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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  • Habbabkuk ( drones away!)

    Ray Vision

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


    Personally I think that is garbage but I’m willing to listen and even be convinced.

    Could you flesh out your thought a little for our benefit? Especially the second sentence.


  • Habbabkuk ( drones away!)


    “Millions of us knew that Saddam had no WMD”


    Now I hold no brief for the Iraq war and certainly no brief for Tony Blair and New Labour but you are being pretentious and even deceitful when you write the above.

    We know NOW that there were no WMD but it is false to claim that “millions” KNEW this at the time.

    I also find your use of “us” pretentious because it implies that YOU “knew” this at the time, that you somehow had superior knowledge. I submit that you might well have SUSPECTED it but that you “KNEW” (in a concrete sense)no more and no less than any other man in the street.

  • Habbabkuk ( drones away!)

    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 ?”

    Unlike rather too many on here I neither bluster nor boast of intimate knowledge denied to the sheeple (or even to the mass of “commenters”).

    Accordingly, the answer to your question is: I have no idea whether the risk you describe is real and if it is, I have no idea why Israel should be running it.

  • Ken2

    Many People missed what Craig picked up. The reference to the ‘Red Book’ chairman Mao, was the connection to the Tory/twa’s courting of Chinese money for their ‘white elephant ‘ infrastructure projects, which will be more costly than alternative realistic considerations. I.e increasing the debt. McDonnell was being sarcastic.

    Including the hypocrisy of borrowing monies from an autocratic authority while wasting public money illegally bombing an autocratic Middle East. They will just forget about the infrastructure and use the.borrowed Chinese money to illegally bomb the Middle East infrastructure to bits. Putting up the debt and starving vulnerable people worldwide. In China, in Britain and in the Middle East. The Westminster psychopaths are let loose again. The crazies.

    Where is the Chilcot Report? Seven years late. Chilcot should be charged with the embezzlement of public funds. Or has he been muzzled. Brown and Blair should be in jail. Is that the only way to stop this madness? The world was once a semi peaceful place. Children now, know nothing but war because of the Psycopaths.

  • giyane

    Tony Blair swivel-eye 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’.”

    We have all the signs of the apocalypse and one of them is the wrong people as leaders.

    The most enthusiastic Muslims to create a Caliphate are those who destroyed the old one by siding with the British, and who love living in the UK for its safety and protection, but who also love driving at speed through red traffic lights.

    Standing up to the US would involve 1/ not fighting their colonial wars for them as terrorist mercenaries, 2/ not accepting illegal removal of their national leaders 3/ not accepting the wholesale removal of oil from their country without the benefits being seen by the people.

    Islam has dignity always. Islamimic means sheltering under that dignity while undermining that dignity at the same time for personal gain by helping/spying/ stooging/ working for Islam’s enemies.

    Welby is a tycoon and a hypocrite.

  • Laguerre

    I see Laurent Fabius has called for cooperation with Syrian government forces. There were calls, after Friday the 13th, for a review of French policy, rather than simple bloody reprisal (all that has happened so far). Hopefully Fabius’ remarks may be a product.

    Better at any rate than Cameron simply following Hollande’s initial bloody-minded reaction.

  • Jeremy Stocks

    Wel it seems the Beeb went ages ago. From yesterday it seems also that the Graun has fallen. There are only small yet highly influential blogs such as Craig’s left. I now only check out his blog, Zero Hedge and John Ward’s “Slog”. Thank you all three of you.

  • Macky

    Turkish press reporting that Turkey has suspended its flights over Syria that were part of the joint military campaign with the US, as part of a mutual agreemen with Russia, which has in turn halted its aerial campaigns near the Turkish border. However the attacks against the Turkmen “moderates” that Turkey was protecting, has only intensified with Russia firing missles from sea, and the Syrian Airforce engaged in bombing this area for the first time. As a result the Syrian Army has made big terriorial advances, pushing the Turkmen militants right back to the Turkish border.

    Seems the downing of the Russian plane has backfired on Sultan Erdogan, perhaps he should stick to backgammon and leave playing geopolitical chess to Grandmaster Putin !


    CNN (Amanpour and co) is what John Pilger would call a ‘stenographer to power’. Remember that very friendly interview with Blair recently?

    Reporters downplay CNN’s apparent coordination with former Clinton aide
    25 November 2015

    A CNN reporter appears to have coordinated her coverage of a 2013 congressional hearing on Benghazi with Hillary Clinton’s former State Department spokesman, but some in the press maintain she was simply working a source.

    CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott was in regular contact with Hillary Clinton’s then-personal spokesman and aide, Philippe Reines, on Jan. 23, 2013, when the former secretary of state testified before Congress on her role in the events surrounding the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

    The revelation that Labott apparently coordinated her coverage with Reines comes from a batch of newly released State Department emails, which were published Monday by Gawker after the New York-based news group obtained them through a Freedom of Information Act request.

    Those defending Labott from charges of being used as a mouthpiece by a government official assert that there’s nothing unethical about the unearthed communications. The Reines emails, they explain, reveal only that reporters are constantly wooing their sources, which is standard for the industry


    Even weirder.

    Spokesman? Defense Minister? CNN brands ISIS terrorists as ‘officials’
    24 Nov, 2015

    ‘CNN has come out with a new definition of Islamic State leaders. Kalashnikov-wielding militants who cut off captives’ heads, trade slaves and whose hate speeches promise jihad against the whole world are now called “officials”, according to the network.

    “US intensifies search for ISIS officials,” says an on-screen title of the report by CNN’s Barbara Starr released on Monday. The first shot in the report shows us Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) leader who has recently ordered attacks on the anti-IS coalition. He is apparently the main IS official, according to CNN.’


    A performance of the ‘Chilcot Inquiry’ co written by John Chilcot and A C L Blair will be staged at the National Theatre in the New Year.

  • Ken Waldron

    So Cameron has 70000 “Good head-chopping Jihadis” Junk bonds for sale: it’s what the UK does best…buying into lies.

  • Macky

    Robert Crawford: “Lord Lucan has it.”

    He’ll probably get this one too;

    “To avoid another unnecessary delay, the government have already appointed Chilcot to look into why the bombing of Syria went so badly wrong.”

    (from Twitterfeed)

  • Fredi

    Idiots, do they really think Russia will forgive and forget this incident? The Turks can’t even hint at an apology.

    Turkey ‘will work’ to calm tension over downed Russian jet

    Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu has said Ankara “will work with Russia and our allies to calm tensions” after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane.

    Writing in the UK’s Times newspaper, Mr Davutoglu stressed that fighting Islamic State was the main priority.

    But he also said Turkey must protect its sovereign territory.

    Russia says a Turkish F-16 fighter jet shot down one of its SU-24 bombers over Syria on Tuesday. Turkey says the bomber violated its airspace.

    The plane crashed into a mountainside in a rebel-held area close to the Turkish border.

    One of the two Russian pilots was killed by gunfire as he parachuted from the burning jet. The other pilot was rescued by Russian and Syrian special forces.

    Tensions have sharply escalated between the Ankara and Moscow over the incident, with Russian President Vladimir Putin warning of “serious consequences”.

    On Thursday, he also rejected Turkey’s claims that it did not know the downed plane was Russian.

  • harry law

    The US State Department spokesman Mark Toner tries to justify a grave war crime, when Turkmen shot the Russian pilot decending by parachute, another disgusting statement from the US state department. “A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, hit out at the US state department official Mark Toner, who said the Turkmen fighters who shot the Russian airman as he parachuted to the ground could have been acting in self defence. “Remember these words, remember them forever. I will never forget them, I promise,” Zakharova wrote on Facebook”.

  • Fredi

    ‘They knew the exact time and the exact place’: Putin accuses America of LEAKING flight path of doomed jet to Turkey… as his fearsome anti-aircraft missiles roll into Syria

    Putin has accused the U.S. of being complicit in the destruction of its jet
    The Russian jet was downed by Turkey after it entered Turkish airspace

    He claimed Russia gave the U.S. the flight path data for the doomed aircraft

    This was either ‘leaked’ or it ‘does not control what its allies are doing’

    Meanwhile, Russia’s fearsome S-400 missile systems have arrived in Syria

    Putin has also agreed to coordinate airstrikes with France against ISIS

    Read more:

  • Ken2

    Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury sharpen his skills working for BP. The worse company in economic history. From destroying the world to destroying the world. Oil and holy water don’t mix. Religion and climate change. Headed by the right Charlie the biggest, loud mouth, greedy, tax evading consumer on the Planet. Hypocrisy knows no bounds. Bless. Amen to that.

  • Alcyone

    Its such a wretched conflict-ridden worl, it’s difficult to see the good from the bad leave only moderate, whatever that is supposed to mean.

    So who is taming the ‘Kingdom’ of Saudi Arabia that is the Fountain of Evil and holding up the progress of the whole of mankind?

    Also, who is legislating change in Islam to bring it into the 21st Century?

  • Tony_0pmoc

    This nonsense about 70,000 “moderate rebels” makes it clear that Cameron has no intention of fighting ISIL,(that is merely the propaganda cover and WMD equivalent lie). Cameron’s plans heavily influenced by US neocons are the same as in 2013, which means that he still wants The UK to go to war with Syria and its legitimate Government led by Bashar al-Assad.

    Parliament voted against this in 2013. Parliament would be well advised to vote against this again in 2015. Whilst the lies are the same, the situation now is far more serious. The President of Syria invited the Russian Government to assist the Syrian Army to defend Syria. Russian jets are currently bombing ISIL and Cameron’s imaginary “moderate” rebels.

    If Parliament backs Cameron’s plans to go to war with Syria, they are in effect taking the UK into a direct hot war with Russia too.

    I hope MP’s realise what they are voting for. The implications are horrendous, as Craig brilliantly outlined yesterday. There is nothing to prevent a confrontation between Russia and NATO spiraling out of control and going Nuclear.


  • Silvio

    A former USAF intelligence officer believes that the shootdown of the Russian plane was ordered up by the US in the hopes that it would prompt the Russians to use their sophisticated radar and communications jamming systems more frequently in the future. According to the USAF chap this Russian stealth system, when in operation, effectively makes the US and NATO blind to what Russia is doing on the battlefield (or in the sky above it). If Russia could be tempted into turning on their stealth system more often to protect their pilots, it would also give the NATO analysts and egg heads more opportunities to crack just how the Russians’ jamming systems work and come up with methods of their own for counteracting it.

    Guest Column From George Abert, Formerly Of Air Force Intelligence
    Why did Turkey shoot down a Russian Air Force jet?

    When the Russians deployed their forces to Syria they also deployed some new stealth technology. So far as I know they’ve only used this technology in Syria twice, once during their first sortie and one other time when some Israeli Air Force jets entered what they knew was Russian operational airspace.

    As noted, the first use of this stealth technology was during the first Russian sortie. In accordance with protocols agreed to beforehand with Israel and the US, the Russians informed the US of their intent to launch a sortie. They did so an hour prior to the launch. When they did they also employed a new stealth technology. The technology effectively blinded both the US and Israel. None of the radars worked and most, if not all, satellite coverage was lost or compromised as well. But there’s more.

  • Ken2

    Millions knew that there were no WMD’s that could hit the UK in 45 mins, even the psycopaths who were inventing the Report. A human impossibility. The compliant Press disguised for payment, the invention, and catalogue of lies referred to a rocket hitting Cyprus. A tiny acre of British ‘territory’. The aim would have needed to be accurate and precise. M15/CIA knew there was no WMD’s the fantasist had been identified. They were paint pots on a lorry. Blair and Bush had been informed.

    Millions didn’t believed the lies. They marched in the street worldwide. Millions would rather believe arms inspectors on the ground. Instead of psycopathic politicians in Westminster and Washington with form for secrecy and lies.

  • Ken2

    The Chinese – ‘Britain is a small nation with no Empire and no influence’ ‘Scotland the Land of Discovery and Invention’

  • Ken2

    Is CNN still owned by Turner the Billionaire? Ex spouse Jane Fonda, until she got fed up of wanderlust life style. ‘Vietnam Rose’. Ban the ‘bomber’.

  • Ken2

    Hague who destroyed the Westminster Child Abuse Report. A Christian? wandering around with Joli, campaigning against abuse.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Mr Murray,

    As former diplomat I am sure you know that there are main interests and secondary interests. secondary interests could be sacrificed but main interests is always the one on which bid is put and researches are spent.

    The main interests in Syria for the west (Turkey and Saudis) is not get rid of Assad and his Alawate government.

    The main interest for Russia and (even more so) for Iran is to keep Assad and his Alawate government in power.

    Now you have two very opposing main interests from all parties involved in conflict and both parties use their subordinates (in Syria) to drive these (opposing) interests forward.

    West may well know that there are no (or very little) moderate people in opposition. How could moderate people withstand 3 years of brutal civil war? If they have started as moderate they have been hardened by this war. Conflict by its nature hardens people and brings misery to those involved. Proxy wars are especially brutal because those who fight are not important for those who sponsor them. The aim (the main interest) is.

    Russia and Iran know for the fact that legitimacy of the president and the government which is supported by only 10% of population is very questionable at least. Following this logic one (certainly not me) could argue that karimov is also legitimate president. But where does this question of legitimacy lead?

    In summary nobody cares about Syrians. Not even you (I am afraid). Cameron and his allies want Assad out and kill Syrians. putin and his allies want him in power and kill Syrians. You (and your MWL friends) want UK not to get involved in conflict. But who cares about Syrians being killed? What you (and MWL) care is that Syrians not to be killed by Cameron’s troops. But Russians are OK? Americans? Iranian? Assad?


    Judge Lowell Goddard has spoken – at last.

    Child abuse inquiry ‘to name institutions to be investigated’

    ‘Analysis by BBC home affairs correspondent Tom Symonds

    Justice Lowell Goddard, who is leading the inquiry, has described the task ahead of her as daunting. She wasn’t overestimating the challenge.

    Her terms of reference mean she will have to examine the causes and effects of child abuse in all state or non-state institutions, as far back in history as required.

    That could take 10 years. No-one really believes the official estimate, that it could take five.

    Over the last four months, her team has been working on the tricky job of setting up a structure capable of achieving this task.

    The inquiry still has its critics – but the once-vociferous campaign by victims and survivors who say they don’t trust it to get to the truth is less visible than it was earlier in the year.

    So now the work begins, picking through the darker secrets of recent British history, on behalf of thousands of abused children.’

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