The video of James Foley is an escalation: what should the UK response be?

With last year’s vote on Syria in mind there will be a lot of attention given to what the Labour response will be - while we need caution and reflection, the response from the Labour party must reflect the severity of the situation now.

With last year’s vote on Syria in mind there will be a lot of attention given to what the Labour response will be today – while we need caution and pause, the response from the Labour party must reflect the severity of the situation now.

The video published last night which appears to show the beheading of photojournalist James Foley provides a shocking insight into the lawlessness of parts of the Middle East right now. And while the Prime Minister David Cameron is on holiday it surely won’t be long until serious talks are had, in the UK and internationally, about what the response to the escalation of violence in Iraq and Syria (from where Foley was last heard) will look like.

In a very important article for Foreign Policy Magazine, Peter D. Feaver spelt out the five questions by which the world should judge President Obama’s decision to return US forces to combat.

One of the questions he asks involves the plausibility of whether inaction could meaningfully lower the desire of Islamic State (IS) to attack the US. This raises an interesting, and ongoing discussion about what we know about the wider, global aims of IS.

While Feaver says members of Obama’s team are sold “on the view that IS had and has geographically limited ambitions: establishing a new caliphate in the Middle East” – what all governments in countries with regional partners and allies in the Middle East need to be asking is whether they can be sure this is true. Limited ambitions, for now, but what about round the corner?

The question Feaver asks, on whether we should expect “that a group that is committing the atrocities IS commits with abandon will always be implacably hostile to even the most restrained U.S?” – should be asked by the rest of the world as well.

Another question Feaver asks is whether:

“it [is] reasonable to expect that IS will take a very long time to develop the skill sets and orientation of, say, an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), arguably the biggest threat to the homeland this very minute?”

Michael White for the Guardian yesterday prepared his own answer for this yesterday:

“Will we still be talking about Isis in a year? I may be wrong, but I doubt it. Here’s hoping.”

Certainly we don’t yet have some of the globalist gestures of Osama bin Laden coming out of the hi-res videos of IS. But then that may be because bin Laden had a particular way with words.

In the introduction to his 2005 book Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden, Bruce Lawrence wrote that:

“Bin Laden is not an original thinker [rather, what made bin Laden unique was] his literary gifts. Bin Laden has earned many labels by now – fanatic, nihilist, fundamentalist, terrorist – but what actually distinguishes him, among a host of those described in these ways, is that he is first and foremost a polemicist.”

The point to be made here is that bin Laden thought and said in big and hyperbolic; just because ISIS don’t take his tack, it is no reason to suspect they won’t, or importantly can’t. To be sure, if the latest video that shows the beheading of Foley is verified, it will be a significant gesticulation, on a par with anything put out by al Qaeda.

The US currently goes back into Iraq with uncertainty; it also goes in there with a perceived error to correct. Already Hilary Clinton has admitted that a failure on the part of her government to equip the rebels in Syria early on with arms meant that a vacuum was filled by Jihadists and those hell bent on creating a Caliphate.

This point alone ensures that whatever Labour and Ed Miliband eventually say about the current situation in Iraq, will be heard; not least because it is felt by some that Miliband’s  vote on the issue of Syrian intervention last year contributed to the power vacuum that has led to the creation of IS.

In a scathing attack on the Labour leader last year, David Aaronavitch said:

“His technique for victory is to follow behind the leader, wait for a slip-up and exploit his or her mistakes. He did it to his brother. He hopes to do it to David Cameron.”

On the other side of this argument Peter Hitchens recently told me:

“Since our 2003 intervention is the principal cause of 11 years of persecution of Iraqi Christians , and since our attempt to destabilise the secular Assad government in Syria is the direct cause of the rise of ISIS, I suggest a period of modesty on this subject.”

However can we afford modesty at such a time?

With last year’s vote on Syria in mind, and the fact that Miliband was widely scorched for “politicking”, rather than focusing on the severity of the issue, there will be a lot of attention given to what the Labour response will be. Do we not owe it to the Kurds (who will be cooking with fire after taking back Mosul dam), the Christians of Iraq, and the people of the region as a whole to cautiously nod through a pro-interventionist stance?

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

15 Responses to “The video of James Foley is an escalation: what should the UK response be?”

  1. David Lindsay

    This time last year, the British Government wanted to intervene militarily in support of what is now the Islamic State, and the commentators who are now calling most vocally for intervention against it were calling for International Brigades to be raised in its support.

    It looks as if such Brigades have indeed been heading off to fight for it from the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister of which wanted to send Her Majesty’s Armed Forces in the same cause at the time when James Foley’s decapitator doubtless set out from London.

    “Has the Prime Minister ever read Frankenstein?”, George Galloway asked him. “Did he read it to the end?” The answer to that second question, at least, is clearly in the negative.

  2. Guest

    No, they didn’t want to support you and your allies.

    They were looking to support the FSA, which is entirely different, as you once more say that not wanting Assad to kill you makes you an Islamist, as you ignore Assad’s Islamists and blindly declare that tyranny is good, etc.

  3. David Lindsay

    Assad is now our ally (these things happen; look at the War), and you are therefore siding with our ally’s, and thus with our, enemy. There is a word for that.

  4. Guest

    Assad may be YOUR ally, ISIL man.

    He’s not the ally of the West. He’s a mass murderer, who started a civil war. It’s quite possible to oppose both Assad and ISIL, of course, and I like other decent British people do so.

    I side with Britain, the country you clearly hate and want to destroy by making us culpable for the actions of a genocidal warmonger. And there is a word for you – it’s “Islamist”.

  5. swat

    A complete change of tack; instaed of opposing Assad, we support him with arms and equipment to eliminate ISIS. Only Syria and its neighbours can do this not Britain or the USA which is a million miles away. Previously, Britain supported Saddam in their 8 year War with Iran; now the greater enemy is these fanatic islamofacists that must be eliminated from the face of the Earth.

  6. Trofim

    “these fanatic islamofacists that must be eliminated from the face of the Earth”

    Can we start on Stratford Road, Sparkhill B11 please, or Small Heath B10

  7. Kryten2k35

    I think the appropriate response is “Don’t send any Journalists to Iraq”. Nothing more.

  8. Trofim

    And if journalists choose to go to Iraq?

  9. Leon Wolfeson

    Don’t report, don’t even *think* about what happens abroad, etc.

    That supports the IS, in the end.

  10. Guest

    Oh yes, support genocide. Support dictators, who hate basic rights, show we’re worse than any mere Islamist, as ISIS would not even be a top 5 elimination for Assad with the weapons you demand be handed to him – they’d be used against the FSA, Israel, etc. first.

    You keep demanding that everyone who opposes Assad be “eliminated from the face of the earth”, too. Why, we’re all “fanatic islamofacists” to you.

  11. Guest

    Start by murdering British people? Well, what a surprise! Thanks, Mr. Assad.

  12. Kryten2k35

    Then they chose that.

  13. David Lindsay

    It’s quite possible to oppose both Assad and ISIL

    No, it isn’t. Student union drivel. Or, as it is otherwise known, neoconservatism. Or liberal interventionism, if you prefer.

    Grow up.

  14. Guest

    Oh yes, of course you have in your world to support the Genocidal Dictator or the Genocidal Islamists.

    In world world, you must love bloody-handed murderers, must descent do your level of hating Humanity, as you throw around excuses for why your murderous agenda is acceptable.

    No, you can and should be opposed. Evil can be stood against, and I will and do. Because you *are* evil, plain as.

  15. daznez

    all of these videos are faked, they are lying through their teeth. they did the same for the iraq wear in 2003 if you remember? no weapons of mass destruction found?

    they have subtly told you not to watch any of the videos. know why? because they’re faked, and once you watch one, you will wonder why there isn’t a huge public outcry when we are going to war over them. americans have already destroyed a grain silo with 30 civilian workers dead, how much more destruction to come with their saying it’s going to be a 2 or 3 year campaign?

    do us a favour and watch one for yourself. you’ve watched horror films in the past and known they’re not real, but they were a great deal gorier than anything you see on these videos. because they’re faked.

    “I actively avoided watching the video, even after seeing quite a few
    people claiming it was a hoax. But, as the Athenian lawmaker Solon
    decreed ‘ it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy’. So, I
    decided it is all of our duty to check this out, considering the amount
    of hoax claims coming out all over the place. When I watched it, I
    couldn’t believe there hasn’t been a massive public outcry.”

    the latest one’s on ridiculous porn site (sent to me in a link, i promise!) and the sotloff one with a great discussion is on my ‘free britain forum’ page on facebook.

    final note – i wouldn’t want to see a real person really get their head cut off, it would abhor and terrify me. trust me, they’re as real as a politician’s promises. peace & love & freedom xxx

Leave a Reply