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Week Four: Mendacious Fictions

30th November 2019

Chief-Rabbi-attacks-CorbynChief Rabbi – perpetrates mendacious fiction

The chief rabbi inadvertently coined the phrase which sums up the past week in the UK General Election with his use of the term “mendacious fiction” in an article in The Times (25/11/19).  In his article chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis stated,

“The claims by leadership figures in the Labour Party that it is ‘doing everything’ it reasonably can to tackle the scourge of anti-Jewish racism and that it has ‘investigated every single case’ are a mendacious fiction.”

Mirvis also claimed that “a new poison – sanctioned from the very top has taken root” in the Labour Party.  The Orthodox chief rabbi, the spiritual leader of the United Synagogue which represents around 50% of Jews living in the UK, nevertheless claimed maximum airtime with his claims as the BBC and right wing media gave virtually uncritical coverage to his remarks.

The rabbi was careful not to mention Jeremy Corbyn by name but still managed to make a series of statements which would otherwise land most people in a court of law for slander, stating,

“How complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s opposition have to be in order to be considered unfit for high office?”

He then went on to add,

“Would associations with those who have openly incited hatred against Jews be enough? Would support for a racist mural, depicting powerful hook-nosed Jews supposedly getting rich at the expense of the weak and downtrodden be enough? Would describing as “friends” those who endorse and even perpetrate the murder of Jews be enough? It seems not.”

Mirvis does concede that it was “not my place to tell any person how they should vote” but went on to urge the public to “vote with their conscience.”

Hopefully the public will take his advice to heart and vote for a Party with a Leader whose commitment to tackling racism, prejudice and injustice has been demonstrated time and time again in a political career spanning over forty years.  They could even vote for a political party whose Leader has stated clearly and unequivocally,

“There is no place whatsoever for anti-Semitism in any shape or form or in any place whatsoever in modern Britain and under a Labour government it will not be tolerated in any form whatsoever.”

Alternatively, they could buy in to the mendacious fiction pedalled by the chief rabbi, who represents a conservative section of the Jewish community but by no means the Jewish community as a whole.  The Jewish Socialists’ Group for example are quite unequivocal in their opinion that,

“We can see no evidence that a victorious Labour government would persecute, disadvantage, hurt, oppress or delegitimise Jewish citizens.  On the contrary, the party’s commitment to equality and to challenging discrimination are key to its values and manifesto commitments.”

The chief rabbi’s article had clearly been ‘in the can’ for some time, so it can be no coincidence that The Times chose the date of Labour’s launch of its Race and Faith Manifesto to publish the chief rabbi’s mendacious fictions, in order to undermine the Party’s commitment to justice and equality for those of every race and faith in the UK.  No prizes for guessing how much media time and column inches Labour’s commitments received, compared to the comments of the chief rabbi.

The media had clearly targeted this week as key in their anti-Corbyn calendar with the BBC having scheduled a 1-1 interview with Andrew Neil for the 26th November.  It was entirely predictable, given the dynamic of the news cycle, that Neil would launch immediately into the anti-Semitism question.  His attack line was to press Corbyn for an apology to those who claimed to have been victims of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

Corbyn pointed out that allegations of anti-Semitism came from small minority, that disciplinary procedures were in place, with cases being tackled, and that he abhorred anti-Semitism or racism in any form, both in the Labour Party and in society.  The failure to give an actual apology was a tactical error but Corbyn also cut a defensive figure on an issue on which Labour in general, and he personally, should occupy the moral high ground.

There is no doubt that Neil’s interviewing style is both obnoxious and hectoring, not letting the actual truth get in the way of a good headline, but that was hardly an unknown.  Corbyn should have been prepared to hit back and hit back hard.  His body language signalled retreat and Neil continued to attack.  On the subject of Brexit, the economy, defence of the NHS and pensions, the pattern was set and the interview ended in disaster.

Neil in effect utilised a series of mendacious fictions, that Labour is weak on tackling anti-Semitism, that Labour is weak on the economy, that Labour does not have a clear position on Brexit, to challenge Corbyn at every turn and shout down any response.

Once again the news cycle did not pick up on Corbyn’s commitment to oppose racism, to gain justice for the WASPI women, robbed of their pensions, to tackle injustice and poverty, or to be the only party offering a second referendum on Brexit.

With a NATO summit taking place in the UK next week there will be plenty of scope for the usual mendacious fictions about Britain being disarmed and unsafe under a Labour government to come to the fore.  Corbyn is not only a lifelong anti-racist but a lifelong peace campaigner and the media will no doubt look to turn this against him as the campaign enters its final ten days.

Trash can US President, Donald Trump, will be taking tea with the Queen at the taxpayers’ expense.  He has made no secret of his support for a Johnson rather a Corbyn government and will no doubt reiterate his position when he visits next week.  That at least could be an advantage for Labour, given how toxic a figure Trump is for most in the UK.

This week has been a setback for Labour but it is by no means a defeat. There is no doubt that the political establishment is still sufficiently worried by the prospect of a Corbyn government that they will throw everything into the final stages of the campaign.  Mendacious fictions will come pouring forth.  Labour will not only need to stand firm but do its utmost to go on the offensive.  With the right wing press and ‘impartial’ BBC set against them, it will be a tough task.

Social media will be vital, word of mouth will be vital, unity around Labour’s manifesto will be essential, if real change is to stand a chance and Boris Johnson is to be packing his bags on 13th December.

 

 

 

Week Three: The Blue Red Herring

22nd November 2019

Manifesto launchLabour Manifesto launch – real change in prospect

This week saw the first head to head TV debate between Tory Leader, Boris Johnson, and Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn.  Inevitably the billing was promoted in the form of a boxing match, Johnson v Corbyn, only lacking a weigh in between the two candidates.  While Johnson was clearly ahead on body weight it was demonstrated throughout the debate that Corbyn was clearly ahead in political weight. On questions of trust, racism, the NHS and housing Corbyn out punched Johnson at every turn.

One area of Corbyn’s game does needs to be tightened however.  Johnson had primed his allies in the right wing press on his main attack line, announcing that he had written to Jeremy Corbyn to ask him which way he would campaign on EU membership, specifically posing the question,

“You are proposing a second referendum on EU membership. In that referendum, would you recommend the UK should remain or leave?”

This attack line was used by Johnson throughout the debate, pressed as an area in which Corbyn was failing and would fail to give clear leadership.

On several occasions Corbyn reiterated the Labour position that a Labour government would negotiate a new deal with the EU and put that deal, alongside Remain in the EU, to a second referendum, in effect a People’s Vote.  It sounded defensive and allowed Johnson to land punches.

It is the policy of the Tories to Leave the EU.  It is the policy of the Lib Dems to Remain.  It is Labour policy to go to a People’s Vote.  Corbyn was simply reflecting the policy of the Party, whether he personally would campaign for a new deal or Remain is irrelevant but Johnson and the Tory press are keen to make this the main issue.

Corbyn has clearly been placed in an invidious position by the Remain camp within Labour, who have pushed Labour into a position that is difficult to pitch positively.  Prior to recent conference decisions Labour had a clear position; honour the outcome of the 2016 referendum, Leave the EU but with a better deal than the Tories.

Many campaigners for a People’s Vote clearly wanted no such thing but saw the process as a vehicle to Remain in the EU.  The opportunist Lib Dems are the embodiment of this position, having encouraged the People’s Vote campaign then proposing to deny the people an option, by committing to Remain without a referendum.

The latest twist in the Lib Dem position is to suggest that they will consider supporting Boris Johnson’s Leave deal if he offers a second referendum alongside it.  Hanging on the coattails of the Tories is once again the Lib Dem position, nothing new there.

Labour’s current position makes life difficult for Corbyn but not impossible.  Given the numbers who demonstrated in recent months in favour of a so called People’s Vote, Labour’s best pitch under current circumstances is to call out that constituency and stress that Labour is the only party offering that option.

Corbyn cold sharpen his position by turning Johnson’s question back on him and asking,

“If your Brexit deal is so good, why don’t you have the confidence to put it back to the people in a second referendum?”

This would offer the possibility to shift the Brexit element of the election debate away from Corbyn’s leadership on the issue and towards Johnson’s democratic credentials.

In spite of the opportunism of the People’s Vote process it is still important for Labour to find its own attack line on Brexit.  Otherwise there is the real danger that the massively positive programme outlined in the just published manifesto, It’s Time for Real Change, will be overshadowed by the Tories and their media cohorts, diverting attention by pressing the ‘leadership’ red herring as the key issue.

The headlines alone in Labour’s manifesto signal a challenge to the assumptions that have persisted in UK politics for almost four decades: a green industrial revolution; rebuild our public services; tackle poverty and inequality; the final say on Brexit; a new internationalism.  The detail beneath these headlines indicates a programme to begin shifting the balance of wealth and power away from the wealthy and the tax dodging elites and towards working class people.

Even though, in spite of what the Tories and their press allies might say, Labour’s manifesto falls far short of being a programme for socialist revolution, it is still a programme for real change and one which offers real hope to the ordinary people of this country.  The Tories, the banks the tax dodgers and the City of London will conspire against it.  The task in the coming weeks, is to make real change happen.

 

 

Week Two: The Many or The Few?

16th November 2019

Remembrance

Johnson lays a wreath…but when?

How many people watch and how much impact Party Election Broadcasts have in today’s multi media world is hard to gauge.  However, they must be deemed sufficiently important for the campaign teams of the major parties to put some effort into them.  The broadcasts from the Conservative Party and the Labour Party this week were an interesting microcosm of the contrasting visions on offer from the UK’s major political parties.

The Tories went with personality, as they assume that Boris Johnson has a personality that is a saleable commodity.  The entire five minutes was taken up with a cinema verité style talk to camera in response to a series of inane questions about how Boris spends his day, what he likes to eat, his favourite bands and an impromptu demonstration of how not to make a cup of tea (take out the teabag!).

The office that Boris wanders through on this pinhead odyssey just happens to be littered with posters shouting out Tory election slogans such as ‘20,000 new police officers’, ‘Unite our Country’ and hilariously, ‘Properly funding our Schools’.  Really?  Has Johnson seen the state of schools in the UK as a result of the break up of the comprehensive system and the introduction of academies?  The icing on the cake is to hear Johnson cite The Clash as one of his favourite bands, showing him to have even less grip on political reality than most suspected.

Like Nigel Farage, Johnson is a phoney ‘man of the people’ and the broadcast simply reinforces this impression.  All that comes across is that there is a smug posh bloke out there trying to trick you into voting for him.  The inevitable ending is an exhortation to Get Brexit Done.  In any event, the phoney war between Farage and Johnson ended this week when Farage agreed not to stand Brexit Party candidates in the 317 seats the Tories won in 2017, hoping to create a de facto Leave alliance.

The Labour broadcast is in stark contrast, focusing upon real people actually working for a living, struggling against the lack of resources in the public sector in the case of a firefighter and doctor, the diverse community engagement activity at a local football club and the struggles of a small farmer.  Care, compassion and community are the clear messages which emerge.  Rarely has the Labour slogan, For the Many, Not the Few, seemed so relevant.

In other highlights this week the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, interviewing Jeremy Corbyn on the subject of immigration, did her best to tie him into the numbers game, pressing for a target on net migration.  Unfortunately for Kuenssberg, Corbyn outsmarted her at each turn in the interview.  While Kuenssberg pressed for a number Corbyn insisted that immigration was an issue relating to family circumstances and the needs of the economy, not an arbitrary target to be used as a political football.

The BBC had covered themselves in glory earlier in the week with their coverage of Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph.  Boris Johnson, having turned up looking like a man with a hangover from last nights party, proceeded to approach the Cenotaph with an upside down wreath.  In order to save his blushes the BBC obligingly substituted footage of Johnson from 2016, when advisers had made him comb his hair and tuck his shirt in, for subsequent coverage of the event.

The ensuing Twitter storm saw the BBC apologise for their ‘mistake’…in having gone through the archives and found replacement footage? Not a mistake but media manipulation.

The Tories meanwhile had a hard time on Sky, where the unfortunately named Party Chairman, James Cleverley, turned up for Sophie Ridge on Sunday, having been empty chaired by Kay Burley on Sky News a few days earlier for failing to put in a scheduled appearance.  Ridge pressed (not so) Cleverley on Tory claims about Labour spending plans, which Tory Central Office had calculated as reaching a mind boggling £1.2 trillion.

Cleverley clearly thought he was on safe ground, attacking Labour on the economy, until Ridge asked what figure that Central Office had calculated for the Tories spending promises.  Cleverley was flummoxed and burbled in a style reminiscent of his party leader but Ridge pressed the point.  If the Tories had spent so much time working out the alleged cost of Labour plans surely it was not too big a step to put a price on their own?  Clearly it was and the question remains unanswered.

On the fringes of the election trail Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson continues to cry, ‘Me! Me! Me!’, into the dying Winter light of an equally lacklustre campaign offer.

The opening weeks of a General Election represent the border skirmishes, rather than the main battle, but the Tories have already thrown antisemitism, immigration, Brexit policy and the economy Labour’s way.  Expect more disinformation on foreign policy, defence, nationalisation, plus law and order to come in the weeks ahead.

In spite of their best efforts, aided by the right wing press and an obviously biased BBC, the Tories are not making ground and Labour are slowly closing the gap in the opinion polls.

Published manifestos are expected soon…..

 

 

Week One: No billionaires, no poverty

9th November 2019

Corbyn Change

Jeremy Corbyn – launching Labour’s campaign for real change

The first week of the General Election campaign in the UK has already seen fault lines open up between the two main parties in a way which will define what this election is about.  The commitment of Labour to address the needs of the many, not the few has been evident in announcements on housing, public spending, maternity pay and childcare.  The position of the Tories has largely been to play catch up, by making public sector spending promises which are a poor shadow of those made by Labour.

It is remarkable that the Tories have miraculously discovered that the NHS, industry and pubic services might be things worth investing in.   The difference of course is that the Tories are merely paying lip service, in order to win votes, whereas a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn would be committed to a real effort to shift the balance of power in favour of those currently paying the price for the failures of capitalism.

In spite of their efforts to steal Labour clothes the Tories have stumbled through a chaotic first week of campaigning, which has seen the supercilious Jacob Rees-Mogg forced to apologies over remarks about the Grenfell Tower fire; the resignation of Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns, who supported a former aide whose testimony caused a rape trial to collapse; and Johnson himself being caught on video making a rambling speech in Northern Ireland, at which he appears not to understand the terms of his own Brexit deal.

Johnson had set the tone earlier in the week with a column in the Daily Telegraph in which he compared Jeremy Corbyn to Joseph Stalin.  Johnson accused Corbyn of hating “profit so viscerally that he will destroy the very foundations of prosperity in our country.”

Johnson went on to suggest that Labour Party members “pretend that their hate is only directed at certain billionaires, at whom they point the finger with a vindictive pleasure that has not been seen since Stalin persecuted the kulaks.”  The absurdity of Johnson’s remarks were summed up by Corbyn who responded via Twitter on “The absurdities the ultra-rich can come out with in order to avoid paying a little more tax …”

The media have done their best, no doubt in the interests of balance, to cover issues that have been problematic for Labour.  The resignation of Labour Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, was plastered across the press as a shock which had “stunned Labour.”  In reality Watson’s decision had been known to Corbyn’s office a week earlier and the timing agreed with the Labour leader.  In spite of Watson stepping down for genuine personal reasons the media narrative inevitably ran the story they wanted about splits in Labour.

The antisemitism bogie was also given a further run with former Labour MPs, Ian Austin and John Woodcock, being given airtime disproportionate to their importance to wheel out the old trope that Labour is lax in tackling antisemitism.  Both went as far as to say they would rather see Boris Johnson continue in Downing St than Jeremy Corbyn become Prime Minister.

Margaret Hodge, recently reselected as candidate for her seat in Barking, who knows Corbyn’s record as an anti racist of many years standing, also refused to endorse the Labour leader.  When pressed as to who she would rather see as Prime Minister, Johnson or Corbyn she responded,

“I want a Labour government.  I think any government is more than any individual. And I want a Labour government.”

The real low point came when the 8th November front page headline and editorial of the voice of the conservative Jewish community, The Jewish Chronicle, addressed a call “To Our Fellow British Citizens” it stated,

“The vast majority of British Jews consider Jeremy Corbyn to be an antisemite. In the most recent poll, last month, the figure was 87 per cent.

Putting oneself in the shoes of another person, or another group, can be difficult. But we believe it is important — and urgent — that you do that. Perhaps the fact that nearly half (47 per cent) of the Jewish community said in that same poll that they would “seriously consider” emigrating if Mr Corbyn wins on December 12 will give you an indication of what it feels like to be a British Jew at a time when the official opposition is led by a man widely held to be an antisemite.”

The subsequent article is a disgraceful fabric of lies and unsubstantiated allegations, including asserting that antisemitism in the Labour Party is “inspired by its leader” and that Corbyn personally has “racist views”.

Not surprisingly Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson, tweeted the Jewish Chronicle front page, swallowing the slurs lock, stock and barrel.

With four weeks still to go every effort will be made by the media, the political establishment and those opposed to justice and human rights for Palestine to caricature Labour’s position and slur Corbyn personally.

For his part Corbyn has stood by his pledge not to get into the politics of the gutter.  He has stood by the clear message of Labour’s first week of campaigning; no billionaires, no poverty.

It is a message which those siding with the few fear.  It is a message which is having an increasing impact with the many.

 

 

 

 

Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer….

29th October 2019

GECorbyn

Corbyn – ready to fight the General Election

With the date for a UK General Election now established as 12th December 2019, mobilisation to support the manifesto of the Labour Party has to be an absolute priority for the labour and trade union movement.  The austerity loving Liberal Democrats have demonstrated that they are fully paid up members of the pro EU Remain tendency, blind to the devastation EU membership has wreaked upon the UK economy over the past forty years and indifferent to the impact upon workers’ rights.  As their time in coalition with the Tories demonstrated, their interests align with those of big business, not the working people of the UK.

The Scottish Nationalists continue to bluster as paper radicals but like the Lib Dems align themselves to the EU and will work towards preventing Brexit at any cost.  The DUP continue to tread their sectarian opportunist path, in defence of partition and the protection of Protestant privilege, in the North of Ireland.  They do not want Northern Ireland to be treated differently to other parts of the UK, unless they say so.

The Tories have gathered some momentum under Boris Johnson but will still be vulnerable to hardline Leavers defecting to the Brexit Party and pro-EU one nation Tories drifting towards former bedfellows the Lib Dems.  Enough disaffection across the country could see the Tory vote dwindle and, in some cases, let Labour in through the middle.

Labour, while having a compromised position on Brexit, negotiate a new deal then go to a referendum with Remain on the ballot paper, are still the only Party with policies which will give hope to working people in the UK.  The core manifesto promises represent the best chance in a generation of effecting anything like a shift in the direction of travel in social policy and would begin to challenge some of the core economic assumptions which have underpinned the neo-liberal consensus of the past forty years.

Public sector investment is the engine of the economy.  Without it the private sector cannot function.  Without schools, roads, hospitals and welfare provision the private sector could not operate on any significant scale.  Labour’s commitment to zero carbon emissions by 2030 is the biggest single commitment of any party to taking seriously the climate emergency and linking environmental concerns to the need for progressive industrial investment.

The Green Deal will be at the heart of Labour’s pitch to the electorate in general and young people in particular.

Labour are committed to the re-nationalisation of the failing railway infrastructure; bringing the Royal Mail back into public ownership; taking back the water industry from foreign investors profiting from water supply, a basic human need.  Labour will be committed to more Council housing; more investment in and co-operation with local government; a rebuilding of the NHS and adult social care programmes.

Ofsted will be abolished and a National Education Service established.  University tuition fees will go.  Anti-trade union legislation introduced by the Tories to shackle workers’ rights and left unchallenged by the EU, will be repealed.  Universal Credit will go.

Housing bought purely for profit and standing empty while people are homeless will be subject to compulsory purchase.

Ironically, the major barrier to Labour implementing such a radical programme is membership of the EU itself.  The four pillars of the EU, the so called four freedoms for the movement of goods, services, capital and labour are not freedoms in any real sense at all.  They are the freedoms of the free market, the freedom for capital to move and cheap labour to be exploited.  They are constraints, they are chains.

The manifesto which still stands up to scrutiny, published in the 19th century, had a bit to say about chains.  As Marx and Engels quite rightly observed in Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), workers of the world “have nothing to lose but their chains.”

As importantly, and even more relevant now than it was then in the face of the worldwide climate emergency, is the closing sentence of the quotation, “They have a world to win.”

A Labour victory in December may not be quite on the scale of winning the world, but it will be a first step in the right direction.

 

No ifs, no buts, General Election now!

20th October 2019

Last Chance

Jeremy Corbyn – last chance looming

Boris Johnson has sent a letter to the EU requesting an extension to the UK withdrawal process until 31st January 2020.  Johnson has sent the letter because he had to, under the terms of the Benn Act, but he as not signed it.

Johnson has also sent a second letter, which he has signed, making it clear that, while he was obliged to send the first letter, he does not agree with it and will press on to deliver his declared position of securing UK withdrawal from the EU by the 31st October 2019. This position has been confirmed by Cabinet Minister in charge of exiting the EU, Michael Gove, on Sky News this morning, who claimed that the government had “the means and the ability” to leave on 31st October.

EU Council President, Donald Tusk has acknowledged receipt of the UK’s letter requesting an extension and has said he will consult EU leaders “on how to react.”  It is likely that EU leaders will sit on their hands for as long as possible, waiting to see what new drama unfolds in the UK Parliament before taking a view.

The Parliamentary chicanery which resulted in this position looks set to continue this week when the government proposes to bring its Withdrawal Bill to the House of Commons, in order to get agreement in principle on Johnson’s deal, before the hand to hand combat of scrutiny and amendment proposals begins.

This process could be quickly circumvented however with a vote of no confidence from Labour and a motion resulting in a General Election.  There is no prospect that the Bill the Tories present will be amendable in any way acceptable to Labour’s current position.  Labour conference policy is to press for a General Election, after which a new deal can be negotiated with the EU and put to a referendum with Remain also on the ballot paper.

This in itself is a hugely compromised position, reflecting the extent to which the pro-Remain faction within Labour has gained ground and is effectively holding Corbyn hostage.  However, the danger of pressure mounting inside Parliament for a second referendum, which poses Remain against a leave deal negotiated by Johnson, must surely be less acceptable to many on the Labour frontbench.  A General Election is the only logical demand to make.

The schisms within Labour however may run too deep for this position to gain traction.  Significant front bench weight, including John McDonnell, Emily Thornberry and Kier Starmer are weighing in behind a pro Remain position.  Starmer has already said that Labour would support an amendment requiring Johnson’s deal to be put to a referendum, a proposal he expects to be tabled.  The net effect of this would be a Johnson deal vs Remain referendum, effectively forcing those supporting Leave to back Johnson’s deal.

In any event a General Election would be certain to follow, which Labour would go into significantly weakened and divided, either because of a Remain outcome to the referendum, or having to live with Johnson having succeeded in his deal being endorsed.

Having tactically failed to press home the advantage of forcing a weakened Tory Party into a General Election in September, it would be a crime to compound the error further and not press for an election now, ahead of any discussion on the Johnson Withdrawal Bill.

Corbyn has a last chance to retrieve something from the current mess and outflank the backstabbers in his own party.  Failure to do so is likely to set back the chances of a radical Labour government for a generation.

Turkey – NATO attack dog or ISIS ally?

13th October 2019

SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 09: A photo taken from Turkey's SanlNortheast Syria burns after Turkish missile attacks

The withdrawal of the limited US contingent of troops based in Northern Syria this week undoubtedly opened the door for the increased Turkish military presence and its assault on the Kurdish population.  The Turkish incursion is undoubtedly an invasion but it is effectively a stepping up of the ongoing invasion of Syria which has been happening for the past eight years, routinely characterised in the Western media as the Syrian Civil War.

Having effectively stepped aside to allow Turkish troops free rein to attack the Kurds who were, up until this point, allied to the United States in the fight against ISIS, US President Trump then tweeted,

“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over…”

Whatever Trump meant precisely, the response of the Turkish government, from Vice President Fuat Oktay, left little room for equivocation.  Oktay said Turkey was intent on combating Syrian Kurdish fighters across its border in Syria and on creating a zone that would allow Turkey to resettle Syrian refugees there.

“Where Turkey’s security is concerned, we determine our own path but we set our own limits,” Oktay said.

As a member of the NATO military alliance it would be usual to expect some consultation with partners before embarking on unilateral military action against a neighbouring state.  Some weak kneed disapproval of Turkish action has been voiced in London, Berlin and Paris but no suggestion that this should be universally condemned and certainly no suggestion that the rights of the Kurdish people to self determination should be on anyone’s agenda.

The Syrian government has reacted through Deputy Foreign Minister, Faisal Mekdad, who called on the country’s Kurds to rejoin the government side after being abandoned by their US allies.

As an oppressed minority within Turkey the Kurdish people, under the leadership of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), have been engaged in armed conflict inside Turkey since 1984, in their struggle to improve the rights of Kurds in the country.  While the original desire of the PKK for an independent Kurdish state, which would incorporate parts of existing Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq, has been dropped, the demands for equal rights and fair treatment remains.

Turkey considers Kurdish fighters in Syria terrorists and has already launched two major incursions into northern Syria in recent years. The first was in 2016, when Turkey and Syrian opposition fighters it backs, attacked areas held by ISIS west of the Euphrates River. Last year Turkey launched an attack on the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin, leading to the displacement of some 300,000 people.

There is little doubt that energy spent by Kurdish forces consolidating areas regained from ISIS control will now have to be diverted to defend against the Turkish threat.  The opportunity for ISIS to exploit this division and reassert itself in areas of northeastern Syria is obvious.

Western media reports that Turkey gained clearance for its attack from Russia, as part of the agreement between Russia, Turkey and Iran in relation to the Syrian conflict, appear to be at odds with the condemnation of the Turkish incursion by Iran.  It is equally likely that, whatever its notional alliance with Russia, or for that matter NATO, Turkey saw the opportunity to weaken or wipe out the PKK opposition and has seized it.

A more sinister interpretation is offered by the New York Post (21/9/19) which notes that,

“Since 2012, the Turkish intelligence service MIT, under (Turkish President) Erdogan’s direction, has been providing resources and material assistance to ISIS, while Turkish customs officials turn a blind eye to ISIS recruits flowing across Turkey’s borders into Syria and Iraq.”

ISIS re-established in Syria would add to the de-stabilisation of the Assad government, potentially undermining it, which has been the intention of the West since fighting began.  A de facto alliance with ISIS to undermine the PKK would suit Turkey’s domestic objectives as well as retaining a NATO foothold in Syria.

It may just be that, for Turkey, being an attack dog for NATO and at the same time an ally of ISIS, are simply two sides of the same coin.