Syria

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wonderhorse wonderhorse
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David A David A
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In reply to this post by John Kelly
John, you may well be right! I am delighted the other Miliband is no longer in the frame, and will breathe massive sigh of relief when his brother follows him! I agree with Wonderhorse. I find Ed infinitely preferable to his devious brother (I won't forget the Chandlers in a hurry!) - this one is naive and honest, but I fear hopelessly out of his depth. He need not have instructed his party to vote against, he could have said what Michael Foot suggested "vote with your conscience". It was a very foolish move, and you are right, America now sees Miliband as undesirable as an ally of the USA. Foolish boy!
David A
Jenlo Jenlo
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In reply to this post by wonderhorse
Wonderhorse,

I am very pleased with the outcome that we won't be sending troops to Syria.

However, i do believe Miliband has only voted against as a vote puller for the next general election.

I would like to know of other opinions as to why the Arab states don't do anything.

If it is anyone's responsibility to get involved it is theirs.

My view is the same about Africa, if there is trouble it is up to the other African countries to sort it out not ours.

It is time we made ourselves neutral in every aspect, which of course also includes the EU.
Peter. C Peter. C
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David A David A
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Why did Assad deny UN inspectors for five days before allowing them access? If these facts had come to light prior to the debate in the House of Commons, I believe the result would have been in support of fixed strikes against the Assad regime.

This has swayed my view. Those 450 children and 1000 men and women writhing in agony because of a bully who feels he can do what the hell he likes, and will continue to do so, unless or until someone definitively tells this despot that he has ignored 2 warnings already, and this time it's third and out. It seems France will be supporting the USA in striking Assad where it hurts - I am ashamed my country is ducking out. Cameron is right on this one. I had to put up with bullies at my military College. It was Jeffrey Archer, my housemaster's deputy, who gave me the courage I lacked to stand my ground. It worked. I hit back. I was no longer bullied. I learnt something that day.
David A
The Oracle The Oracle
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I agree with so many of the comments posted on this thread.  There is no excuse for the use of chemical weapons and my heart goes out to the innocent Syrian people who are enduring indescribable misery through no fault of their own. However as many have also said, it is not the job of the UK to continually interfere in other country's problems. There is clear evidence in many instances where we have used military action and it has failed to bring peace in the countries involved and I do not think this action is the answer to Syria's problems. That being said, I also have to admit that I do not know the answer, but all other avenues must be explored and tried in the first instance.

David Cameron's biggest mistake has been his handling of this situation. He has been very vocal in his badgering of the US to take action, along with William Hague (the has been), purely because he wanted to be seen as the "Leader".  As with everything this Government do he dived in head first without considering the ultimate consequences of his actions. Common sense would tell anybody that nothing could be decided until the report from the UN inspectors is available and his decision to recall parliament prior to this was his biggest error. Hours were spent debating the situation without the proof of who was responsible for the use of chemicals (it does seem to be clear that they have been used). As a result he is entirely responsible for the emabarrassing situation he now finds himself in. His pre-emption forced those with more sense to reign him in order to avoid another Iraq debacle. I am not in favour of military action but to have a vote before all the facts are known was sheer folly on his part and even if his unwarranted assumptions are proved to be correct his reputation has been irreparably damaged. The British people have been conned in the past by Tony Blair (who I am now inclined to think
was Cameron's twin at birth) and will not be coerced into supporting any actions without indisputable truth.  

When will these politicians learn, anything less than the truth produces assumptions, and without the truth and transparency that Mr Cameron harps on about but continually fails to deliver, the British people will assume they have something to hide.        
David A David A
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Re: Syria

This my submission to Times Digital this afternoon in response to Matthew Parris's article below from my account (There is another reader's - Mr M. Fishman's - response before mine, which I believe speaks for itself too):

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Published at 12:01AM, August 31 2013
Syria could have been another Iraq. Thanks to the just instincts of this Prime Minister, such a mess has been averted

We’re off the hook. When the dust has settled, polls will show that what yesterday’s papers headlined as a big blow to David Cameron has appeared to most of Britain as welcome second thoughts by a prime minister willing to respond to Parliament’s view.

Thursday’s debate on Syrian intervention was a fine night for the House of Commons, a useful reality check on the humanitarian impulses of a good-hearted Prime Minister, and a deeply sane occasion. Britain has led. It will later become clear that the Americans, too, have their doubts about attack.

Before applauding such an assertion of Parliament’s authority, a columnist should ask himself whether he’d still have cheered if the decision had been one he hated. How would I have felt (say) if on an infinitely less important issue, gay marriage, the Commons, with opinion polls massively supporting it as they do on Syria, had blocked David Cameron’s plans? The answer is that I’d have been disappointed but still felt there was something admirable and right about democracy in action.

And so there was this week. The comparison will be made between the debate Tony Blair initiated on March 18 2003 on the eve of war with Iraq, and the debate on Syria for which David Cameron brought MPs home.

Both prime ministers faced powerful dissent from within and outside their own parties. Tony Blair had privately met the Opposition Leader, Iain Duncan Smith, received an assurance of his party’s support and got it in the lobbies. David Cameron had met the conditions Ed Miliband laid down for Labour’s support, but at the last minute was told that Mr Miliband would take his party into the No lobby against him. Mr Cameron had called the debate early. Mr Blair had delayed debate until the eleventh hour, so that with troops already mobilised he could bounce MPs into agreement, opening the debate: “[The choice is] a stark one: to stand British troops down now and turn back, or to hold firm to the course that we have set.”

Mr Cameron waited for the Commons before setting the course. Mr Blair twisted the truth in a speech about WMDs in which few of his claims have turned out to be true. Mr Cameron acknowledged properly the unknowns and the uncertainties. Mr Blair won his vote and proceeded to a war whose deforming consequences are still with us. Cameron lost, acknowledged Parliament’s supremacy with a good grace, and cancelled his plans. I know which of these two approaches, and which of these two prime ministers, I admire more.

Forks in the road are ready-meals for lazy columnists; but it is just possible that on Thursday night the British Parliament altered the course of Western history. It is certain that the vote has blocked our road to a serious military intervention, and likely that it marks a permanent change of mood in British foreign and military policy. It may even give Washington pause for thought. Before we argue about these alterations, we should pause and reflect on the magnitude of what MPs have done.

All through my adult years, as I’ve watched the House of Commons work, our legislature has been an institution in abeyance, retreat, confusion and recently disgrace. What in your lifetime, what of any great importance, has the Commons forced a government to do that it was not planning to do anyway? When, in the past 60 years, has the Commons stopped an administration doing what it seriously wanted to do? I can offer no better candidates than the failure to privatise the Post Office (for fear of a rebellion) and Margaret Thatcher’s temporary postponement of Sunday trading reform (after a rebellion).

It had begun to look as if the Commons retained a residual power to sack an entire administration (as it did James Callaghan’s) but was losing the confidence to dictate or delete major policy. In foreign and defence affairs it had seemed as though government led while parliaments, often grumbling, followed. Suez? Rebellion was played out in party, not Parliament. Decolonisation, nuclear deterrence, Rhodesia, the Falklands, the Balkans? Parliament was more a theatre critic than an actor in these dramas.

In the chamber itself there have been rumblings and storm warnings but never quite the lightning strike. The battle over Maastricht came close to derailing government policy, but John Major’s whips out-bludgeoned the rebels. With lies, scares and distortions Tony Blair bounced his own MPs into a narrow, eleventh-hour endorsement of the invasion of Iraq. There never was a vote on Afghanistan.

In some of these cases I’d have supported the Government’s argument, in others I’d have shared Parliament’s doubts; but my views are beside the point. What’s telling is our democratic legislature’s reluctance, right or wrong, to kick over the traces.

Until this week. And Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell are the architects of David Cameron’s Commons defeat. It was the way they secured the authority to take Britain into Iraq, and the still- reverberating consequences of that decision, that sowed the seeds of this week’s shock assertion by MPs of their own authority. Syrian intervention has been condemned through guilt by association with spin doctors, dodgy dossiers and a botched occupation.

Ed Miliband’s boxing and coxing and finally letting down of Mr Cameron took place in the shadow of the shame his party still feels over Iraq. It was a disaster whose shockwaves still reverberate through Western foreign policy, and may permanently have changed its course. No wonder Mr Blair strives still to renovate the liberal interventionism he tainted, agitating even this week for new attacks on Syria. This is about his legacy as much as Syria.

I shall get a little personal here. Those among my many British friends in politics and commentary who awoke with sore heads yesterday, lamenting the Commons defeat and horrified by new pictures of dying children in Syria, should ask themselves how well-directed have been their efforts to defend Tony Blair over the years. The politician whose reputation they have struggled to support has murdered their cause.

Other victims of collateral damage from Iraq and Afghanistan deserve mention: the compromising of British Intelligence, and the undermining of confidence in our own Armed Forces (so high after the Falklands conflict) to do the job; we no longer entirely trust assurances from their top brass.

Were it not for these recent memories, Mr Cameron might have won that vote. His failure to do so marks for almost the first time a recognition not only that attack without an exit strategy is unwise in itself, but that there are arenas, and this is one, where Britain will never again have the wherewithal to make a decisive difference.

Perversely, then, we who have been impatient for our country to accept its limitations must be grateful for the way Iraq has (as Mr Cameron put it on Thursday) “poisoned the well”. The case for attacking Iraq was anyway always stronger than the case for attacking Syria. Our Prime Minister has been good enough to ask us if we want to attack Syria. We’ve replied that we don’t, and he’s accepted that.

Good for him, and good for the House of Commons. As another Prime Minister once said: “Rejoice, rejoice!”

@matthewparris3
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M Fishman 5ptsStandardFeatured
26 minutes ago

Once life was simpler, it was a case of “good versus evil”, now it is a case of backing the lesser of two evils, especially in the political mire of the Middle East, whether it be in Egypt, Libya or Syria. The House of Commons vote was an example of voting for the lesser of two evils and the result is being heralded as a triumph for democracy by Matthew Parris and others. The Alistair Campbell school of spin is well and truly alive and kicking.

If I was an innocent child in Syria at this instance, I would feel so much better that any repercussions for my government’s abhorrent action would not be coming from the mother of all Parliaments in Westminster, who have decided to take positive action to remedy the situation and sit on their hands and do nothing. The “no” vote may have been led by the heroic Ed Miliband, allegedly reneging on an all-party agreement, but it took the 30 Conservative bedfellows to make certain the Anglo/ American alliance is far weaker today than yesterday—a situation we may yet live to regret..  

Mr D Akenhead
30 minutes ago

A brave piece, Matthew, particularly on the part contrasting Cameron and Blair. I am a fan of neither, but the former acted with honour in the driving seat; the latter did not. I believe Obama and France will undertake a punishment of sorts for the Assad regime's repeated ignoring of warnings that the use of chemical weapons is verboten, and I believe they are both right to make a stand now to send a clear message to all despots worldwide. Cameron's motion was right, and I regret that my country has chosen to let someone else do what is necessary to deal the bullies the only message they understand.

David A
David A David A
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Re: Syria

I must correct Peter on his assertion concerning Bassel, also called Basil al Assad, elder brother of Bashar and Maher. This guy was killed in a car accident in 1991! He seems to have been a popular and honest man! Just what Syria needed for a future leader. Instead, we got these two wasters. Maher is in charge of armed forces and widely regarded as the author of these latest atrocities.

However my clue "Basil Faulty? Extremely!" still works when we regard Maher as the extreme in the line, Basil, Bashar, Maher as well as extreme in his activities! Hence Faulty? Extremely!
David A
Peter. C Peter. C
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Peter. C Peter. C
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wonderhorse wonderhorse
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Peter. C Peter. C
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John Kelly John Kelly
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Western involvement in Syria would be a magnum class error, the vast majority of Syrians do not want the west to send in ground troops, as that level of intrusion has already proved disastrous in Iraq, and Afghanistan for all concerned.
All they really want is the basic weapons to defend themselves against the attacks of the Assad administration, nothing else!

If the US launch air strikes against Syrian chemical warfare assets there is a very real danger of the west inadvertantly  killing innocent civilians not just because of the explosion's but by spreading the deadly toxins as well. Which will simply add to the legions of disaffected young Muslims who will form the next cohourt of Islamic extremists.

America needs to learn when not to be the policemen of the world.
Peter. C Peter. C
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John Kelly John Kelly
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Peter C,

If it were the case that an air strike against Syrian chemical warfare establishments could vapourise and thus render harmless such toxic chemicals would that not mean that such agents could not be used in concert with any explosive delivery system in the first place?
Peter. C Peter. C
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John Kelly John Kelly
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Peter C,

I have no doubt that the US have military satellites that have been monitoring every movement in Syria 24/7 for at least the last 30 months and are well aware of the exact coordinates of all of Assad's military assets, they will probably have eyes on the ground courtesy of their own CIA units and also those of Mossad, so mounting a preemptive strike against WMD targets and their associated air defence measures would be relatively straight forward to obtain.

Even if the Syrian military have stored these weapons in subterranean bunkers their survivability during a smart bomb/missile attack cannot be guaranteed.
Peter. C Peter. C
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David A David A
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In reply to this post by Peter. C
Peter,

Your knowledge in these matters is clearly more extensive than mine, and you are right in your reply to John Kelly, the billion dollar question surely, is the source of the Sarin attacks, and before that can be determined there should be no further intervention by America or her allies. I hear conflicting reports right now, some even suggesting that there is covert support for the rebels (who include elements of Al Quaeda) by the CIA! I find that hard to believe, but that is what they are saying. On the other hand, I believe it is no secret, either, that Assad has chemical weapons, probably courtesy of Russia or China!

Right now I don't know what to believe, and I don't trust any of them! Maybe that HoC vote was a good thing, after all!
David A
David A David A
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This post was updated on .
Just posted this on Times Digital

Mr D Akenhead 5ptsStandardFeatured
21 minutes ago

Where did the sarin come from? That is the question on everyone's lips, and until that question can be irrefutably answered, there should be no question of a retaliatory strike against Syria. However, if it is as President Obama believes it to be, Parliament should vote again on this matter, and it is beholden on both Cameron and Milband to behave as statesmen and cooperate with each other. This should not be a polarising matter this time. I strongly believe that the use of all chemical weapons needs to be outlawed by the international community, and ANY transgressors duly punished. There must not be a repeat of the massacre of the 21st August.

Later additions:

Mr D Akenhead 5ptsStandardFeatured
28 minutes agoIt's not a question of taking sides! It is a question of doing what is right in sending a clear message to all despots, that the international community outlaws the use of chemical weapons worldwide and retaliatory measures against perpetrators will be taken. In Syria's case it is a question of the culpability of the Assad regime in its alleged role on 21st August, and intercepted telephone calls within the Syrian high command finally being accepted as proof enough that the tragedy was indeed perpetrated by this heinous regime. That should be enough for a swift new vote in the house, with Miliband and Cameron showing unity in support of President Obama, before the vote in Congress and what I suspect will be a landslide majority for him when they vote, especially after Republican John McCain's support for him today, else Britain risks exclusion and severe and lasting damage to the special relationship. Miliband's pathetic party posturing after this real tragedy must not be repeated. He must respect, that not only is the credibility of his own party on the line here, but also any future he may aspire to in politics in Britain. We must regain our credibility by acting rapidly, and reaffirming our faith in President Obama, who is no warmonger.

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Greg Miles 5ptsStandardFeatured
4 hours agoIf the Americans attack there will be lots of collateral damage - that means innocent women and children killed.  Will your editorial look as wise then ?

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Mr D Akenhead 5ptsStandardFeatured
8 minutes agoThis may not happen with careful, precision targeting, and, like you I pray it doesn't, but it's not as if the regime haven't ignored repeated warnings, and now Obama has to act to retain his own and the West's credibility. He could try patching things up with Putin who also says he regrets the use of chemical weapons (which we, to our shame, might have even had a hand in supplying in Syria's case, if a report in a UK journal earlier last month is with substance). I will always prefer jaw jaw to war war, if that is possible. Otherwise, I have to support some form of restraint.

David A
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