Jeff Smith

Standing up for Manchester Withington

Listening To Syrians

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The tragic situation in Syria is the most urgent foreign policy challenge of our time. We have all witnessed the desperate scenes of refugees fleeing their homeland, sometimes with tragic consequences.  

The resettlement programme for 20,000 refugees is a start, but we need a more comprehensive programme of support for people fleeing terrible circumstances.

The Prime Minister has indicated that the government may bring forward proposals for military intervention against ISIS. It's important for MPs to make informed decisions on our political, humanitarian and military response, listening to all sides including the people of Syria. 

In light of this, I hosted a discussion on Syria in the House of Common this week. This was in partnership with Rethink Rebuild Society, a Manchester-based non-profit Syrian advocacy organisation that is run by Syrians for Syrians. They launched a policy document prepared by Rethink Rebuild Society, “Syria Between Dictatorship and ISIS: What should the United Kingdom Do?” 

The link is here http://www.rrsoc.org/node/313

We had a range of speakers including a dual Uk and Syrian national. She was a kindergarten teacher before the current conflict, worked as a humanitarian aid worker when the conflict broke off and was detained by the Assad regime in 2014 2014. She was held for 36 days and beaten while in custody. Yasser, a former secondary school teacher, was consigned to do compulsory military service when the conflict broke out and defected from the army in 2012, after witnessing military brutality . He worked as a humanitarian worker for three years until his brother was killed by ISIS when he fled for his life, to the UK. Yasmin Nahlawi was the third speaker and is the Advocacy and Policy Coordinator for Rethink Rebuild Society. She is a Ph.D student of International Law at Newcastle University and a former director of the Syrian Legal Development Programme. Yasmin is one of the key architects of the policy document and an eloquent speaker on the issues facing Syrians.

The discussion was serious and well informed. Speakers noted that - while we need to stop ISIL - more people are being killed by the actions of the Assad regime than by ISIL, and that the brutality of the regime is a key contributor to the unstable situation in Syria.

Many people present and many of the residents who have contacted me are concerned about potential UK military action. I have similar concerns and will continue to listen to all viewpoints as we consider ways to deal with the complex and changing situation in Syria. 

Reactions

commented 2015-12-01 19:43:41 +0000
I too urge you to vote alongside Jeremy Corbyn against any military activities in Syria.
commented 2015-12-01 10:01:44 +0000
I too urge you to vote alongside Jeremy Corbyn against any military activities in Syria.
commented 2015-12-01 09:57:00 +0000
I too urge you to vote alongside Jeremy Corbyn against any military activities in Syria.
commented 2015-11-30 23:04:47 +0000
Jeff,
I Iurge you to stand by Jeremy Corbyn and vote against any plans to bomb or extend any other military activities within Syria.

Regards,

Kevin
commented 2015-11-30 21:37:00 +0000
Hi Jeff,

Please vote against bombing Syria. It is morally wrong!
commented 2015-11-30 17:31:11 +0000
Hi Jeff,

I hope from all the comments I’ve been reading and from the information on your website, you will be voting against the frankly pointless act of dropping huge amounts of explosives on Syria. I won’t go into detail as to why this is the right thing to do, there are many that have, better than I ever could but I would please ask, not only do we the people who want a safer world for all need you to vote against this but we need you to tell others in your party, to help inform and educate that as we have seen so often in recent history that in 2015 the problems of this world can no longer be solved by simply killing people.
commented 2015-11-30 17:28:06 +0000
Dear Jeff, I’m pleased to read that you’ve been thinking hard about the implications of UK bombing Syria.

I, personally, am not at all impressed by ‘the case for war’. I feel it’s an expensive sham that we can’t afford, morally or otherwise. The more I read on what’s happening within Syria the more obvious it is that the military option should be considered last and only then with a Chapter 7 UN Resolution.

Right now I can only urge you to stand by Jeremy Corbyn and vote against any plans to bomb or otherwise extend our military activities within Syria.

Thanks for reading.
commented 2015-11-30 10:06:10 +0000
Please would you consider the following
—Stop arming any of the parties involved in fighting in Syria
—The current UN resolution does not require the UK to become involved in Syria, do not do so until such time as there is a UN resolution requiring this of the UK
—Treat terrorist acts as crimes, not acts of war
—Strengthen those those international institutions which contribute to peace
commented 2015-11-30 01:51:34 +0000
Harold Wilson kept my generation out of Vietnam and History proved him to be right in doing so. I believe Jeremy Corbyn, along with millions like myself, is right in opposing the bombing of Syria, and History will also show that we were right to do so. As my MP I strongly urge you to oppose any further military escalation.
commented 2015-11-29 20:01:48 +0000
The Right Honorable Tony Benn telling us exactly why we should not be bombing Syria https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=HfXmpJRZPYI

Here is a damming report showing how the Western coalition colluded together to transfer arms from Libyan stockpiles after the fall of Gaddafi and we are funding the ideology of a salafist principality, before western intervention there was no al Qaeda in Syria no ISIS no rebels, these are just jihadis for hire political weapons of persuasion

Read the report its by the incumbent Director of Communications for the labour part Seumas Milne
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/03/us-isis-syria-iraq
commented 2015-11-29 18:53:10 +0000
Dear Jeff

I am concerned about how you might vote regarding Syrian Airstrikes should a commons vote happen next week. I strongly believe that airstrikes would not enhance UK security or play a major role in defeating ISIS. The reasons for this are: The USA and other forces are already bombing ISIS targets in Syria but without on the ground information often return with full payloads Obama does not clear 75% of targets as he cannot guarantee that civilians will not be killed As reported in this morning’s Observer, the clear message from the residents of Raqqa is that they do not want the UK to engage in a bombing campaign The PM’s assertion that 70,000 ground troops are ready to fight ISIS after a bombing campaign appears to have no basis in reality. No evidence has been produced to back up this assertion Engaging in bombing will increase the chances of atrocities in the UK as an act of revenge The UN resolution does not explicitly request the UK to engage in bombing There is no clear strategy for what happens after ISIS is defeated (if indeed that occurs) The only clear winners of a bombing campaign are the companies involved in the defence sector – already we have seen increases in their share prices The only clear strategy I can see for defeating ISIS is to pressure the Saudi and other administrations to withdraw funding, as well as pressure oil purchasers from ISIS (apparently including Turkey) to withdraw direct and indirect support
commented 2015-11-29 18:35:23 +0000
My views are pretty much in line with Nigel’s below. I also think we should help eliminate ISIS and I’m not opposed to military action per se, but until a compelling strategic case has been developed then the vote has to be no.
commented 2015-11-29 10:06:51 +0000
Of course Britain should do all it can to help destroy ISIS, however Cameron has not yet made a convincing case for expanded military action in Syria as means of achieving that. I am not opposed to military action per se, if there is a proper strategy in place, but I fail to see what good Cameron will achieve with his call for airstrikes now. I am deeply worried that the consequences may echo the disaster of Blair’s war in Iraq. Whether or not you agree with Corbyn; whether or not there is a free vote, Labour needs to present a united front if it is not to become completely irrelevant. I hope that you will vote against airstrikes in Syria.
commented 2015-11-29 08:42:58 +0000
Thank you for being so involved with this complex human problem and sharing the informed experience of the speakers. I think that we can not support military action in Syria. There is no evidence that action would improve the lives of the Syrian people.
commented 2015-11-28 23:28:25 +0000
Isis must be destroyed. Your primary duty is to protect this country.
Jeremy Corbyn’s views are beneath contempt on this issue and if you support his despicable approach I and any many others will be ashamed to live in a constituency that you represent.
commented 2015-11-28 01:16:42 +0000
Dear Jeff,
Further to my previous comment, I would like to draw your attention to the open letter to David Cameron from the secular Syrian exile movement “Syria Solidarity UK” which can be found at
http://www.syriauk.org/2015/11/a-letter-to-david-cameron-from-syrians.html
commented 2015-11-28 00:39:18 +0000
In common with other commentators here I am deeply opposed to the proposal to bomb ISIS in Syria and disgusted by the war hysteria of mainstream media and the complete lack of any serious analysis of what is actually going on in Syria in most official discourse. Baba Bood has posted a couple of useful links here in his/her comment, to which I would like to add a link to the recent very thoughtful analysis by Adam Shatz in the London Review of Books:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n23/adam-shatz/magical-thinking-about-isis

I must also express my disgust at the manner in which senior political opponents of Jeremy Corbyn have exploited the current war hysteria whipped up by Tory and some Labour politicians in cinjunction with the media in order to attack Corbyn for his principled stand against bombing, regardless of the fact that his position on this issue is not, as they try to represent it, a quintessentially radical marxist view, but is a rationally thought out analysis which is in essence shared by many well informed people across the political spectrum. This opportunistic behaviour is utterly shameless, not least because it diverts attention from a proper discussion of the most serious issue which is a life or death matter for Syrian civilians who would be the inevitable casualties of a bombing campaign.
commented 2015-11-27 20:05:49 +0000
Hi Jeff, I, like probably many others, have been a labour supporter for many years but drifted away as the party seemed less and less to reflect those principles. I recently rejoined and became a full paying member because it seems that a leader has emerged who despite a torrent of abuse from inside the party, the other parties and main stream media, is still prepared to stand up and be counted and who wants the opinion of the electorate.
Here is mine: bomb no one in my name, it will produce nothing but more aggression. Vote no to bombing Syria. Encourage MPs who want Jeremy Corbyn out to get behind their leader or join the Torys as they seem more inclined to that side of the house. Realise there is a change going on here that need to be encouraged and that some trust in politicians and the workings of politics in general can be restored.
Thanks
Kevin
commented 2015-11-27 07:52:36 +0000
Dear Mr Smith

The elected leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn has asked you to go back to your constituents and ask them how you should vote with respect to bombing Syria. Given the largely pacifist stance of your constituency I hope you will be taking our views seriously. Bombing countries which incubated terrorists (Afghanistan) failed spectacularly in the past, entering into Blairs Iraq only succeeded in destabilised the region in which ISL thrive. Keith Bradley voted yes to going to war in Iraq without his constituencies blessing and paid the price.

Vote no to bombing Syria. If you want to start on the road to reverse extremism in our community open up a debate about Saudi financing of Mosques in our constituency and related Wahadi influence on those in their parishes.

Elizabeth Bain
commented 2015-11-21 17:30:39 +0000
Dear Mr Smith, you mention that MP’s need to make an informed decision, I wonder if you can take this information and question our own foreign policy agenda and how this is closely linked with US foreign policy.

And I quote…

Reports were cited that MI6 had cooperated with the CIA on a “rat line” of arms transfers from Libyan stockpiles to the Syrian rebels in 2012 after the fall of the Gaddafi regime. (Even though we made out/lied that it was non lethal assistance)

A revealing light on how we got here has now been shone by a recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012,

http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf

which UNCANNILY PREDICTS – and effectively welcomes – the prospect of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq. IN STARK CONTRAST TO WESTERN CLAIMS (or blatant lies) at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency document identifies al-Qaida in Iraq (which became Isis) and fellow Salafists as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” – and states that “western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey” were supporting the opposition’s efforts to take control of eastern Syria.

Raising the “possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality”, the Pentagon report goes on, “this is EXACTLY what the supporting powers to the opposition WANT, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran)”.

this is a report by the Seumas Milne the incumbent director of communications for the Labour Party he is a British journalist and UK political aid his report is in the Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/03/us-isis-syria-iraq?CMP=share_btn_fb
published this page in News 2015-11-19 14:33:21 +0000
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