UK and Syria – The OLAAR

An OLAAR you ask?

Well if my memory serves me right it stands for Operational Learning And After Action Report.

Basically something you write when someone or something has spanked in. And David Cameron’s plans have certainly spanked in. So I feel it would be interesting to attempt a summation of where we, the UK now stand.

TD in an earlier post has given some handy headings and I will structure my thoughts around these.

First of all what happened?

In my mind, too much, too fast. Labour and others had a very good point when they asked why things couldn’t be slowed down, why couldn’t the motions have waited until Monday when Parliament came back on its normal schedule and why was there this urgent impetus to get started with retaliation? These are profound questions. It is very arguable that the issue a lot of MPs had was not that Syria had done something evil, or that there had to be action, or that there was no real evidence.

It seems to me that they felt very strongly that things were not being given enough time to mature or develop; that there seemed little in the way of statesmanlike reflection and there was too much unnecessary haste and that they were reacting to someone else’s timetable and not the timetable suited to the UK.

I agree with this sentiment.

Why was there so much rush?

Hague gave a clue in an interview when a journalist asked him this very question. Hague explained that the retaliation had to be linked to the act – if too much time passed then somehow Syria was going to be shocked and be puzzled as to why all of a sudden their buildings were spontaneously exploding three weeks later.

It didn’t seem a very strong argument to me at the time – to link an act with another act is the simple expedient of announcing it being so linked in a press conference.

Or thinking outside the box the US could have called the operation, Operation Anti-Chemical Weapons Use or more likely knowing America, Operation Chemical Fucking Freedom.

One wonders if accelerated timetables were set so that action could take place before domestic opposition could sink their heels and get up steam but that is just speculation on my part. But it does seem that Cameron was following someone else’s timetable, probably Obama’s who was probably keen to get this done short and sharp to show a swift and decisive response.

Alas Parliament was not going to be rushed and it made its opinion known.

In hindsight Cameron would have done well to have pledged support but on a UK timetable, go it alone if you have to but we have due process to work through. He could have then waited until Monday or Tuesday in Parliament armed with a UN report, more chance for dialogue with Miliband and more chance to work his backbenchers.

Intelligence is the next failing.

The JIC assessment was awful, awful for the case for war, not at all awful if you want your intelligence to be unbiased and based on known facts.

The only solid evidence seemed to be some “highly sensitive” intelligence, everything else was a matter of compound fact and reasoning.

Legally, sound, but to be used as a case for war – very dull and unpersuasive. I think in this matter we have learned the lessons from Iraq – an insipid document it was, but a document it seemed based on nothing more than what they could honestly believe was fact – which wasn’t much.

What is odd is that Obama and the Daily Mail were telling us about eavesdropping and intercepted communications and munitions movements – these were not explicitly stated in the JIC.

Cameron didn’t get a dodgy dossier – poor form for his case for retaliation but excellent news for those of us who like their intelligence reports to have integrity. Nonetheless, a dull JIC report didn’t help Cameron.

So where does this leave us?

Democratic Health

Couldn’t be better news really beyond the inability of Labour to act with good grace.

Cameron consulted the legislature, made his case, heard the result and accepted it without question on the spot.

Not one weasel word was used – he was resolute in accepting the decision. Parliament is effectively the supreme source of legitimacy in this country despite the now somewhat archaic constitutional details regarding the Sovereign. As we know, Cameron could have, in abstract theory have used the Royal Prerogative. To have done so would have caused a constitutional crisis. In other words Cameron ignoring Parliament would have been more damaging to our way of life (our fundamental interest) than sitting out a limited strike that is going to get done anyway, or even if nobody else was going to do it.

Cameron has now set a precedent that others will be expected to follow in the future, he has laid the foundations for consulting Parliament on matters like these and no warlike decisions are likely to have any legitimacy without endorsement by Parliament in the future. This is entirely proper although the details will need to be ironed out over the course of time.

So we’ve defended probably our most fundamental interest and Cameron should be applauded for having no doubts he would consult, and then applauded for accepting on the spot, the decision made.

International Prestige and Influence

I think some are over-egging the pudding here. We have sat out many US interventions, especially in the 1980s and outright opposed others such as Grenada. We have also received little in open support from the US during times of our own crisis.

The special relationship if one insists it exists is not a piece of China, it is more like an elastic band which stretches and contracts depending on various mutual interests.

France couldn’t have been more public about chinning off the Iraq invasion – it is still looked upon as a confident and independently minded state actor on the world stage and it shows how sitting out one intervention does not mean a withdrawal from the world stage it simply means you’ve chosen not to fight this one.

There  are a number of examples of countries which have said “no thanks” to US intervention and yet still wield influence and have excellent, possibly better relations with the US than we did when we were following their coat tails. Canada is an example, as is Australia.

Likewise influence, influence is contingent – Cameron can now begin working to lead on diplomatic and economic sanctions and actions short of war for which there is plenty of support. He is not a dead duck and neither is the UK.

Personally, I think the US not being able to automatically rely on us is a good development and I think our choice will be perceived by most as the choice of an independent and sovereign nation that in the past has acted when it felt it had to.

Oh and by the way, we’re still fighting in Afghanistan in case we’ve forgotten!

I think the only long term effect will be that the UK is now seen as more independently minded and that can certainly open opportunities and build stronger bridges with other nations not as enamoured with the US.

Defence funding

I don’t envisage any changes at all. If anything, this whole scenario should show clear thinking people how easy it is to suddenly be encountered by something that is not a non-state actor or a crumbling defence system where you might need some “old fashioned” tools such as GBAD and Air Support Squadrons, CBRN kit and units and fighter CAP.

The MoD binned a lot of our CBRN units because they said no other power we were likely to face had a wide area CBRN capability.

Error.

International relations with the US, Middle East and Europe 

The US will get over it.

I think there is an awful lot of sympathy with the UK position outside of Executive circles in the US.

I think there is a lot of sympathy with the UK position amongst eminent US lawmakers and military officials.

We must be clear, we have not abandoned the US in a clear struggle for life and death.

There are arguments either way, the issue is blurred enough for it to be far from clear cut – going either directions is justifiable. A huge swathe of Americans agree with the decision we’ve just made. We haven’t said no in the aftermath of the Twin Towers.

We’ve said no thanks in the midst of a complex and rushed crisis where a good chunk of the public, the government, the legislature, the military and the judiciary are unconvinced, both here and the US.

In Europe I see the decision as being welcome and a sign that we may start to move closer to Europe – I don’t see this as a bad thing.

And, SDSR 2015 and the next general election

The General Election, well.

In fairy-tale land Cameron would be seen as having done the right thing and put national interests above his own authority. Alas, politics it seems ain’t like that – he’ll be pilloried for weakness and others will smell blood and the knives will be coming out.

I hope I am wrong on this because it would be very tragic that the right decision ends your career and your Government.

As for SDSR 2015. I think this close call shows, as I have touched on above, the need to retain conventional peer to peer level capabilities that have lain very dormant since 1991.

We deployed Typhoon in their air to air role and would have been thinking very carefully about defending Akrotiri and keeping it functional in the event of a Syrian attack on it.

This means CBRN decontamination capabilities and runway repair and facility hardening.

I think our facilities on Cyprus would do well from some hardening – having looked at Google Earth I see little in the way of hardened bunkers or shelters. CBRN is the next big thing – no enemy with a wide area capability.

No shown to be total rubbish.

This will need to be regenerated; every confrontation in the Middle East sees CBRN become an issue again. We must refocus on it.

Conclusion

So in conclusion I believe Cameron rushed, and Obama has been rushing.

This was a fundamental error.

The need for speed (duh duh duh, duh duh duh duh duh duuuuh) scuppered Cameron’s plans as Parliament rightly saw no compelling need or evidence why things had to be rushed. Cameron made the right decision in immediately accepting defeat, had he attempted to subvert the decision the damage to our democratic institutions, our way of life, a fundamental interest, would have been damaged in a way Syrian chemical weapons use could not inflict.

I don’t think our standing in the world will change at all, if anything we will be seen as more confident (even if the decision was borne of a comedy of Cameron errors). Cameron will likely be punished for his selflessness in the next election (if he lasts that long) and finally, I think SDSR 2015  needs to ensure we concentrate on regenerating /  maintaining a wide suite of peer level capabilities like SEAD, CBRN, A2A capability and GBAD.

The main lesson I think from all of this is to allow developments to mature, to wait for due process when you are able to and to spend time productively building your case and showing leadership and persuasion on the matter. Instead of seeing time on our side, we saw time as being against us. This was the fundamental error Cameron made.

He was never going to harm UK interests by allowing the evidence to ripen and to show and allow for reflection and contemplation. He needed time to persuade and to make his case and he did himself out of it.

 

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Bob
Bob
August 30, 2013 3:35 pm

The UK, one of the world largest economies, has made itself look like pathetic, impotent and irrelevant speck of rock. All because of childish politiking by Ed Milliband.

x
x
August 30, 2013 3:57 pm

Probably the only sensible thing written about this fluster cuck.

Solomon
Solomon
August 30, 2013 4:01 pm

oh you are so right and wrong at the same time it hurts!

1. the NEO-Cons are howling about this. they’re talking like this is the end of the special relationship
2. the Democrat leadership is howling. they’re wondering how the Brits could encourage action in Syria and then not support Obama when he finally accepts the need for it.
3. everyone is pointing to Iraq as the conflict that set the stage for this. NEO-Cons are pointing to Libya when Americans didn’t want to participate but swallowed hard and took the lions share of the effort even though we didn’t actually want to do it.

long story short, i don’t know where this goes. if the relationship ends then its probably 20 years late. if it continues then other issues will arise to push us apart. no one wants to admit it but this relationship is a construct of the past century. it will not survive the next.

Bob
Bob
August 30, 2013 4:02 pm

Not at all. When the UK chose to be a weak military power it was still considered relevant because it was prepared to use that power. Now it is both weak and unwilling it is irrelevant- this has profound consequences for Britain’s influence in the world.

Bob
Bob
August 30, 2013 4:07 pm

Solomon,

Pick your war, the Brits marched into Basra and needed the US to bail them out, marched into Helmand and needed the US to bail them out, egged on a war in Syria but needed the US to execute it and now egged on a war in Syria and couldn’t even bring themselves to get involved.

The Britain of today can not even get its self together to fire a handful of Tomahawks against a regime gassing its own children. Britain is the morally and militarily empty wreck of a once great nation.

Observer
Observer
August 30, 2013 4:12 pm

They added an OL to the AAR? :) Talk about bureaucratic creep.

There is a timing for this sort of thing, and the timing for this was, bad. Really really bad. It could have been saved by making public the ELINT, but that wasn’t done. All that this vote had going for it was “trust us, close your eyes and just follow”, which is not something any intelligent person would have done.

Seriously, why the rush? It’s not like Monday is a month away.

Solomon, let them whine, the only thing with a shorter memory span than a goldfish is an American politician. Ask them next week and they would have forgotten what they were on about. Hell, some of them can’t even remember who their wives are. :P

Bob
Bob
August 30, 2013 4:12 pm

“America was a mug”

Next time the Brits want help with something; free nukes, free cruise missiles, free intelligence, under the table support against Argentina etc, etc- I hope the US tells them to **** off. It will be hilarious to see broken Britain finally come face to face with its own petulant, self-induced weakness.

Ace Rimmer
August 30, 2013 4:19 pm

Bob, genuine question: Are you just a Troll?

I’ve read a number of your comments on different threads and I’ll ask you yet again on this one, where is your evidence that it was the Assad regime and not a rebel faction? Why do you decry an ally that doesn’t blindly follow US foreign policy or require evidence before prosecution? Why is this an alien concept to you?

x
x
August 30, 2013 4:19 pm

@ Bob

Free nukes? We build our own. Free cruise? We pay for them. Free intelligence? Um. Let’s just say it is very much a two way street.

Support against Argentina? I think Barry’s position on that issue is very clear and he is not on our side.

Why don’t you go find a Yank defence forum so you can wet yourself collectively over China?

Bob
Bob
August 30, 2013 4:20 pm

Yeah, evil US, providing the UK with guaranteed defence for 70 years, preferential access to weapons the UK is too pathetic to design itself and oodles of free intelligence.

The UK is now irrelevant, that is not “hysterical nonsense” it is hard fact, denial does not change reality.

Observer
Observer
August 30, 2013 4:20 pm

Bob, I was under the impression the UK PAID for the nukes and Tomahawks. Was I wrong?

Phil, if it is ELINT, I doubt they even need to sacrifice the asset, all that is needed is “Listening Post X picked up X,Y,Z talking to A,B,C at time xx:xx. This was what he said.” ELINT doesn’t even need to be in the same country. Hell, I even know that the US has an ELINT sat parked in geosync above us. (They use our ground stations for retransmitting to the US lol) They can even just say it is a sat intercept.

IXION
August 30, 2013 4:25 pm

BOB

My turn to say ‘Calm down dear’

A weak is a long time in politics: – 30 seconds an age in international relationships.

No one (apart from a few spams neo con insiders who have seen us as useful idiots), will remember this in 10 years time.

It is not (unfortunately) the end of the WASAWABYK fantasy. I wish it was.,…

a
a
August 30, 2013 4:27 pm

They went their own way. Now, they see their interests as being mutual with the US they are back in the game. Easy come, easy go.

“Nations have no permanent allies, only permanent interests”, as a wise man said…

Very good post overall though I think we will have to agree to differ on the appropriate behaviour of the Opposition! Also I don’t think Cameron comes out of this quite as well as you do:
“Cameron consulted the legislature, made his case, heard the result and accepted it without question on the spot.”

I don’t really see this as nobility or selflessness or anything. He didn’t really have an option. Going to war in the face of a Commons defeat would have been … startling. That would have been no-confidence territory right there and then, and Cameron, let’s not forget, does not have a Commons majority. The Lib Dems would never have backed him if he’d done that. It’s maybe debatable whether that would even have been a legal command. Sovereignty rests with the Queen in Parliament, after all.

Given that, he was daft to bring the issue to the House in the first place. It’s basic courtroom sense that you never ask a question if you don’t know what the answer is going to be. If Cameron wasn’t confident of a majority, he shouldn’t have called a vote. One can only conclude that he was being bounced into it by the US and decided to wing it – a mistake that a PR man would make but a lawyer would never have.

Good point about making the case for old-fashioned capabilities like GBAD as well.

And if this leads the UK (and France and the US) to put together a concerted non-military operation to put pressure on Syria and its backers, well, great.

While I was writing this the Chatham House comment turned up in my inbox – they aren’t keen:

A Serious Blow to the UK-US Alliance
Friday 30 August 2013 by Dr Robin Niblett, Director, Chatham House

When David Cameron argued in September 2006 that the UK should henceforth be ‘a solid but not slavish’ ally to the US, last night’s vote in parliament was not what he had in mind. It was the British Prime Minister who had pressed President Barack Obama to join the military operation in Libya and who forcefully advocated a more muscular approach to Syria than the US President has appeared to favour. The question was whether the US would follow the UK lead, not vice versa.

Now, the US must question the size and permanence of the gap that appears to have emerged over UK security policy between the British government, its public and, judging by the debate in parliament and media coverage, a large section of the political class and commentariat….

Bob
Bob
August 30, 2013 4:29 pm

Actually my analysis for that is spot-on, you just don’t like the hard reality that the UK is now, by its own choosing, a cowardly and militarily weak state with relatively little global influence.

mike
mike
August 30, 2013 4:31 pm

I think militarily our ‘relationship’ will be as strong as usual, politically maybe there will be cold shoulders… but to be honest, its much like Spain, a lot of noise and finger waving in politics, but the military relationship continues.

Besides, its not the end of the Syria saga, the ball is in Obama’s court now. Lets save judgement and assumptions (because that is what it all is; from bob, solomon, to Phil and TD and Lexington) until we see what happens.

I think people are being a little hysteric over what is only a part of the process, initially soloman had a post where he said “god bless the Brits for showing how democracy works…” – that post suddenly vanished a while back after Phil posted his :D

Observer
Observer
August 30, 2013 4:32 pm

Poor Obama, his name really is unfortunate. He’s been called Barak Osama, Obama bin Ladin, and now if he presses for military action it’s going to be a matter of time before he gets called Barracks Obama. :)

Anyway, the world turns. We just have to deal with it.

Solomon
Solomon
August 30, 2013 4:34 pm

things are truly bad when i try and become the voice of reason. quite simply. we should all be alarmed. statements being made that the UK is no longer behaving like a great power hold a bit of credibility. there is more at stake than just giving the US the middle finger (i think you guys use the reverse peace sign), it about your standing in the world. if the UK starts acting like a middle power then things will shift. i want to see your seat retained at the UN. this is probably the first step in that going away. i want a connection more than your run away, criminal news anchors and washed up pop stars. this starts us down the road of a semi shared culture being our only connection (and even that is under assault). sadly, the worst thing about all this is that we might be looking at circumstances that will affect the UK and Europe directly and it appears that you’re no longer in a position to shape events. thats probably the biggest tragedy because Obama will act alone and he won’t have Cameron as a moderating voice in the decision making.

a
a
August 30, 2013 4:37 pm

Yeah, that’s right Bob. And you know what the worst thing is? It’s infectious. I used to be a fearless crusader for righteousness like you. Then I started commenting here and I was gradually overtaken by the miasma of European-ness. Now I eat cheese! I wear red trousers! I know how to make tea! I can spell “diplomacy”!

It’s too late for me, Bob, but you can still save yourself. You must flee at once! Flee from this site and never look back! D

Bob
Bob
August 30, 2013 4:38 pm

I am not being hyperbolic, I am being accurate and attempting to break through the denial that is today engulfing the British. Britain chose back in the mid-90s to be militarily weak, yesterday it decided to be cowardly too. I can therefore no longer expect US support in anything it does and it has lost considerable influence amongst other countries around the world.

Bob
Bob
August 30, 2013 4:39 pm

Sorry Phil, you might want to stifle debate but I am not going to let you paper over just how pathetic the UK has chosen to become.

Observer
Observer
August 30, 2013 4:41 pm

Did France lose their seat after showing the US, and the whole of NATO actually, to the door? Last I saw, they were still on the G5. The G5 was never about firepower, it was the historic winners of WWII, otherwise India and Pakistan would be sitting there with their nukes.

Sorry Solomon, but sometimes the US just does things that are really, really messed up in the head. Some of it is because your government is so big, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand was doing. Some of your ambassadors really got screwed over for that. Had to eat humble pie over something they totally didn’t know about.

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 30, 2013 4:45 pm

I wish some fucker had told us we chose to be military weak in the 90s, perhaps then we wouldn’t have blindly followed the US into Iraq in 2003.

I acknowledge militarily the UK contribution isn’t all that big, but politically having an Ally is a huge boost.

Regarding being unable to develop our own weapons, you do realise that many projects had a joint input, and some projects were flat out cancelled so we could buy American.

Please try to get a little perspective

Frenchie
Frenchie
August 30, 2013 4:45 pm

Finally we will go to war in Syria without a vote in the National Assembly, with the Americans. Although we have low military means.

Deployment of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle was discussed. His commitment is plausible since it is fully operational this summer returned after a hiatus to intermediate maintenance Toulon. But if the proposed operation is limited in time to use it would not be the most relevant. Also, its use is not considered essential.

If Charles de Gaulle remains docked to prepare its next deployment, in November, in the Indian Ocean, the role of the Navy and will be limited to sending the Chevalier Paul. Its mission is to offer the ship already in place protection against aircraft that the regime of Bashar al-Assad might be tempted to send as a response. For the moment it is not able to take cruise missiles to the ground, since the Scalp Naval not come into service next year, onboard multi-mission frigates (FREMM) and the Suffren the first SNA Barracuda class able to implement these devices is expected for 2017.

However, we have Scalp missiles that could be fired by the Rafales the Air Force, which would allow the French aircraft to operate without going into Syrian airspace.

Solomon
Solomon
August 30, 2013 4:47 pm

don’t make the mistake of me thinking that the Parliament voted badly. i think it was the right move. additionally i think that this move was pressured by the left wing here in the US that is all about using military power for humanitarian reasons. our UN Sec (a Ms. Powers …a UK transplant) is all about that as a guiding principle. but the issue remains. the UK is in danger of being downgraded as a power. the reason? France has a history of acting independently. the UK has a history of acting in concert with the US. that alone will make the push for UK to lose its seat a bit more dynamic. additionally the UK is shedding military power. the US is too but at the end of the day we will still outmuscle most other countries combined. the UK will fall from the middle to the back of the pack while shedding approx the same percentage of strength. the truth hurts. this is the beginning of the end for the UK’s power.

Bob
Bob
August 30, 2013 4:48 pm

Oh please, the UKs influence was only ever based on what it could bring to the table. Now it so militarily weak and cowardly it has nothing to offer so has no influence. The UK is a pathetic joke and has destined itself to multiple future humiliations on the international stage.

All this from a top ten economy. Britain chose to be like this, it is self-inflicted.

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 30, 2013 4:54 pm

I disagree Solomon (well I don’t exactly disagree I offer an alternative possibility but cant think of the right phrase)

Firstly militarily France and the UK are similar therefore if one isn’t irrelevant nor potentially is the other.

Politically the French go it alone and we follow America, the implication you are making is that the UK is tied to the US coat tails and that alone it will wither.
It may also be the stimulus to work on its own or with other allies, thus improving the UK position when it becomes clear the UK will act in its own and not just the SS interests.

Regards

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 30, 2013 4:56 pm

Bob do you consider the rest of Europe in the same light as you do the UK

All Regarding my previous clearly that should have read US not SS

Bob
Bob
August 30, 2013 4:58 pm

Lidermyer,

Not at all, I have considerable respect for France, Germany, Norway, Denmark and others.

Observer
Observer
August 30, 2013 4:59 pm

Solomon, WHO specifically has been pushing for the removal of the UK from the Security Council? I have never heard of ANY motion to remove them and if there were, the same conditions would apply to France too. Can the UN Security Council survive the loss of 40% of their permanent members? And who would dare? This would fracture the unity of the UN very badly and no country in their right mind would want to live with the sobriquet “Destroyer of the UN”.

More likely than not, more and more members will be entered into permanent status as their influence grows, but that is decades into the future, not now.

a
a
August 30, 2013 5:01 pm

I think that the risk of the UK losing a P5 seat may be slightly less than you think. You don’t have to requal for the seats annually based on some sort of International Strategic BCDT. (“Right, now pick up that armoured brigade, run 200 metres and then do 50 pushups.”)
It is actually literally impossible for a P5 member to be kicked off the council, because the composition of the UNSC, including the P5, is set by the UN Charter, which cannot be amended without the consent of all P5 members. The only way that the UK can leave the P5 is if the UK decides to leave.

Solomon
Solomon
August 30, 2013 5:03 pm

question to all. if the UK is no longer the US’ best friend then how are you any different from Germany or S. Korea or Japan? what is the strategic interest for the US to seek UK assistance if militarily you’re going your own way? do you see us seeking German opinion? do you see us seeking S. Korean opinion? do you see the US seeking the opinion of any country everytime it begins a military adventure except for the UK? i don’t and now we might not seek the UKs. i’m not saying its good or bad, just that in the pecking order you just became another Germany or France or Netherlands. and with the turn to the Pacific our attention will turn from your backyard to ours. and in the Pacific we have a totally different set of peoples to work with.

a
a
August 30, 2013 5:03 pm

Also, what Observer said. All the reform proposals out there involve adding more permanent members, not kicking some off – Germany, Japan, Brazil, India as permanents, or lots more non-permanents by region.

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 30, 2013 5:04 pm

@bob

But Germany has no power projection capabilities and is more reluctant to get involved in Syria et al, so surely just as militarily weak and cowardly as the UK.
Norway and Denmark ditto.
Im not picking a fight here trying to get the logic.

France is often unreliable and acts in Frances interests, however you have to respect that position.

Regards

Observer
Observer
August 30, 2013 5:05 pm

a, those qualifications are sexist! Only selecting UN representatives on the basis of physical strength is insulting to women who are every bit as qualified to use their brains and not pick up an armoured brigade because it would ruin their nails! Human Rights Violation!! We need a UN resolution to condemn sexual inequality in the UN!

Frenchie
Frenchie
August 30, 2013 5:06 pm

You’re too hard on yourselves, instead you appear as a very democratic country, it is the will of your people, it is respected by all.

a
a
August 30, 2013 5:07 pm

Solomon, bit of a logical flaw there: if the only reason that the US asks our opinion is that we always agree, what exactly is the point?
Anyway, the UK isn’t the US’ “best friend”. That would be Israel. You don’t get US senators saying that the UK’s national security is a vital US interest, or arguing that the UK should get a veto on US policy in Europe. The US doesn’t send $3 billion of military aid every year to the UK.

Observer
Observer
August 30, 2013 5:09 pm

“do you see us seeking German opinion? do you see us seeking S. Korean opinion? do you see the US seeking the opinion of any country everytime it begins a military adventure except for the UK? i don’t and now we might not seek the UKs”

And so the US also seeks Russian and Chinese opinion because all of them are the best of buddies.
Right.

The real reason is that they need someone on the Security Council Permanent members to agree with them and so make it look like they are not doing things unilaterally. If the relationship with the US is so cosy as implied, why then did the UK get stabbed in the back in the Suez Crisis?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 30, 2013 5:12 pm

Labour probably played this for Political advantage but there was very little support for action from the general public.
Also from a domestic perspective intervention in Syria would have been worth 5-10% for the separatists in Scotland. perhaps the future of the UK is slightly more important than sucking up to the septics and bombing another Middle eastern country.

Solomon
Solomon
August 30, 2013 5:12 pm

wow. a cynical bunch. most of the time…at least historically, our interests aligned. that time appears to be over. ok. i get it. lets see where it goes.

Ace Rimmer
August 30, 2013 5:13 pm

@a: ‘Now I eat cheese! I wear red trousers! I know how to make tea! I can spell “diplomacy”!’

I had a good chuckle at that one, made my day…on the subject of tea, do you pour the milk in first or the tea? One lump or two?

Observer
Observer
August 30, 2013 5:15 pm

Hopefully the future would involve capital letters. Solomon, you posting from an IPad?

Me grammar Nazi. Me gas you, then shoot myself in shame for grammar failure.

Solomon
Solomon
August 30, 2013 5:17 pm

what i was trying to add is that chemical weapons were used in Syria. from a purely logical point of view, the case for action is stronger here than in Libya. you can’t hide behind Russia and CHina either. this is a case where the world’s free nations should align to stop weapons of mass destruction. and yes i realize that more people have been killed with explosives than chemicals but the point remains. the free world was called to act when WMDs were used and only the US was willing to confront the issue. in a way this is a morality issue as much as it is a national security one. but again, don’t get me wrong. i’m tired of the middle east and don’t want us involved but its not quite that simple when the situation is seriously looked at.

Enigma
Enigma
August 30, 2013 5:18 pm

@Bob

What a load of hyperbolix.

Your hysteria is almost as misplaced as the media frenzy over the result of the vote last night.

Forgetting UK defence spending or the contribution to the UK economy by British Defence companies, we still hold a recognisable place in the world of international relations.

If you consider it weak to not follow our allies over the cliff, can I urge you to demonstrate your belief by seeing them land safely.

Better that we hold our nerve and our powder dry and act when it is clear what action is necessary. DC may be an idiot but he is at least an honourable idiot, unlike Millipede and his cohort.

I am sure if you asked nicely, the US miltary command would allow you to ride the first TLAM into Damascud and report back from the frontline….HUMINT Styleeee.

Chris
Chris
August 30, 2013 5:20 pm

Just in case you are not reading the other threads, here is a link found by rsdecarr: http://www.mintpressnews.com/witnesses-of-gas-attack-say-saudis-supplied-rebels-with-chemical-weapons/168135/ that suggests both sides had chemical weapons at the time, and some hearsay that it was opposition forces not regime that used them. Can’t say if its any more valid a reality than the one most often repeated – Assad did it – but it shows at least there is still room for doubt and caution.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 30, 2013 5:22 pm

@Solomon

The issue with Syria is that we still need to be convinced of what was used and by whom.

In Libya Gadaffi effectively told the whole world he was about to commit genocide.

Think Defence
Admin
August 30, 2013 5:22 pm
Reply to  Phil

Phil, now is not the time for moderation powers to be invoked, timing old boy!

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 30, 2013 5:26 pm

@ Mark.

OMG just seen what Kerry has said. If they can prove it then I may change my opinion.

Ace Rimmer
August 30, 2013 5:33 pm

APATS, its all about the evidence, no proof should equal no prosecution…

Think Defence
Admin
August 30, 2013 5:34 pm

Can anyone remember this image from the last time a Secretary of State was certain

http://2010.newsweek.com/content/2010/top-10/most-important-dates/colin-powell-speaks-to-un/_jcr_content/par/image.img.jpg

Not seen the speech but am assuming from peoples reaction it was certain, I guess this time we have the wonders of social media and camera phones

Mark
Mark
August 30, 2013 5:42 pm

This time thought they know we’re the shells were fired from where they landed the times they were fired and the discussions that went on afterwards. They know the number of casualties and that first responders were effected.
They know weapons inspectors were not allowed unfettered access and only to controlled sites. They know Syrian chemical forces were mobilised 3 days prior to this attack and where they moved munitions from and to we’re.

They now also call France there oldest friend and pointedly ignore any reference to the uk. My do we long stupid and in particular the idiots who voted no last night.

mike
mike
August 30, 2013 5:43 pm

This build up really is giving Assad’s forces time to prepare and disperse…

Mark
Mark
August 30, 2013 5:46 pm

Phil

The commentators are saying this was the highly sensitive comment in the jic report as it wasn’t obtained by uk intelligence we didn’t have authorisation to comment further

Observer
Observer
August 30, 2013 5:48 pm

Phil, your response is similar to mine. Damn mess up. I would have been happy only with SIGINT, but to think they were sitting on so much info without even deciding that the UK Parliament needed to know it before voting is really, really stupid.

Mark, it is all about timing. Voting yes with no evidence is worse than voting no with a lot of evidence. One of my lecturers gave this as an example. Would it have been right for the UK to invade Germany in 1930? No, that would be hostile invasion. Would it be right for the UK to invade Germany in 1945? Yes, there was a war on that they started. Big difference.

Observer
Observer
August 30, 2013 5:51 pm

Well, next time (hopefully never), any US president will remember that if he wants the UK on his side, he needs to at least give them enough information to make a decision.

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 30, 2013 5:51 pm

Is yesterdays party politicking about to bite Ed on the Arse?.

“WHY WASNT THIS IN THE JIC REPORT”
If the US sat on this they’ve done themselves no favours, and if they didn’t did JIC ( sex down ??) the dossier in which case why.

Solomon
Solomon
August 30, 2013 5:52 pm

why are you assuming that the US embargoed the information????? a little anti-yankee bias?

Mark
Mark
August 30, 2013 5:53 pm

The us assessment http://m.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/30/government-assessment-syrian-government-s-use-chemical-weapons-august-21

Phil the US don’t work like that unfortunatly. This is why I said last night we employ a prime minister to make decision such as these with information we the public and parliament cannot possible see. Perhaps we in time will learn its not alway possible to know everything

Observer
Observer
August 30, 2013 5:55 pm

Sorry Lindermyer, if there is no evidence presented, I fail to see how anyone could have voted yes, so I don’t think he did anything wrong. If anything, it was Cameron’s atrocious timing and miserly information sharing. Nothing was stopping him from telling Obama “I need to convince Parliament, without giving out this info, I can’t get to support you.” If Obama then refused, it’s the US’s fault.

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 30, 2013 5:56 pm

Solomon not at all, it seems compelling info so if it wasn’t used yesterday, it was an obvious conclusion that the info had been withheld.

Regards

Observer
Observer
August 30, 2013 5:57 pm

Solomon, you only read half of it. Lindermyer hit both sides, questioning the JIC document was the British side.

IXION
August 30, 2013 6:00 pm

OK I am going to say it.

If it kills the ‘special relationship’ in the visible spectrum then fine.

It will not damage the intelligence cooperation behind the scenes , there’s billions of pounds and dollars invested and both sides would be stupid to cut it now. But if it stops us worrying about US and brown nosing to such an embarrassing extent, then about f*cking time’

One of the headlines might be

‘UK grows a pair and starts acting in it’s own interests’.

Really don’t see downside to this: – It even winds up BOB as a bonus……

I have headline for the next post

‘UK refuses to jam finger in power socket of middle east and waggle it about experimentally’

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 30, 2013 6:03 pm

@ Observer

I feel that as labour was calling for parliament to reconvene, and as the vote wasn’t in order to take action on Syria without evidence that Milliband has played Politics.

Given that he has for example opposed cuts when announced and then later its clear he had the same plans, I perhaps am prejudiced as just I see him as an opportunistic, Insincere copper bottomed sh*t*. (or a career politician??)

Regards

*thank you whoever it was on TD who bought that phrase to my attention .

Observer
Observer
August 30, 2013 6:04 pm

Any bets that Sol is now going online to grab the report and update his blog?

Ouch IXION, that’s being mean to Bob, though to be honest his hyperbole and aggressiveness isn’t making him a lot of friends. :P

Lind, think it was Swimming Trunks. Did Labour convene Parliament?

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 30, 2013 6:10 pm

@ Ixion ‘UK grows a pair and starts acting in it’s own interests’

I said something similar to Solomon earlier although I have to admit, you are a tad more succinct.

‘UK refuses to jam finger in power socket of middle east and waggle it about experimentally’

When it comes to the middle east I think UK refuses to stick balls in bear trap and waggle it about experimentally is more apt.
Regards

edit @ Phil exactly my point, and why I cannot credit Ed with him doing the right thing yesterday as opposed to what was politically expedient.

Observer
Observer
August 30, 2013 6:19 pm

Well, to be fair, most opposition parties the world over is all about the next power grab.

x
x
August 30, 2013 6:20 pm

@ Observer

Sol’s blog has been anti-intervention all week. That he appears to have done a u-turn is Sol being Sol.

Observer
Observer
August 30, 2013 6:33 pm

x, Sol doesn’t do U-turns, if you think he’s doing a u-turn, you need to step back a bit. Then you’d see the whole circle.

Mark
Mark
August 30, 2013 6:33 pm

They weren’t asking to parliament to vote on strikes. Read the motion I posted earlier it was to condem chemical weapon use go to the UN in one last attempt for Russia to give in and then return for a vote on strikes. For all we know is was a diplomatic move choriographed with allies to force Russia’s hand in security council meetings last night.

That those politicians saw fit to use it as the change to stick it to Cameron and the US shows how inept the political class in this country has become and how stupid I hope milband is made look.

On us intellegency you never tell anyone you’ve broke there codes unless you have to especially when it clear people are on the ground. That this had to be publish is a sad indictation of people’s view of those meant to protect us.

Enigma
Enigma
August 30, 2013 6:35 pm


I think the reason the US intel was not made available within the JIC report is simply because of a lack of trust. The special relationship clearly does not extend to sharing info that idiot politicians would brief parliament with at the risk of compromising US intel assets.

…and we should be worried about how yhe vote affects our relations with the US?

P.S. Totally off topic but the funniest thing I heard today was my wife telling me “your chillies are blushing”

Solomon
Solomon
August 30, 2013 6:39 pm

still anti intervention….but there are bigger events at play. i don’t give a rats ass about Syria. they can kill each other till the cows come home and i wouldn’t lose a bit of sleep. i am concerned about the UK/US relationship though.

x
x
August 30, 2013 6:39 pm

@ Observer

I am long standing Sol watcher. He is harmless, mostly. :)

Observer
Observer
August 30, 2013 6:42 pm

“I am long standing Sol watcher. He is harmless, mostly”

Well then, grab a seat and get a pair of binoculars! :) “Cheep, cheep!!”

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
August 30, 2013 6:44 pm

Various people havequestioned Cameron’s apparent rush. I think that it might have been due to wanting to get the bombing over and done with before the G20 summit starts in Moscow. I’m fairly sure that the timetable agreed with the Skeptics and the Frogs would have seen the TLAMs flying this weekend (witness the Typhoons turning up to defend Cyprus yesterday)

P.S. Got to feel sorry for those Crabs. Instead of a new weeks enjoying the Med they will be packing up to come home to Autumn.

Observer
Observer
August 30, 2013 6:45 pm

Worst case, they could have briefed a closed session of Parliament. Mark, if Parliament had voted blind, that is a much worse case than not having 100% trust in the man at the top, it would mean that Parliament has become a rubber stamp.

Mark
Mark
August 30, 2013 6:46 pm

Observer

They weren’t voting for military action and don’t know how many times that needs said.

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 30, 2013 6:51 pm

“As I have said, we’re prepared to sacrifice military assets, if the stakes are so high then you must be prepared to sacrifice intelligence assets”

On the other hand Phil if you lose an intel asset you can well lose the goose laying the Golden eggs,

There’s a few occasions in history were intelligence has been withheld / not acted on to prevent the opposition realising there security is compromised*. Convoy PQ 31 or something is an example off hand (I suspect its not 31)

*Admittedly I can also think of examples of intelligence not being used in order to protect the source and of course if you don’t use it you may as well not have it.

Regards

Think Defence
Admin
August 30, 2013 6:52 pm
Reply to  Phil

Given that the UK is the only nation other than the US with TLAM, what will France be throwing into the pot if the whole thing is characterised by being ‘limited’

Is Scalp naval in service yet or would it just be air delivered scalp from CdG

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 30, 2013 6:55 pm

@ TD

Scalp, possibly ASMP, all lobbed by Rafale. I think French news just confirmed CdG is on her way.

My French isn’t very good and SWMBO wasn’t listening.

Regards

Ace Rimmer
August 30, 2013 6:56 pm

TD, La vache?

Mark
Mark
August 30, 2013 6:56 pm

They have stormshadow and I think the naval equivalent

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 30, 2013 6:58 pm

I would disagree with you in that an asset can be that well placed you cant risk compromise however as the Americans just went public, this isn’t the case so I have to agree with your assessment.

Re Coventry I seem to recall a few passive measures were put in place to help the Luftwaffe miss.

Regards

Enigma
Enigma
August 30, 2013 7:00 pm


I understand the JIC process and intel sharing facilites. My point is and not for the first time, US intel agencies chose not to make available source data that could have sswung the balance. In short, they believed a gung ho DC who was onside would have been sufficient to get the UK onboard.

They misread it and now we all know about the missing intel…strange that.

@Observer
‘Briefing a closed sesion of parliament’
Somewhat anti democratic and not rational. Usual form is to brief opposition leaders and relevant crossparty Intellingence committee members is sufficient.

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
August 30, 2013 7:02 pm

Apologies
My previous should have read SCALP and AASM. not ASMP I often confuse those 2 acronyms.

Although launching a supersonic nuclear tipped cruise missile at Assad would send an un equivocal message that CW is not tolerated.

Jedibeeftrix
Jedibeeftrix
August 30, 2013 7:06 pm

Good piece phil.

“statements being made that the UK is no longer behaving like a great power hold a bit of credibility.”

Solomon, sympathetic to the concern, but thinking long term rather than immediate Syria this is the best chance we have at remaining a great power mentality.

WiseApe
August 30, 2013 7:08 pm

Politicians playing politics? Never saw that coming:

http://www.aesopfables.com/cgi/aesop1.cgi?4&TheScorpionandtheFrog

@Mark – Thanks for the link to the US report.

I wonder if Cameron saw this report and, if he did, did he (was he allowed to) share it with Miliband? This from the BBC before the vote:

“Mr Miliband will still order his MPs to vote against the government, saying he needs to see more evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was behind the attack.” Hard to see what more you need other than Assad on youtube saying: “Gas the bastards right now. That’s it. There’s some more over there, gas them too. ” Followed by maniacle laughter.

There will of course be some people who dismiss this as lies; my view is that you have to accept that intelligence people present honest views, as accurate as they can be made at the time. If they are subsequently found to have been wrong/dishonest, then you can always sack/shoot them, to discourage such behaviour in future.

Solomon
Solomon
August 30, 2013 7:08 pm

when was it agreed that the US withheld intel??????

Enigma
Enigma
August 30, 2013 7:11 pm

One other way that the UK may become embroiled in any offensive action is in defence of its own or other NATO assets in the event that Syria attacks US or French forces. The presence of Bulwark, Albion and other seaborne assets in the med make such intervention and assistance highly probable.

This would obviate any need to seek parliamentary authority and may be Dc’s fallback position.

Mark
Mark
August 30, 2013 7:12 pm

Kerry’s statement in full in on YouTube the classified briefing was shared with all allies and partners apparently.

A piece that resonates with my own opinion of what happened yesterday.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/blighty/2013/08/britain-and-syria?fsrc=scn/tw_ec/the_vote_of_shame

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
August 30, 2013 7:15 pm

Hi Lindermyer @ 6:51,

Crete was lost as putting the garrison on airborne-invasion alert would have made it obvious to the Germans that their Enigma codes were being read
… A non-German spelling for your “call sign’ – I take it has a meaning and is not a typo?

Lindermyer