Watch Emily Thornberry dismantle the government’s disastrous new plans for Syria

Emily Thornberry, Donald Trump and Theresa May
Support us and go ad-free

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry has dismantled the Conservative government for its apparent Donald Trump-led policy on Syria.

In the Commons, Thornberry argued that Trump is poised to “commit to a strategy of regime change in Syria” adding that would be a “gravely serious step for the UK to take part in”.

In response, Conservative minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt made clear that the government was prepared to attack Syria without parliamentary approval again, in the event of an unverified chemical attack.

“Much stronger” response

Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton recently aired publicly that both the UK and France have agreed to a “much stronger” response if there’s another chemical attack in Syria. And that may well happen. The Syrian government is preparing to launch an offensive against Idlib, the last major rebel-held enclave. U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura has warned about possible chemical weapons attacks from both the Syrian government and terrorist opposition groups like al-Nusra. The U.N. has also warned about a looming humanitarian crisis as portions of the area’s 2 million population are displaced and caught in the warfare.

‘Assassinate Assad’

Thornberry referenced Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward’s book, which claims Trump ordered his defence secretary to assassinate Syrian president Bashar al-Assad following the chemical attack in April 2017. Trump later carried out airstrikes in response and denies Woodward’s account.

“Escalating Britain’s military involvement”

In April 2018, another chemical attack happened in Douma. Thornberry pointed out that the Conservative government bombed Syria in response “without seeking the approval of the House and without waiting for independent verification of those reports from the OPCW” (the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons).

With that precedent in mind, the MP for Islington South and Finsbury asked the government for two assurances:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

First, will he assure us that if there are any reports of chemical weapons attacks… the Government will not take part in any military action in response until the OPCW has visited those sites… independently verified those reports and attributed responsibility for any chemical weapons used? Relying on so-called open source intelligence provided by proscribed terrorist groups is not an acceptable alternative.

Secondly, if the Government intend to take such action, thus escalating Britain’s military involvement in Syria and risking clashes with Russian and Iranian forces, will the Minister of State guarantee the House that we will be given a vote to approve such action before it takes place, even if that means recalling Parliament?

“The humanitarian motive is limited”

In response, Conservative minister Burt claimed that the airstrikes were “not about intervening in a civil war or regime change” but only to “deter” the use of chemical weapons “in order to alleviate humanitarian suffering”.

It’s worth bearing in mind that comes from a party that has supported wars in Libya and Iraq for resources and power, under the guise of humanitarian aid. Hilary Clinton’s leaked emails offer an insight into this. Her closest advisor, Sidney Blumenthal, stated that there were no real moral reasons to continue the war in Libya seven months before it ended:

The humanitarian motive offered is limited, conditional and refers to a specific past situation.

The Conservative Party joined those wars and hasn’t had a change of direction since: it’s currently helping the Saudi-led coalition desecrate Yemen, where famine threatens millions.

Keeping domestic populations in line

In the Commons, Burt then refused to give any assurances about military action in Syria:

I am not prepared to say at this stage what the United Kingdom’s detailed reaction might be or to give any timescale, because the importance of responding appropriately, quickly and with the safety of personnel in mind will be uppermost in the mind of the United Kingdom.

In other words, the Conservative government appears prepared to follow Trump towards war in Syria, on the basis of no independent verification, and without parliamentary approval.

With Trump’s approval ratings low and the UK establishment facing an existential threat in Jeremy Corbyn, the push for war seems all the more likely. War and foreign threats can encourage citizens to rally around authority (known as the ‘rally effect‘).

We must resist a dangerous escalation that could lead to clashes between NATO and Russia. That’s an existential threat to humanity.

Watch the exchange here:

Get Involved!

– See other Canary articles on Syria.

Featured image via Rwendland/ WikiCommons and The White House/ WikiCommons

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed