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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  • canspeccy

    Why is Britain concerned with the civil war in Syria? If the aim is to defeat Isis, why not join with Russia and Assad in restoring the state-wide control of the legitimate, UN-recognized government of Syria.

  • nevermind

    Still nobody mentions the word CEASE FIRE, it is banned everywhere, a dirty word that conjures up all sorts of tasks, like talking to each other about a comprehensive political solution in Syria and the wider ME.

    Wesley Clarks revelations in 2004 are still on track, turning Syria into another chaos ridden society was their goal then, they achieved it.
    Last port of call is Iran, still on the list of resource rich countries to be put into turmoil.

    Nobody in the west/NATO wants a cease fire, thats why it is not mentioned.
    Syria is a powder keg as it is, over crowded airspace and not enough communications, now Cameron wants to provide the matches? Madness.

  • BrianFujisan


    Deffo looks like a No from SNP –

    ” In an interview for tonight’s Representing Border, Mr Salmond told me: “To be fair to the Prime Minister, he put forward his case in a measured way today. There wasn’t any of the bluster and flamboyance Tony Blair used to sweep people into a war in Iraq.

    “But despite that measured approach that he took he hasn’t convinced the SNP, he hasn’t convinced some on his own backbenches, and I think a great number of other parties as well.

    “Because he hasn’t answered the key question. One, what the UK participation is going to add to the bombing campaign that is taking place already and secondly how it’s going to contribute to bringing about peace in Syria.”

    I put it to Mr Salmond that when it came to the vote in the Commons, it sounded like he and his party would be voting against military action in Syria.

    He told me: “If we were taking a decision on what we have heard last night and today and over the last few days then we would be voting against the UK adding to the bombing campaign in Syria.”

    ” He said: “There was nothing in his statement which answered the key question is what the UK participation, in addition to the 12 other countries already bombing in Syria – because Syria is not short of countries bombing it – is going to add to the campaign.

    “And secondly, how does it aid and assist in bringing about the peace settlement in Syria which is essential if we’re going to tackle terrorism and also tackle the refugee crisis which is threatening Europe and far beyond.”

  • fedup

    Bilal Erdoğan purchases $35 million oil tanker

    Everyday is a black Friday for the connected crooks

    The BMZ Group, a company run by Bilal Erdoğan, the son of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has purchased a $35 million oil tanker, according to Turkish news sources.

    Various reports claim that the BMZ Group purchased the oil tanker — named Mecid Aslanov — from Palmali Denizcilik on June 24.

    The tanker was one of 10 ships recently delivered to the Türkter Shipyard in İstanbul’s Tuzla district by Palmali Denizcilik.

    Prime Minister Erdoğan has come under fire recently for his harsh criticism of Israel in light of its ground attack on Gaza, which opposition party leaders have deemed hypocritical as Erdoğan’s other son Burak is known for business dealings with that country. The trade volume between the countries had quadrupled between 2002, the year Erdoğan came to power, and 2013.

  • Ray Vison

    Is it likely that Cameron wants to encourage a terrorist attack in London? It all breeds fear and loathing, perfect.

  • Briar

    [ Mod: Caught in spam-filter. Timestamp updated. ]

    Will it matter? Millions of us knew that Saddam had no WMD, yet the war went ahead. This is also a transparent lie (does the count include the supposedly moderate Turkmen who machine gunned that Russian pilot, a blatant breach of the Geneva Conventions, and then boasted about it? As IS as IS!) but I suspect it will work. Jon Snow opines that Tories who should know better are being won round, and Labour bliarites are itching to back-stab Mr Corbyn. The reasons for Cameron wanting to bomb Syria are the same as Bliar’s for wanting to bomb Iraq – or indeed his own for the wanton destruction of Libya. It’s to prove he is a “real man” and to assure the US the UK is still its subservient henchman, club at the ready to break whatever heads we can reach. Reason doesn’t work when war fever starts working on the general imagination and the stampede to insanity picks up speed.

  • Fredi

    Turkish journalists charged with spying over weapons report

    Two prominent Turkish journalists have been charged with espionage after alleging that Turkey’s secret services sent arms to Islamist rebels in Syria.

    Can Dundar, the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet daily, and Erdem Gul, the paper’s Ankara bureau chief, face life imprisonment if found guilty.

    Their report and video footage attracted a political storm in Turkey and a lawsuit filed by the president.

    Turkey faces severe criticism over its press freedom record.

    The journalists, who deny the allegations against them, reported that trucks belonging to the Turkish intelligence agency MIT were used to carry weapons to Islamist opposition groups in Syria.

    Video footage published alongside their report purported to show Turkish police officers intercepting the trucks and discovering crates containing weapons and ammunition.

  • BrianFujisan

    Fedup Good digging there.. Some more on that –

    And while we patiently dig to find who the on and offshore “commodity trading” middleman are, who cart away ISIS oil to European and other international markets in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars, one name keeps popping up as the primary culprit of regional demand for the Islamic State’s “terrorist oil” – that of Turkish president Recep Erdogan’s son: Bilal Erdogan.

  • lysias

    When I was in Turkey, Cumhuriyet was the leading (prestige) newspaper. This is like the editor-in-chief and the Washington bureau chief of the New York Times being arrested and charged with espionage for publishing something like the Pentagon Papers.

  • Let Piggy suck you

    This is a game-changer!!!1 The biggest game-changer since Togo joined the coalition of the willing. Cameron’s US masters have one objective: get lots of other people’s planes buzzing around bumping into Russian jets to undermine the coordination directive of SCR 2249. Cameron’s happy to sacrifice a few jets from The City of London’s poignant little vanity squadron. CIA will feather his nest when he’s puked out of office as they did for Blair.

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    interesting post from someone who claims to be “a Turkish who is anti-Erdogan and anti-AKP ” calling himself “ozgur” on the-madness-of-war thread.

    Who knows if he’s genuine? Who knows if anyone is genuine? Am I genuine? Who knows?

  • Loony

    It seems likely that the UK has been assigned the role of muddyong the waters and reducing the effectiveness of Russian action in Syria. Should all work out well – especially as the Russians are well known for their inability to spot the obvious and their penchant for surrendering at the first opportunity.

    As an added bonus various pressures are being created that could strain the unity of both the EU and NATO – and domestically the Labour Party could enter an extended period of fratricide.

  • Old Mark

    The JIC and Cameron’s ridiculous claims about the strength of the ‘moderate’ anti Assad forces comprehensively rubbished by Craig here

    ‘Not an answer to my question, which was: how does treating Al Nusra fighters in their hospitals says “enough” about the Israeli role? What do you mean by “enough” and what is it that that “enough” is saying?

    Don’t be shy – spell it out for the benefit of us sheeple!.’

    The Gold Star for obtuseness has to go to Habba for this; obviously al Nusra fighters must be ‘moderates’ and ‘good guys’ in the eyes of the JIC if they are being nursed back to fighting fitness in Israeli medical facilities in the Golan- simples !

  • Old Mark

    Perhaps Habba would like to answer a question instead of posing them- why has Israel risked antagonising its most loyal non Jewish population, the Galilean Druze, by providing until recently medical facilities in the Golan to fighters from a sectarian affiliate of al Qaida ?

  • Salford Lad

    The Paris atrocities have been used to give NATO forces an excuse to interfere in Syria.
    Their main objective will be the Northern crescent running from Iran/Iraq through to Turkey /Lebanon border. This serves 3 objectives,
    1. It severes the connection of Iran and Hezbollah, Assads on the ground supporters , to please Israel.
    2. This is the route marked for the Qatar /Saudi gas pipeline.
    3.This corridor will be designated the New Kurdistan which Nato hope to control via a puppet.
    Turkeys Erdogan has been moving oil from Iraq and Syria oilfields in truck tankers along this route at a rate of $50 million/week., This is how ISIL finances its Caliphate.
    The company moving this oil is BMZ run by Bilil Erdogan , the son. He has his own Tanker shipping company which moves it along to consumers everywhere at a huge discount.
    One of the reasons the Russian fighter was shot down , was because Russia bombed these tankers last week. The money flow was interrupted and some greedy people were upset.
    There can be no doubt that Erdogan got the nod from Washington to do the dirty deed, but now has been hung out to dry by them. He failed to see the big picture.
    Russia will arm the Kurdish PKK on his border to give him constant headache. His economy will tank and his airforce cannot twitch near the border area, with the Russian S400 missiles and itchy trigger fingers to exact revenge. He has been neutered.
    His dreams of an Ottoman Empire extending into Iraq are over. Be not surprised if he is ousted in a Military coup soon.
    Putin is only too aware of the aims of Washington and its NATO poodles and like the Chessmaster he is,is planning his moves and traps carefully.
    The ultimate main objective never waivers, that is the conquest ,subjugation and plunder of Russia by the freaks of the US Empire.
    The chaos created in the Middle East goes according to the Yinon Plan to fragment the Sovereign states and remove them as a threat to Israel

  • glenn_uk

    If the Paris atrocities had been caused by the likes of that Norwegian freak Brevik and a couple of his mates, would anyone be even talking about a radical change in internal policy, a bombing campaign, and the enemy in our midst right now?

    Would that idiot Anon1 still be giving himself the tagline “Start the war” – did he do so about white Christian fascists, or do they just get a pass these days, no matter how many hundred European nationals they kill?

  • bevin

    What is interesting about this vote is how badly it exposes the treacherous agenda of the PLP’s Blairites.
    The reasons for not choosing this moment to commit British forces to Syria keep on coming- the crisis over Turkey’s aggression against Russia is just the latest in a series of reasons to hold back. I am sure that many back bench Tories see this and so will just about everyone else, including the general public. I expect opinion polls will start showing that people are becoming aware of just how badly compromised Turkey and the US, not to mention the Gulf states, are and why this is a very bad time to commit any forces to act on their behalf. Saudi Arabia is going mad, executions are occurring daily and for offences that would be laughable were heads not being chopped off.
    Chopped off by the sponsors of a war that Cameron- their primary arms supplier and arse licker wants Britain to join.

    Meanwhile the PLP Blairites cannot wait to denefestrate Corbyn and if they have to sacrifice the interests of the UK to do it, well, they have done that before and they will do it again. After all they don’t see themselves as being British, they are waterboys for Washington and proud of it.
    They could end up embarrassing Corbyn at the cost of so angering their constituencies that they will have to start looking for jobs in America much sooner than they’d planned. And with much smaller pension pots.

  • Jives

    These greedy suited ball-less stupid white men on the Westinster square never ever learn.

    Wonder how many of them have been owned/blackmailed by the CIA since their first term at Uni?

  • Mochyn69

    26 Nov, 2015 – 10:57 pm

    All I can say, once again, is TG for the SNP, minor skirmishes around the edges notwithstanding.

    Plus of course Plaid Cymru and the Green Party.

    I hope Jeremy Corbyn will remain steadfast in his reasoned opposition to the current bunch of Tory and Blairite warmongers.

  • Tony M

    About the only thing this government, any should be thinking of sending ‘in’ is a truly humanitarian mission, a ship-based medical facility to take casualties: religious head-chopper, mercenary, Syrian forces and civilians, who-ever. You can be sure Syria’s own medical facilities are struggling amidst this foreign-oligarch orchestrated chaos and in any case their capacity was for the throughput of the once peaceful diverse and multi-faith country Syria is, having already coped with millions of desperate refugees and casualties from Iraq. Maybe try asking the Syrian government and people, through President Assad, if there is anything of that or a similar nature, London’s government could do, that they can be trusted not to fuck up, or abuse, that would at least not make things worse, as wildly dropping high explosives from altitude can only surely do.

  • Airplane Diplomacy

    The crypto de tutti crypti vainly pulled out the 70k spin on the floor of the Commons If this 70k deception was so easily seen through, it can only mean one thing,the 911 like spell of the synagogue of satan has waned,its time for a mass human sacrifice to rekindle the spell over the goyim. It could be Arabs,Slavs or Africans, my betting is a couple of million Syrian shias.

    Perhaps our resident jew Anon1 will let us into their secret if the mods allow him an islamophobic statement or two to muddy the waters first?!

  • Ken2

    Turkey population. 77Million. There are 2million? Syrian refugees on Turkish border. In camps of tents.

    Russia wanted to broker talks with Syria and the West. There were reports Assad would devolve power.
    They have been bombing th Middle East for years. It hasn’t worked. Just increased the instability. Only talks will bring about a negotiated settlement. Along with sorting out Israel which is a festering sore. Without US funding, Israel would not exist. If US reduced the funding, there would b a settlement in record time. The US holds the purse strings. The absolute, despot monarchies should b put in their place. Economics might lead to their demise as they have to diversify. Or they are reined in by the rest of the world. India etc is withdrawing their Labour to Saudi Arabia. Workers are being prevented from going there because of their ‘Human rights’ record.

    Erdogan was elected with a majority at recent elections.. He did not have a majority before. He used terrorism as an element to increase majority. Ie scared people. ‘He was strong etc’. Not if Russia turns off the Gas.


    In the Spectator by Nick Robinson:

    ‘Two years ago, just a few days after the Commons opposed airstrikes on Syria, I read another memorable phrase to David Cameron. It was what President Putin’s spokesman had been saying about Britain in private — ‘a small island no one pays attention to’. I have had the sense ever since that the Prime Minister has been haunted by the remark. I expect MPs will change that next week when they back RAF attacks on IS targets in Syria. However, so much else in this debate already feels wearily familiar. Backers of airstrikes will call opponents of them ‘appeasers’. They will respond by labelling their opponents ‘warmongers’, while armchair generals will head to the studios to pontificate about the need for a strategy, a plan and an endgame. What few will say is that the murderers in Paris came not from Syria, but Europe, and that defeating IS militarily will not end the threat from within our own societies. That will require a battle of ideas that few seem to have the appetite to wage.’

    ‘The need to challenge and defeat ideas which are used to justify jihadist violence is brilliantly set out in Jonathan Sacks’s book Not in God’s Name. So, too, in a report, ‘Inside the Jihadi Mind’, which I was given by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and which is co-authored by his son Peter Welby for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. It reveals that over half of all Muslims in nine Muslim-majority countries believe they will live to see the apocalypse; in three such countries, more than two thirds of the population back creating a caliphate; in four of them, over three quarters agree there is a ‘need to stand up to America and affirm the dignity of the Islamic people’. These are views held, albeit by far smaller numbers, here at home, too. Unchallenged, they are used to justify what the former chief rabbi calls ‘altruistic evil’ or what, to you and me, is the slaughter of anyone deemed to be an ‘un-human’.’

    Make of it what you will.

    I reached the Spectator by way of a link to a piece by Fallon:
    (Photo of a fighter jet)

    which I came across in a Guardian article dated 17 November which reports that we have already been bombing in Syria. It is called ‘supporting French airstrikes’.

    RAF supporting French airstrikes against Isis in Syria
    MoD says drone was used in attack on ‘terrorist facility’ near Raqqa, and defence secretary states importance of RAF in fighting Isis in Iraq
    (photo of a Reaper drone)

    None of these puny politicians and/or scribblers would have their children in the military or have them put into harm’s way.

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