Syria The House Magazine 27 Nov 2015



David Cameron has asked Parliament to back him on military action in Syria. Perhaps we should. But there are some key questions that still need answering.


First, has the government put enough pressure on Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, who we know are, or have been, funding Jihadism?


Shutting off ISIS’s income has got to be a crucial part of our attempts to defeat them. Yet we know that rich Saudi businessmen have for some time funded, and may still be funding, the Wahabbists and Salfalists who are behind organised Jihad. They also funded Osama Bin Laden.


The Saudi Government are part of the international coalition fighting Jihadism. Surely the PM should be asking the Saudi and Qatari Governments why, with all their powers, they cannot not stop their citizens funding the Jihaddis?


If Mr Cameron wants to ask our pilots to risk their lives over Syria, surely he should be asking our allies why they are allowing their citizens to help those who want to shoot them down?


Second question. The Saudis and the Qataris are members of the international coalition which is currently bombing Iraq and Syria. But it seems they have withdrawn their planes from the fight. The last Saudi aircraft over the battlefield was in September, the last Qatari plane in February.


Perhaps this is because the current conflict has become a contest between Saudi Arabia and Iran. These sworn enemies do not want to do anything to help each other, so the Sunni Gulf states are unwilling to make any move that might advance the Shia cause in the region.


Or perhaps it is because all their planes are too busy bombing Yemen, causing terrible destruction and a humanitarian crisis which is, many believe, already acting, as a new recruiting sergeant for ISIL


If David Cameron wants us to endanger our own forces, he must be able to say he is at the very least, putting maximum pressure on the Gulf states to pull their weight too. Otherwise people will legitimately ask, why if we need to send our guys in, why are they pulling their guys out?


Question three. The EU have taken thousands of refugees from the Syrian battlefield. But the Gulf Sates have taken not single one. Let us be clear. More bombs will mean more refugees, at least in the short term. It may well be necessary for Britain to send its aircraft into Syria if the conditions are right. But if so then we should be prepared to play more of a role in helping the refugees that may ensue. The Gulf States should share that burden – but they are sharing none of it. Is that reasonable?.


If we, Europe are carrying the tragic consequences of this war, is it right that they should carry none?


I understand from someone who knows that, in a private conversation between one of the royal princes of Saudi Arabia and the Prime Minister, the prince said to Mr Cameron: “Our women are finding it uncomfortable to walk around the streets of London, knowing that the Muslim Brotherhood are operating freely.” The Saudis hate this organisation, and it is in their interests to portray them as a radical jihadist group. David Cameron agreed to conduct an inquiry into their activities in Britain, and committed public money to fund it.


That inquiry was completed a year ago. I understand it found that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a jihadist group. This is not what the Saudis want to hear – so the report has never been published. How can this be justified when taxpayers money was spent?


Lastly, many, in politics and out, have repeatedly called for an inquiry into the funding of Jihadism in the UK. Surely with what happened in Paris it is now urgent to know what money – and whose – is coming from outside to fund British extremism? So why has the Government refused this? Could it be that they fear this too might reach uncomfortable conclusions ?


I am not making accusations here. I am asking questions.


The Prime Minister has at last outlined the strategy he wants us to follow. Some may say better late than never. But that should not obscure that, in both tone and substance the Prime Minister hit the right note. In such a complex and dangerous situation it is right to give time for reflection. It would help us all if, before we decide whether our pilots should risk their lives over Syria, the Government could assure us that it was pressing our Gulf allies to do their bit too – and not making things worse.


There are close personal relationships between senior Tories and powerful Saudis. That may be a good thing. But its not an excuse to dodge questions that need to be asked.