I thought it a good opportunity to provide a round up of the available evidence we have about what the public think of airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria… and to give a reminder to people of what is NOT good evidence. First, here’s the recent polling evidence:

  • Survation/Mirror polled after Cameron’s statement this week, and found 48% agreed with Britain beginning airstrikes against Islamic State alongside France and the US, 30% of people disagreed (tabs here)
  • YouGov earlier this week asked if people would approve or disapprove of the RAF taking part in airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. 59% would approve, 20% would disapprove (tabs here).
  • ComRes for the Indy on Sunday asked a question on whether people would support Britain taking part in airstrikes against ISIS without UN approval (there wasn’t a parallel version with UN approval). 46% would support airstrikes without UN approval, 32% would not. Tabs are here. A slightly earlier ComRes poll for the Daily Mail asked if people would back British military air strikes against Syria – 60% would, 24% would oppose (tabs here)
  • BMG for the Standard asked a question on whether Britain should extend it’s current airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq to cover Syria as well. This found an even split – 50% thought they should, 50% thought they should not (tabs here)
  • I don’t think ICM have asked a direct support/oppose bombing question, but last week they asked a question about Parliamentary consent. It found 46% supported airstrikes if Parliament agreed, 23% supported airstrikes without Parliamentary consent, 12% opposed airstrikes regardless, 19% didn’t know (tabs here)

The precise levels of support differ from poll to poll as they are all asking slightly different questions using slightly different wordings. However the overall picture is pretty clearly one where the balance of public support is in favour of airstrikes – even the most sceptical finding, from BMG, has people evenly divided. That’s not to say British public opinion is gung-ho enthusiasm for conflict, if you look through the rest of those surveys there is plenty of doubt (for example, several polls have found that people think intervening will increase the risk of terrorism here in Britain). On balance, however, public opinion seems to be in favour.

On twitter and other social media there is lots of sharing of a “poll” by ITV that apparently shows a large majority against Britain taking part. The reason this “poll” gives such sharply different answers is because it is not representative and has no controls upon it. I have written about this many, many times (and for many decades before I was writing the great Bob Worcester dutifully fought that same long fight). The sort of open access polls that used to be on Ceefax, and for people to phone in to newspapers, and these days pop up at the bottom of newspaper stories and the sidebar of websites are completely useless as a way of accurately measuring public opinion.

Opinion polls are meaningful for one reason and one reason alone, because the sample is representative. It has the right number of young people and old people as Britain as a whole, the same number of rich people and poor people as Britain as a whole, the same numbers of left-wing and right-wing people… and therefore, it should have the same proportion of people who are anti-bombing and pro-bombing as there are in Britain as a whole. An open-access poll on a website has no such controls.

When a poll is properly done the researcher will use some sort of sampling method that produces a sample that is demographically representative of the country as a whole. Then when it’s finished, they’ll fine tune it using weighting to make sure it is representative (e.g. if the proportion of women in the sample is lower than 51% they’ll weight the female respondents up). The people answering the poll will be invited and contacted by the researcher, preventing people or organised campaigns skewing a poll by deliberately directing lots of people who share their views to fill it in.

Numbers alone do not make a poll representative. A common error is to see a professionally conducted poll of a 1000 people and a bigger open-access “poll” of 10,000 people and think that the latter is therefore more meaningful. This is wrong – it’s how representative the sample is that matters, not how big it is. The classic example of this is the 1936 US Presidential race, the one that made the reputation of George Gallup. Back then the Literary Digest conducted a mail-in poll with a sample size of 2.3 million people, Gallup conducted a normal sized professional poll. The Digest’s poll predicted that Alf Landon would easily win the election, Gallup correctly predicted that Roosevelt would win a crushing landslide. The problem was that while the Literary Digest’s poll had a vast sample (probably the biggest sample of any opinion poll, ever) it wasn’t representative, it was skewed towards richer people who were more likely to vote Republican. Gallup’s sample was tiny compared to his competitor, but it had proper controls and was properly representative.

Unlike the polls by ComRes, ICM, Survation and YouGov the ITV “poll” won’t have controls to make sure the sample is representative of the British public – indeed, they don’t even collect any demographics to see whether it is or not. There is nothing stopping organised campaigns seeking to influence an open poll – for example, StoptheWar could’ve sent an email out to their mailing list encouraging them all to fill it in. There is nothing stopping anyone with the wherewithal to delete a cookie from their computer voting many, many times. It is, in short, meaningless.

Following May the properly conducted polls got something wrong too of course – but that’s a reason to be wary of even properly conducted polls, not a reason to suddenly put trust in “polls” that don’t even attempt to do things properly.

“Polls” like this, which Bob Worcester christened “Voodoo polls”, are a blight on journalism and opinion research. Because to the casual observer they can’t be easily distinguished from a properly conducted poll they mislead readers into thinking they are meaningful. I assume newspaper websites use them because they drive traffic, but serving up “news” that any journalist with a basic grasp of stats should know is meaningless – or in this case, actively wrong – is doing a disservice to their readers and listeners. At least when the BBC do things like this caveats are normally added saying the “poll” was self-selecting and isn’t representative. ITV don’t caveat it at all, so who can blame all the excited anti-airstrikes people on social media for thinking it means something and jumping upon it? I’m sorry, but it doesn’t – properly conducted polling suggests the public split broadly in favour.

Of course, none of this means that it is necessarily correct for Britain to take part in airstrikes. Polls are not a magic 8 ball where you ask the public and they spit out the “correct” answer. Public opinion can be wrong, and often is. The evidence is that public opinion favours bombing ISIS in Syria, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the government or opposition should do so.


340 Responses to “Syria polling round up and a reminder about voodoo polls”

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  1. @ Colin

    But in this case, Cameron has said that he doesn’t want to hand a propaganda victory to IS-ie anything less than a convincing majority with substantial cross party support .

    I actually thought about this as I wrote my response to Neil A. After due consideration, I am (personally) actually deeply disappointed that Cameron is considering the views of IS’s ‘propaganda team’. Were I Cameron, I would never publicly articulate that I was giving IS’s absolutely sickening ‘PR team’ one second’s thought. Letting them know that they wield such influence is a faux pas too far for me!

  2. @Neil A

    “My local Young Conservatives were even more diverse. My best friends were a young couple who lived in their respective parents’ council houses, and he played in a rock band that would perform at the weekends at the Con club.”

    Crikey, Citizen Smith rides again and I take off my hat to the working class credentials of your YC branch back in the glory days of the 80s! As you might guess, I’ve never been a member of the YCs, so don’t have your intimate knowledge of their demographic details, but I have had some contact with Young Conservatives over the years and I have to say that the social composition of your branch may be a little atypical. From the FCS of my student days in Bristol to the YCs I’ve met campaigning in elections, they’ve almost all been very well educated, mostly privately, affluent and irredeemably middle class. The only departure from this norm I’ve ever experienced, apart from the very odd individual, has been the Young Farmers. They’ve often got different accents and are even more well heeled!

    Looks like Lord Feldman is coming under increasing pressure.

  3. AMBER

    I should think IS will be severely untroubled about the resolve & unanimity of UK Lawmakers at present.

    I hope they can be disabused of such an impression-perhaps Mr Corbyn will help with this on Monday?

  4. @ Colin

    I hope they can be disabused of such an impression-perhaps Mr Corbyn will help with this on Monday?

    I have tried to make general points about polling, votes in the HoC etc. (although my 5:11pm was a bit more emotional than I’d allowed myself heretofore). And I’ve tried to avoid getting into any Party political arguments about Syria; so I’m going to assume your question is rhetorical & just leave it hanging.

  5. @Oldnat,

    I was a different kind of Boy in Blue in those days…

    @Amber,

    Not trying to impugn in any way. Just not agreeing with this “it’s the PM’s job” view. It’s not the habit of governments of any stripe to call votes which they expect to lose. I agree that ISIS don’t give a monkeys. In their parallel universe they want the forces of “Rome” (Europe and the US in today’s money) to invade and defeat them so Jesus will come down from Heaven and sweep all before him in the Second Coming. Exactly who bombs them and when is probably not set out in the holy book anywhere.

    I think we are fairly well unanimous on UKPR that a free vote is the way to go, and that ideally no whips would be applied in any party. For once, I am in complete agreement with John McDonnell.

  6. CB11 @Neil A

    I was grouse shooting on Lord Cowdray’s estate with the then chair of the Aberdeen Uni Tories. (We were the peasants doing the beating – and I don’t recommend the cold porridge sandwiches we were given for a packed lunch!)

    The beaters can generally see which gun brings down the birds, and which one misses but sends his dog out to pick up others’ birds.

    Naturally, the latter are treated with contempt and, as one was Brenda’s husband, it was entertaining to see the Tory chairman hanging out of the back of the lorry, after the shoot, shouting foul abuse at the Duke.

    One of my fonder memories of student life. ;-)

  7. The only bird-shooter I ever knew was a working class boy from Leyton who was my Detective Inspector for a while. He was definitely a social climber though, and definitely, definitely a Tory…

  8. @Neil A

    “The only bird-shooter I ever knew was a working class boy from Leyton who was my Detective Inspector for a while….”

    It wasn’t Vinnie Jones by any chance, was it? :-)

    Your description of your experiences in the YCs in the 80s is making me rethink my tired old assumptions. Is the Tory Party really the party of the workers and have all these bright young, well heeled and solidly middle class YCs I’ve met over the years been just figments of my class warrior riven, degenerate and left wing prejudiced mind?

    I need some re-education obviously and look forward to seeing more of these 80s horny handed tillers of the soil emerging in the Tory ranks in the Commons very soon.

    Anna Soubry anyone?

    :-)

  9. Omnishambles

    A lousy economy is Putin’s legacy which can politically blame on the drunkard Yeltsin. He has his warm water port, with the important part of Ukraine being de facto Russian. With Syria and Turkey, he is twisting the knife into the conflicting aims of NATO, thus weakening its credibility elsewhere.

    He is brutal exponent of Realpolitik and is outplaying the West despite having a weaker hand. I wish it wasn’t the case.

  10. Good evening all from a cold Westminster North. It feels like ole East Ren.

    It will be interesting to see what path Labour go down over the Syrian vote. Free vote? Get whipped into shape? self destruction and cabinet resignations?

    Its adding up to some quite exciting politics but what would worry me if I was David Cameron is why do I have to depend on some Labour MP’s when I have a commons majority? So although smaller, there is clearly a split within the Tory party and crikey just wait until the EU referendum appears!! …the split within the Tory party will make the San Andreas Fault look like a small split on a matchstick.

    Anyway I predict Cameron will win his vote for air strikes over Syria but in years to come history will probably show ole Corby was correct over his stance on Syria.

  11. I don’t agree with the consensus UKPR. Corbyn should make the vote on bombing a 3 line whip. It is too important a vote for the main opposition not to have a position – it’s an abrogation of Labour’s responsibility and quite ridiculous.

    Yes it will spark a crises, but it will let him see who he can work with and who needs to go. I am hoping Corbyn will be a leader rather than cave in to press & Blairite pressure.

  12. Putin appears to be in no mood for daft Turks.

    “New Su-27 and Su-30 jets are expected to be deployed to the Hmeymim base in the near future. Russian pilots will also be equipped with advanced electronic warfare devices”

    I think it will be a matter when and not if when Russia sends in ground troops because the Syrian army are winning back huge areas of the country from Turkish backed terrorists and IS and I can’t see Putin sitting by in the coming months watching on when NATO’s mission creep includes sending in ground forces over some made up humanitarian gobbledygook.

  13. @hawthorn

    He already had his warm water port in Crimea. After the USSR dissolved, Ukraine and Russia agreed a treaty which gave the naval base of Sevastopol in Crimea to Russia. It’s a huge naval base, its existence is part of the reason that Russia could so easily annex Crimea. The Black Sea Fleet operated (operates) out of this base.

    The lease was due to expire in 2017, Ukraine wanted to let it expire because they hated having such a large Russian military base in their territory. But in 2010 Russia forced Ukraine to extend the lease to 2042 by increasing gas prices for gas sold to Ukraine. Remember, they managed to do this while Crimea was still Ukrainian. Russia had control of that port and there was no way Ukraine was going to get rid of it.

    Yes, you are right that Russia is complicating matters for countries including the US and Turkey. But when you step back and look at the situation, and the past few years, you see an increasingly isolated Russia. If Russia is outplaying the others we should see it reach a stronger position, surely.

  14. OMNISHAMBLES

    The thing about an increasingly isolated Russia is that it’s mostly a western phenomenon. I don’t see any of the BRICS or SCO organisations or indeed Africa and South America shunning Russia.

    The West isolating itself from Russia will be/is counterproductive, economically and military. All it does is bring Russia and China closer in military and economic terms and its probably just a matter of time before the SCO becomes a counterbalance to NATO.

  15. @allan christie

    The “West” is a massive chunk of world GDP. Europe and Turkey are Russia’s most important energy customers because Russia can sell to them for higher prices than it can to China (which has other options). The Western countries are all the more important because their inward investment and technology is vital for diversifying the Russian economy and exploiting the new deeper oil wells respectively.

    As it stands, all Russia has left is a few Central Asian republic and China. A Russia dependent on China is not a happy Russia, it’s a very very lop-sided relationship for a multitude of reasons.

    I don’t understand this thing about the SCO becoming a counterbalance to NATO. They are completely different organisations. The SCO is a talking shop that covers a wide range of things from economics to security in Eurasia, while NATO is a military alliance focused on the North Atlantic region (which includes the Med). NATO does not apply in China’s neighbourhood, and the SCO is China-dominated.

    Russia even has its own separate Eurasian Union (with a combined nominal GDP probably less than the UK’s) because it wants its own sphere of influence and the SCO can’t give it that.

    You seem to disagree with the sanctions the West has applied to Russia. If we didn’t do that, we’d be sending the message that Russia’s redrawing of European borders is ok. If you learnt some basic European history, you would know where appeasement gets us.

  16. Sometimes I have to remind myself that Russia is a country of 150m people, less than half that of the USA.

    I think sometimes Putin (and others) need reminding of that as well.

    In a standoff against the West, whether economic or military, Russia is a minnow.

    If it weren’t for her nuclear weapons, we’d consider the idea that she posed a threat laughable.

  17. “As it stands, all Russia has left is a few Central Asian republics and China.”

    Clarification: I was thinking about Russia’s neighbours only (to whom it’s easier to export their energy). I know Russia has other trading partners elsewhere.

  18. @ NeilA – ‘If it weren’t for her nuclear weapons, we’d consider the idea that she posed a threat laughable.’

    Would we? Obama is halfhearted about all overseas engagements. The EU is so politically pathetic and divided that it can’t even control its own borders. Hardly impressive.

  19. @watchit

    To put things into perspective:

    2014 UK defence budget = $61.8 billion = 2.1% of GDP
    2014 Russia defence budget = $70 billion = 3.7% of GDP

    Of course $1 buys you more in Russia than it does in Britain but nevertheless, it’s an amazing statistic. We haven’t even mentioned the rest of Europe.

  20. Omnishambles

    The redrawing of European borders by the victorious powers at Versailles didn’t work out very well – just as the Treaty of Sevres dividing up the Ottoman Empire, in the interests of those same powers, contributed to the current crisis.

    Of course, if you want to declare war on Russia, because you choose to use the argument used by Eden to invade Suez ….

  21. Neil A

    “If it weren’t for her nuclear weapons, we’d consider the idea that she posed a threat laughable.”

    That’s fairly easy to check.

    How many Turkish or US airstrikes have taken place in Syria since Russia deployed S-400 missiles there?

    As for UK involvement, anyone like to identify the defensive capabilities of the Tornado since it seems incapable of preventing itself being shot down by much simpler systems?

  22. @oldnat

    Yes, the division of the Ottoman Empire by western powers turned out to be a disaster, but I don’t understand the relevance to what happened in Ukraine. I’m not saying only Russia has done bad things, I’m saying that to allow a country to use force to redraw the map with no consequences is to invite more of the same behaviour. We learnt that lesson the hard way in the 30s, no need to repeat the same mistake.

    BTW I was defending the sanctions not suggesting we should have declared war on Russia.

  23. Oldnat,

    If Turkey invaded Syria, how many weeks do you think it would take to fall, S400 missiles or not?

  24. Omnishambles

    So who drew the map delineating the borders of the Russian SSR and the Ukraine SSR – which became the de facto state boundaries when the Soviet Union collapsed?

    Relying on Stalin to have produced stable boundaries for a post Soviet environment seems somewhat unusual.

    Random lines drawn on maps by imperial powers do not a successful nation or state make! That’s especially true when the imperial power is no longer capable of controlling its puppet.

  25. Neil A

    Are you talking about the situation where Turkey invades Syria with or without its Daesh allies?

    And what do you think Russia would be doing in the meantime – apart from destroying the Turkish airforce?

  26. @oldnat

    What is your definition of “stable boundaries for a post Soviet environment”? How do you work out what that means?

  27. OMNISHAMBLES

    I agree the West is a huge chunk of the Worlds GDP and Russian exports are to a large extent dependent on Western markets which brings me back to Russia forging a stronger partnership with China.

    History shows us that Russia and China are deeply suspicious of each other but they both have one common goal and that’s to put an end to American hegemony.

    I don’t agree with the sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine because the legitimate government was ousted by western backed interference and Russia sees American expansionism a threat to its national security.

    I don’t want to live in a World where we could be at war with the most potent nuclear power just because we support a fascist regime in Kiev or an ultra nationalist right wing administration in Poland.

    The SCO might well be a talking shop for now but what has NATO proved? It can’t even bring all its members on board and even some members are getting fed up with all the anti Russian stuff.

    I reckon less than 40% of all the people in NATO countries voted for their current leaders so where at government level NATO may appear united, its citizens ain’t.

  28. NEIL A

    “In a standoff against the West, whether economic or military, Russia is a minnow.
    If it weren’t for her nuclear weapons, we’d consider the idea that she posed a threat laughable”
    ______

    Well if it comes to a conventional war between NATO and Russia lets hope you are the first to put your name forward to go and face them, then you can come back and tell us how easy it was.

    I do believe some within NATO have said Russia is stronger than all the European armies combined and Russia has surprised NATO with how quickly they managed to send forces into Syria right under the noses of the Americans and their allies.

    Even if a conventional war broke out in Europe today between NATO and Russia I think a lot of European leaders would back off all call it a day because they would soon know that a war with Russia would be played out on their streets and over their towns and cites, not in some distant place like Syria or Iraq.

    Maybe we do need to talk about a World war 3 involving all types of weapons because then the American public and their leaders might not be so quick to pick on weak 3rd World countries and pull back form their stupid geopolitical war games.

  29. Omnishambles

    It’s not easy. when the imperial power has used forced/encouraged migration to replace the inhabitants of a conquered territory – those in the UK should understand that!

    Peaceful accommodations can be created through the use of significant autonomy for the incomers, though like the Unionists in Ulster, some have a tendency to become violent when they are no longer allowed to dominate those that they formerly ruled.

    Sometimes, it makes more sense to partition the imperially created territory, in order to create relatively homogenous communities – either working in co-operation with each other, or in separate states. There are examples of both strategies working.

    The strategy that seems to have been least successful is to create a “state” that crosses community (use tribe/nation/religion etc as best suits) and then to give total power within that state to a minority group. Much of the Middle East can be so categorised.

    The situation of Crimea being transferred to the Ukrainian SSR was well covered on here at the time of that crisis, so I presume you know the history. It is less complicated than that of the eastern Ukrainian areas.

    In Syria, the situation is even more difficult. For example, you have the Turkmen (whose militia killed the Russian pilot). They see themselves as the successors of the Ottoman administrative class in Syria and (I understand) would prefer to unite with Turkey.

    On the other hand, there is a significant faction of Turkmen opinion which has chosen to work with the dominant Kurds in the area, to resist domination by Assad and his allies.

    Resolving such situations is inevitably messy, because no solution will satisfy everyone. However, mediated solutions which satisfy large numbers of the local people [1] has a greater probability of success than the “Great Powers” [2] arming their own group so that the Great Power can grab the oil (or other benefit).

    [1} we could invent a new term like “democracy” to describe the process

    [2] 63% of Brits think being one is a good idea

  30. Re Ottoman Empire division. It held for nearly 100 years – possibly a record in that part of the world.

    Re Nato-Russia war. Without using nukes we could only fight a defensive war. As far as I know only the Mongols ever subdued Russia. Napoleon failed, Hitler failed, we failed at least twice (Crimea and c1920). Plus, they’re less inhibited by liberal sentiment and so can be more ruthless.

  31. omnishambles

    “I’m saying that to allow a country to use force to redraw the map with no consequences is to invite more of the same behaviour.”

    Whereas a country that uses force to impose regime change wherever they feel like is perfectly fine as long as they don’t change the map.

    The US went mad after 9/11 and their doctrine of “full spectrum dominance” puts the world on a collision course.

  32. Pete B

    Syria became part of the Egyptian Mamluk Empire following the Crusades (c 1250 – 1516).

    the Ottomans then conquered it and it became part of their empire (1516 – 1922).

    You were saying something about the Sevres settlement “nearly 100 years – possibly a record in that part of the world”?

    Mmmm Your study of history needs some work!

  33. Back in the Steel City after a day out in Royton South. Buffeted by rain and hail all day, sadly wasn’t on the doorstep but delivering direct mail instead.

    However, it doesn’t feel like a by election. I only saw threw posters up all day (all Labour) and a handful of campaigners (about half Labour, and a quarter each Lib Dems and UKIP).

    Turnout will be very low, and suppressed even further if weather continues to be like it has been.

    One observation I can make is on the campaign centres. UKIP had a shopfront in a mostly closed precinct, while Labour’s using a large building rammed with people manning computers and phones as well as volunteers. Whether the numerical and financial advantage helps we’ll see.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been reading the Wikipedia page on the Battle for Kobane – surely the YPG’s finest hour.

  34. @Oldnat,

    If you think Russia has sufficient forces in Syria to fight off the Turks, then fair enough. It perhaps explains the SNP’s defence policy.

    @AC,

    Ah I see you get your news from Russian nationalist propaganda websites! I now understand half of what you’ve written in 2015 a lot better.

  35. ON (not sure if that stands for Obstinate Nuisance or something else)

    I wasn’t thinking of the situation in Syria specifically, but the wholesale splitting up of the Ottoman Empire, which includes at least part of what is now Saudi, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel etc. By and large these borders have remained fairly stable since the split.

    But we are getting rather away from polling. I won’t reply to any further posts on this subject.

    I think that pollsters should give options when asking about bombing Syria to include ‘nuke the lot of them’ and ‘stay out of it altogether’.

  36. @MrNameless,

    Of course, US jets played no part in Kobane’s defence as Coalition airstrikes are completely ineffective and have achieved nothing over the past 17 months (etc, etc).

  37. Neil A,

    I didn’t like to mention…

  38. Turkey considers the YPG to be terrorists.

  39. Neil A

    Since Turkey isn’t currently mounting an invasion of Syria, and there is no indication that it intends such, it would be odd if Russia had “sufficient forces in Syria to fight off the Turks”.

    If, however, the Turks did decide to invade (without air support) since any such Turkish planes would be shot down, how long do you think it would take for Russia to provide a sufficient force to prevent their ally’s country from being overrun?

    Then the USA would, doubtless, intervene and we could all enjoy (briefly) Tom Lehrer’s hymn to WWIII that Barbazenzero helpfully linked to a while back.

    You appear to be imagining a scenario in which Turkey and Russia would be at war, and no one else gets involved. Given the disparity in the two military forces, it seems mildly confused to believe that Turkey would win.

    Please tell me that you aren’t a key contributor to English police planning in the event of war!.

  40. Pete B

    “I won’t reply to any further posts on this subject.”

    Very wise! :-)

  41. Since Turkey isn’t currently mounting an invasion of Syria…

    No invasion but there are reports that the Turkish army have, today, been ‘cross-border’ shelling some Syrian army positions.

  42. On a less contentious issue (well, maybe not! :-) ) NatCen have been doing some polling of the YG panel on whether negative or positive arguments on EU membership are likely to prove more effective.

    http://whatukthinks.org/eu/what-is-the-likely-effect-of-different-arguments-on-britains-eu-referendum/

    “Overall, therefore, the arguments that will be employed during Britain’s referendum look set to make a difference to the overall vote. While some anti-EU campaigners might want to resist the idea of ‘going negative’, our results suggest it may be in their interest to do so, although some arguments appear to have stronger effects among some groups of voters than others.”

    Some of us have been here before!

  43. @oldnat
    “how long do you think it would take for Russia to provide a sufficient force to prevent their ally’s country from being overrun?”

    If Turkey actually wants to invade? Never. Russia simply isn’t capable of putting a force in Syria fast enough to block a Turkish invasion. Once Turkey shuts the Bosphorus, the only way Russia can get into Syria is via the air, flying around the Turkish air space – if Iran lets them! No, the Black Sea Fleet could not break through. The Russian armed forces are not built around expeditionary warfare, and in any case it would be slow going to transport the heavy armour by air and very dangerous.

    In any case, Russia’s most powerful weapon against Turkey is not military it’s the gas supplies. Not that Russia could afford turning off the taps. Both of which are good reasons why they probably won’t be at war any time soon.

    As @pete b reminded us, we’re getting ridiculously off-topic and I was trying not to get pulled back into this, but come on, there is some extreme over-estimation of Russian capabilities going on here.

    I will try to make this my last post, @oldnat you can have the last word.

  44. Amber

    Thanks for that news. I see from the Telegraph (whether or not its report is accurate, I can’t tell) the Turkish shelling was a response to Syrian government troops firing shells into Turkey.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9592461/Turkey-retaliates-after-second-Syrian-shell-hits-village.html

    Proxy wars are inherently dangerous because local commanders can create incidents which can escalate out of control.

  45. Omnishambles

    OK Last word.

    Quite why Neil A was trying to postulate a Turkish/Russian war somewhat escaped me.

    I was simply responding to his points.

    You are probably right about the logistics. In any case, Iran would probably provide the ground troops, while Russia provided the air cover.

    These matters are seldom as simple as Neil was implying.

  46. @ Old Nat

    That Telegraph report is from years ago, before the Russian involvement. Reuters are reporting today that Turkey have been shelling across the border at Syrian army positions this weekend.

  47. US seems to agree that allegations made by Syria/ Russia/ UK ‘left’ against Turkey have some substance.

    Independent is reporting:

    In the wake of the Isis attacks in Paris, Washington is making clear to Ankara that it will no longer accept Turkish claims that it is unable to cordon off the remaining short section of the border still used by Isis. “The game has changed. Enough is enough. The border needs to be sealed,” a senior official in President Barack Obama’s administration told The Wall Street Journal, describing the tough message that Washington has sent to the Turkish government. “This is an international threat, and it’s coming out of Syria and it’s coming through Turkish territory.”

  48. Amber

    Thanks

    Bloody Google! (though I do like their St Andrew’s Day motif!)

    I wonder what effect that US position will have on the EU’s apparent willingness to accelerate Turkey’s EU membership, in response to the refugee crisis?

    Wheels within wheels!

  49. @Crossbat11

    Simon Hattenstone has written a long article on the death of Elliott Johnson & the events leading up to it as described by acquaintances & the evidence shared by Johnson with a friend.

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/nov/27/elliott-johnson-young-tory-destroyed-by-party-he-loved-mark-clarke

    The Mail on Sunday had screaming headlines about the case & Monday’s front page of the Mail will surely disturb the PM & the Conservative party too.

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