On Friday 26 September, the UK government voted for military air strikes against ISIS in Iraq. MPs voted by 524 to 43, with 69 MPs not voting. A total of twenty-three Labour MPs, six Tories and one Lib Dem voted against military action along with MPs from the SNP, SDLP, Green party and Respect. As Britain plunges into yet another US-led military escapade in the Middle East, what implications does it have for Britons at home?
Home Secretary, Theresa May announced on August 29 that the terror threat to the UK had increased from “substantial” to “severe” due to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. However, May also confirmed that “there was no evidence to suggest one was imminent.” This may have been true at the time when ISIS posed no threat to the UK, but last Friday’s decision to bomb Iraq has changed that – the terror threat is now real.
I had predicted back in August that this false “terror threat” was a precursor to a military operation in Iraq. A poll carried out by The Independent showed that only a third of Britons supported air strikes against ISIS. Prime Minister David Cameron, like his predecessor Tony Blair ignored the advice of senior security officials who said that intervention in Iraq will have a direct consequence to the UK. The video message of 7/7 bomber, Mohammad Sidique Khan, and Michael Adebolajo‘s speech after murdering Lee Rigby, is a testimony to this. When the self-prophesied terror threat materialised after the UK deployed six Tornado fighter jets to Iraq, European leaders seem to have acknowledged that military intervention in the Middle East will have a blowback at home.
Straight after Parliament sanctioned air strikes in Iraq, Mayor Boris Johnson had warned commuters to be cautious on London’s transport network, saying: “I would ask all Londoners to continue to do as they always do and remain vigilant, report anything suspicious to the authorities.” Similarly New York, Paris, Amsterdam among many western cities have stepped up security on their public transport systems after they committed to bombing Syria and Iraq. Holland went as far as to advise its soldiers to refrain from wearing their military uniform on public transport in case they were targeted by ISIS sleeper cells. Counter terror chiefs and the defence ministry were reluctant to admit this “terror threat” had anything to do with the Dutch government’s decision to send six F-16 fighter jets to Iraq.
The war in Syria is approaching its fourth year, and this is the first time since the Arab Spring that Western states have buffed up domestic security. Whether they like to admit it or not, military intervention in the Middle East is the sole catalyst to terrorism and radicalisation in the West. Even pro-war journalists like Sunny Hundalwho supported British intervention in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria wrote in the New Statesman that the current US-led campaign to “degrade and destroy” ISIS is already showing “cracks”, as it would be costly, and most importantly ineffective. On the other hand, journalists like May Dejevsky argued that ISIS never posed a threat to the “British way of life”, and it was “absurd to suggest that we are fighting them ‘over there’ so that we won’t have to fight them ‘over here’.”
Whether you believe ISIS is a direct threat to the UK or not, it is clear that European states have naively joined the catastrophic US-led crusade in a region which has deep-rooted resentment towards western intervention. The lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq have been ignored, and the Syrian rebels who had been disunited up until now, have a reason to unite against a common enemy, as they perceive the air strikes to be an effort to protect and maintain the Assad regime.
As the global panic to the ‘ISIS terror threat’ leads to further curtailment of civil liberties by justifying draconian anti-terror laws, the current US-led military campaign will undoubtedly have repercussions at home. The ongoing cycle of western intervention that leads to greater hatred for the West, which later results in the likelihood of domestic terrorism/extremism/radicalisation has become a norm. Western states, namely the US and the UK, have known for years that military aggression in the Middle East fuels anti-Western extremism, and that’s exactly what they persist in doing. Until they address this, there will never be an end to this bloody ideological clash between ‘Western imperialism’ and ‘Islamism’.
When the leaders of Britain’s three main political parties support military intervention in a country they physically helped destroy and destabilise in 2003, it’s safe to assume that reason and rationale has no place among the liberal warmongers in Parliament.