The Sad Affairs of the British Left



( Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn  via BBC)


A stormy debate erupted when the British PM David Cameron announced his plans to join the anti-Isis coalition. While Mr. Cameron has passionately argued that Britain can no longer “sub-contract” its security to other countries, New Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused Cameron of rushing to war and appealed to those Labour lawmakers who favor the motion to “think again … and please cast your vote against supporting this government’s military endeavors in Syria.”

This debate, although full of articulate and interesting views, has nothing to do with Syria or with how to defeat the world’s most barbaric terror group ISIS, but is merely a reflection of the dismal state of British politics, particularly the British left. The radical left, and its anti-war camp, is indulging in a hungover state, still living in the shadow of a bygone era of the Iraq War while ignoring the growing threat of radical Islamism within Britain.

Once the intention to strike ISIS surfaced, the British left and the anti-war coalition launched a social media blitz using the hashtag “Do not bomb Syria”—I guess because a hashtag advocating “Do not bomb ISIS,” which is the actual mission suggested by the British PM, would look terribly silly. The Do-not-bomb-Syria slogan is more enticing; it gives a false connotation that the mission is about bombing a civilian population of a functioning country, á la Iraq, arousing the demons of the failed Iraq War!

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn argued against airstrikes in Syria under the pretext that they can kill innocent civilians. In his interview on the Andrew Marr Show, Mr. Corbyn failed to mention Assad’s endless atrocities against his own people, which have been going on for four years in Syria. Mr. Corbyn instead focused on possible civilian casualties from the British airstrikes.

It seems that Mr. Corbyn has two tiers of civilians: The first tier includes those who could potentially be killed by British airstrikes and whom, in his view, should be saved by every possible means. The second tier includes civilians who are already the victims of ISIS barbarism and Assad ruthlessness, to whose suffering Mr. Corbyn is oblivious and not willing to offer anything to them except advocating for “a political settlement” in Syria. Mr. Corbyn offered no insights into how this elusive political settlement between a butcher like Assad and his victims can actually work, let alone eradicate barbaric terrorists like ISIS. Mr. Corbyn says France and the US should focus on peace—as if those who behead, crucify, and throw people alive from high buildings want or can be partners of peace.

Furthermore, Mr. Corbyn and his supporters conveniently ignore how the coalition airstrikes have stopped ISIS’s march towards Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. ISIS has transcended borders; if not stopped, it will continue to spread its bloodshed and anarchy throughout the region.

It is true that the British government and the anti-Isis coalition have not yet formulated a coherent plan against ISIS. Strikes can be an effective tool in bombing oil fields and transport trucks, but without an overall plan, strikes will not stop the ruthless terror group. Declining to fight against ISIS, however, is not and should not be the answer.

The Islamic state is a complex enemy that needs a multimodal counter-terrorism approach. As Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International studies (CSIS) rightly highlights, air power is the primary weapon against ISIS’s ability to take more territory, massacre more minorities, raise funds, and create a growing force of foreign volunteers to threaten Europe. Hassan Hassan, author of one of the bestselling books on ISIS, explains that Britain’s greatest contribution to the fight on the ground would be to finesse the campaign. In his words, “Britain is better positioned than other countries to do so through its connections with Syrian forces as well as its alliance with the US.”

Britain has also maintained a good relationship with Turkey, and it can help convince Ankara to start seriously addressing ISIS’s smuggling empire. ISIS smuggles its oil by trucks; those trucks are not invisible, and they have to be stopped. In a suburb report by Buzz Feed published in November 2014, Mike Giglio reported from the Turkey–Syrian border on how ISIS smuggles oil into Turkey while the border guards close their eyes. A year later, it is highly unlikely that the reality at the Turkish border has changed much. Turkey may have started to tighten its borders, but controlling a vast 565-mile border is not an easy task, especially for Erdogan’s government, which openly backs certain players in the Syrian quagmire, like Islamist Ahrar al-Sham group and Turkmen rebels.

Hence, sealing the border completely is not viewed as a strategic priority in Ankara. A British presence within the anti-ISIS alliance will increase the pressure on Ankara.

Robert Fisk argues, “We [British] are not ‘at war’. ISIS can massacre our innocents, but it is not invading us.” He is wrong. ISIS already has a huge supportive network in Britain. In a study by Brooking Institute, 46,000 Twitter accounts support ISIS, with Britain is ranked the tenth on the list of country locations claimed in their profiles. Moreover, a 12-month undercover investigation revealed how a group of British women have been filmed urging other women and children to support and join ISIS. Mr. Fisk is wrong: ISIS has already invaded Britain, albeit on a small scale. Ignoring these homemade cells that are clearly linked with the parent group in Syria and Iraq is not like ignoring a new carcinogenic tumour just because it still has not spread widely. Mr. Fisk also argues that there aren’t 70,000 moderate fighters in Syria. With such logic, if all the anti-Assad fighters are radicals, how can Mr. Fisk and Mr. Corbyn expect a peace deal to be reached in Syria between the pro- and anti-Assad factions?

Moreover, the British left is alarmingly regurgitating the terrorist propaganda that airstrikes are the prime reasons behind their terrorist attacks on Western cities, conveniently ignoring how ISIS killed and raped Iraq’s Yazidis and killed innocents in Tunis despite Tunisia never attacking them. Perhaps leftist intellectuals and politicians think that barbaric groups like ISIS admire Western societies and will not attack them unless provoked?

Mr. Corbyn and his supporters are taking a high moral stance against their opponents and will continue to curse the war on ISIS regardless of the House of Common vote. It is time for the British left to wake up from its delirium and join the fight against the world’s most notorious terror group. There is no time for disingenuous moralism. The region’s dynamics have changed tremendously. Assad’s Syria is not Saddam’s Iraq. Fighting ISIS requires our unity, not an appeasement camp that seeks elusive peace with those who behead people to reinforce its brutal rule on its occupied territories. War is never an exercise in perfection, but an act of necessity.

About nervana111

Doctor, blogger and Commentator on Middle East issues. The only practising doctor who write in Middle Eastern politics in UK.
This entry was posted in Best Read, Middle East, Politics, Syria and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to The Sad Affairs of the British Left

  1. Tim says:

    The West has been interfering in the Middle East since the break up of the Ottoman Empire. So far it hasn’t been a great success. Do you think more interfering without a proper plan will help matters?


    • nervana111 says:

      Dear Tim

      The irony is , no interference in the Syrian case, is actually an indirect interference, as it will empower a barbaric group to dominate, cause mor havoc, and gruesome bloodshed.


  2. bladerunner says:

    There were 12 countries already bombing. We are now the 13th (unlucky for some). Wasn’t the first 5 countries bombing Syria enough to get the job done? Why do we also need to spend billions when we are living in austerity and also supposedly paying off a deficit. I think the general public were more opposed to the bombing and the majority of the Government today has pretty much done a Blair-repeat and said “Sod the public opinion!”

    Even if we do get ground troops and eradicate what’s little left of Daesh, I can bet you my life savings that another fundamentalist group will be born from the ashes and Britain shall continue the old tired merry-go-round of Middle Eastern Wars until we’re out of pocket….we should get the hell out, save billions of british pounds and stop being the bloody Middle Eastern police. Let someone else sort it out for a change. Hell, they can’t do an even worse job than what we’ve done to Libya, Iraq and Afgan.


    • nervana111 says:


      Thanks for you reply.

      The point is not the number of countries, but the rules of engagement. Before the Paris attack, the Obama administration has set very strict rules of engagement that rendered the air strikes frankly ineffective. They have been watching trucks loading oil from the Isis’s oil fields and did nothings. Things have changed after Paris.
      As for the second part your reply, You ate right, it is not just Isis, but radical Islam. The problem is radicalism is now knocking the door of Europe and UK, radicals are recruiting from inside UK, and join the many innocent refugees, we cannot afford to say “let someone else sort it out” any more! We should learn from past mistakes, not run away from the challenge.


  3. Nigel Johnson says:

    HI Nervana, Last night’s vote/result was not about anti war left wing Brits as you put it , it was simply about what’s right and what’s wrong.
    Nothing will be accomplished by uk bombing Syria, We have a exemplary record of making things a lot worse in the Middle East.
    Untill Turkey, Saudis and some Gulf states are rooted out as the enemy and recognised by UK &US (yes i know I’m dreaming, but it’s the truth) nothing will change, Daesh will simply spread .
    I believe what happens in Syria now will not affect what plans Islamists in UK have been planning for years. It’s clear to all , that certain Cretins amongst us just want us to die.
    The vote was futile, the results will be catastrophic to innocent people in Syria.


    • nervana111 says:

      Dear Nigel:

      Thanks for your comment.

      “what’s right and what’s wrong” is NOT a black and white as you simply put it. Without airstrikes would have marched to Baghdad. Are you suggesting that we leave the Middle East to collapse completely and ruled by a bunch of medical Barbarians until “Turkey, Saudis and some Gulf states are rooted out as the enemy”??? Really? Well, if that is your view, then “catastrophe” will happen regardless, and you will happily sleep because it happen without your involvement. But then brace yourself for the aftermath, billion – not million- of Muslims will invade Europe.

      By the way, i do not label Drivers carrying Isis oil as the “innocent people of Syria”
      In fact, the innocent people were the one killed, enslaved, and raped by Isis.


      • Nigel Johnson says:

        Hi Nervana, Thanks for reply.
        I do indeed believe the regime in Saudi Arabia is the crucial factor in all of Middle East problems, followed by other Gulf states. I’m appalled that UK & US bend over backwards to befriend the Vile regime in Saudi Arabia. I don’t need to tell you anything about them because you know much more than me.
        I’m not sure i understand your comment about a billion muslims invading European countries. I’m more concerned about certain minority who are completely crazy & have a crackpot ideology.
        As they live amongst the masses of normal human beings i do not agree with bombing Syria. But I’m not saying as you suggested i was saying to abandon the Middle East. No way do i believe that. I want Daesh wiped off the face of the planet. There is no where in Humanity they should be allowed to live.
        Thanks for your posts on Twitter it always gives a balanced approach and educates in areas i don’t know much about. But i do have opinions about the mess the UK government have caused in the Middle East and yet again after the result last night we find ourselves in another shameful situation.


    • nervana111 says:


      Thanks for you kind comments about my twitter posts.
      I am truly shocked that you classify Britain helping destroying Isis oil fields as shameful. This is one of the best’s FP decision in the recent years. Mixing this with other issues is truly alarming. The Middle East is a mess, and Saudi Arabia has contributed to it, but lets remember that the father of political Islam was not Saudi, in fact, he was Egyptian. Sayer Qutb has inspired all the regressive movements in the world from Al-Qaeda to ISIS. Now you can wipe Saudi Arabia from the map, but this man’s legacy will still continue to haunt us.


  4. Sean says:

    Nervana I think you are well meaning but you are unwittingly acting as a mouthpiece for perpetual war which will only benefit the arms industry and their political cronies. ISIS are awful but to say they are just terrorists and can’t be reasoned with or negotiated with is just hawk speak. Every enemy of the west is demonized to the point where we cease to be believe they are human and they must be destroyed. The same could have been said for the IRA (they blow up innocent men women, and children), so they must be monsters and we must destroy them but peace in Northern Ireland (and in UK) was gained by diplomatic means. ‘Gaddafi was a monster committing genocide we must kill him and blow apart his country, Saddam is a monster, we must kill him and blow apart his country’. Demonization is a tactic used by the west to enter us into war.

    The fact is: the ideology of ISIS is so close to many of our allies. Saudia Arabia beheaded more people this year than ISIS. Are they also monsters who must not be negotiated with and must be destroyed? There is huge support in the Turkish special forces for ISIS because they are one and the same: Sunni militants, they kill their enemies and shout allahu akbar. The fact that ISIS have support all over UK shows you they’re not monsters. They’re proponents of an ideology and bombing Raqqa is not going to destroy that ideology.

    If Turkey were to be convinced or forced to behave as an ally they could hurt ISIS. By stopping their money flow and halting the illegal oil trade, halting the free passage of fighters across the borders, stopping the treatment of ISIS fighters in their hospitals and the actual arresting of known ISIS militants who roam freely in Turkey and are known to MİT as they are on their lists. All this could severely hinder the group without dropping one bomb. Bombing campaigns inevitably cause ‘collateral damage’ and perpetuate the cycle of violence, like a blood feud. Somebody has to be the first to stop it. And when you can’t even get your allies to behave like an ally and not an accomplice how exactly is bombing going to be a solution.


    • nervana111 says:

      Dear Sean:

      There are two aspects to your argument:
      First: Demonization. I was born, lived in the Middle East, met radicals from every sub-ideology of political Islam, and my assessment, Isis is the worst I met in my entire life. Comparing this pure evil to IRA is frankly offensive. Did the IRA took slaves and put a price tag for them based ok their age, youbgest (less thab 9) is the most expensive? The group’s barbarity is shocking even for the locals who are used to encounter medeival ideas within their culture!

      As for the allies, I explained how this is important and need to be addressed, but we cannot stop until the allies are behaving reasonably. In fact, I would argue that the current campsign has already put pressure on Turkey to crack down on ISIS activities within its border.
      Finally, let me repeat, without strikes, ISIS would have conquered Baghdad long time ago.


      • Sean says:

        I do not wish to sound like some sort of sympathizer of ISIS, their crimes are vicious, heinous and cruel. However we must remove the idea of ‘pure evil’ from our mindset. We are not George W. Bush and we do not live inside a Star Wars movie. They are men. ISIS did not invent slavery we all know of the heinous disgusting brutality of the American slavery of black people. Were the Americans to be negotiated with? ISIS’ crimes really are medieval. And when the godless, evil vikings sacked towns; they killed men, women and children and took slaves but when it was necessary even they were negotiated with. ISIS have leaders, ideologues and strategists and the brutal foot soldiers will obey their masters. I believe John McCain and al-Baghdadi already know each other after having met in person.

        Maybe bombing is necessary. Personally I believe while their supply lines are open, money flows into their coffers, they can recruit from all over the world, bombing cities will just propagate the violence and be a very effective recruiting tool as innocent people who survive as their homes and family are collateral damage will have nowhere else to turn.


  5. Reblogged this on Mark Geoffrey Kirshner and commented:
    Righteous Lady Always Get’s It Right ***** Dr Nervana Mahmoud


  6. Kıvanç Sunak says:

    Very-well said. You are like voice of secular, rational, enlightened people in the Middle East. I 100% approve your message from Turkey.


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