MAP: The first British airstrikes on Islamic State oilfields in eastern Syria

John Rees of Britain’s Stop the War campaign and I appeared on BBC Radio 2 on Thursday afternoon to discuss the launch of British airstrikes on the Islamic State in Syria.

While Rees and I both challenged the decision to bomb, we differed — sometimes heatedly — over issues beyond that intervention. I put the case for protected zones in northern Syria against both the Islamic State and attacks by the Assad regime and Russia. Rees, favoring no intervention, focused on denunciations of Turkey and Saudi Arabia as the way forward.

There was a specific debate over the number of rebels with whom countries could cooperate on the establishment of protected zones.

Rees put out the line that the number “70,000” — first circulated by analyst Charles Lister and repeated by British Prime Minister David Cameron — was far too high. I argued, based on reliable information from inside Syria, that the number is far too low. Moreover, if rebels are assured of political as well as military support, the number in the field will be even higher.

Listen from 34:46 to discussion