition but were out in front, bombing Egypt all on their own.
In Syria, on the other hand, the skies are already very crowded. US warplanes, along with those of at least ten other countries, have already conducted 2,700 bombing raids on ISIS positions in Syria and all the while ISIS continues to gain recruits, continues to gain territory, and continues to conduct terrorist activities around the world.
Perhaps with Britain joining in, the situation will suddenly reverse. But if Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq are anything to go by, all we will achieve is more death, more destruction and more chaos – the perfect breeding ground for yet more terrorism.
David Cameron seems to think that extending UK air strikes in Syria would eliminate both ISIS and Bashar al-Assad (“No 10 plan for Syria without Assad and Isis”, 10/9/15). Yet, since the US and other coalition forces re-commenced air strikes in both Iraq and Syria last year, more than 44,000 sorties have been flown over Iraq and Syria, attacking some 7,655 ISIS targets and killing at least 10,000 ISIS fighters.
While up to 1,000 ISIS fighters a month may be killed from bombs and drone attacks, they are at the same time gaining at least that number of recruits every month, not just from Syria and Iraq but from the UK, France, Belgium, Russia and many other countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. They are now conducting military operations in Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Egypt and Russia as well as in Iraq and Syria. They show no sign of being ‘eliminated’. Why would the addition of a few bombers from the RAF make any difference to this situation?
In fact, more bombing is exactly what ISIS wants and needs to get more recruits and consolidate its power base. That is precisely why they engage in ritualistic beheadings and the killing of tourists. Their strategy is to goad western governments into responding militarily to their provocations because that is the oxygen they need to exist – and we obligingly give it to them.
Think again, David Cameron! What is needed in Syria is not more bombing but a serious commitment to find a negotiated solution with all the parties in the region, including Iran and Russia. Nothing short of that is going to stop the appalling loss of life, loss of homes, loss of livelihoods and the steady stream of refugees who have nowhere else to go.