On Saturday, in “‘The Redcoats Are Coming!’ Britain Moves Closer To Launching Anti-ISIS Airstrikes,” we warned that the skies above Syria were about to get even more crowded as David Cameron pushed British lawmakers to approve RAF strikes on Raqqa.
“It is wrong for the United Kingdom to expect the aircrews of other nations to carry the burdens and the risks of striking ISIL in Syria to stop terrorism here in Britain,” Cameron said.
“I don’t think this is a country that lets others like the French or the Americans defend our interests and protect us from terrorist organizations – we should contribute to that effort,” Finance minister George Osborne added, underscoring the perception that Britain’s military prowess is but a shadow of what it once was.
We also noted that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would not use a party whip to influence MP’s decisions. Over the weekend, Corbyn expressed serious reservations about the number of “moderate” rebels on the ground in Syria and also suggested that to the extent there are enough fighters to occupy the territory held by Islamic State once the group is routed, the UK shouldn’t assume that the fighters can be trusted. “I seriously question the number, I seriously question the motives and loyalty of those forces,” Corbyn said.
On Monday, Corbyn apparently attempted to compel party members to vote against military action in line with his own stance on the issue but after what FT described as a “fraught meeting”, the Labour leader bowed to internal pressure and conceded that MPs would be allowed to vote as they choose. Additionally, Corbyn abandoned the idea of setting an official policy of opposing air strikes no matter how party members voted after Andy Burnham, shadow home secretary, said that was “unacceptable”. Here’s where Corbyn’s shadow cabinet stands:
- Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party
- John McDonnell, shadow chancellor
- Jon Trickett, shadow communities secretary
- Diane Abbott, shadow international development secretary
- Ian Murray, shadow Scotland secretary
- John Cryer, chairman of the parliamentary Labour party
- Nia Griffith, shadow wales secretary
- Tom Watson, deputy leader (who has asked Cameron to delay the vote pending proof that there are actually 70,000 moderate rebels on the ground)
- Angela Eagle, shadow first secretary of state and shadow business secretary
- Hilary Benn, shadow foreign secretary
- Heidi Alexander, shadow health secretary
- Lucy Powell, shadow education secretary
- Chris Bryant, shadow leader of the house of commons
- Vernon Coaker, shadow northern Ireland secretary
- Michael Dugher, shadow culture secretary
With that, the stage is set for Britain to join the fray. As FT goes on to note, Corbyn’s concession to his divided party “effectively guarantees that [David Cameron] can secure a Commons majority for war.” British military action could start “within days” as the PM “reacted quickly to Corbyn’s capitulation, announcing after he returned from the Paris climate summit that he would recommend to the cabinet on Tuesday that a one-day debate and vote on military intervention in Syria be held on Wednesday.”
With the vote thus set, “RAF crews could be bombing the Isis headquarters in Raqqa by the end of the week,”The Guardian says. On Tuesday, Cameron said “the decision to take military action is one of the most serious a prime minister can make. Isis poses a very direct threat to the United Kingdom – and as we have already seen in Iraq, British airstrikes can play a key role in degrading them; but they are only part of a comprehensive strategy for Syria.
But that’s not all. Germany is now set to enter the fight as well. “German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet approved deploying warplanes over Syria in the fight against Islamic State,” Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. Apparently, Berlin is set to send Tornado surveillance planes, a frigate to protect France’s carrier, and aerial refueling for French fighter jets.
Parliament will need to approve the deployment and a vote is expected within days. All told, around 1,200 German troops are expected to participate. This should do wonders when it comes to stemming the flow of refugees into Germany because as France explained earlier this year, by far the best way to solve a refugee crisis is to drop more bombs on the place from which the refugees are fleeing.
And with that, two more world powers will now have planes in the sky and ships in the Mediterranean. Just to be clear, this means that by the end of next week, it’s possible that American, French, Turkish, Russian, and German planes will all be flying missions above Syria, a decisively dangerous scenario now that Ankara has forced Moscow into a state of paranoia regarding the safety of The Kremlin’s aircraft. With Russian S-400s at the ready, and with Su-34s now armed with air-to-air missiles, the potential exists for another “accident.”
Additionally, it’s worth reiterating that the West and the Russians still haven’t resolved the most pressing issue when it comes to airstrikes in Syria. Namely that Moscow and Iran are still attacking the FSA and other rebel groups that are receiving guns and money on a weekly basis from the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. This means that while the West bombards Raqqa (or perhaps the better way to put is “while the West thinks they’re bombarding Raqqa based on the ‘intelligence’ they receive from Washington”), America and its regional allies are engaged in a proxy war with Moscow and Tehran in the northwest part of the country. This makes absolutely no sense and it isn’t at all compatible with David Cameron telling British lawmakers that the “moderate” opposition is in a position to hold territory formerly governed by ISIS. Not only are the rebels not in a position to secure towns and cities, they are being routed at Aleppo by the Russians and Iranians. At some point this has to be addressed but for the time being, everyone seems content with being invited to the party.