The myth of Britain’s role in fighting Daesh

American Herald Tribune |  JOHN WIGHT: British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon’s attempt to inflate Britain’s role in the conflict against Daesh, precisely as he did recently, brings his office and the government he serves into abject disrepute. 

In fact there is something truly obnoxious about the defence secretary of a country which continues to harbor delusions of imperial grandeur taking the credit for the inordinate sacrifice and efforts of those countries and groups that have and are taking the fight to Daesh – namely Syria, Russia, Iraq and Iran, along with Hezbollah and the Syrian Kurds of the YPG; the latter fighting as part of a Washington-supported coalition.

London’s role, meanwhile, has been decidedly peripheral since entering the fray in 2015 – doing so in Syria in clear and transparent violation of international law, in that its intervention has taken place with neither the permission nor cooperation of the country’s legitimate government and authorities. Overall, the UK has conducted a limited, near infinitesimally small number of airstrikes compared to Russia and United S, for example, while on the ground its role has been confined to training rather than combat. And what combat role it has played, both in Iraq and Syria, has been restricted to Special Forces operations, which by their very nature are limited in size and scope.

Whereas Fallon boasts that Britain’s Royal Air Force has conducted more than 1,500 airstrikes against Daesh targets in Iraq, its Russian counterpart has carried out 99,000 since against Daesh in Syria since joining the conflict two years ago, many in support of its allies on the ground in liberating large swathes of Syrian territory to the point where it is now a matter of when not if the physical presence of the terror group in the is eradicated from the country altogether.

Yet if London and Washington had had their way, al-Qaeda in the form of Nusra, whose ideology and methodology is indistinguishable from that of Daesh, would by now be sitting in Damascus, having overthrown the country’s secular, non-sectarian government. The dire consequences if such a scenario had come to pass would have been untold, similar no doubt to the genocide endured by the people of Cambodia at the hands of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.

As with its US ally – though some might describe the relationship between Washington and London as that between an imperial power and loyal vassal rather than ally – much of Britain’s military role in the conflict against Daesh has, as mentioned, taken place in Iraq. However this did not prevent Mr Fallon claiming a share of credit when it comes to the war against the group in Syria also, declaring, “in Syria 1.4 million people have been liberated. Raqqa was the headquarters of Daesh’s external attack planning team where plots against our nation and the West were planned, directed, and inspired. In December 2015, in winning parliamentary support to extend operations to Daesh targets in Syria, we promised to cut off the head of the snake. We’ve kept our word – Raqqa will soon be cleared of Daesh. By depriving Daesh of their safe havens, striking their external attack teams, UK forces have helped stop attacks on our streets.”

The liberation of those 1.4 million has taken place in the face of the attempt of the British and US governments to weaken and undermine the Assad government, supporting various so-called moderate opposition groups with arms and money throughout most of the conflict. As far back as 2012 the British government was providing financial support to anti-Assad groups, and while it ceased funding and arming anti-Assad forces directly, its Gulf allies certainly have not.

On the political front, meanwhile, London has consistently gone out of its way to draw a grotesque moral equivalence between head-chopping, sectarian Salafi-jihadi groups – such as Daesh and Nusra – and Syria’s legitimate government in Damascus, headed by Bashar al-Assad, under which the rights of the aforementioned religious minority communities are protected and upheld.

Michael Fallon and others of his ilk should be in no doubt that when the history of this brutal conflict is written the verdict when it comes to Britain’s role will be withering in its condemnation. How could it be anything other than withering when we consider the role of Western imperialism in creating the chaos and mayhem out of which Daesh emerged and grew in Iraq? How could it be otherwise when Britain has demonised Russia and Iran, along with the Syrian government, throughout, falsely accusing them of purposely attacking civilians? In contrast, the silence in response to the civilians killed in US airstrikes in Mosul and, most recently, Raqqa has been deafening in London.

The British ruling establishment’s long and malign legacy of exaggeration when it comes to its achievements, and deceit when it comes to the scale of its mendacity, is safe in the hands of Michael Fallon.