Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Dear Steve Barclay MP Re: Syria

Last night I wrote an email to Steve Barclay, the great local MP of North East Cambridgeshire. I am pretty unhappy with current government policy which is on an obvious path to war with Syria so I wrote to urge him to call for the Prime Minister to recall Parliament for a free debate and to not back any more UK intervention in Syria. The email is below.

Dear Stephen Barclay,

I write to you with great concern over current government policy about Syria. It seems inevitable that soon the Government will be moving to war against the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. I implore you to back a Commons Vote on whether we should go to war and also that you vote against military intervention in the Syrian Civil War.

What we saw recently from the Assad government with the mass use of chemical weapons, killing over a thousand of his own people, was an awful atrocity. However, the method surely makes no difference to need for intervention now, especially considering that over one hundred thousand people have already tragically perished in the conflict. What the international community have done by previously stating that the mass use of chemical weaponry was a red line was to arbitrarily set a position where they had to make a decision over whether to intervene in Syria. This red line was not made on the basis of preserving human life because we knew almost two years ago Syria would be torn apart by a bloody civil war. The red line was an attempt from Western governments to make them look tougher on Assad but they did not believe would be crossed. We have however now, almost by accident, sleep walked into having to make an unnecessary decision over Syria.

Firstly I ask for you to demand from the Prime Minster, if he is to back military intervention in Syria, that Parliament be recalled to debate and vote, with no whip in place from the Conservative Party, on whether Britain should militarily intervene at any level in Syria. Anything less than this would be a national travesty despite the Prime Ministerial prerogative power to go to war. War is a serious thing to consider and the public must have their voices heard through their elected representatives. If the Prime Minister does not recall Parliament he will have committed a grave error which will make members of the Conservative Party and members of the general public begin to question his abilities and right to govern, I would be amongst these.

When such a recall takes place I would ask you, for the reasons I shall list below, to vote against any greater intervention in Syria. I am of the opinion that we should not at all arm the Syrian Opposition, along with 58% of the public, or use any British military force against Assad, along with 74% of the public (only 9% of the general public support British military intervention). The British people rightly see that Syrian intervention is a bad thing for the Syrians and for the world; I hope to convince you to follow their sound judgement. 

It is clear we cannot mount a credible attack on Syria. The forces of Assad are some of the best in the Arab World. Attempts to create a no fly zone in Syria will come at great resistance from the very strong Syrian Air force, one of the strongest in the Arab World. It is questionable whether the Royal Air Force with a coalition of allies, like in Libya, could defeat Assad's jet fighters, even if unlike Libya there was American support. I certainly expect there to be casualties on our part if we did try to impose a no fly zone, which will only add to the dead in this war. I also think that there is a high possibility of ground troops being sent to Syria. For whatever reason such intervention will be costly and is unlikely to be successful. Assad's army is very strong is not one to underestimated, especially with chemical weapons. It is likely we'd have to fight a three way war too because our help would be, at least eventually, opposed by Islamists and terrorists already fighting to take over the country. This battle strategy does not seem at all credible; military chiefs do not believe military intervention is sensible and I think we will be facing disaster.

More importantly however there is no clear objective which we can credibly achieve in Syria. If our objective is to protect Syrian civilians we are likely to fail. This war even if we intervene is likely to take a long time and cost many more lives. At the end of it, regardless of which side wins, there will be further deaths from either a vengeful Assad, oppressing anyone who he thought had any connection to the Syrian Opposition, or in a split liberal and Islamist country who would fight over who  is in control of the government, at best this will be mass civil disturbance at worst another civil war (the latter is historically more common).

Any intervention is likely escalate tensions across the region as well because the Syrian Civil War is also a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Both these states have been waging a Cold War for many years now and any intervention by the United Kingdom would make us targets for terrorist attacks from the Iranian government, putting our own citizens lives at risk. Feasibly too, as they nearly did last year before President Obama's re-election, tensions could become so much that war breaks out in the Middle East. I do not think that we should be putting the lives of our Israeli, Iraqi and Turkish allies at risk in a war which would see much life lost. Do not forget also that we would have a duty to defend our allies so British troops would be more at risk.

If our intention is to bring about democracy in Syria our intervention in the country certainly will not help. If we back the Opposition we're chancing that they will create a democratically elected government. The Opposition is currently unorganised and is made up of a large number of Islamists who wish to bring about a Islamic State with no or fake democracy. Such a situation would be backed by nobody credible in Britain. Nobody, not even the security services, can accurately say who is in control of the Syrian Opposition forces. This lack of cohesion is making sure, that unlike with the National transitional Council of Libya, that the Syrian Opposition will lose the war. 

The only feasible way Syria can become a democracy is through a reorganisation of the Syrian Opposition to clearly define whether a future Assad government would be a liberal democracy or Islamic dictatorship. The Syrian people can thus make a better decision on whether to back the opposition and withdraw support for Assad, it is worth noting that many Syrians are concerned of an Islamist takeover and back Assad despite his atrocities. If the Syrian Opposition chooses liberal democracy the Syrian people will more so choose to support the Opposition and thus lead to a more likely downfall of Assad. The only way for a stable democracy to be formed in Syria is for the Syria to choose to accept it and for them to fight for it. Sadly this means deaths that are unavoidable. 

Intervention in Syria can only mean an alienation of the Syrian people, who are much more diverse in strong opinions than in Iraq. In that country 20% of the population supported the previous Saddam government. In Syria the mix is so broad that the amount of support for interventionist forces will be comparable to Soviet support in Afghanistan during the 1980s and 1990s. Our attempt at democracy in Syria will end in failure, with many lives lost, and chaos across the Arab world.

There is thus a strong moral cause against war in Syria. I support current government policy of sanctions, aid and life saving measures being given to the Syrian people. But a change in policy to military intervention will not lessen the amount of civilian deaths in the country, it is most likely to create more, and there is not even a slim chance of creating a successful democracy. I appreciate that many MPs do not decide whether they are to vote for a proposed motion until they have seen it written on the order paper. However this matter is so grave and serious that I ask to know what your opinion is and whether you would vote for British military intervention?

I look forward to your speedy reply.

Yours Faithfully,

Elliott Johnson

Steve wrote a short reply that he will speak to me about this in person next time I see him. I'm sure I will soon receive a full letter with his official reply.

I also wrote a similar email to Lillian Greenwood MP, for Nottingham South (she is sadly Labour), where I live as a student. I asked also what Labour will be doing if Parliament is recalled, which it has been on Thursday.

Please write to your MP about Syria, it is very important.

I'll keep you updated with replies.

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