Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Swedish riots: if instability can happen here, what might unfold elsewhere? (Guardian)

A stark rise in inequality has brought about unprecedented rioting in Stockholm, writes Aditya Chakrabortty. The omens for Britain are worrying.

2. Knee-jerkers are liberals in terror debate (Financial Times)

Britain has tightened security laws at many moments without becoming an unfree country, writes Janan Ganesh.

3. Globalisation isn't just about profits. It's about taxes too (Guardian)

Big corporates are gaming one nation's taxpayers against another's: we need a global deal to make them pay their way, says Joseph Stiglitz.

4. Syria: Why Iran has to be part of the solution (Independent)

The real and ugly choice is between full scale military intervention and genuine diplomacy, writes Donald Macintyre.

5. Was Woolwich a crime or an act of terror? (Times)

Some ministers see last week’s incident as part of a crusade against the west – but they are in a minority, writes Rachel Sylvester.

6. Chillax, people, and let the poor PM have a holiday (Daily Telegraph)

We need to make up our minds whether we want politicians to be more like us, or not, says Dan Hodges.

7. A jobless recovery? It can’t be ruled out yet (Independent)

Job creation in Britain is not keeping pace with the number of would-be workers, notes an Independent leader.

8. Actions not words are what matter on Syria (Financial Times)

There is no ‘western’ view on the crisis – there are deep divisions in Europe and within the US, writes Gideon Rachman.

9. My manifesto for rewilding the world (Guardian)

Nature swiftly responds when we stop trying to control it, writes George Monbiot. This is our big chance to reverse man's terrible destructive impact.

10. Iain Duncan Smith is right about spending (Daily Telegraph)

The government should spend more on defence and the police and less on welfare, argues a Telegraph leader.

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I'm far from convinced by Cameron's plans for Syria

The Prime Minister has a plan for when the bombs drop. But what about after?

In the House of Commons today, the Prime Minister set out a powerful case for Britain to join air strikes against Isil in Syria.  Isil, he argued, poses a direct threat to Britain and its people, and Britain should not be in the business of “outsourcing our security to our allies”. And while he conceded that further airstrikes alone would not be sufficient to beat Isil, he made the case for an “Isil first” strategy – attacking Isil now, while continuing to do what we can diplomatically to help secure a lasting settlement for Syria in which Assad (eventually) plays no part.

I agreed with much of David Cameron’s analysis. And no-one should doubt either the murderous barbarism of Isil in the region, or the barbarism they foment and inspire in others across the world.  But at the end of his lengthy Q&A session with MPs, I remained unconvinced that UK involvement in airstrikes in Syria was the right option. Because the case for action has to be a case for action that has a chance of succeeding.  And David Cameron’s case contained neither a plan for winning the war, nor a plan for winning the peace.

The Prime Minister, along with military experts and analysts across the world, concedes that air strikes alone will not defeat Isil, and that (as in Iraq) ground forces are essential if we want to rid Syria of Isil. But what is the plan to assemble these ground forces so necessary for a successful mission?  David Cameron’s answer today was more a hope than a plan. He referred to “70,000 Syrian opposition fighters - principally the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – with whom we can co-ordinate attacks on Isil”.

But it is an illusion to think that these fighters can provide the ground forces needed to complement aerial bombardment of Isil.  Many commentators have begun to doubt whether the FSA continues to exist as a coherent operational entity over the past few months. Coralling the myriad rebel groups into a disciplined force capable of fighting and occupying Isil territory is a heroic ambition, not a plan. And previous efforts to mobilize the rebels against Isil have been utter failures. Last month the Americans abandoned a $500m programme to train and turn 5,400 rebel fighters into a disciplined force to fight Isil. They succeeded in training just 60 fighters. And there have been incidents of American-trained fighters giving some of their US-provided equipment to the Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda.

Why has it proven so hard to co-opt rebel forces in the fight against Isil? Because most of the various rebel groups are fighting a war against Assad, not against Isil.  Syria’s civil war is gruesome and complex, but it is fundamentally a Civil War between Assad’s forces and a variety of opponents of Assad’s regime. It would be a mistake for Britain to base a case for military action against Isil on the hope that thousands of disparate rebel forces can be persuaded to change their enemy – especially when the evidence so far is that they won’t.

This is a plan for military action that, at present, looks highly unlikely to succeed.  But what of the plan for peace? David Cameron today argued for the separation of the immediate task at hand - to strike against Isil in Syria – from the longer-term ambition of achieving a settlement in Syria and removing Assad.  But for Isil to be beaten, the two cannot be separated. Because it is only by making progress in developing a credible and internationally-backed plan for a post-Assad Syria that we will persuade Syrian Sunnis that fighting Isil will not end up helping Assad win the Civil War.  If we want not only to rely on rebel Sunnis to provide ground troops against Isil, but also provide stable governance in Isil-occupied areas when the bombing stops, progress on a settlement to Syria’s Civil War is more not less urgent.  Without it, the reluctance of Syrian Sunnis to think that our fight is their fight will undermine the chances of military efforts to beat Isil and bring basic order to the regions they control. 

This points us towards doubling down on the progress that has already been made in Vienna: working with the USA, France, Syria’s neighbours and the Gulf states, as well as Russia and Iran. We need not just a combined approach to ending the conflict, but the prospect of a post-war Syria that offers a place for those whose cooperation we seek to defeat Isil. No doubt this will strike some as insufficient in the face of the horrors perpetrated by Isil. But I fear that if we want not just to take action against Isil but to defeat them and prevent their return, it offers a better chance of succeeding than David Cameron’s proposal today. 

Stewart Wood is a former Shadow Cabinet minister and adviser to Ed Miliband. He tweets as @StewartWood.