Corbyn stands firm for no new war

by Daphne Liddle

JEREMY Corbyn is starting to get tough with members of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) who are urging him to support David Cameron’s plans to get Britain involved in bombing Syria.

Following the terrorist attacks in France and Beirut last week there is a storm of knee-jerk support for Britain to share in the bombing of Isis positions in Syria.

But Corbyn has asserted that he will “not offer a free vote” for Labour MPs on this issue and they should vote against bombing Syria. Currently Russia is bombing Isis positions in Syria very effectively but there is a big difference between Russia’s actions and those of the western powers.

Russia is there at the request of the elected Syrian government to support Syrian ground troops with air strikes against Isis that are proving very effective and the terrorists are steadily being driven back.

Cameron’s plan all along has been to get involved in Syria to support United States’ efforts to destabilise and remove the government the people of Syria elected because Bashar al Assad would not bow to Washington and supported other small nations trying to defy US hegemony.

Two years ago the Westminster Parliament voted firmly against British involvement in Syria. The lesson of the debacle in Iraq had sunk in.

The current US action in Syria is ostensibly to attack Isis but since they have been doing this for nearly two years while Isis steadily grew stronger, plainly they are not really trying. They are in Syria mainly to accomplish their original goal of undermining the elected government of Bashar al Assad — in defiance of international law and public opinion in the United States.

And of course the US did not even bother to ask the elected government of Syria about its decision to attack Isis on Syrian territory.

And Cameron is reluctant to test the water again on this again unless he can be reasonable sure of success. And since his own party is divided on the issue and he has a tiny majority he would need the support of the right-wing Blairite MPs to succeed.

No wonder the recent meeting of the PLP to discuss Syria and the response to the Paris bombings was fraught — with the right-wingers pulling out all the stops to denounce and undermine the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn implicitly rebuked Shadow Cabinet ministers, such as shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle, for undermining his authority by taking contradictory positions.

Corbyn is no supporter of Assad’s government but he is a staunch pacifist and he is calling for a negotiated settlement to the war, which ultimately would have to respect the sovereign will of the people of Syria.

Corbyn said negotiations would be difficult but welcomed progress at recent talks in Vienna aimed at finding consensus between the west and Russia about how to bring about peace and defeat ISIS.

Corbyn told ITV’s Lorraine programme: “I am not saying sit round the table with Isis, I am saying bring about a political settlement in Syria that will help then to bring some kind of unity government — technical government — in Syria,” he said.

Corbyn also said questions should be asked of Saudi Arabia about who is funding and arming Isis. He has called for a world boycott of banks and businesses that support Isis.

He also criticised the lack of media focus on the bombings in Beirut that killed at least 40 people the day before 129 people died in the Paris attacks. “Our media need to be able to report things that happen outside Europe as well as inside Europe. A life is a life,” he said.

Corbyn is also preparing for a serious battle with the PLP and some unions over scrapping Trident. He has appointed Ken Livingstone — rather than Shadow Defence Secretary Maria Eagle — to convene Labour’s review into defence policy.

Livingstone is a strong ally of Jeremy Corbyn and a longstanding opponent of the Trident nuclear defence system, which puts him at odds with Maria Eagle, who will lead the review.

Speaking on Russia Today last week, Livingstone claimed that the majority of Labour MPs are opposed to Trident, and that public endorsements for it are not rational. He said: “Most Labour MPs don’t believe that Trident is worth spending £20 billion on.

“They just worry that it will be the Tory press demonising us as pro-Russian, or weaklings, things like that. It’s not a serious, rational judgement.”