Britain’s opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and his closest, yet few, allies in the Labour party are picking up the pieces from a shattered vote of confidence in his leadership after the near whitewash vote to bomb Syria on Wednesday night.
Corbyn made it very clear that he was opposed to bombing ISIS (also known as ISIL, the Islamic State, and Daesh) by publishing a public letter and delivering a speech during the debate about how he believed there wasn’t a strong enough case for military intervention.
Now, Corbyn’s strongest ally and the shadow chancellor John McDonnell has jumped to his defence and is warning Britain about the consequences of taking large-scale military action.
McDonnell, who was recently criticsed for reading from Mao’s Little Red Book during the Autumn Statement, took aim at shadow cabinet colleague Hilary Benn — who has won praise across the political spectrum for his speech during the Syria debate.
“Across the House, I thought the speeches were excellent, I thought Jeremy was very careful in the way he approached it,” said McDonnell on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning. “I thought Hilary’s oratory was great. It reminded me of Tony Blair’s speech taking us into the Iraq War. I’m always anxious that sometimes the greatest oratory can lead us to the greatest mistakes, as well.”
The politicians that are opposed to the bombings made several key points as to why they disapprove of the military intervention:
- It will exacerbate terrorist threats — some say, although not all, that retaliating for the terrorist attacks in Paris will only put Britain more in the firing line for jihadist militant groups.
- The “70,000 troops” to help fight claim is “mythical” — Prime Minister David Cameron claims that there are 70,000 Syrian fighters ready to help the Western coalition fight ISIS. However, Cameron couldn’t name or identify the groups of fighters from different factions that would help.
- There will be civilian causalities — Cameron may have used Iraq as an example to say that in the 1 year and 3 months in which the RAF has been carrying out strikes there has not been a single civilian fatality. However, critics like former Scottish National Party (SNP) Alex Salmond said the PM was “living on another planet” if he thinks there won’t be civilians killed during the Syrian strikes.
- There is no evidence that air strike campaigns alone will work — critics say that without ground troops and reconstructive efforts, the air strike campaign could just create a vacuum for other militia groups, such as the Al-Qaeda-backed Nusra Front or forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
On Wednesday night, Britain’s government confirmed that the country will join the US and other nations in a bombing campaign against ISIS.
The votes stacked up as follows:
In favour of bombing: 397
Against bombing: 223
A majority of 174.
Only 7 Conservative MPs voted against military intervention. Here are the 66 Labour MPs that voted in favour of the bombing campaign.
Almost immediately after the results of the vote were announced, Britain’s Ministry of Defence launched an overnight operation.
The MoD confirmed early on Thursday morning that 4 Cyprus-based RAF Tornado jets carried three 500lb Paveway bombs and executed an overnight operation.
It only took 3 hours. The air strike, as confirmed by Britain’s secretary of defence Michael Fallon, focused on 6 targets in the Omar oil field under ISIS control. 6 Typhoon jets are also being sent out to help in the air strikes.
Degrading ISIS’ access to oil, which helps fund their regime of terror, is a key aim of the US-led coalition as well as the Russian forces active in Syria.
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