In the aftermath of the disastrous Libyan campaign of 2011, the United Kingdom would demonstrate a certain degree of restraint in its foreign policy endeavors, getting particularly picky every time a politician would go as far as to even mention military interventions overseas. To be more specific, London chose not to support France in its military campaign in Mali back in 2013. On the same year, the British parliament would refuse to support David Cameron’s warmongering urge against Syria, putting a foot in the door of a punitive campaign that Washington was prepared to launch against the legitimate Syrian government in Damascus under the dubious pretext of it unleashing chemical weapons against its own population.
Back then such a turn of events looked like a personal failure of David Cameron, while certain analysts would go as far as to describe this situation as Britain’s mutiny against Washington. However, this debacle was provoked by nothing else than the peculiarities of the British government composition that forces British PMs to remain mindful of the views expressed by their voters at all times, and back then the latter were opposing the very idea of London engaging another state on the field of battle, especially in the light of the bitter combat experience that British servicemen acquired within the ranks of the US-led coalition in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But this massive public uproar did not prevent British generals from developing a plan aimed at arming and training up to a hundred thousand members of the so-called moderate opposition, as it was reported by the BBC. This idea was a brainchild of a senior officer of the British armed forces, the then chief of the defence staff, David Richards. At the same time, London abandoned the very idea of sending its troops to Syria, trying to employ both Turkey and Jordan in the capacity of massive training camps for militants instead.
However, by 2015 David Cameron decided that he had a change of heart in his approach to the situation in Syria. That is why by the month of December, Cameron announced that the UK was going to to start conducting military operations in Syria under the pretext of providing support to Washington. Thus, Britain returned to its familiar role of a satellite state following in the wake of somebody’s else policies aimed at securing somebody’s else interests elsewhere.
However, all across Britain numerous experts would openly express their doubts about the difference the UK could make in Syria within the US-led coalition. For instance, back in 2015 in the Daily Telegraph released reports evaluating first British air raid against the oil infrastructure controlled by ISIS. It’s funny that back then the journalists couldn’t help themselves, as they start questioning the very intent of the US illegal intervention in Syria, as there was no logical way to explain how could these radical Islamist groups remain in control of such a formidable network after a total of 2900 sorties allegedly carried out by the US Air Force. Additionally, those who remained critical of the US-led illegal operation would point out that there was a rapidly mounting civilian death toll caused by Western coalition air raids, the toll that could not be justified by any goals.
Although the British parliament in 2015 did not allow British soldiers to be deployed in Syria out of fears of inevitable losses, an ever growing number of reports would suggest that British boots actually on the ground and in fairly large numbers.
According to the Sunday Express, a total of 120 members belonging to the elite SAS regiment 22 are currently operating in the war-torn country, covertly dressed in black and flying ISIS flags, engaged in what’s called Operation Shader – that is attacking Syrian targets on the pretext of combating ISIS.
It’s nearly impossible to track the activities of the elite 22nd SAS division in Syria, as reports about their operations are scarce and far apart. Occasionally, London would mention engagements of this unit in specific regions of Syria, but that’s pretty much it. Sometimes one has to rely on indirect signs pointing to the present of SAS units in various regions of Syria. And their participation in various military operations.
As for other British units operation in Syria, British media sources have recently revealed the fact that that Britain’s SBS has been working together with similar task forces from the United States all across Syria under the supervision of MI6. It goes without saying that those operations cannot be all successful, which means that they incur considerable injuries and losses.
Thus, according to the British minister of defense Michael Fallon, a total of twenty soldiers had to take a tour back home due to the severe injuries they received in Aleppo back in 2016.
Half a year later, the SMART news agency revealed that approximately 150 US and British military personnel entered Syria, alongside the Free Syrian Army’s Jaysh MughawyrAl-Thurah.
Last year, a total of two hundred British and American “advisers” and “instructors” of the Syrian opposition forces found themselves trapped in Idlib. The United States and Britain would frantically try to force Turkey or Russia to help them evacuate these soldiers, but then London refused to accept Moscow’s help as those two hundred instructors were capable of telling rather unpleasant stories on the nature of their deployment in Syria. Then, London would urge Ankara to evacuate them to the American Incirlik air base in Turkey, but this request was apparently turned down. It’s possible that those troops were in possession of chemical weapons, as shortly before that incident Russia would warn the world about the possibility of yet another false flag attack with chemical weapons being staged in Syria with the assistance of the so-called White Helmets. Consequently, various media sources got their hands on the list of names of British chemical weapons experts blocked in Idlib. That is why it is safe to assume that among the reasons why Britain would turn down Russia’s help was the military specialty of some of those “advisors”, as it could reveal that the UK was fully complicit in stage false-flag chemical attacks.
It’s curious that in spite of the outright Russophobic rhetorics in the Western media, the United States and Britain would repeatedly turn to Russia for assistance in situations when their troops got themselves in a difficult situations. In particular, such an appeal was made in December 2016, when Freenations reported that 230 American instructors and 54 British military personnel were trapped by ISIS militants in Aleppo.
On March 29, 2018, an unspecified number of American and British deceased in northern Syria, according to various reports. On January 5, 2019, as a result of a missile attack launched by ISIS in the city of Deir ez-Zor, two British special forces officers received grave injuries, with of them dying later on. The Guardian newspaper noted that the incident occurred against at the time when Donald Trump stated that ISIS was destroyed and therefore there was no sense in keeping the US military contingent in Syria.
And four days after that, five more British servicemen were killed in yet another missile attack launched by ISIS, with two more receiving severe injuries. Reportedly, a group of British special forces soldiers was fired upon by radical militants from American TOW anti-tank systems and heavy machine guns. Simply put, UK commandos showed carelessness on the battlefield and got themselves ambushed. Former British ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, claims that the weapons used in this attack were supplied by the United States in accordance with the support program of the so-called Syrian moderate opposition back in 2015 and was later sold to ISIS militants. This statement was published by such British newspapers as Guardian, Telegraph and Morning Star. The constant supply of weapons to the Syrian militants was a part of a secret CIA operation launched in 2013.
Under these conditions, the question is natural: how justified is the presence of the British military personnel in Syria and the sorry fate that bestows them due to an extensive amount of American weapons remaining in the hands of radical Islamists? Who is responsible for this man operating in Syria illegally and who is going to take responsibility for their deaths? These issues are particularly relevant today against the background of the White House’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria and the decision that British troops should not be deployed in Syria at all that was repeatedly reiterated by the British parliament.
Jean Périer is an independent researcher and analyst and a renowned expert on the Near and Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.