Cameron Overreaches With “70,000” Claim Nobody Believes 160

Cameron is in serious trouble at Westminster after overreaching himself by the claim that there are 70,000 “moderate rebels” willing to take up the ground war with Isis. Quite literally not one single MP believes him. There are those who believe the lie is justified. But even they know it is a lie.

There is a very interesting parallel here with the claims over Iraqi WMD. The 70,000 figure has again been approved by the Joint Intelligence Committee, with a strong push from MI6. But exactly as with Iraqi WMD, there were strong objections from the less “political” Defence Intelligence, and caveats inserted. As the Head of Defence Intelligence, Major-General Michael Laurie, told the Chilcot Inquiry:

“we could find no evidence of planes, missiles or equipment that related to weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It was clear to me that pressure was being applied to the Joint Intelligence Committee and its drafters. Every fact was managed to make the dossier as strong as possible. The final statements in the dossier reached beyond the conclusions intelligence assessments would normally draw from such facts.”

The truth is the military tends to be much more honest about these matters than the spooks. Rather than make the same mistake again, parliamentarians should be calling Laurie’s successor, Air Marshal Philip Osborn, to ask him the truth about the nature, composition and availability of the 70,000. I happen to know that signals of dissent from Osborn’s staff – quite probably with his blessing – are reaching not just me, but many Tory MPs.

Meantime we can ourselves deconstruct the 70,000 figure and work out the various civil service sleights of hand that produced it. We have Cameron’s written response to the Foreign Affairs Committee in which he sets out his case for war. This document is of course extremely carefully written.

The 70,000 figure is at page 18. It does then give the breakdown of who these 70,000 are.

The very first group listed are the Kurds, and they are indeed the best organised and most numerous group. But there is a trick here – the paper includes them in the 70,000, despite going on to accept that they are not available to fight in Isil territory because it is Arab not Kurdish land. So that already knocks the largest and best contingent out of the 70,000.

Why were the Kurds included in the total when the paper itself acknowledges they are not available?

After that, Cameron is really struggling and the paper becomes vague. The paper talks (p.19) of rebel forces who defended the Syrian-Turkish border near Aleppo from ISIL attack.

This is perfectly true, but their leading fighting component is Jabhat-al-Nusra, an open al-Qaida affiliate. They cannot conceivably be described as moderate, and are armed and equipped by Saudi Arabia. Their principle martial activity is looting and raping in Shia villages. There are in fact about two dozen rebel groups around Aleppo – here is a good snapshot – who often fight each other and for the last few months have been losing ground to Assad forces. They are also a primary target of the Russians. It is simply nonsense that they could march on ISIS in Raqqa.

Cameron’s paper then goes on to reference the southern front of the Free Syrian Army, and paints a rather rose-coloured picture of its military prowess. The Free Syrian army can legitimately be painted as less extremist than other groups, with some important reservations, but nobody has ever assessed the strength of its southern branch at over 10,000 fighters. It is completely pre-occupied with fighting Assad and Hezbollah.

After that, the paper is seriously stuck, and goes on to enumerate policemen, “white helmet” humanitarian workers and even local authority engineering workforces as part of the evidence of the existence of moderate forces. Whether any of these groups is included in that amazing 70,000 total is unclear.

What is clear is that the 70,000 figure does not stand up to thirty seconds scrutiny, and there is no coherent plan whatsoever for ground forces to follow up air attack.

The absence of ground forces was an obvious flaw in Cameron’s bombing plan. For him to try to allay concerns by such a huge and blatant lie may prove to be a very poor tactic. Indeed this is so shockingly bad that not only are many Tories privately saying it is difficult to vote for bombing, even some of the still more right wing Blairites are concerned too.

160 thoughts on “Cameron Overreaches With “70,000” Claim Nobody Believes

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  • Mary

    Right on Craig. We will rise against this liar as we rose against another liar, Blair.

    Many locations for Saturday.

    Stop the War’s 7-point rebuttal of Cameron’s case for war on Syria

    Stop the War Coalition 26 November 2015.

    David Cameron is asking MPs to vote to plunge Britain into a maelstrom of competing powers without any apparent co-ordination or plan.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    If the British government or anyone else in the so called coalition have a reliable rebel group to take Assad’s place, why is no leader of the rebels ever mentioned?

    In successful revolutions, the leader of the rebels is always mentioned, whether it be Lenin of the Boshevics in Russia, Moa in China, Nasser in Egypt, Gaddafi in Libya, and Fidel in Cuba.

    Who, pray tell, is this rag-tag grous’ leader?

  • giyane


    Thank you for stating these facts so clearly and succinctly. Cameron wants Israel ultimately to mop up the chaos which will fill the vacuum. Well he doesn’t want it but he wants to keep his job as PM.

  • RobG

    Mary, the anti-war demonstrators next Saturday will probably all be arrested for being ‘non-violent extremists’.

    Gawd, what a world…

  • Ba'al Zevul

    How about rewinding to the status quo ante? Syria: Russian sphere of interest. Their problem. Iraq: even more than Syria, full of jihadis because we (a)let them breed there and (b) refuse utterly to antagonise their Saudi and Bahraini backers. Our problem. Where the French go is up to them, but Vallis needs to be reminded that his hero fucked up badly in the ME and he is likely to do the same.

  • Mary

    The Sky Defence correspondent concurs and got a map showing little blobs marked in yellow where the ‘moderates’ are supposed to be, one in Latakia and the other in the SW of the very large country.

    They have this report of Julian Lewis’s dissent. He is the chairman of the Defence Select Committee.

    ‘PM’s Syria Fighters Figure A ‘Magical Number’
    Defence Committee chairman Julian Lewis warns MPs must not decide on Syria strikes on the basis of “misleading information”.

  • Loony

    The US has spent some $500 million training moderate Syrian forces. According to General Lloys Austin (Commander of US Central Command) this expenditure has resulted in “four or five fighters” being in place and able to confront Jihadist forces.

    Presumably this small, but significant number will form part of the UK assessment. As the strap line says “Every little helps.”

  • Republicofscotland

    What is the feeling around Westminster, will the politicians approve boots on the ground?

    Mind you they gave the go ahead in Iraq, without significant evidence, why should Syria be any different.

    If the politicians indeed do, give the nod to send troops to Syria, then, like Iraq, it would appear that the mantra is as long as you can persuade enough politicians, to back you the evidence doesn’t need to be that strong.

  • craig Post author


    No, for certain they won’t approve boots on the ground.

    They may not now approve airstrikes either if they believe there is nobody reliable on the ground to follow up.

  • Herbie

    Oh dear.

    Not Baku too!!

    “President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has signed a decree to recall the Consul General of Azerbaijan in Istanbul and at the same time the permanent representative of Azerbaijan in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, Hasan Zeynalov, reports the official website of the President.

    Another decree of the President recalled from office the permanent representative of Azerbaijan to the UN office at Geneva and other international organizations, Murad Najafbeyli.”

  • Iain Orr

    Craig: Many thanks for spelling out exactly how crap-disposal experts disassemble Cameron’s statistical fabrications. A similar exercise will be needed when Trident renewal next comes up for parliamentary debate.

  • Loony

    If you are looking for people to fight on the ground then Ramzan Kadyrov (President of Chechnya) could well be your man.

    He has this to say:

    “I consider it my duty to declare that I personally, the Chechen Republic, the entire Chechen people are ready to fulfill orders and orders of any complexity [given by the Russian president]. For this we have the will, determination, highly trained forces, and thousands of volunteers! We are always waiting for the order! You will make sure how true patriots of Russia perform it”

  • Republicofscotland


    Jeremy Corbyn WONT support airstrikes in Syria, he’s writing to his MP’s to inform them of his position.

  • Republicofscotland

    “He wants to abolish the Army so no surprises there then”


    It’s the airforce, a big clue, for you, you know that’s why it’s called airstrikes, that’s proposed to do the bombing…..bombing another clue for you.

  • N_

    “45 minutes”, “75 thousand” – same old cock.

    Anyone else here read Ogilvy’s book on advertising? Old techniques are good – they work. That’s why cokehead advertisin drudges call themselves “creative”. It’s like saying “I’m not lying to you”.

    And this time there will be far more bending down and kissing their arses goodbye than ever there were in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and its aftermath.

    Who will star as the Dajjal in Daesh’s zine Dabiq? Putin? Erdogan? Obama? Kadyrov? Ahmadinejad? Because I’m telling you, someone will. For more on the Dajjal, read up on Daesh’s apocalypticism.

    All those who want to shout about the dangers – and that should be pretty much everyone with any brain cells who’s not a cunt – should read up on said apocalypticism and spread the news, fast.

    The late Boris Berezovsky, friend of the British royal family, protected by MI6 but with personal protection provided by the Zionists, was on the ball when it came to Russian oil: delete Arab oil, he said, and Russia’s will be in more demand.

  • Andy

    Habba: You are a complete and utter fraud. Israel are treating Al Nusra fighters in their hospitals, that says enough about the Israeli role.

  • N_

    @Loony – The “entire Chechen people” – bar those who are already fighting for Al Qaeda’s Al Nusra Front and in some cases for Daesh.

    When was the last time a British newspaper used the phrase “mercenary soldier”?

  • Andy

    Anon1 …and you have managed a couple of posts without mentioning antisemitism. Your partner in crime initiated the mention of Israel (as a cat amongst the pigeons type of remark). What is wrong with my little picture of your hero? I requested your reasons for bombing Syria, not an unreasonable question and you seem unable to answer. No problem, I was just curious.

  • harry law

    “Moderate rebels” in Syria are as rare as unicorns. The Free Syrian Army are so moderate, one of their members ate the heart/liver of a Syrian soldier live on TV, their ex leader General Idriss made the claim that they cooperate with other not so moderate groups, and it is known that weapons from the US to them are transferred to other groups and/or are sold to the highest bidder. As Craig pointed out Al-Nusra is the equivalent of Al-Qaida in Syria, they are not much different from Islamic State [ISIS] both groups are head choppers. The urge to do something [anything] in solidarity with the French or more likely to please the US, is not a good reason to bomb Syria, especially since they have ruled out fighting with, or cooperating with the only legitimate, and largest forces on the ground, the Syrian Army and Hezbollah. NATO must first get its own house in order, for instance how the West [with a straight face] can ask other countries to confront Islamic State when its ally and fellow NATO member’s Head of National Intelligence [MIT] Hakan Fidan and one of Erdogans staunchest allies, wants Islamic state to open a consulate in Turkey, he said.. “ISIS is a reality and we have to accept that we cannot eradicate a well-organized and popular establishment such as the Islamic State; therefore I urge my western colleagues to revise their mindset about Islamic political currents, put aside their cynical mentalité and thwart Vladimir Putin’s plans to crush Syrian Islamist revolutionaries,” Anadolu News Agency quoted Mr. Fidan as saying on Sunday.

    Fidan further added that in order to deal with the vast number of foreign Jihadists craving to travel to Syria, it is imperative that ISIS must set up a consulate or at least a political office in Istanbul. He underlined that it is Turkey’s firm belief to provide medical care for all injured people fleeing Russian ruthless airstrikes regardless of their political or religious affiliation.,-isis-is-a-reality-and-we-are-optimistic-about-the-future

  • Habbabkuk ( drones away!)


    “Habba: You are a complete and utter fraud.”


    Just because I suggested Craig should do a piece on what he believes to be Israel’s rôle ( if any) in the Syrian conflict?

    How does that make me a fraud?

    Are you afraid of what Craig might write?


    “Israel are {sic}treating Al Nusra fighters in their hospitals, that says enough about the Israeli role.”


    I’m not sure it does, actually. Why do you think that?


    I think I’ll take the risk of you using the following as a pretext for not answering. But since I’m fairly sure you can’t/won’t answer anyway, I’ll go ahead and say it: you’re a cunt.

  • Habbabkuk ( drones away!)


    “Your partner in crime initiated the mention of Israel (as a cat amongst the pigeons type of remark).”

    Wrong, actually.

    It was Giyane who introduced Israel with his

    “Cameron wants Israel ultimately to mop up the chaos which will fill the vacuum.”

    So you are not only a cunt but a lying cunt.

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