Angus MacNeil MP - statement on Syria

Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil. SGD24451.
Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil. SGD24451.

With the UK Parliament to be recalled tomorrow (Thursday) to discuss the current situation in Syria, Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil has said he is “almost certain to vote against war in the Commons”.

Mr MacNeil explained he is worried military intervention could lead to “another blood bath in Syria” although he would like “to see Assad gone”.

See below for the full statement from the MP for the Western Isles:

Syria is to the fore of the political debate in the USA, UK and France. The UK Parliament is being recalled on Thursday 29th August, which is four days earlier that the natural return of Monday the 2nd of September. This sudden haste could indicate that the USA has planned to strike Syria before Monday and that the UK Government is both aware of this and also anxious to be in the action along with the United States and seemingly France.

The backdrop is of course the horrendous use of chemical weapons to kill civilians in urban areas of the Syrian capital, Damascus, with estimates of between, 600 to 1300 killed, mainly in their own homes by a nerve gas attack on the 21st August.

Syria is estimated to have the third largest stockpiles of chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction in the World and along with six other nations including Israel and Egypt is not a signatory to the 1997 UN Chemical Weapons Conventions.

On 17th July 2013 both Sky News and the Independent newspaper reported on the “UK’s £12.3billion arms trade to repressive states” based on a report by the Commons Committees on Arms Export Controls. The report highlighted that “Britain has sold industrial materials to Syria that could have been used to make chemical weapons”.

The Commons Committee said it was “just one example of numerous questionable deals between UK contractors and countries the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) deems to have poor human rights records.”

For context, overall in the Syrian Civil War around 100,000 have been killed, the vast majority of course by what are called ‘conventional weapons’. (Since 1989 conventional weapons are estimated to have killed around a quarter of a million people a year in conflicts round the world).

Of the 100,000 killed in Syria it seems over 40,000 on the minority but ruling Islamic Alawite side have died, with presumably the remainder being on the Islamic Sunni. The small indigenous Syrian Christian population have in the main aligned themselves with Assad’s ruling Bathist Alawites, fearing a repeat of Iraq where the removal of Saddam Hussein’s Bathist Party became bad news for them.

French involvement seems to stem from just after the World’s Empires had fought themselves to standstill in 1918. France and the UK were rivals over who gained control of Syria from the spoils of World War One. France gained the upper hand which is perhaps why France in particular promised a “massive and blistering” response to any use of Chemical Weapons in Syria.

I mention these above points as a little of the background needing to be understood and considered; but also, that presently there is no UN mandate for action. Perhaps just as importantly no report has been published with any firm conclusions from UN inspectors inside Syria on who actually used the weapons - probably unsurprisingly as they are currently on site or returning from Syria.

No thought has been given to what our intervention might cause within the Syrian Civil war or how it might inflame the wider region or indeed pull in Russia, which has been a staunch supporter of Syria. Certainly little thought seems to be given to our own arms trading internationally by the Westminster Government.

Also importantly the House of Commons motion has not been made public with only 24 hours to go, so the terms of what should be proposed involvement are not yet clear. And after the theatrics of Tony Blair in the Labour Government over Iraq, such a consideration of war should not be based on whatever theatrics Cameron’s Conservatives and Lib Dems can pull off in the Commons tomorrow.

Tragically innocents have suffered from Chemical Attack, but other innocents being bombed by US missiles with French and British support does not seem to be an intelligent response. The guilty individuals should be identified and brought to justice. Instead there is a headlong rush for military action which has arisen this week.

With many people asking me why deeply indebted austere Britain is again choosing war in the light of cuts at home, without UN backing, with consequences that we cannot calculate and with the experience of Iraq and Afghanistan in many minds, I am almost certain to vote against war in the Commons.

Seeing all the war memorials we have the entire lengths of the islands from two very different types of wars in the twentieth century I feel we would have to be very sure of our ground before we chose the route of war, given the effects of war are so long lasting, as we know, even in the smallest communities.

The escalation of the Syrian Civil War to international dimensions does not seem to me to be the wisest choice.