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Vol 10 No 2

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Thursday August 29, 2013 - The drums of war getting louder as the hawks in both the United States, France and the United Kingdom press for military action against the Assad regime over the alleged use of chemical weapons even as the Leader of the main opposition Labour party Ed Milliband delivering an amendment in the Commons today.UK Parliament turns the volume a notch or two.UK Prime Minister David Cameron making his case for war in Syria today.

The drums of war have been beating loudly, ever so stridently if stories being peddled about on the media are to be believed. Earlier in the week, statements attributed to US President Barack Obama seemed to indicate that missiles should have now been hitting selected targets in Syria as British and French forces join another allied campaign against a supposedly rogue regime headed by one Bashar Hafez al-Assad.

UK Prime Minister hurriedly convened Parliament from recess today, initially for the House of Commons to vote on the government's decision to authorise war. But this vote has been set aside for another session of Parliament after a watered-down paper was presented that was far from a vote on a declaration of war. This climb down in rhetoric from the Prime Minister came in the wake of statements by the Leader of the main Labour Opposition that it would not be in a position to give what it's leader Ed Miliband a blank cheque to the government to declare war on Syria. He asked, among other items, that the government publishes documents it had in its possession and distributed to all MPs for an informed judgement.

He also asked that compelling evidence be produced that would implicate the Assad government in the use of chemical weapons against his own people. Mr Miliband also requested that the government awaits the report of UN inspectors who are currently in Damascus visiting areas where the chemicals weapons were allegedly used and that this could help convince Britons and the international community of the need for a military intervention in Syria. Ed Miliband, though did not rule out support for the Prime Minister in today's debate - "I do not rule out supporting the Prime Minister but I believe he has to make a better case than he did today on this question and frankly he cannot say to the House and to the country this does not change our stance on Syria, this does not change our involvement in the Syrian conflict, because frankly it would and we all have a duty to assess it.

The BBC reports that overshadowing the passionate debate in the UK House of Commons are previous UK interventions in the Middle East especially Iraq where, according to one MP, intelligence sources were not as reliable as paraded by the Blair government then and even more importantly is the kind of reaction that is being received from constituents indicating they do not support the proposed intervention in Syria. UK Prime Minister Cameron also made public a document published today which is headlined - "Chemical weapon use by Syrian regime: UK government legal position" in which the government states in a part of the report -

The use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime is a serious crime of international concern, as a breach of the customary international law prohibition on use of chemical weapons, and amounts to a war crime and a crime against humanity. However, the legal basis for military action would be humanitarian intervention; the aim is to relieve humanitarian suffering by deterring or disrupting the further use of chemical weapons.

The UK is seeking a resolution of the United Nations Security Council under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations which would condemn the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian authorities; demand that the Syrian authorities strictly observe their obligations under international law and previous Security Council resolutions, including ceasing all use of chemical weapons; and authorise member states, among other things, to take all necessary measures to protect civilians in Syria from the use of chemical weapons and prevent any future use of Syriaís stockpile of chemical weapons; and refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

If action in the Security Council is blocked, the UK would still be permitted under international law to take exceptional measures in order to alleviate the scale of the overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe in Syria by deterring and disrupting the further use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.

The Cameron government, probably aware of the aftermath of the UK going to war in Iraq has also published a report from the Joint Intelligence Committee which reveals that the Assad regime had used lethal chemical weapons on 14 occasions from 2012.

Following the widespread open source reports of chemical weapons (CW) use in the suburbs of Damascus in the early hours of 21 August 2013, the JIC met on 25 August to agree an assessment.

At a subsequent meeting on 27 August we met again to review our level of confidence in the assessment relating to the regimeís responsibility for the attack. The JICís conclusions were agreed by all Committee members.

The final paper informed the National Security Council meeting on 28 August, at which I provided further background and a summary of the most recent reporting, analysis and challenge. The paperís key judgements, based on the information and intelligence available to us as of 25 August, are attached. It is important to put these JIC judgements in context. We have assessed previously that the Syrian regime used lethal CW on 14 occasions from 2012. This judgement was made with the highest possible level of certainty following an exhaustive review by the Joint Intelligence Organisation of intelligence reports plus diplomatic and open sources. We think that there have been other attacks although we do not have the same degree of confidence in the evidence. A clear pattern of regime use has therefore been established.

Meanwhile President Obama has been coming under increasing pressure to have a debate and a vote as is happening in the British House of Commons as polls show that there's scepticism over the US proposed decision to attack Syria. Tonight, there's expected to a classified briefing to members of Congress with reports that very soon the President would be releasing documents that make a case for military intervention in Syria. It is to be recalled that President Obama has spoken on television that he had not yet made a decision. While he ponders his action, the world awaits.

Update: circa 9.15pm gmt - The Ed Milliband amendment has just been defeated by 220 votes to 332. 9.32pm - The government motion on Syria and the use of chemical weapons is defeated by 272 to 285.Prime Minister David Cameron has accepted that the people of the UK represented in Parliament do not want the country to be involved in war just now and has promised to reflect this in any future government action.

 


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