Emily Thornberry is rightly under fire for talking up Assad’s popularity in a bizarre interview with Prospect magazine:
“There is an argument that if [President Bashar al-Assad] had been as overwhelmingly unpopular as the rebels told the west at the outset then he wouldn’t be there. I think there has been a depth and a breadth of support for Assad that has been underestimated.”
Prospect were certainly unimpressed, reporting: “Not once in our discussion on Syria is she critical of the Assad regime”. The Shadow Foreign Secretary rather gave the game away later on in the interview:
Assad may not get special blame, but others do. Foreign forces, she says, need to leave. That includes Britain, which is currently taking part in air-strikes against IS. “They’re not fighting for the sake of the Syrian people. Any of them.” She lists the countries involved. “UAE, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran, Turkey, America, Britain—have I missed anyone?” She has. “Russians!” she adds, quickly.
— Ben (@Jamin2g) April 19, 2018
Thornberry has been listening to Seumas again. The audience wasn’t impressed…
The Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence have expressed fury after a Labour MP and peer travelled to Syria earlier this month in defiance of government travel advice. Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Maurice Glasman travelled to Kobani on 4 April, with the Corbynista MP extraordinarily live-tweeting his location as the delegation moved through Syria. The first the FCO and MoD knew about the trip was when they received intelligence that a British MP and peer were in Syria. This sparked panic across the two departments, with officials furious that the lives of British armed forces would be put at risk if they had to be sent in should something go wrong.
Today I visited #kobani seeing support for displaced people (refugeees from #afrin), war graves of local & international fighters for democracy & socialism & met with local officials which all are gender balanced but worried about totatalairanism & aggression from Turkey pic.twitter.com/TKxNUjuWxK
— Lloyd Russell-Moyle (@lloyd_rm) April 4, 2018
The FCO clearly advises “against all travel to Syria” and warns “there is a very high threat of kidnapping throughout Syria”. A serving MP’s decision to defy this advice and then live-tweet his location has led some Whitehall officials to lobby for an investigation into the trip. Officials at the Ministry of Justice and Home Office are worried that the visit could legitimise others considering travelling to Syria, and have expressed concerns about the impact the trip could have on ongoing court cases involving other Britons who have returned from the country.
A government source said: “This was an utterly reckless act that could have led to our armed forces being put in danger had they been kidnapped. It is mind-numbingly stupid given the political climate and could have severe consequences in terms of ongoing court cases over here.”
A second government source said: “Travel advice is very clear – by going to a dangerous region you are not only putting yourself at risk but also the individuals who would have to take part in a rescue operation. It’s incredibly stupid of an MP to do this and shows a real lack of judgement.”
Russell-Moyle wrote up his experience in Syria for the far-left website Evolve Politics and spoke about it at the Stop the War rally last night. Taking the Corbynista delusion on Syria to new stupid extremes…
UPDATE: Statement from Russell-Moyle:
“I did inform the FCO before I departed, informing them of our movements. I met with UK Ambassador in Iraq, the UK Consul-General in Erbil before & with him on the day we returned to debrief. We received security protection form Gov. of Kurdish Iraq and Northern Syrian Government.”
Yet the first the FCO and MoD heard about the trip was while he was there…
This was only a non-substantive vote on the motion that the House had heard the situation on Syria, but nonetheless a resounding win for the government after Labour MPs were sent home early. Which just about sums up parliament’s view on Corbyn’s position – the Labour leader humiliated…
Labour MPs tonight joined a pro-Assad rally alongside protesters with flags, hats and scarves bearing the face of the Syrian tyrant. Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon, Chris Williamson, Emma Dent Coad and Lloyd Russell-Moyle were among those present at this evening’s Stop the War demo at Parliament Square. Williamson told an audience waving pro-Corbyn placards and communist flags that there was no evidence for the Douma chemical attack and that Assad had no motive to carry it out. Echoing Kremlin talking points, Williamson said:
“Why would the Assad regime at this stage of the appalling conflict in Syria, where he’s virtually won the battle for Eastern Ghouta, launch a chemical weapons attack when it would be bound to bring on the wrath of the West? … The motive is questionable, the evidence – where is the evidence? It just isn’t there. And it’s no coincidence, it seems to me, that on the day before the OPCW inspectors were due to start their inspection, these air strikes took place. What is going on? There are very serious questions, it seems to me, that need to be answered.”
One Assad supporter told Guido said the Syrian leader had not done anything illegal and that it was the UK parliament that was acting illegally. He added his message to Jeremy Corbyn was “well done”.
Shadow Attorney General Shami Chakrabarti has made clear Labour would not act against the Assad regime even if OPCW inspectors found evidence of chemical weapons use in Douma. Appearing on the Today programme, Shami was asked what a Labour government would do if UN inspectors confirmed the position of Western governments. She refused to address the question before saying:
“You can’t use force under international law just to punish Syria for bad behaviour.”
John Woodcock weighed in:
Listened to the Today Programme. I wish my frontbench would spend even a fraction of the energy on Assad and Russia’s grotesque slaughter of civilians as they are on inventing new reasons to oppose targeted UK intervention to stop it.
— John Woodcock (@JWoodcockMP) 16 April 2018
Labour backbenchers will be worth watching this afternoon…