Response to Caroline Lucas: the Kurds need our help

It's important that we don't let terrorist attacks close to home deter us from doing what is right on foreign soil


Photo: KurdishStruggle

Yesterday, Caroline Lucas called for a diplomatic rather than military response to the attacks in Paris which left 129 dead and 352 injured on Friday night.

Using the well-worn aphorism that military intervention risks ‘making us less safe, not more’, her article advised against air strikes on Daesh (the newly-favoured name for ISIS due to its pejorative connotations), suggesting that they were directly related to the growth of their support base. In her solution, Russia and Iran are involved in the dealings.

After what happened in Paris, it’s easy to agree with Lucas. Nobody wants more terrorist attacks on Western soil. And public opinion, at least in 2013, was against intervention. (Though following these attacks, it stands to reason that those figures will have changed.)

The problem with Lucas’ approach is that with the breakdown of any acceptable opposition group such as the Free Syrian Army – which doesn’t even exist any more – the Kurds need, and deserve, our help. Despite the intervention of Turkey, the Kurds are still fighting against Daesh, and are the only group worth helping at this point.

Indeed, the US have been working with the People’s Protection Units, or the YPG, since October of last year, despite its alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

The YPG is well worth fighting alongside whether you agree with their struggle for an ethnically Kurdish state or not, and is a significant force in the battle against Daesh: they have steadily been gaining territory along the Turkish border since they began working with the Americans.

And even though Turkey agreed to work with the Americans against Daesh, so far their operations have been largely restricted to bombing PKK-affiliated groups.

The other problem here is that in reality, Assad is morally equivalent to Daesh. He and his government are responsible for no less than forty-nine massacres – yes, massacres; considered ‘sectarian and ethnic cleansing’ massacres – in the period between March 2011 and June 2015.

Then there are the obvious crimes: his use of barrel bombs, the targeting of hospitals culminating in the deaths of 600 medical workers, and his alleged use of chemical weapons, to name three.

Working with him to tackle Daesh, then, may be the utilitarian solution, being marginally better for us in the West. But for Syrians? He was the reason they began protesting in the first place. This makes siding with Russia and Assad morally problematic, if not outright wrong. Surely Lucas would concur?

I do agree with Lucas that it is our civil liberties which mark our society as free, and that we must retain them. I also agree that we should not stop helping the refugees fleeing the very conflict we are having so much problem preventing.

The most important part of yesterday’s article, though, was towards its conclusion: the need for solidarity within Europe, and to prevent a surge in anti-Muslim rhetoric and action.

As she so rightly put it, we must not ‘undermine the multicultural communities in which we live.’ Unity is more important than ever, and it is what most have shown, from the communal rallies in London and Moscow to the Pray for Paris and Même Pas Peur hashtags circulating Twitter.

Yesterday in the Commons, David Cameron made it clear that he was going to push for backing for bombing militants in Syria, specifically in Raqqa, Daesh’s stronghold.

He spoke of the growing threat of Daesh, and said that we needed to take our nation’s security into our own hands. I don’t agree with most of what Cameron says, but I do agree with this.

It’s important that we work closely with the Kurds, especially after Masrour Barzani, the intelligence and security chief in Iraqi Kurdistan, called for ‘more engagement and more commitment’ in the fight against Daesh earlier today. They are our one reliable ally in Syria.

And it’s important that we don’t let terrorist attacks close to home deter us from doing what is right on foreign soil; if anything, they should just give us another reason to intervene.

James Alston studies History at Cardiff University. Read his blog here

35 Responses to “Response to Caroline Lucas: the Kurds need our help”

  1. Bradley EC

    Given ISIS’ description of Paris as a centre for prostitutes and given the sexual crimes committed by Muslims in the UK, and given the thousands of Imams across the Muslim world who have referred to all Western women as whores, and given the inner conflict felt by many young Muslim men in the West who can have no sexual encounters before marriage (except those laden with shame and guilt) and given the many studies of this powerful cognitive dissonance in the sexual identity of young Muslims in the West then perhaps it is time for leftists to familiarise themselves with this issue and openly discuss it rather than say ”ISIS’ is NOT about Islam without discussing what it IS about. What is it?

  2. GhostofJimMorisson

    Pacifism is a luxury we can no longer afford. Moreover, it’s a luxury we in the west have been able to enjoy because we live in stable, peaceful countries with strong institutions. The Kurds do not have that luxury, nor do the Yazidis and other groups who face the barbarism of the Islamic State on a daily basis. Pacifism will not help these people. As for Assad, he is not the biggest problem facing the west. Selfish to say, but he is not attacking us and IS are.

  3. Mark Law

    Who told you the Free Syrian Army doesn’t exist?
    It does.
    They are being crushed.
    Who do you think Assad is barrel bombing?
    We should help them.
    Whilst we can.

  4. Rizgar

    Well Said , agree with you.

  5. Mark Law

    PS: And we don’t follow Loopy Lucas.
    She is free to express an opinion, she is free to continue with her gesture politics, but she has no mandate at all to lead our great country in its foreign policy stances.

  6. AlanGiles

    I am sure Alston – safe in academia – and the posters on LFF – will be delighted with the Radio 1800 news this evening 18th November “A Conservative MP said ‘we’re going to war’. I wonder if Alston would care to give up his safety and join the Army so he can do his bit rather than just be an armchair general?

  7. keeshond

    The author of this piece should continue with his history studies at Cardiff University if he thinks the Free Syrian Army no longer exists. May be he could by then have researched the names of some of the other forces still fighting among themselves or against the Assad regime, of which there are hundreds.

  8. Asteri

    Weren’t the Kurds worth helping before the Paris attacks?

  9. James Alston

    Of course they were. But the Paris Attacks brought the issue of Syria back to the headlines, and this is how media works.

  10. James Alston

    My studies are going very well, actually. Here are some sources which evidence the breakdown of the FSA:

    Also, it is my understanding that the majority of the groups involved in the opposition are now Islamists, which is true of the Islamic Front, the Ajnad al-Sham Islamic Union, the Army of Mujahedeen (who are also working with Turkey against the Kurds), and Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki, despite the support the US are giving them. The Authenticity and Development Front (also backed by the US) are moderate Islamists, sure. But who’s heard of them? A Google search and a quick look on Wikipedia or any reputable news website will inform you that most of the opposition groups are Islamists.

  11. James Alston

    I’ll refer you to my comment above, in reply to keeshond. Also, merely calling her Loopy Lucas and telling me that she has ‘no mandate’ to run the country isn’t a particularly valid argument. Anyway, she’s not leading the country, she is just expressing her opinion. So what’s your point?

  12. James Alston

    There are so many things wrong with this comment, I barely know where to begin. Most fundamentally, I’m not calling for the army to be deployed, as is pretty obvious in the article. I haven’t actually decided whether I agree with that or not yet. I’ll get back to you. What I AM agreeing with is Cameron’s proposals to bomb Syria, specifically Daesh, in order to help the Kurds in their struggle. We’re already bombing in Iraq, anyway.

    Moreover, we HAVE an army so we can deploy it if we think it is necessary. Just because I agree with it, that doesn’t mean I should be obliged to go and fight. By your logic, anybody who agrees with intervention should join the army. That’s about forty percent of the population. Do you see the problem with your stance now?

  13. Matthew Blott

    I agree with this generally. I’m highly sympathetic to the Kurds (who couldn’t be) but one thing I haven’t heard addressed here (or elsewhere) is the question of how do we deal with Turkey in all this?

  14. Matthew Blott

    Don’t worry about Alan Giles, he’s a well known troll. Your answer gives him more credit than he deserves.

  15. James Alston

    Now I feel silly that I bit. Thanks for letting me know.

  16. James Alston

    That is, unfortunately, a question to which I don’t have the answer. They really are a problem in all of this, and the US have tried to get them on board (they even said they WERE on board, but then just bombed the Kurds and nobody else!). I think it’s important to get them to stop fighting the Kurds, which means that some kind of solution/deal needs to be made between the two groups. But how?

  17. Asteri

    Syria was constantly in the news before the Paris attacks, it had hardly been driven off the front pages. Secondly I don’t see how working with Iran and Russia is problematic but working with Turkey who have a long history of repression against Kurdish people isn’t?, Iran and Russia are already involved and Turkey is the one country most opposed to Kurdish self-determination and independence. Lastly, the Syrian government isn’t really a moral equivalent of ISIS/Daesh as they are not committed to exterminating all ethnic and religious minorities, blowing up ancient ruins or forcing religious theocracy.

  18. James Alston

    The reason my article is relevant is because David Cameron is proposing air strikes, a proposal I am defending. The reason that he has proposed this again, after being defeated in 2013, is because of the Paris Attacks.

    Working with Iran and Russia is problematic because they are backing up Assad, who, as you can see in the article, does not deserve to be helped by us. Working with Turkey is of course also problematic. I haven’t said it wasn’t in this article – in fact, I drew attention to the fact that although the US tried to work with Turkey, in reality Turkey just bombed the YPG, and are opposed to Kurdish aims, as you’ve said.

    No, they’re aren’t committed to those things, but I am basing my opinion not on their ideology, but on the crimes they have committed, which in my view are equally foul (some examples of which are given in the article).

  19. Asteri

    Crimes aside and like it or not Assad and that government is an important figurehead for Shi’a in the Arab world and Alawites living under Turkish occupation in Hatay. We can’t facilitate the ousting of the only Shi’a regime by the Sunni oil monarchies; you can’t begin to imagine the kind of message that will send in the current environment.

    At the same time Assad and the the Syrian army are the only protection Alawites and Christians have and should be treated as being just as threatened as the Kurds are even though IS hasn’t reached them yet.

  20. Matthew Blott

    Indeed which is why I asked the question. Of course it’s important to get them to stop fighting the Kurds but they’ve been doing this for decades. Independence of Kurdish areas in Turkey would appear to be a step too far for Ankara but it seemed like progress was being made recently with greater respect for Kurdish rights and autonomy but with current events the fear must be Erdogan will feel emboldened to start retreating on this. And Western governments ultimately won’t currently back the Kurds against a NATO member. Perhaps it’s time to question this. It seems odd our current membership obliges the UK (and some other EU nations) to militarily defend an Islamist government of a semi democratic nation led by an autocratic prime minister. Maybe some threat on this front will be more likely to bear fruit in getting Turkey back on the right track with regards to the Kurds.

  21. AlanGiles

    Blott is well known for using obscene langauge on Labour List but lets not hold that against him. I am afraid he is another of those sad little men who uses the word “troll” if you fail to agree with him. “Troll” comes as naturally to his lips as “and” and “but”

    Lets get back to you. You say “What I AM agreeing with is Cameron’s proposals to bomb Syria, specifically Daesh, in order to help the Kurds in their struggle. We’re already bombing in Iraq, anyway”

    Iraq has been marvelously successful by the way, hasn’t it?. 12 years of peaceful bliss.

    While you are sitting in “Uni” studying a dead subject of no real use to anybody in the real world, you think it is OK to bomb a city. You do, of course, realise, that there will be many fatalities of innocent men women and children in the process?.

    I am sure if Manchester suddenly became a hotbed of criminal lunatics, killers and suicide bombers, you wouldn’t be quite so circumspect about a bombing campaign there – you might be sitting in the student bar and a bomb could hit your lovely little university. Cameron is trying to be Blair manque’. Mrs Thatcher had her war for gravitas, Blair had several and now his clone wants one to. As we saw with Blair one war leads to another. Easy to start, very hard, perhaps impossible o end

    Try not to be QUITE so pompous: the link to your blog shows a man sitting on a lavatory, which perhaps sums up your blog: does that make you feel “a bit silly” too?

    What is your view on the unnamed Conservative MP who gleefully told the BBC last night “we’re going to war”?. Or haven;t you made your mind up about that yet, either?. Very easy when you have a nice, soft, safe occupation to call for others to do your dirty work. Michael Fallon has been agitating for months – the drink driver mired in expenses scandals suddenly became a saint.

  22. Dave Stewart

    Pacifism is not something “the west” has practised in a very long time. There has been a war or bombing campaign by various western nations going on almost constantly since the early 20th century. Just because we don’t see it here in our nice safe countries does not mean “the west” is pacifist.

  23. jj

    Far rather help those that are making a real difference, and that is exactly what the Kurds are doing, shame Turkey is murdering Kurds.

  24. Mark Law

    Robert Fisk is an excellent journalist and does some very good in-depth pieces on this region.
    Also, he knows parts of it extremely well.
    But if you were here, you might appreciate how vast the area is, and how many different groups with complex and conflicting objectives there are.
    I’m glad to see that you now appear to accept that the broad coalition of anti-Assad forces – the ‘Free Syrian Army’ – DOES still exist.
    ‘Bombing Daesh’ (from the air) is NOT an answer – to anything. At all.
    It’s so depressing to see that we have not learnt that lesson.
    Why should even more innocents die in an exercise of willy-waving on the part of the West?
    Bombing the oil wells and pipelines that are providing the funding for Daesh might be more fruitful, but the US will never sanction/allow that – unless they can requisition/steal the oil (like they did in Iraq) and surely that must entail US forces on the ground.

    My point about Lucas is that she is COMPLETELY clueless; her “party” cannot even sort out the bin collections in Brighton, let alone the turmoil in Arabia. She should refrain from expounding her Weltanschauung until she has sorted those matters for her constituents.

  25. GhostofJimMorisson

    Ah well, if it’s from RT – those guardians of ‘the Truth’ and revered by all anti-West lefties – then of course it must be true. And as much as I respect Robert Fisk, his arguments are notoriously easy to pull apart (“Fisking” is the term I believe it’s called)

  26. Michael85

    The Kurdish terrorists make money with drug smuggling.

    They’re not the good guys the media keeps making them out to be.

  27. Michael85

    Al Nusra Front are main fighting force with Army of Conquest. Mainly Jihadis.

  28. Nick Bobbins

    Assad has killed over 7 times more people than IS this year, and Assad is no friend to the Kurds with a long history of human rights violations, political suppression and killings of Kurds. A return to power of Assad will inevitably mean the brutal suppression of the fledgling autonomous Kurdish areas in the North.

    Besides which increased Western involvement in Syria will not only mean support of Assad but also support of the Turkish involvement which is directly working against the Kurds.

    Unfortunately involvement of the West against IS is not very likely to support the Kurds, largely for political reasons, will probably directly work against Kurdish interests and will almost certainly foment yet more extremism in the area.

  29. Woo11

    Standing together and bombing and then invading Iraq, and the subsequent appalling civil war and power, state sanctioned violence and power vacuum led to IS. When Syria happened they moved straight there to push the agenda for armed opposition, now they thrive, they have oil fields, they are more dangerous than ever. It is alleged that the Kurds and IS came to a deal over oil fields within Kurdistan in Iraq, ie that ISIL would leave them alone… If ISIL then bomb us in London we are at war, for 30 years or so , and British troupes will have to go in… I want action that brings this to an end as quickly as possible, in a way that Makes ISIL and the like irrelevant, give them not one inch of moral ground to stand on so they can go on endlessly recruiting. The “war on terror” is not working!!!!!!!!!!!! In fact its worse than not working.

  30. Michaelinlondon1234

    America, Saudi and Iran are closer to Deash than the Syrian government.
    Kurds are trying to build their empire the same as every one else.
    There is no “good” side to choose.
    All you are proposing to do is pay people to kill each other.
    Contraception would work better.

  31. Michaelinlondon1234

    Turkey wanted to create its own Ottoman empire.
    Jewish groups in Israel trying to do the same.
    Jordan has just been bought out by the US military and CIA.
    Trying to do the same in Lebanon.
    Kurds want an empire.
    Iran..Probably the same.
    Saudi is still funding extremist Sunni groups.
    USA wants a world empire. Tried to promote an EU/USA controlled world.(heaven help us)
    So we do not deal with replanting forests. combating desertification. or family planning and universal education.
    Because we are all to busy killing each other.
    Happy Christmas.

  32. Michaelinlondon1234

    The UK spending billions on killing people in the middle east or paying them to kill each other is a waste of UK tax dollars.
    Kenya is training 800 new teachers to try to improve its education standards…They will need housing, water and schools…
    So which is better a million and a half dollar bomb or five schools/ 30 sand dams in semi desert?

  33. Michaelinlondon1234

    Turkey need to add a city of a million people each year to keep up with population expansion…So Start building cities.
    The deserts of Syria are not going to support the population expansion. So bomb them with contraceptives.

  34. SonOfTheIsles

    Give any muslim a gun and eventually they will turn that gun on you.

    Have nothing to do with either side and leave them to slaughter each other.

  35. Mark Law

    UK PM Cameron has confirmed that defence sources estimate that the Free Syrian Army strength stands at 70,000.
    It is a coalition of various groups, but it continues to stand and fight in the Region.

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