Five tests for action in Syria that fail the challenge of beating Isis ~ LETTERS, The Guardian, Tuesday 24 November 2015.
Dan Jarvis suggests Britain and others will need to “develop a plan” to ensure that Isis is defeated (My five tests for backing military action in Syria, 24 November). I’d like to suggest a different kind of test: the government should promise to resign if its military intervention does not defeat Isis by this time next year. When you reflect on how unlikely such a promise would be, you realise how unlikely it is that the military intervention will succeed. Instead, what will happen is the usual win-win-win for the main protagonists – the government will pretend we are still a world power and try to look strong by bombing people at no real risk to the lives of our military personnel; more people will be radicalised, abroad and at home (it’s almost as if the Paris attacks were intended to have this consequence); and our old friend the military-industrial complex will be rubbing its hands as our armed forces find another spurious justification for their existence and our increased funding of them, and the arms manufacturers continue to profit from supplying all sides in a conflict that will show no sign of ending.
• Dan Jarvis lists five preconditions for supporting David Cameron’s strategy of bombing in Syria. Sadly, he omitted a sixth: that nothing should happen to make the complex crisis even more unfathomable, such as a Nato member shooting down a Russian military plane. Does the plan Mr Jarvis is signing up to now need to be adapted? Would he agree that every time you engage in military action without knowing for sure what will happen next, you run a very high risk of making a bad situation worse? The interventions in Iraq and Libya are tragic examples.
• Dan Jarvis makes some interesting points about possible UK military action in Syria. He suggests that there must be a wider agenda than just bombing and notes that efforts must be made to cut off routes of supply and funding to Islamic State. You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to know that these come primarily from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, so is he sure the UK and US are prepared to act against allies? I would also add a further condition. Namely that those Labour MPs who voted for the Iraq war in 2003 explain what they have learned from their role in that sorry debacle if they are planning to vote for war again.
• Insisting that the leader of one side in a civil war must go before the conflict has been resolved is scuppering negotiations before they even start. The future of Syria should be decided by the Syrian people, not by Labour MPs with military backgrounds. Britain can help in brokering a deal, but peace or the destruction of Isis will not be facilitated by the bombing of cities with large civilian populations.
• Dan Jarvis is right to highlight the need to ensure that there are plans in place for the reconstruction of a post-conflict Syria. He seeks “assurances” on this point from David Cameron. Are such assurances of any more value than the proverbial chocolate fireguard? When, and if, the conflict finishes, most politicians have more exciting things to do – eg fighting Ukip over the EU, privatising the NHS further, spending many billions on Trident etc – than nation-building in the Middle East.
• In days of old, princes who declared war would lead their forces into the conflict. Should we not pass a law requiring prime ministers to do the same? It might give them pause for thought.
• We the undersigned are seriously alarmed that the government appears to be ready to embark on a campaign of airstrikes in Syria that will, at the very least, play to the expectations of Isis; that may have serious repercussions on civilians; and that does not seem to be part of a thought-through military, political and social strategy for the region. We strongly urge the government to reflect whether this will be an effective response to, or forestalling of, terrorist activity in Europe, and to consider, among other things, its impact on the refugee crisis.
Julia Bray Laudian professor of Arabic, University of Oxford
Walter Armbrust Professor of modern Middle East Studies, University of Oxford
Marilyn Booth Khalid bin Abdullah Al Saud professor for the study of the contemporary Arab world, University of Oxford
Konrad Hirschler Professor of Middle Eastern History, School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London
Clive D Holes Emeritus professor for the study of the contemporary Arab world, University of Oxford
Jeremy Johns Professor of the art and archaeology of the Islamic Mediterranean, University of Oxford
Hugh Kennedy Professor of Arabic, Soas, University of London
Eugene Rogan Professor of the modern history of the Middle East, University of Oxford
Charles RH Tripp Professor of politics, Soas, University of London
• David Graeber’s article (Turkey could cut off Islamic State’s supply lines. So why doesn’t it?, 18 November) simply does not square with realities on the ground.
As a key member of the international coalition, Turkey actively contributes to the fight against Daesh (Isis) and al-Nusra Front in many ways, including through the prevention of supplies and curbing the flow of foreign fighters (FTF). We significantly contribute to coalition operations by providing access to our air space and military bases, precisely for air operations against Daesh. Together with the Netherlands, we co-chair the FTF working group in the Anti–Daesh coalition. Since the beginning of 2015, over a thousand Daesh-affiliated individuals have been detained, and close to 350 Daesh members have been arrested by Turkish authorities.
Moreover, Turkey does not pick and choose between terrorists. Hence, fighting Daesh cannot legitimise other terrorist organizations.
Turkish ambassador in London
• We are shocked and greatly saddened by the murder of innocent people inParis and by the pain inflicted on the friends and families of the victims. Our hearts also go out to the victims and their loved ones in Beirut. Both attacks were atrocities and we strongly condemn them.
We must also remember at this point that western interventions have killed or displaced millions across the world since 9/11 and the initiation of the “war on terror”. Remembrance of all the victims is essential.
It is also necessary for politicians, journalists and academics to address, without hesitation, the underlying causes of Isis attacks. Isis has developed in the context of a regional conflagration in the Middle East precipitated by the US invasion of Iraq. Western governments and their regional allies, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, have, intentionally or unintentionally, fuelled and facilitated groups such as Isis. Serious examination of the role of these actors in giving rise to Isis and the disaster that is unfolding across the Middle East and Europe is of utmost importance. It is also clear that other states, such as Russia and Iran, are part of the broader geopolitical game currently playing out.
The greatest threat to our collective security at this point is simplistic and inaccurate representations, which explain these attacks as purely a product of “Islamic extremism” while ignoring the geopolitical context, of which we, the west, are an integral part. If we allow our political leaders to fall back on such misrepresentations, it will only serve to realise the objectives of those seeking to fuel hatred and violence. An emphasis on Muslim “extremism” and military responses will lead us to repeat the events of the last 15 years, which have borne witness to propaganda and manipulation on all sides, and, among many other events, two disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After 15 years of the “war on terror” we are undoubtedly in much worse shape than we were back in 2001. There are multiple wars in process, civil liberties are being curtailed, the far right is on the rise, Islamophobia is widespread, and there is no end in sight to attacks such as those in Paris and Beirut. To break this cycle, we have a responsibility to look beyond polarised and simplistic (good v evil) frames and engage with the politics, policies and actions that are creating the current violence.
Professor Noam Chomsky Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Professor Ruth Blakeley University of Kent
Professor Penny Green International State Crime Initiative, Queen Mary University of London
Professor Emanuela C Del Re Conflict studies and political phenomena of the Middle East, Roma Tre University
Professor John L Esposito Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University, Washington DC
Professor Natalie Fenton Media and communications, Goldsmiths College
Professor Des Freedman Media and communications, Goldsmiths College
Professor Jeff Goodwin Department of sociology, New York University
Professor Edward S Herman Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
Professor Eric Herring University of Bristol
Professor Jenny Hocking National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University
Professor Richard Jackson The National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago
Professor Jeremy Keenan Soas University of London
Professor Geoff King Film and television studies, Brunel University
Professor Timo Kivimäki Department of politics, languages & international studies, University of Bath
Professor David Miller Social and policy sciences, University of Bath
Professor Julian Petley Department of media, Brunel University
Professor Scott Poynting University of Auckland
Professor David H Price Anthropology, Saint Martin’s University
Professor Francesco Ragazzi Institute of Political Science, University of Leiden
Professor Giles Scott-Smith History, University of Leiden
Professor Christopher Simpson Journalism & Communication, American University, Washington DC
Professor Mike Wayne Head of media, Brunel University
Associate Professor Irfan Ahmad Political anthropology, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne
Hilary Aked Social and policy sciences, University of Bath
Dr Matthew Alford University of Bath
Moazzam Begg Cage
Dr Vian Bakir Bangor University
Max Blumenthal Senior writer, AlterNet, Washington DC
Dr Emma L Briant Journalism studies, University of Sheffield
Remi Brulin Research fellow, History Department, New York University
Dr Justin Cruickshank POLSIS, University of Birmingham
Associate Professor Ana Cecilia Dinerstein University of Bath
Sarah Earnshaw Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Dr Esther Pascua Echegaray Associate professor, history, Universidad a Distancia de Madrid
Dr Phil Edwards Department of sociology, Manchester Metropolitan University
Dr Mastoueh Fathi Bournemouth University
Assistant Professor Muhammad Feyyaz University of Management and Technology, Lahore
Ciaran Gillespie Department of politics, University of Surrey
Dr Mark Hayes Solent University
Dr Emma Heywood School of humanities, Coventry University
Dr Rana Jawad Social and policy sciences, University of Bath
Dr Gholam Khiabany Department of media and communications, Goldsmiths College
Associate Professor Deepa Kumar Media studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick
Dr Arun Kundnani Adjunct professor at New York University
Dr Thomas MacManus School of law, Queen Mary, University of London
Dr Abida Malik Sociology, University of Nottingham; research fellow, Claystone
Dr Sarah Marusek Researcher, Public Interest Investigations, UK
Amir Hamza Marwan Lecturer, Department of journalism and mass communication, University of Peshawar
Dr Narzanin Massoumi Social and policy sciences, University of Bath
Dr Tom Mills Social and policy sciences, University of Bath
Dr Aurélien Mondon Politics, languages and international studies, University of Bath
Assistant Professor Laura F de Mosteyrín Sociology, Universidad a Distancia de Madrid, Spain
Dr Anisa Mustafa University of Nottingham
Dr Féilim Ó hAdhmaill School of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork
Dr Fredrick Ogenga Director, Center for Media, Democracy, Peace and Security, Rongo University
Christina Pantazis School for social policy studies, University of Bristol
Ismail Patel Chairm Friends of Al-Aqsa; research student, University of Leeds
Asim Qureshi Research director, Cage
Dr Sam Raphael International relations, University of Westminster
Dr Piers Robinson University of Manchester
Cathrin Ruppe Lecturer, University of Applied Sciences, Münster
Dr Rizwaan Sabir Lecturer in Criminology, Liverpool John Moores University
Dr Amir Saeed Senior lecturer in journalism and media, Huddersfield University
Dr Gurchathen Sanghera University of St Andrews
Dr Katy Sian Lecturer, University of York
Dr Joshua Skoczylis University of Lincoln
Dr Cassian Sparkes-Vian
Dr Milly Williamson Department of media, Brunel University
Dr Emily Wykes School of sociology & social policy, University of Nottingham
Dr Kalina Yordanova Psychotherapist, Assistance Centre for Torture Survivors, Bulgaria
Dr Florian Zollmann Director of the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Centre for War and Peace Studies, Liverpool Hope University
In parallel, address another long-standing injustice in the Middle East by redrawing the map of the region to include a country called Kurdistan on land in northern Iraq and Syria, and get the Kurds in return to squeeze the well-organised criminals in Raqqa and half of those two failed states until they pop, with a united Arab force providing boots on the ground from the south, east and west, and allied forces (Russia and Nato) providing backup from the air.
This plan will probably be dismissed as misguided kumbaya thinking by many eager for revenge for what happened a week ago in Paris. Instead we’ll probably see our esteemed leaders marching as to war into Iraq and Syria, thereby repeating the mistakes of recent Middle East history. But also in the process potentially sparking a third world war.
Don’t let’s wait for another Paris-style bloodbath before we act. We need to address Islamic terrorism constructively, and we need to address the causes and the proliferation of Islamic terrorism by making a stand against injustice.