The situation in Aleppo is moving fast and the question now is how the UK government can proceed. Crispin Blunt is chair of the foreign affairs select committee and Alison McGovern is co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Syria.
Aleppo was just a few years ago a flourishing city of two million people, Syria's economic capital built on a heritage of ancient settlements. Today, entire neighbourhoods are nothing but rubble. Many residents are living in appalling conditions. If our MPs could have foreseen that, how would it have affected the decisions of those who voted against intervention in Syria in 2013 in the wake of President Assad's use of chemical weapons. We will be speaking to two MPs who voted against taking military action against the regime in a moment, but first our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. When we look back on this time on the fate of Aleppo, Jeremy, will Aleppo make a mockery of the idea of international community if a city is allowed to suffer in this way for so long?
I think the concept of an international community in which everybody tries to do the best for everybody else is frankly a nonsense anyway. I think that the West has stepped aside from the mess that's in Syria I think for all kinds of reasons a major one was the feeling that after the lesson taken in the intervention in Iraq in 2013 was that intervention was not going to work and what that has meant for the Western point of view is that there hasn't been any real traction there because the way to get influence in Syria over the last few years is to use force and the West has chosen not to. The Russians, the Iranians, Hezbollah from Lebanon have chosen to do, so they have shaped the environment, if you like.
Stepped aside, yet as the UN's Staffan de Mistura told us the other day, there are twelve countries involved one way or another and obviously the fight against IS is happening in Syria.
Yes, including Western countries, including Britain, including the United States but they have done it in a rather ill-thought out way. If you compare the Western policies involved in Iraq in the last year or so it's a bit more thought out. It is not thought out in a particularly efficient way in Syria and you know the thing the phrase I keep using about the Syrian war is that it is a mini-World War because so many outside powers are involved including really powerful nations, and that's what makes it so hard to try to deal with because all those countries have their own agendas and they don't all involve Syria.
Let me turn then to the two MPs who are with us in the studio: Crispin Blunt, Conservative Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and Labour's Alison McGovern Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Syria. If you had known in 2013 today Aleppo would look as the newspaper pictures and television show us, Alison McGovern, would you have voted differently?
There just isn't a yes/no answer to this because I know that it's extraordinarily doubtful that my vote by itself could have made a profound difference to this situation. Nonetheless, every day I regret perhaps not raising it more and not bringing the Prime Minister back to the House of Commons, not applying more pressure and of course given what's happened you constantly go over and over in your mind what the opportunities were ...
But more pressure to do what? You were given the opportunity to intervene in Syria and you decided against it.
I think if we constantly focus on 2013 important though that it is and I wouldn't dream for a minute of docking any accountability for that but if we constantly focus on that then we're not focusing on Syria now and that's precisely why Andrew Mitchell and I brought the emergency debate to the Commons yesterday. I'm afraid the Foreign Secretary came with very little to say but we could have said was "Here is a strategy to protect civilians", "Here is how we will work with others to get people out, to get aid in however we can and wherever we can and to get accountability and monitoring of some kind, preferably by the UN, but with British monitoring if necessary so that Assad and others know that there will be accountability.
Before we go to talk about what next for Syria, Crispin Blunt, I want to ask you the same question that if you'd been able to see what Aleppo would look like today whether you would have voted differently.
No, I think even with the benefit of hindsight I would have voted the same way because the question we were asked was really about disarming the Assad regime of its chemical weapons. The means by which we were going to do that wasn't going to work and in the end it was the Russians that disarmed its ally of chemical weapons because they weren't prepared to have their ally breaching international law ...
Even if chemical weapons were the issue of the moment, it could have brought the regime down but it certainly would have controlled the regime it was able to do .... [sic]
And then if your mission was then going to take the regime down, then you need to follow through all the following steps and had we evem been prepared to follow all the steps it might now be us in the position of the Russians with the last vestiges of Alawite resistance in the areas they were resisting supporting a Free Syrian Army and finding ourselves precisely in the same position ... [sic]
So it was Iraq that haunted you? Not to end up in a similar position?
It's the lessons of our intervention over the last two decades that if you're not prepared to will the means all the way through to the end around the consequences you're likely to get what happens after you intervene [sic] then you might be better off not starting in the first place, and if you can't get the international community into the same place around the same strategy then one or two actors in the international community then taking on a strategy on their own is very likely.
Alison McGovern, you were talking about a strategy you want the government to put forward for protecting civilians. On the ground in Aleppo today even the UN can't really be part of monitoring this ceasefire it seems even they are unable to give assurances about the immediate protection of civilians.
Well, quite, and it is a very worrying development that we are seeing this morning where what was last night apparently an evacuation now looks delayed and it's incredibly worrying and we need to put pressure on our government to be asking questions about that but it doesn't end in Aleppo. This won't end in Aleppo. There are besieged people elsewhere in Syria and what makes anyone think Assad will finish this in Aleppo? Where will we be next and what will we do? Will we stand by and watch in exactly the same way as it is done elsewhere [sic] and quite honestly if we allow the international humanitarian law to be shredded in this way, you know, this certainly won't end in Aleppo and which country will be next? I know that people despair of the UN and the international system, don't we all? We're all realists, but what do we stand for if we don't stand for people's right for somebody to care and stand up for them when they're having their basic right to life absolutely obliterated in front of our eyes, then what do we stand for?
Crispin Blunt, what position or what strategy would you like to see the government take on Syria now?
There was a vestige of hope a year ago when the International Syria Support Group got twenty nations round the table who agreed a plan for Syria that included Russia and America, it included Iran and Saudi Arabia and there was hope because the whole international community of players was signed up to the same strategy. We need to get back to that place ...
Isn't that moment now past?
That moment has passed and Russia has taken responsibility for her actions and must be held accountable for her actions ...
That moment hasn't passed. Only recently the Prime Minister agreed with the European Council tha sanctions would be applied to Russia if the situation in Aleppo got worse. The situation in Aleppo got worse and what do we hear from the European Council? Our government didn't even raise sanctions. Well, you know what, there's another European Council at the end of this week so they can raise sanctions then.
Just very briefly, Jeremy Bowen, do you think Russia will stay the course in Syria in terms of the reconstruction or once Assad is in control of the whole country will that be it for them?
I think Russia's agenda is about its influence there. Their main thing is to have the top man in Syria on their side and they've got that and they will do what's necessary, I think, to sustain it. On that vote in 2013 the main consequence of that was its effect on the US decision to intervene which while that would not have ended the war it might have made it worse. It changed the war and perhaps dealt a mortal blow to the regime.
This is all a meaningless word salad. What made the most sense was Mishal Husain's questions but the responses were all nonsense.
In 2013 both Alison McGovern and Crispin Blunt voted against military action in Syria. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23892783
In 2015 both of them voted for military action. http://www.cityam.com/230150/syria-airstrike-vote-heres-how-your-mp-voted
The most obvious question Mishal Husain did not ask was what happened between 2013 and 2015 to change their minds.
Do you suspect that the agenda of the BBC is only to appear to explain Syria to us while in fact conspiring to confuse and bore us and refusing to ask obvious questions or make a respectable attempt to elicit coherent answers from MPs?
If you want Western foreign policy explained to you, go directly to https://www.rt.com/on-air. Do not pass go and do not collect £200.
POINTS TO NOTE ABOUT THE SYRIAN WAR
- Being a vassal state of the US, the UK does exactly what the US tells it to do.
- The US neocons want Assad toppled to show Russia what's what ie a uni-polar world under the full spectrum domination of the US and who's top dog nation of the world ie the US.
- ISIS are US-paid mercenaries paid to attack whichever country the US pays it to attack.
- US and Saudi Arabia are in cahoots together.
- Saudi Arabia being Sunni hate Shiite Muslims.
- Assad is Shiite.
- ISIS is Sunni-indoctrinated by Saudi Arabia and funded by the US.
- The US cannot completely control ISIS but as long as ISIS is attacking Assad, the US is happy.
- ISIS is also attacking Iraq and this the US is not so happy about because Iraq already has a Western puppet in place.
- The Peshmerga are being funded by the US to fight ISIS in Iraq.
- The US are now paying two separate groups of mercenaries ie ISIS and the Peshmerga to fight each other. Crazy, isn't it?
- Neocon foreign policy is funded by the defence industry in the NATO member states. By bribing key politicians (or hiring them as consultants) in key groups such the Defence Select Committee and Foreign Affairs Select Committee, they control Western foreign policy.
- The defence industry is only interested in arms deals which explains why it is so attached to warmongering neocon foreign policy and why the political establishment hate Trump and want to destroy him, because he doesn't want any more stupid wars that result in the death of American soldiers in wars whose purpose no politician can explain properly.
- Crispin Blunt was against military action against Syria in 2013.
- Crispin Blunt was for military action against Syria in 2013.
- Alison McGovern did the same thing too, but then she's a capricious, incoherent and emotional woman, so there's no point asking her because she probably can't remember anything through the mists of her bleeding heart do-gooding and wearing her heart on her sleeve to show off to her constituents.
- In 9 June 2015 Crispin Blunt because the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
- In December 2015 Crispin Blunt voted for military action against Syria.
- What does the Foreign Affairs Select Committee do? http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/foreign-affairs-committee/inquiries1/parliament-2015/the-fco-and-uk-arms-exports-inquiry-16-17/ It scrutinises arms exports.
- If you were in the defence industry or are an arms manufacturer, it would be very useful to hire Crispin Blunt as a consultant, wouldn't it?
- Would you say that this adequately explains Blunt's change of mind from being a peacenik to being a warmonger?
- It is for these reasons that people are dying.