The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewPatrick Cockburn Archive
David Cameron's Strategy Can Only Repeat Our Mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information


Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Thanks, LOL, or Troll with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used three times during any eight hour period.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

David Cameron’s plan for joining the war in Syria is a worrying document, full of wishful thinking about the political and military situation on the ground. It is a recipe for repeating past failures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, by misjudging the strength of potential enemies and allies alike.

Mr Cameron presents a picture of what is happening in Syria and Iraq that reflects what the Government would like to be happening. If he and those responsible for carrying out British policy truly believe these views, then we are in for some nasty surprises.

It is important to know if Isis is getting stronger or weaker in Iraq under the impact of more than 5,432 air strikes, 360 of them by British aircraft, carried out by the US-led coalition. The RAF has launched 1,600 missions, showing how difficult it is to target a guerrilla force from the air and it will face the same problem in Syria.

Mr Cameron says that with coalition air support, Iraqi forces have halted Isis’s advance and “recovered 30 per cent of Iraqi territory”. In reality, the situation is much worse. Isis captured Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, in May, routing the Iraqi army despite strong air support from the US. The territory it has lost is peripheral to its core areas in Mosul and along the Euphrates. The strongest anti-Isis forces in Iraq are the Shia militias backed by Iran, which the coalition does not support with air power.

In Syria, allies on the ground are going to be the armed opposition who are supposedly fighting both Isis and Bashar al-Assad. These forces are dominated by the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, a Sunni hard-line group allied to Nusra. The one place where the “moderates” had some strength was in the south where they launched a much-heralded offensive called “Southern Storm” this summer, but were defeated.

Mr Cameron’s explanation of his strategy is peppered with references to “moderates” whom he wisely does not identify because their existence is shadowy at best. It would, indeed, be very convenient if such a powerful group existed, but unfortunately it does not.

Mr Cameron’s Government does not seem to have taken on board that it is intervening in a civil war of great complexity and extreme savagery. There is a supposition that, if Assad were to depart, there could be a transitional Syrian government acceptable to all Syrians. A more likely scenario is that the departure of Assad would lead to a collapse of the state and the triumph of Isis and the self-declared caliphate.

Britain may only be contributing minimal forces to the war against Isis, but it should not be fighting such a dangerous antagonist without a better knowledge of the battlefield.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Britain, ISIS, Syria 
Hide 6 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
  1. Kiza says:

    Cockburn, how about your master just butting out of Syria all together, and leaving to Russia and Iran to clean up the mess your master made? I am trying really hard to read your propaganda BS, but it is becoming hard to stand.

    In this one it is your diversionary tactics: long BS write up, but not one sentence about the legality of bombing anyone inside Syria, it is all about the “efficacy” and “information” that your masters need.

    At least, as an armchair general, you are not blaming Russia and Iran for anything in this propaganda write up.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  2. Rehmat says:

    Israel First David Cameron, like his Zionist buddies Hollande and Harper decided to join the Syrian war is mainly to save ISIS from being routed-out of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. As Putin claimed the US and its allies never hit ISIS military targets.

    The “War on Syria” has been an “Israel’s Project” from day one.

    On October 4, the CIA asset, Dr. Juan Cole, claimed that Vladimir Putin is willing to drop his support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who has become the most hated leader in the Arab world. But he is afraid to offend Russia’s trading partners in Iran and Iraq who want to keep Assad in power.

    “Despite Moscow’s longstanding support for Assad, relations between Russia and Israel have improved dramatically in recent years. More than 1 million former Soviet citizens now live in Israel (most support Netanyahu’s Likud and other Rightist parties), while Moscow and Jerusalem both view the spread of radical Islamism as a major security threat,” Says Jeffrey Mankoff, director at Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), an Israeli advocacy group on September 21, 2015.

  3. Not one word from CockBurn- 7 middle east countries must be destroyed for greater Israel expansion.
    Can the USA England France Germany Turkey Canada be trusted? Go figure–I caution Russia stay a distance from theses evil countries. Speaking of Canada–all it’s fighter planes in Syria/Iraq bombings are flown by British pilots.

  4. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Who is the ‘master’ here? I presume the British government, but he’s highly critical of them and the West’s foreign policy in general.

    • Replies: @Kiza
  5. Kiza says:

    Assuming that your question in sincere, I would love to see it with your eyes, but I cannot:

    highly critical of them and the West’s foreign policy in general

    I have addressed this issue of soft propaganda many times in my comments. The Western propaganda market is a segmented market. Broadly, there is hard-core propaganda for the lower educated and less caring people (i.e. the followers of the Kardashians) and there is soft and sophisticated propaganda for the better educated and those “interested in the World”.

    The most elementary rule of propaganda is that the propagandist cannot turn people’s views around, the views can only be shifted, slowly and persistently. Thus, a good sophiosticated propagandist will state or repeat some “established truths” which are not in favor of his/her end goal, to gain credibility and to endear himself to the audience (exactly the criticism that you can see), and then the propagandist will offer hints and light, non-pushy suggestions in the direction of his/her end goal.

    For example here, the propagandist appears to criticize the British Government and he does, but not for what it is doing then how it is doing it. The propagandist does not challenge the morality, or the ethics of the end goal, he challenges the leaders’ chosen way to the goal – because it can be done better. This is, BTW, also how the two party political system works in the West: the opposition never criticizes the end goal, then claims that it could get there sooner, cheaper, better. The one party, two-brand names political system.

    Makes sense so far? There is much more to it, but I do not want to write an essay on Western propaganda.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  6. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I see what you’re saying, I will need to do more research to determine if that’s true. Who do you consider the best writer on foreign affairs? I still think Cockburn is not a propagandist like many in the press , but I can be convinced.

Current Commenter

Leave a Reply - Comments on articles more than two weeks old will be judged much more strictly on quality and tone

 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments have been licensed to The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Patrick Cockburn Comments via RSS
Personal Classics
Full Story of the Taliban's Amazing Jailbreak
"They Can't Even Protect Themselves, So What Can They Do For Me?"
"All Hell is Breaking Loose with Muqtada" Warlord: the Rise of Muqtada al-Sadr