Opinion polls show that a majority of the British public are opposed to the government escalating UK intervention in the Syrian war. On Thursday 9 May 2013 at 3pm, Stop the War Coalition delivered the following letter to David Cameron, UK prime minister, at 10 Downing Street, urging the government to abandon its interventionist policies.
Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing to express our alarm at the increasing intervention by the UK government in the civil war which is now taking place in Syria. We believe that the future of Syria is for the Syrian people alone to decide, and that your actions can only worsen the situation.
Your campaign to increase the provision of arms to the Syrian opposition in response to allegations of chemical weapons being used makes no sense. There is no clear evidence that chemical weapons have been used, or by whom. Carla Del Ponte, a member of the UN Commission of Inquiry taking testimony from victims of the Syrian conflict, has recently expressed ‘strong, concrete suspicions’ that sarin nerve gas is being used by opposition forces. And even in the event that chemical weapons have been used, you have failed to make the case as to why arming one side would improve rather than aggravate the situation.
There has long been covert arming and provision of aid to the opposition by various powers, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UK, France and the US. Israel has now engaged in its second bombing raid on Syrian territory, in flagrant violation of the rules of international law.
The lifting of the EU arms embargo and the direct arming of opposition groups can only further fuel what is already a bloody civil war which is causing immense harm to many Syrians and which is threatening to further destabilise the whole region. Already fighting has spread to parts of Iraq.
The aim of the intervention so far has been to effect regime change, again illegal under international law. The solution in Syria cannot lie in further militarising the conflict, or in intervention by Western powers.
We fear that the aim of those intervening is to change the face of the Middle East, by weakening the influence of Iran through attacking its allies such as the Syrian government and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The recent Israeli air strikes on Syrian targets are part of this process and represent an act of war against another country.
We believe that it is for the people of the Middle East to decide their own future and that the Western powers have a record and history of intervention there which has been a key source of the region's problems. We also believe that majority opinion in Britain, according to recent polls, is against such intervention, especially if it is designed to effect regime change.
We therefore urge you to abandon your interventionist policy.
Jeremy Corbyn MP Chair, Stop the War Coalition
Lindsey German Convenor, Stop the War Coalition
This is mission creep on speed.
Two weeks ago we were told Britain would have no combat role in Mali and we would send just two transport planes. Now we are told the government is sending 350 British military personnel to Mali and West Africa to support French forces.
Prime Minister David Cameron is "keen" for Britain to get more involved in war on a new continent. He sent national security advisor Sir Kim Darroch to Paris to discuss what help Britain could provide. He has personally phoned French Prime Minister Hollande to offer more help and he is "keen to continue to provide further assistance".
The British government says it is prepared to send a "sizeable amount" of troops to provide military assistance to France.
This is how major wars begin. In the early 1960s, the United States started with a few "special advisors" in Vietnam. More than a decade later it left defeated, with over 50,000 American troops and at least two million Vietnamese killed.
Forgetting historical example is one thing. Ignoring the last few years is extraordinary. The disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- and the attack on Libya -- were presented as humanitarian operations, complete with images of cheering local populations greeting western intervention -- soon replaced by the devastation of the countries and huge death toll for the people they were meant to "liberate".
The spread of the "war on terror" to the Sahel region in Africa is a result of the chaos created by the Libyan intervention. It is also driven by the same motivations as previous wars, the desire to control vital energy reserves and other mineral resources. The region contains some of Europe's most important energy sources.
The Mali intervention will end with the same results: destruction, loss of life and deep anger against the west.
How long before the presence of thousands of western troops in their old colonial stomping grounds inflames new violence and resistance?
Stop the War Coalition, 29 January 2013
Joint statement by United National Antiwar Coalition (USA) and Stop the War Coalition
On the weekend of May 19, NATO officials will gather in Chicago. Military action against Iran will be high on NATO's agenda.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu calls Iran 'an existential threat' and both the Republican and Democratic leadership in the US is in favour of 'tough action'.
Pressure for NATO intervention in Syria is also growing.
NATO is masquerading as a champion of democracy, while its members back dictators in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Military intervention will inflame the fighting. Its only aim will be to increase the Western powers' grip on the region.
NATO will also discuss the occupation in Afghanistan.
Though the war is clearly lost, occupying forces are set to stay for at least two more years. Keeping NATO troops in place will lead to more atrocities and make a negotiated peace much more difficult.
The US and the UK are the lynchpins of the NATO coalition and responsible for more wars of agression around the world than any other power.
UNAC and Stop the War Coalition will therefore be holding major protests in the US and the UK to say no to a new war on Iran; to oppose the threat of intervention in Syria; and to call for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
There is a clear danger of yet another war in the Middle East. The United States and Britain are turning their attention to Syria, with the intention of engineering regime change in their favour.
Stop the War Coalition fully supports the right of the peoples in all the countries of the Middle East to determine their own future and assert democratic rights. We are therefore implacably opposed to any external intervention, especially military intervention, in Syria.
In relation to Syria, any military intervention will most likely be even more destructive and costly than it was in Libya. It will increase Arab and Muslim alienation from the western powers. Most Syrian people, while demanding democratic rights, would oppose any such interference.
Public opinion in Britain would not support any further military adventures of the type seen in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, especially at a time when government austerity policies pose a growing threat to living standards.
NATO is already manoeuvring to weaken Syria through sanctions, which have never been an alternative to war as much as a prelude to it, acclimatising public opinion to the “inevitability” of war. It is also interfering politically, trying to ensure that the Assad regime is replaced by one with a pro-western orientation, rather than one based on those forces which have struggled for years to create a democratic and anti-imperialist alternative.
Stop the War Coalition believes the Syrian people should assert their own democratic rights and determine their own system of government without the kind of external interference which has proved so disastrous in Iraq and Afghanistan, and looks like working no better in Libya. We therefore oppose any foreign attempts to create an unrepresentative “government-in-exile”, which would have no purpose beyond further legitimising the case for military intervention.
World opinion, as expressed at the United Nations, is also clearly against any interference in Syria, with China, Russia, India and Brazil among those opposed. The US and Britain are therefore looking once more to the Arab League, and in this case Turkey, to provide a cover for their war policy. However, the world will not get fooled again after the experience of Libya, where a supposed intervention “to save civilians” developed into a regime change war which cost at least 30,000 lives.
Stop the War Coalition therefore opposes all foreign military intervention in Syria.
Stop the War Coalition, December 2011
Ten years ago terrorists used hijacked aeroplanes to destroy the Twin Towers in New York City, killing nearly three thousand people. This was a crime which Stop the War Coalition condemned at the time, and it reaffirms that condemnation today.
It was a terrible crime for which there can be no justification. It was not, however, an act of war. That has been the view of the anti-war movement from the outset. It is an opinion which even a former head of MI5 has recently gone on record as endorsing.
For the US administration of the time, with the British government of Tony Blair in close support, it was however the signal to initiate a war which continues to this day and has cost hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives without justification or gain.
This war has laid waste to Iraq at immense human costs in an aggression without lawful sanction conducted on a basis – to secure non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” – at best specious and at worst mendacious. It imposed on the Iraqi people an illegitimate, bloody and ineptly-administered occupation, which has entrenched sectarianism and failed to produce a functioning government, and which continues to this day.
It has also consumed Afghanistan in a war which has continued long after its initial objective – the removal of al-Qaeda's infrastructure in the country – had been achieved. The occupation seeks to maintain a corrupt and dysfunctional client regime which is an affront to the Afghan people.
The war in Afghanistan has spread to Pakistan, destabilising the state there and raising the dangers of a wider regional conflict involving nuclear-armed powers. And thousands of Libyans have died as a result of a NATO attack ostensibly about protecting civilians but really designed to impose a pro-western goverment on the country.
The “war on terror” has also undermined civil liberties and human rights across the world, from the scandal of state-sanctioned torture to the outrage of Guantanamo Bay. And far from reducing the danger of terrorism worldwide, the war has reinforced all those discontents which can lead to such a response.
Our view, from 2001 onwards, that the war has nothing to do with fighting terrorism but was about projecting US power around the world and in particular extending its control over the resources and peoples of the Middle east and South Asia has been abundantly confirmed.
In all of this the British government has been deeply complicit. The war in Iraq was imposed on the British people by Tony Blair against the wishes of the majority. The government broke international law, ignored the United Nations, connived at torture and other crimes and sent the British Army into two illegitimate and futile wars in which hundreds of soldiers have lost their lives and thousands have been physically or psychologically maimed.
The British people have paid a price for this. Civil liberties and community relations have been placed under great strain. Billions of pounds have been wasted on war. Trust in the honesty and integrity of politicians and our democratic process has been deeply damaged. This is the bill for Tony Blair’s determination to subordinate this country to the foreign policy of the USA.
The Stop the War Coalition takes pride in the movement is has developed against the war since 2001, a movement which has articulated the views of the majority of the British people.
We are proud of our alliance with the Muslim community in Britain, in particular with the British Muslim Initiative (and earlier the Muslim Association of Britain), which has been a source of immense strength and has broadened our political perspectives. Stop the War will continue to stand alongside the Muslim community in resisting the Islamophobia which has been stoked up by the war.
We also salute the brave families of British soldiers who formed Military Families Against the War, an unprecedented political development. Stop the War pays tribute to the school students and trade unionists who walked out against the Iraq war, to our alliance with our sister organisation CND, and to all the hundreds of thousands of people who have campaigned against the war and Britain’s involvement in it.
They have all been the real voice of our country, and have helped redeem its standing in the eyes of the world, so damaged by the actions of Tony Blair and his successors.
On this tenth anniversary of 9/11, Stop the War renews its commitment to continue to oppose the war until it is ended. We demand in particular:
Stop the War Coalition, 11 September 2011
- The full and immediate withdrawal of all British troops from Afghanistan, and support for a political process to end the conflict there.
- An end to NATO bombing in Libya and an end to all interference there.
- The withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, as previously agreed.
- No extension of the war through attacks on Iran, military intervention in Syria or elsewhere.
- An unconditional commitment by the British government to abide by international law and the decisions of the United Nations
- An end to the subordination of British foreign policy to that of the USA
- The rejection of Islamophobia and all racist attitudes stoked by the war
- The full defence of civil liberties.
A new war has been declared in the Middle East. With the bloody and failing
occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan still in place, the USA, Britain and France
are now committed to an escalating armed intervention in Libya.
The decision to attack Libya and impose regime change – for that is what the
UN resolution means – may have been authorised by the Security Council. But
it was instigated by the despots of the Arab League, desperate to secure deeper
western involvement in the region to save them from their own peoples. And it
will be implemented by the same powers which have wreaked such mayhem
throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds over the last ten years and longer.
The imposition of a “no-fly zone”, air attacks on Libyan defences and
Gaddaffi’s troops, and naval bombardments will not bring peace to Libya nor a
resolution to the conflict there.
They will, however, cost more civilian lives and they will set Britain and the
world on an escalator of military intervention which risks ending up with an
occupation of at least part of Libya.
While few people are admirers of the Gaadaffi regime, the experience of Iraq
underlines the dangerous futility of trying to impose “regime change” from
without. It also reminds us that genuine democracy and freedom cannot grow from
aerial bombardment and foreign occupation.
Attacking Libya and sponsoring the Gulf oligarchies’ invasion of Bahrain to
prop up the threatened monarchy there – under the noses of the US fifth fleet
- are of a piece. They represent a concerted effort by the western powers to
first control and then bring to a halt the Arab revolutions, leaving the
essentials of imperial power in the Middle East in place.
David Cameron’s decision to place Britain in the vanguard of efforts to
topple the Gaddafi regime is dictated by the same considerations which led Tony
Blair and Gordon Brown to embrace that same regime – a desire to maintain
BP’s profitable access to Libyan oil.
Stop the War believes that there should be no external military intervention in
Libya. In supporting the Arab revolutions, we believe that these will be
strangled, not supported, by western military action.
We call on the British government to keep its hands off the Middle East and
demand that it refrain from all involvement in military action in Libya or
elsewhere in the region. We urge the anti-war movement to campaign throughout
the country to arrest and reverse this slide to war and British participation
Stop the War Coalition unequivocally condemns Thursday's terrorist attacks on the people of London. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. There can be no justification for such attacks. We urge everyone to resist any attempts which may be made to use these crimes to stir up anti-Muslim hysteria or attack the Muslim population of this country. We emphasise the importance of solidarity, peace and justice as our guiding principles in addressing the crisis scarring the world today, of which the bombings are a dreadful manifestation. It is clearer than ever that the "war on terror" in which Britain has been so heavily involved has not, in fact, made the world safer from terrorism. Britain's security services warned Tony Blair two years ago that a war on Iraq would make such attacks more likely. That warning has now been tragically borne out in London.
Jeremy Corbyn MP, joined by peace campaigners and activists, delivered a letter the UK Foreign Office on Wednesday 20 March 2003, calling on prime minister David Cameron, foreign secretary William Hague and the British government not to exacerbate the conflict in Syria by supplying even more arms to the region.
European Union foreign ministers are set to meet in Dublin on Friday 22 and Saturday 23 March to discuss lifting an arms embargo on supplying weapons to the conflict. On the tenth anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the Stop the War Coalition is adamant that such action is likely to inflame the situation and lead to further suffering for the Syrian people, and risk a wider regional conflict.
The United Kingdom and France have been leading the charge to overturn the embargo, and for this reason Stop the War is campaigning against the actions of the British government.
The text of the letter reads as follows:
Dear Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary
We write to express our alarm at your call for the EU arms embargo on Syria to be lifted. We deplore the fact that the Syrian conflict has resulted in a destructive civil war, and urge you to acknowledge that supplying more weapons for this conflict will make a bad situation worse.
Fighting in Syria has already spilled over into Lebanon and Iraq. Increasing the number of weapons circulating in this heavily-armed region carries the clear danger that an escalating conflict may encourage a regional war.
The people of Syria are experiencing a tragedy of huge dimensions. In February this year, the United Nations estimated that 70,000 have already died as a result of the conflict, many of them civilians. Over 200,000 more Syrians have fled the country and between four and six millions are internally displaced.
We call on you to take no action likely to increase the conflict. We call instead for the governments of Britain and France to throw their weight behind an inclusive Syrian-led solution and help bring this civil war to an end. We urge the European Union meanwhile to uphold its arms ban.
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Chair
Lindsey German, Convenor
Stop the War Coalition, 20 March 2013
Once again western powers are using anti-islamist rhetoric to justify colonial interventions. Two days of French air strikes have already killed many civilians and is certain to inflame an already volatile region. The civil war in Mali is a direct consequence of the disastrous intervention in Libya, and shows that the War on Terror is a source of instability in Africa as in Central Asia and the Middle East.
France's intervention in Mali is part of a growing scramble for Africa. France occupied Mali as a colony until 1960. It was at the centre of its historic colonial empire and is now at the heart of its effort to control a mineral-rich area including Senegal, Burkino Faso, the Ivory Coast - all former colonies in which the French once again have troops. French President Hollande's call for tighter security at home is a recognition that growing western interventions in Africa are making the world a much more dangerous place.
That Britain was the first to support the French adventure - with no democratic discussion or debate - only shows how keen the government is to participate in a new rush for influence on the African continent. This intervention is being packaged as a war for democracy despite the fact that the regime in Mali is the product of a military coup in 2012.
We are told that Britain will not put troops on the ground. But the two RAF transport planes that have been sent to Mali are full of 'personnel' as well as military equipment, and the danger is that, as fighting intensifies, that Britain will get further drawn in to an intervention that has already been backed by the US government.
It is extraordinary that the government has not learnt from the terrible legacy of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The experience of the last decade and more has been that foreign wars bring nothing but suffering, destruction and instability. Stop the war condemns the intervention in Mali, and calls on the government to withdraw all support immediately.
Stop the War Coalition, 14 January 2013
NATO's withdrawal of its personnel from all Afghan ministries today is an indication that they are losing control of the situation in the country.
Earlier two senior NATO officials were shot dead in the most secure section of the Interior Ministry in Kabul, itself the the most heavily guarded building in the capital.
The shootings coincided with demonstrations across the country in protest at US soldiers burning copies of the Koran. Those protests in turn indicate an intense bitterness towards the NATO forces and that the Afghan people want the occupation to end.
This is hardly surprising. The level of violence in Afghanistan has been rising year on year since 2006. Afghans have become so used to NATO attacks on their public ceremonies that, in the most contested areas, traditional outdoor weddings have all but disappeared.
Meanwhile the much promised reconstruction has not materialised and the country remains near the very bottom of the UNDP development index.
Continuing the occupation will only prolong the violence and the immiseration of the country. Isolated as they are, the foreign forces are only being kept in Afghanistan to save face for the politicians who have backed the war.
NATO forces should be withdrawn immediately in order to allow the Afghans to determine their future.
Stop the War Coalition, February 2012
We are extremely concerned at reports that plans are being drawn up for an attack on Iran
The case being made for war on Iran is based on a series of speculations about 'undisclosed nuclear-related activities' reminiscent of the disproven 'intelligence' about weapons of mass destruction used to justify the disastrous attack on Iraq.
The West's attitude to Iran's nuclear weapons is hypocritical and contradictory.
The US and its allies remain silent about Israel's covert nuclear arsenal, the only one in the Middle East, while they are tightening the campaign of sanctions against Iran without real evidence.
Such an attitude, combined with threats of military action, can only serve to isolate and antagonise Iran.
The US is already flooding the Gulf region with arms and increasing its forces deployed in support of the autocracies in the Gulf.
Simply ending its militaristic posture towards Iran would ease tensions dramatically.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have had disastrous consequences including the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and the displacement of millions.
Any attack on Iran would risk a wave of destruction across the region. Plans for an attack, along with sanctions against Iran, should be scrapped immediately.
The British government must pledge to have no involvement in any military action against Iran, including not allowing Diego Garcia to be used as a launch pad for air strikes.
Stop the War Coalition, November 2011
The fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya marks yet another turning point in what has been a truly remarkable year in the Middle East. The victory of the rebels, backed by Nato bombing in a six month campaign initiated by the British and French governments, also heralds the rehabilitation of a discredited doctrine -- that of 'humanitarian intervention' -- after the debacle of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The defeat of Gaddafi is now being used to justify military action on the grounds that it has helped the Arab revolutions. David Cameron declared outside Downing Street 22 August 2011, 'This has not been our revolution, but we can be proud that we have played our part..'
The hypocrisy of Cameron is staggering, given the role of British and other western governments in backing up dictators and despots in the region -- only halted in some places by the actions of the Arab people themselves.
The Nato intervention has not been for idealistic values. It has been about regime change, so that a leader more acceptable to western governments and business could replace Gadaffi.
Right to the end, NATO was bent on a military victory and bringing the Transitional National Council (TNC) -- the Benghazi administration -- to power in Libya by force of arms. All proposals for talks to achieve a political solution – whether from within Libya or outside - have been brushed aside.
While many Libyans may welcome the outcome, and will be glad to see the back of Gaddafi, it has a number of negative aspects.
From the international point of view, the most significant thing is that the government of another Arab state has been changed by external force applied by the big imperial powers. There is no real suggestion that the TNC could have come to power unaided. The NATO military intervention, stretching beyond breaking point the mandate given by the United Nations, has been decisive.
This will not be the end of the story. The experience of Iraq teaches that the overthrow of a regime under such circumstances by no means signifies the end of the war. Whether those who have supported Gaddafi will meekly accept the authority of a new government imposed under such circumstances is open to question.
Whatever happens, the deep divisions within Libyan society remain. Likewise, given that the TNC is an amalgam of forces, ranging from the democratic to the Islamist to leaders who are the direct employees of western interests, it may have neither the capacity to resolve existing differences nor the ability to prevent the emergence of new ones, within its own ranks.
David Cameron spelt out the close role Britain and the other western powers will expect to have in running Libya, and in how much detail they have been planned, including ‘stabilisation experts who have been planning for this moment…for months.’
Under these circumstances, the main demand must be an end to all forms of NATO interference in Libya – not just the end of the bombing, but the withdrawal of special forces and a halt to all forms of political interference. The only solution to the crisis in Libya will have to be a Libyan solution. Recent history, from Iraq to Afghanistan, teaches that too.
But beyond that, we must recognise the danger that even a passing 'success' in Libya may embolden the US, British and French governments to believe that the idea of 'liberal interventionism', discredited after Iraq, can be revived on a broader scale. Of course, however it ends the Libyan conflict has not gone as expected and none of the leaders of the aggression have dared introduce ground troops into the war. Nevertheless, the danger of extending the intervention to Syria as part of a programme to control and suppress the “Arab Spring” is not inconceivable and must be mobilised against.
The old rulers will not be missed if and when they depart. The decisive issues – genuinely democratic and popular regimes across the Arab world, the exclusion of great power interference in the region and justice for the Palestinian people – remain in the balance and require our solidarity.
How many more Iraqi, UK and US deaths are to follow before the occupation of Iraq is brought to an end? The Minstry of Defence admit that they have no control in Basra and the surrounding region, that they are confined to barracks with only the occasional foray in helicopters since the roads are too dangerous. This is a farce and, for the lives of the five airmen in the crashed helicopter and the Iraqis killed in the firefight on the ground, a bloody farce. How many more times must we call for an end to this occupation? Stop the War Coalition and a growing number of military families and military experts demand answers to these questions and for those responsible to be brought to account.
"We have lost the consent of the people of Iraq to be in their country. The troops should be withdrawn immediately."
Ben Griffin (ex SAS trooper who served in Baghdad)
"My son died for no reason and now other mothers have to face this fact. My sympathy goes out to the loved ones of those killed in the helicopter downed in Basra and to the families of the Iraqis who were killed in the ensuing firefight. Enough is enough. Bring the troops home now."
Rose Gentle (mother of Gordon Gentle, killed in Iraq)
"The situation in Basra has not changed overnight. Something like today's crash, and then large numbers of soldiers on the streets, triggers an underlying resentment that our troops are basically occupying forces."
Major Charles Heyman, (defence analyst and editor of The Armed Forces of the United Kingdom)