PUSHING for the UK to begin openly bombing Syrian army positions and to consider taking action against Russian aircraft, Tory MP for Sutton Coldfield, Andrew Mitchell, requested an extraordinary emergency debate in Parliament yesterday.
Mitchell told the House of Commons that he called for a ‘No Fly Zone’ over parts of Syria where, if violated, Syrian or Russian forces would be shot down by US, UK and coalition forces.
Mitchell went on to call for sanctions against Russia and then went even further, equating Russia to the Nazis and demanding that they be charged with ‘war crimes’.
Right wing Labourites supported the Tory line, including MP for Walthamstow Stella Creasy, MP for Wirral South Alison McGovern, and MP for Leicester West Liz Kendall.
Kendall said: ‘Does he agree with me that the reason why we haven’t managed to secure No Fly Zones so far that people are understandably concerned that this would escalate tensions and even conflict with Russia.
‘However, what is actually being proposed is that the answer to any air attacks against civilians in those No Fly Zones would be carefully targeted strikes against Assad and the Assad regime military assets only, and that is what is being proposed.’
Mitchell replied: ‘That is exactly right. Those who are killing civilians in Aleppo are relying on the fact that we fear escalation.’
Labour MP John Woodcock for Barrow and Furness said: ‘It is time to target Assad’s infrastructure, every time he is responsible for atrocities we will strike his infrastructure.’
Tory MP Kevin Foster, Coventry South, said: ‘Would he share my concern that Russia has moved very advanced S300 surface to air missile systems into Syria when clearly Daesh nor the Al Nusra front do not have a fast jet capability, and who does he think that those missiles might be targeted at?’
Tory MP Desmond Swayne for New Forest West said: ‘When we set up a No Fly Zone over Iraq we shot down Iraqi planes. Setting up a No Fly Zone in Syria will require the will to shoot down Russian planes, this may be the right thing to do, but we have to be aware of the consequences of our actions.’
Emily Thornberry, Labour shadow foreign secretary, opposed Mitchell’s proposal, she said: ‘The last thing we need is more parties bombing. We need to seek to work with the Russian government to restore the Kerry-Lavrov peace process, that means securing and maintaining a ceasefire and, in fact, people to draw back’.
Mitchell continued: ‘First we should single Russia out as a pariah … Russia must be confronted for its attacks on innocent civilians, both diplomatically and using hard power, sanctions, economic measures and we must seek to build support for multilateral military action to discharge our responsibility to protect. This is not about attacking Russia,’ he claimed, ‘it is about defending innocent civilians.’
John Redwood, Tory MP for Wokingham, intervened: ‘Would he agree with me that militarily there is no reason we could not enforce a No Fly Zone. The helicopters that are dropping barrel bombs could easily be brought down by rockets based in Turkey, in Lebanon or indeed our own type 45 destroyers in the Mediterranean.’
Mitchell said that because of Redwood’s military background he ‘knew what he was talking about’ and he agreed with him. On 17 September the US-led coalition carried out airstrikes on the Syrian Army killing 62 soldiers, this, in itself a war crime, was brushed off as ‘unintentional’ even though the attack lasted over an hour.
Reports then surfaced that a UK Reaper drone armed with Hellfire missiles was in the area at the time, which the MoD later confirmed. In December 2016 Parliament voted to carry out air strikes against Syria, with the proviso that the RAF were only to target IS and not the Syrian army and the Assad leadership.
WRP General Secretary Frank Sweeney commented on the debate: ‘Workers and trade unions must oppose this Tory drive to war against Syria and, by implication, Russia. War has always been the traditional way out of capitalist crises, and this May government is no different from any other Tory governments that have gone to war to keep crisis-ridden capitalism going.
‘The Labour Party must oppose this drive to war, and the trade unions and the TUC must declare that any British attack on Syrian or Russian forces in Syria will be met with a general strike to bring down the Tory government and bring in a workers government and socialism.’