Essex MP asks “How can I look these guys in the eye?” as he returns from the Syrian border

Brooks Newmark with General Idris of the Free Syrian Army

Brooks Newmark with General Idris of the Free Syrian Army - Credit: Archant

An Essex MP who has just returned from the Syrian border deplored parliament’s rejection of potential military action against President Assad which he said gave the “green light” to the continued slaughter of the Syrian people.

Braintree MP Brooks Newmark, who met General Salim Idris, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) leader, during a visit to the war torn region this week, spoke of his fury at colleagues who defied the Government to rule out military action in a dramatic late-night House of Commons showdown on Thursday.

Mr Newmark said he had no immediate plans to return to Syria in the wake of the defeat as he would be unable to face the opposition leaders who earlier this week pleaded to him for more British support.

“How can I look these guys in the eye?” he said. “I said I was going to go back and do my best to put their case forward and I failed in doing that.”

During his three-day visit to the area, which was cut short when parliament was recalled, Mr Newmark also met fighters for the FSA.


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He said: “I went and visited a makeshift hospital to see fighters, although I use that term lightly. They are teachers, farmers... they are not trained fighters.

“I saw some horrific injuries where one chap had lost three limbs.

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“We all know they are suffering. It is the level of suffering. It is the 100,000-plus who have been killed, it is the million or more refugees in the surrounding countries, it is the four and a half million people who have been displaced internally.

“The vanity of one man to stay in power is destroying a beautiful and ancient country.”

The Tory backbencher said the fresh horrific incident – an incendiary bomb dropped on to a school playground in the north of the country which left scores of children with napalm-like burns over their bodies – had taken place while MPs debated in the House of Commons and showed Assad did not care as he thought Britain would do nothing.

He said he was “angered and enraged” that the arguments given by the opposition showed “absolutely no understanding either of Syria or what the FSA were doing on the ground” and was also “furious and angry” with his own colleagues who defied the Government.

He said: “They kept repeating the rubbish spewed forth by Assad and the Russians thinking that the opposition is full of a bunch of Al-Qaida people. That is not true at all.”

He added: “The vast majority of fighters are ordinary Syrians trying to protect their communities and trying to rid themselves of a horrible dictator.

“Syria is a very secular country where many people are inter-married, where Chrisians marry Druze, where Sunnis marry Shias.

“People who say this could be some sort of Islamic state show zero understanding of what the real Syria is.”

He said there were very few fanatics in Syria.

Mr Newmark said: “I met many ordinary fighters. Their message was very simple. We are running out of bullets.

“They are not asking for missiles, they are not asking for British troops on the ground.

“They are just asking for some basic guns to fight with and ammunition.”

While he hit out at Ed Miliband for “deciding to play politics”, he said: “On the broader issue of the role of parliament, not withstanding that we failed to give our argument well enough, the good thing is we do live in a democracy.

“David Cameron is respecting the will of parliament. He did not try to circumvent or deceive parliament.”

He said that Britain would now have to watch France become the US ally when it came to military campaigns.

“Our place in the world is greatly diminished. Today I think is a new chapter in Britain’s life.

“If we wish to be a member of the security council we have to learn to shoulder the responsibilities of the world and not just Britain.

“I for one am not a ‘Little Britainer’. I am proud to be British and proud that Britain is respected throughout the world.”

“I will take a strong interest in Syria and the wider region, but when it comes to Britain’s active involvement in trying the help the Syrian people, we don’t have any credibility any more.”

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