'I've rarely felt more fearful for the future': PETER OBORNE

'I've rarely felt more fearful for the future': PETER OBORNE
2017-04-20
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Donia Al watan

By PETER OBORNE

Ever since the start of the terrible Syrian conflict almost six years ago, the British government has wanted Western military intervention to help get rid of President Assad.

But this policy seemed to have failed. Assad appeared close to winning the war, as Trump acknowledged last week when his press secretary said that Asad staying was a 'political reality that we have to accept.'

But then came Tuesday's dreadful chemical attack on the village of Khan Shaikhoun in northern Syria. 

Instantly, the British and American governments blamed Assad for the horror, and within 72 hours the U.S. launched a revenge missile assault on the airbase from which the chemical attack was believed to have been launched.

The exultation in Whitehall at this turnaround of events is all the greater because it marks such a extraordinary volte face by Donald Trump.

For it is less than three months since he took office and pledged non-intervention in Syria.

In order to counsel his White House team about the folly of this course, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson went to Washington to lobby them.

That attempt may have been fruitless at the time but Trump has now, it seems, been converted to supporting the need for military intervention.

Unfortunately, I cannot share the British government's exultation which evokes the mood in No. 10 on the eve of the Iraq war in 2003 - with Theresa May now at risk of copying the poodle-like subservience Tony Blair showed to the then US President George W Bush.

Back then, Blair took us to war on the assurances that it was being done with the noble motive of getting rid of the evil dictator Saddam Hussein who posed a threat to world peace.

We were told that western intelligence services (including MI6) had irrefutable evidence that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction, which he was ready to use against his own people and the rest of the world.

Similarly, today, we are told with cast-iron certainty that Assad ordered this week's chemical attack and that he is an evil man in the Saddam mould.

Naturally, Assad denies using chemical weapons and his claim is backed by his Russian allies.

Indeed, considering that Assad has been in a stronger position than at any point in the last five years, what would be the point in inviting widespread censure for ordering such an illegal and horrific attack.

The truth is that he has all but won the war. It is only a few days until a major international conference in Paris is due to discuss the Syrian situation.

Meanwhile, it is important to remember that his beleaguered opponents have never shown a scintilla of concern about slaughtering innocent people and had every reason to orchestrate such an atrocity themselves - and blame Assad - in the hope of triggering Western military intervention which would change the course of the war.

The truth is that, at present, no-one can prove what actually happened during Tuesday's village attack.

All we know for sure is that Trump ordered an attack on a Syrian airbase in revenge.

This brings me to the collusion of the British government.

Why was Theresa May happy to welcome Trump's intervention - which Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov swiftly pointed out was an illegal assault on a foreign country?

I believe that Mrs May's only responsible course of action should have been to wait until Britain's intelligence services could gather the evidence and ascertain the truth about the village attack.

The failure to do this means that, as in Iraq, MI6 risks being used as part of the propaganda arm of government to make the case for war rather than do its real job of reporting soberly on events. If so, we haven't learnt any of the lessons from the Iraq disaster.

I am convinced that one man in particular is to blame.

He is Matthew Rycroft, Britain's ambassador at the United Nations and a worryingly gung-ho supporter of US military action. Indeed, he was loudly demanding it before yesterday's US missile attack.

Unfortunately, Rycroft has form as a hawk. He played a key role behind the scenes as a Downing Street official on the eve of the Iraq War.

He was the author of the notorious 'Downing Street memo' which showed that Blair believed that war with Saddam was 'inevitable' eight months before the invasion began and that the Labour PM was committed to support US plans for 'regime change' in Iraq. 

'Russia-backed Assad cluster bombing' FOUR DAYS after gas attack


Most cynically in that memo, Rycroft recorded that 'the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy.'

This shameful document dictated the tone for the subsequent fabricated dossier on weapons of mass destruction which falsely set out the basis for going to war with Iraq.

Sadly, this wretched episode did no harm to Rycroft's career, seeing him rise to his current post which is Britain's most important diplomatic job on the world stage.

It is, therefore, no surprise that the man who played a central role in the damnable conspiracy which took Britain to war with Iraq is at it again - banging the drum and demanding military action in Syria.

So what of the future?

I have travelled very widely through the Middle East and Syria as a journalist over the last five years and I have to record that these developments chill me to the bone.

This Syrian conflagration has from the start had the dreadful potential to extend into a third world war because bloodshed can spill into neighbouring states and then drag in the superpowers.

Yesterday's air-strikes by America makes that more likely. They will embolden Assad's domestic enemies. Russia and Iran will become enmeshed deeper in the crisis. It will extend terribly a war which had appeared to be coming to an end. Millions more refugees will flee to Europe.

It will do nothing at all to help the children such as those killed last Tuesday. On the contrary, thousands more will die.

Will we never learn? 

Remoaners stepped up their mockery of Theresa May last week.

They ridiculed suggestions that she approved plans for the post-Brexit return of blue British passports of the type we used before the introduction of the widely-hated red European Union passports.

Such sneers may make those on the liberal Left feel smugly better about themselves but they prove how out of touch they are with the lives of most British people.

Of course, blue passports may have no tangible significance but they symbolise such fundamental issues as national identity and history.

The failure of Remoaners to understand why such things matter explains a lot why they lost the referendum last June. 

Justice Secretary Liz Truss should ignore her small-minded critics. Indeed, I believe she is one of the Cabinet's most capable members. 

She is well-equipped to see off her enemies who complain about her lack of legal training and whinge that she failed to defend the legal establishment after it was criticised by the media when the High Court ruled against the Government on Brexit. 

Like her predecessor Chris Grayling, she's a victim of the calamitous constitutional tinkering done by the Blair government. It downgraded the position of Lord Chancellor – formerly occupied by grandees such as Lord Hailsham - to a low-ranking Cabinet post, making the job more difficult. This administration should reverse the damage and give this ancient post back the dignity it deserves. 








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