Parliament considers Syria

They have been debating the Syria bombing in the House of Commons over the last two days. This is Parliament’s page on the 2nd day of debates which is based on a motion put by Alice McGovern MP (Labour). Jeremy Corbyn instructed Labour to vote against, spoke against it and the debate is recorded in Hansard here, together with the voting record. The previous day, the Prime Minister made a statement to the house, the web page with links to the video and Hansard record is here…. I watched a couple of hours; it’s dispiriting stuff, the PM makes every other speech, and half the remainder are Tories and Labour’s Refusniks were out in force.

Here’s how the argument goes, the use of chemical weapons is a humanitarian crime, despite the fact that the two organisations responsible had not determined that such an attack had taken place, nor that military force was to be used, the Governments of the USA, France & the UK had decided that bombing targets in Syria was an appropriate & legal response.

Only the British Government has published its legal reasoning. They argue that Sovereigns have the right to make humanitarian interventions without permission from the UN. That would require the act of a chemical attack to have occurred and the western power’s action to have reduced the likelihood of further attacks.

The right to make such humanitarian interventions is controversial and has never been agreed by the UN nor any international court. The attack has not been confirmed by the international body designated as responsible, and it’s highly questionable if the actions will improve the lot of the Syrian people. This is why the claim to have degraded the chemical warfare capability of the Syrian Government is so important. Otherwise its just recreational!

The argument that the UN had failed to act because Russia was cheating does not give the Governments of the USA, UK & France the right to substitute their judgement for that of the Security Council. As Dapo Akande argues in his legal opinion for Tom Watson, if nothing else there’s always the UN’s Uniting for Peace process which is designed to deal with a deadlocked Security Council. The UN flawed as it is, is our only hope. The three governments have weakened its authority. A further option was as Corbyn says, to support the OPCW and continue to pressurise Russia by diplomatic means. …

And they did it.

In the early hours of yesterday morning, the armed forces of US, UK & France bombed three Syrian Government sites. 😪

In the UK, there has and will be much comment on the Prime Minister’s lack of mandate both from the UN and from the UK Parliament. …

Some more on Syria

This is the first time I have missed storify, I used it to capture inspirations for blogs but here’s a couple of things you might like to read on whether to bomb Syria. It seems that my cautious, only if legal line has some controversy amongst some friends.

The Guardian has some letters and comments in an article called “Syria, the west’s response and international law“, they report the Government’s response in calling for a robust response to Syria’s chemical weapons attack, which is also reported by the BBC

Corbyn has commented, arguing for a UN led approach.

And the Canary reports on a lawyer’s round robin published at Radio Free, which is interesting because it so clearly states the law.

I also found this, “When it comes to Middle East policy, the UK is nothing but a rogue state“, which, details a number of failings of the UK to honour it’s international legal commitments, from sanctions busting, to illegal weapons supply, and the use of “advisors” in war zones.

I also looked up what the UK did and thought over Gulf War II, and found this, this & this. While some are less clear than others, the following quote is from the Radio Free article

… military strikes by the United States of America and its allies against the Syrian Arab Republic, unless conducted in self-defense or with United Nations Security Council approval, are illegal …

must be central to what limits decent people. …

Bombs away again

Bombs away again

Here we go again! What more do the warmongers want us to do in Syria? The RAF is already participating in the “coalition air intervention”. In 1944, the victorious powers of the 2nd World War created the United Nations, criminalised aggressive war and authorised the UN to determine if, when & how collective military action was required. The UN will not authorise revenge or punishment bombing raids, even if only the Russian veto stops it. The bellicose language used by Trump and the threatened Russian reaction are frightening. Our government should be arguing for restraint and the application of international law not colluding with this disaster. …

Consequences and accountability

Consequences and accountability

There’s no such things as unintended consequences, just poor planning. Last Wednesday the House of Commons voted to authorise RAF bombing of Syria. In the following hours, RAF jets attacked civilian oil installations in Syria. This was reported as using high level free fall bombs. Were there reports of civilian casualties? The government announce an increase in security for the Queen. The government of Syria announces that the RAF attacks are illegal acts of war. Seventy two hours after the vote, Londoners were attacked on the tube, albeit in only one incident with a knife. At the time of writing, there has been no fatal casualties from the London incident. …

Bombing Syria

Bombing Syria

So Parliament is to debate if it should authorise the government to use the RAF to bomb ISIS in Syria. What we must keep in our mind is that we i.e. the British state must only act under the rule of law. While the UN resolution (SC 2249) last week makes military action more likely to be legal, the legality still depends upon the actions to be taken. Many argue that the UN security council resolution changes nothing, because it does not authorise the use of military force under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Any actions need to remain an effective act of self-defence.  …

The politics of intervention in Syria revisited

The politics of intervention in Syria revisited

The Guardian run a retrospective story on Parliament’s decision not to use British military force in Syria after the chemical weapons attacks there. One of the threads in the story is that the old division of powers between the executive and legislature has been irreparably changed. In my mind the precedents and the development of Law needs to be put in the context of the decisions taken about Suez, the Falklands and Iraq, the latter two military interventions both having Parliamentary debates before military action. It should also be born in mind that the US used to have a similar  disposition but changed their laws after Nixon’s escalation of the Vietnam War. …