04/09/2013 04:19 BST | Updated 04/09/2013 04:21 BST

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Humanitarian Intervention Or Regime Change?

Speaker of the House John Boehner (C), R-OH and National Security Advisor Susan Rice listen as US President Barack Obama delivers a statement on Syria during a meeting with members of Congress at the White House in Washington, DC, September 3, 2013. Obama told congressional leaders that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad needs to be held accountable for allegedly carrying out the August 21 attack near Damascus, which US officials say killed nearly 1,500 people, including hundreds of children. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

The five things you need to know on Wednesday 4th September 2013...


So, remember how the proposed US air strikes on Syria were supposed to be a 'limited' intervention, a means of enforcing international law against the use of chemical weapons and not part of a wider strategy to back the rebels or an echo of Iraq or Afghanistan? Turns out, um, er, that isn't actually the case.

The Telegraph front page headline is: "Obama: We will strike Syria to end war."

The Guardian's splash headline is "Obama: Syrian regime change on the agenda". The paper reports:

"Sceptical Republicans appeared to have been won over by tougher rhetoric from the White House. For the first time, Obama portrayed his plans for US military action in Syria as part of a broader strategy to topple Bashar al-Assad. While stressing that Washington's primary goal remained "limited and proportional" attacks to degrade Syria's chemical weapons capabilities and deter their future use, the president hinted at a long-term mission that may ultimately bring about a change of regime."

Meanwhile, the Guardian also reports that William Hague is to "hold talks with Syrian opposition leaders on Wednesday in London on how to provide further practical non-military help for the rebel groups in the country."

In an intervention that will be welcomed by Obama, Cameron et al, Vladimir Putin used a pre-G20 summit TV interview to say that Russia would not rule out backing a UN resolution authorising force in Syria if there was evidence “beyond doubt” that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons. However, he also said that action without the mandate of the UN Security Council would be an act of "aggression".

On a side note, US uber-hawk Senator John McCain was spotted by reporters, in the midst of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on Syria yesterday, playing online poker on his iPhone.


Make policy in haste, repent at leisure. This morning, Ed Miliband may be regretting his earlier, high-profile speech on trade union reform, given in response to the row over Labour Party candidate selections in constituencies such as Falkirk, as the BBC is reporting:

"The GMB union is to cut the affiliation funds it gives Labour from £1.2m to £150,000 in the wake of row over reforms, the union announces.

"The union said there would also be cuts in spending on Labour Party campaigns and initiatives."

CCHQ strategists will be rubbing their hands with glee.


Despite repeated claims over the summer that the economy is on the mend, Labour isn't shying away from its critique of George Osborne's austerity policies. Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has a comment piece in the Guardian in which he says theUK could be in the midst of an "unsustainable recovery", and that George Osborne's policies have done long-term damage to the economy. Meanwhile, shadow chief of secretary to the Treasury Rachel Reeves, back from maternity leave, will say in a speech today that Britain is "in the midst of a crisis of living standard".

From the Guardian:

"The co-ordinated Reeves-Balls assault came as the Resolution Foundation released figures showing the economic downturn had pushed a further 1.4 million employees below the living wage, the rate set as necessary for a basic standard of living in Britain. The Resolution Foundation's study, entitled Low Pay Britain 2013, shows that 4.8 million Britons (20% of all employees) earn below the living wage, a leap from 3.4 million (14%) in 2009 at the height of the recession."


Watch "12 Feelgood YouTube Clips To Brighten Your Day".


Government whips will have breathed a sigh of relief last night as the controversial lobbying bill crossed its first hurdle in the Commons: the vast majority of Tory and Lib Dem MPs voted for Second Reading of the bill by 309 to 247, giving the coalition a majority of 62.

Writing for the Huffington Post UK, shadow leader of the Commons Angels Eagle called the bill "draconian" and "illiberal", "an affront to democracy": "The government should rename it the 'Let Lynton Lobby Bill'."


My colleague Asa Bennett, the HuffPost UK's business reporter, has the scoop of the week:

"MPs, Lords and parliamentary staff have been trying to access porn websites potentially thousands of times, official figures reveal.

"Following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from the Huffington Post UK, the House of Commons authorities acknowledged that users of the Parliamentary Network servers, including both MPs and their staff, have repeatedly attempted to access websites classed on Parliament's network as pornographic between May 2012 and July 2013.

"According to the official figures, the number of attempts to access pornographic websites on Parliamentary websites peaked for 2012 at 114,844 last November and at 55,552 in April for 2013."

His exclusive has been picked up by, among others, the BBC, the Guardian, the Sun, the Mirror, the Mail and the Independent.


From yesterday's Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 40

Conservatives 33

Ukip 12

Lib Dems 9

That would give Labour a majority of 86.


@joncraig Tories Douglas Carswell, Philip Davies, David Davis, Zac Goldsmith, David Nuttall, LibDem/ind David Ward voted against lobbying 2nd reading.

@SenJohnMcCain Scandal! Caught playing iPhone game at 3+ hour Senate hearing - worst of all I lost!

@daweiner @SenJohnMcCain Haha, you're right! It's absurd to expect someone who pushed us into two, now maybe three wars to give his full attention!


Jonathan Freedland, writing in the Guardian, says: "Enough of playing Hamlet: Obama needs to act now."

Daniel Finkelstein, writing in the Times, says: "‘Lessons from Iraq’ are not lessons at all."

Mary Riddell, writing in the Telegraph, says:"Not even IDS faced the venom that now confronts Ed Miliband."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol