UK: Still looking for simple solutions to complex issues

UK: Still looking for simple solutions to complex issues
Comment: In attempting to clamp down on "extremism", British authorities are pouring fuel on the fire, and making their citizens even more of a target, writes Tom Charles.
4 min read
23 Jul, 2015
Cameron [l] will host Egypt's President Sisi, who's been lambasted for human rights abuses [Getty]

Ten years after the 7/7 terrorist atrocities in London, British citizens appear no safer from terrorist attacks than in 2005.

And the UK government seems as far away as ever from a serious review of the foreign policy approach that has contributed to the loss of so many lives.

The country's official level of terrorist threat sits at "severe", meaning that an attack on the UK is "highly likely". This was increased from "substantial" in August 2014 with the dramatic rise of the so-called Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria - a development in which the UK played a significant role.

The 2005 attacks on London killed 52 and injured 700, some losing limbs and many left to live with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Further attempted suicide attacks in London (2005 and 2007) and Glasgow (2007) were unsuccessful, but the recent atrocity in Tunisia in which 30 UK nationals were murdered, and four left with severe injuries, has reminded UK citizens of how vulnerable they remain to blowback from government policy.

The 7/7 bombers, inspired by al-Qaeda, stated that they were motivated by the UK's involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, while there was a victory for Labour under Ed Miliband in 2013 in preventing the country from going to war in Syria, such a block looks less likely now.

     The Conservative government is looking to realign UK foreign policy along its traditional lines as the enabler of US domination

With the recent terrorist atrocity in Tunisia, the new Conservative government is looking to capitalise and realign UK foreign policy along its traditional lines as the enabler of US intervention and domination.

The Tunisian government has said that the gunman trained at a Libyan jihadi camp - but this information, as well as the obvious moral issue of using the incident to promote a political agenda, has not deterred either the ruling Conservatives nor the opposition Labour party from taking a more militaristic stance towards IS.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told parliament that the government hoped to expand its airstrikes across the border from Iraq to Syria.

Acting opposition leader Harriet Harman concurred when Fallon claimed that the Tunisian atrocity could have been planned in Syria - despite no evidence of this being presented.

Prime Minister David Cameron went further, labelling the IS group an "existential threat" to the UK, a statement off the hyperbolic scale - but one that served as a clear signal that the new Tory government has no intention of taking a fresh look at UK Middle East policy.

Despite the rhetoric, the government will look to secure agreement from Labour MPs before it risks a second public embarrassment for Cameron on Syria. This means that they will probably defer a vote until Labour has elected its new leader in September.

Of the four candidates, only Jeremy Corbyn would oppose military action.

With a Conservative-Labour agreement, the UK could expand its air war to Syria, but bombing from a great height would not eradicate IS, and could even enhance the group's appeal.

The question would then be asked about whether the UK government would be prepared to send ground troops to Syria to face IS, against the wishes of its own population.

     By speaking only the language of force, the UK is ignoring the lessons of the recent past.

By speaking only the language of force, the UK is ignoring the lessons of the recent past.

In 2013, airstrikes to topple Bashar al-Assad would have strengthened the IS hand in Syria. The decision to arm the anti-Assad rebels has backfired spectacularly, while the 2011 bombing of Libya destabilised the country, perhaps fatally.

The destruction of Iraqi society, along with the UK's role in Mali and support for Israel and Saudi Arabia, among others, are all elements of the UK's role in spreading instability and terror across the region.

Despite the very real threat to British lives, the UK political establishment seems intent on adding fuel to the fire. They might not want to face the fact, but their policies in the Muslim world are making their own citizens more vulnerable.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.