July 7, 2015
In Syria, Kurdish fighters have reportedly retaken more than 10 villages seized by the self-proclaimed Islamic State around the ISIL stronghold of Raqqa. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the victory came amidst intensified U.S.-led airstrikes. Speaking on Monday, President Obama vowed to increase U.S. support for opposition fighters in Syria and ramp up what he called a “long-term campaign” against ISIL.
President Obama: “In short, ISIL’s recent losses in both Syria and Iraq prove that ISIL can and will be defeated. Indeed, we’re intensifying our efforts against ISIL’s base in Syria. Our airstrikes will continue to target the oil and gas facilities that fund so much of their operations. We’re going after the ISIL leadership and infrastructure in Syria, the heart of ISIL that pumps funds and propaganda to people around the world.”
Iraqi forces meanwhile are said to be preparing for a counteroffensive to retake the key city of Ramadi from ISIL in the coming weeks.
A Statement by Stop the War Coalition (UK)
July 20, 2015
Revelations that British fighter pilots have been secretly bombing Syria under US command reveal both the government’s contempt for democracy and its subservience to Washington foreign policy. The news makes a mockery of Michael Fallon’s promise of a full debate and vote in parliament on the issue.
Since the start of the “war on terror”, Jihadi organisation has spread from small pockets of Central Asia across whole swathes of the globe. Western bombing in Syria will do nothing to halt Isis. On the contrary it will add fuel to the flames of war engulfing the whole region, and it will lead to an increase in terrorist attacks.
Now it is absolutely true that the overwhelming majority of terrorist attacks take place in predominantly Muslim countries. According to one study the five countries with the highest terrorist risk are Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
But these are not just any Muslim countries. These are amongst the very countries torn apart by western occupations, drones and bombs. Terrorism is part of the bitter legacy of the West’s wars, something that has heaped misery on peoples already reeling from the impact of ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ and associated disasters.
The implication that terrorism kills more people, Muslim or other, than recent Western wars is a travesty. Probably the most in-depth study of the impact of the War on Terror suggests that Western military action has led to the death of two million people since 2001. The spread of terrorism is a frightening and gathering disaster, but it hasn’t accounted for anything like the level of suffering meted out by the West over the last fourteen years.
Now the government and the military are intent on a major escalation in Britian’s involvement in the Middle East. Over the weekend former Chief of the Defence Staff General Richards was talking about the need for tanks and boots on the ground in Syria. Western miltary action against Isis has so far been fruitless. But its not just that escalation will not deal with Isis, it will accelerate the descent of the whole region into chaos, a chaos which is creating the conditions in which Jihadi groups flourish.
A common response is, ‘are you saying we should do nothing?’ The prevalence of this response, particularly in the media, reflects the fact that the only foreign policy that that can be conceived of is one based on military action.
There are obvious things that could be done. We could stop arming and supporting the most reactionary, repressive and aggressive regimes in the region for example.
We could stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia which is fighting a devestating war against Yemen, and along with Qatar – another key Western ally – funding Jabhat Al-Nusra, the Al Qaida affiliate in Syria.
We could end our diplomatic, political and military support for Israel whose persecution of the Palestinian people is one of the great sources of bitterness and dsicontent around the region. We could, too, stop supporting the El-Sisis dictatorship in Egypt which has crushed the hopes of millions in the Middle East and beyond for a popular movemnent for democracy.