The fact that Cameron lost his vote on Syria shows that he and his MPs are more scared of workers than workers themselves understand. It also shows that a committed resistance against the government on domestic issues might also make them think again.
The no vote has also made the US think twice. For all that Kerry tried in his speech to snub the UK and talk up the French, the no vote and the reluctance of the American people, including many in Congress and the military means that Obama has to move cautiously.
Obama’s speech was weak. What could he say to support his position? Indeed what was his position or military objective? Obama is stuck with what he said when he campaigned for the presidency in 2007 – that the President should only act alone in instances of self-defence. This means he has to claim that US national security is at risk – and that’s a pretty tall order. It is also a hypocritical stance given that the US has both supplied and used chemical weapons in the past – for example when Israel used US-sourced phosphorus shells in Gaza. As it is, the US backed Syrian rebels used chemical weapons back in May and the recent incident may possibly have been the result of an accident with rebel-held Sarin.
Obama spoke of the idea that signing accords about chemical weapons meant nothing if they weren’t enforced, implying that the US should act as the policeman of the world as it had done before, without the slightest hint of irony, given that their military incursions have been disastrous and the US has been responsible for many thousands of deaths.
He will also find that supporting the Syrian rebels becomes more embarrassing as time goes on. They have forced up to 30,000 Syrian Kurds into Iraq and there has been a massacre of around 450 Kurds by Al-Nusra, one of the rebel groups. Rebels also want Kurdish territory near the Turkish border for agricultural land and oil. They are imposing Sharia Law on areas they have taken over and are killing and driving out Christians, Shi’ites and Alawites as well as Kurds. Over 200,000 Christians have fled.
In the meantime, we must realise that the no vote is not the end of the affair. The situation is very complex. The western powers and their allies, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey will continue to advance their cause against Iran, their ultimate target. However the no vote here will make war against Iran more difficult to contemplate, as well as the fact that the new President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani has made overtures to the West. It is interesting that Israel and Saudi Arabia were dismayed by this softer line by Iran, given they want to see the West take it out.
There will be a G20 summit later this week where Syria will be discussed. Russia and China will be pressing strongly for diplomatic solutions to the Syrian crisis. In the longer term there will need to be a proper settlement in the Middle East, which must be negotiated between all parties, including Iran and which should try to solve the problem of the religious differences between Sunnis and Shi’ites, as well as the Palestinian issue. This will be an immensely complex task, but it cannot happen while the West interferes for its own political and imperialist reasons.