Corbyn: Military Policy Has Made Us Less Safe Than during Cold War; Middle East Interventions and 'War on Terror' Hurt UK, Says Labour Leader

The Evening Standard (London, England), May 12, 2017 | Go to article overview

Corbyn: Military Policy Has Made Us Less Safe Than during Cold War; Middle East Interventions and 'War on Terror' Hurt UK, Says Labour Leader


Byline: Nicholas Cecil Deputy Political Editor

BRITAIN'S military interventions in Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and Afghanistan have made the country less safe, Jeremy Corbyn argued today.

In a keynote speech on defence and security, he also accused the Government of a "regime change" war in Syria to topple tyrant Bashar Assad.

"Today the world is more unstable than even at the height of the Cold War," he was due to say. "Regime change wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria -- and Western interventions in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen -- have failed in their own terms, and made the world a more dangerous place.

"The 'war on terror' which has driven these interventions has failed. They have not increased our security at home -- just the opposite." His stance, though, risks a backlash from some military chiefs and families, especially as British forces are currently involved in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

They are seeking to destroy the Islamic State terror organisation plotting atrocities on the streets of London and other parts of the UK.

However, Mr Corbyn, an opponent of British military action over recent decades, believes its approach to international security since the Nineties has "simply not worked" and that interventions have caused "destabilisation and devastation abroad".

Iraq plunged into a bloody civil war after Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003 and Libya has also been plagued by violence following the 2011 Anglo-French-led campaign in Libya against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime.

Mr Corbyn denied he was a "pacifist" and vowed that his first duty, if Prime Minister, would be to do "everything necessary to protect the safety and security of our people and our country". However, the Labour leader and former chairman of the Stop The War Coalition has clashed with his own party, including shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith, over his opposition to Britain's nuclear deterrent.

He has not ruled out an air strike to kill IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi but said he would first want to see the appropriate intelligence and how such action would help end the conflict in Syria.

His stance on security is believed to be putting off some traditional Labour voters and Theresa May today accused him of abandoning "patriotic working class people".

Armed forces minister Mike Penning added: "Jeremy Corbyn has spent a lifetime trying to disarm Britain but now he's pretending he's got what it takes to keep us safe. It's nonsense.

"We all want peace, but you can't take tea with terrorists who order attacks on innocent civilians on our streets."

Ms Griffith was noticeably absent from this morning's media rounds, with shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner instead appearing on TV and radio. She was said to have been unavailable.

Speaking at Chatham House in central London, Mr Corbyn later laid out a "triple commitment" for a new foreign policy of "defence, development, and diplomacy": "The best defence for Britain is a government actively engaged in seeking peaceful solutions to the world's problems. …

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