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Should the RAF Bomb Syria?

It is likely that Cameron will soon ask parliament for approval to bomb Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria


The record of ISIL is aggressive and brutal, inspiring terrorist attacks around the world. What is to be done? What do youthink?

The United Nations Security Council resolution of the 20 November is a call for action. The Labour Party supports the United Nations, so ignoring the resolution is not an option.

 My questions and opinions are:

  • Should Britain take military action?

    • If yes then what action?

      • Bombing alone may weaken ISIL but it will not destroy it. The only way to destroy ISIL is to invade their territory.

  • What other action is needed?

    • ISIL needs a supply weapons and money to keep fighting. Someone is supplying them.

  • What happens after the war is over?

    • After a war the former ISIL territory will need rebuilding. It must have an honest government capable of maintaining order with respect for human rights.

Action against ISIL will directly affect people, mostly airmen, airwomen and their families, in this constituency. Please post your comments and opinions.

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commented 2015-12-18 21:36:51 +0000
Before the debate in parliament I summarised the Sleaford and North Hykeham comments for Jeremy Corbin and MPs who know where we are.

One of those is Hilary Benn, who has personal connections to our area. Hilary responded with an e-mail setting out his position. It is given in full below

“Thank you for contacting me recently about the vote in the House of Commons on 2nd December to extend British airstrikes against ISIL/Daesh to Syria.

As you may appreciate, I have had a lot of emails both against and in favour of this decision, and there were consequences whichever way Parliament voted. As you may know Jeremy Corbyn took the decision to give Labour MPs a free vote and many of my parliamentary colleagues came to a different conclusion to my own. I would add that it was completely unacceptable of the Prime Minister to suggest that those opposed to airstrikes were ‘terrorist sympathisers’. David Cameron should have apologised to Jeremy Corbyn and everyone else he insulted with those remarks and I urged him to do so in the debate in Parliament.

Perhaps I could set out how and why I came to my own decision, and please accept my apologies if I have not been able to cover all the points that you raised.

First, we all know that Daesh represent a real threat. They have engaged in beheadings and crucifixions, executed gay men by throwing them off buildings, and sexually enslaved women. After the recent retaking of Sinjar by Kurdish forces, they discovered a mass grave thought to contain the remains of older Yezidi women. We know that they killed 30 British tourists in Tunisia, 224 Russian holidaymakers on a plane, 178 people in suicide bombings in Beirut, Ankara and Suruc and, most recently, 130 people in Paris. And they are plotting more attacks on the UK and other countries.

The horrific events in Paris really brought home to me the clear and present danger we all face from Daesh. It could just as easily have been London or Manchester or Glasgow, and I think we have to take all necessary measures to combat this threat.

Secondly, we now have a clear and unambiguous UN Security Council Resolution (2249) passed on 20th November 2015, which very specifically calls on member states:

“to take all necessary measures, in compliance with international law, in particular with the United Nations Charter…. to redouble and coordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by ISIL …. and to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria.”

For me, this resolution was really important in making up my mind. The UK helped to establish the United Nations at the end of the Second World War precisely to deal with threats to international peace and security, and it has now unanimously asked us to act and to do so now. I felt strongly that we should listen to the UN and respond to their call.

In addition, the emergency motion on Syria passed by the Labour Party Conference in September 2015 set out conditions for airstrikes, including the passing of a UN Security Council resolution, which have now all been met.

Thirdly, it is absolutely clear that action is lawful under Article 51 of the UN Charter – the right of self-defence, both of Britain and of our allies, including France and Iraq which have both officially asked for our help.

Fourthly, the Syrian civil war has claimed over 200,000 lives and seen half the population flee their homes. There is now the outline of a peace plan as a result of the Vienna talks held by the International Syria Support Group. It has brought together a number of countries to do what is needed to bring the Syrian civil war to an end; ie to hold talks and agree a ceasefire which hopefully can lead to a transitional government and elections. Ending the war will help in the defeat of Daesh by ending the chaos, fear and violence in which they thrive, and enable the millions of Syrian refuges to go home.

Finally, there was strong support from within the region, including Iraq, for action against Daesh. We are part of a coalition of over 60 nations and our ally France had asked for our help and solidarity. I think we have an obligation to stand together, shoulder-to-shoulder, with them and others in opposition to Daesh’s ideology and brutality.

I also believe there were really important questions for our national security:

Given that we know what Daesh are doing, could we really stand aside and refuse to act fully in our own self defence against those who are planning these attacks?

Could we really pass responsibility for defending our national security to other countries?

If we had not acted, what message would that have sent about our attitude to the UN and about solidarity with all those who have suffered, including Iraq, France and the people living under Daesh’s cruel yoke in Syria?

And as we are already undertaking airstrikes in Iraq – where Daesh’s hold has been reduced – and are already doing everything but engage in airstrikes in Syria (including intelligence, surveillance and refuelling using RAF drones and planes) should we not play our full part?

It has been said by some that airstrikes don’t achieve anything, but this is not so. Airstrikes in Syria have helped the Kurds to resist Daesh’s attempt to take Kobane and in Iraq it helped the Kurds to retake Sinjar. In Iraq, the RAF is already showing how it can effectively carry out targeted airstrikes to undermine Daesh’s military activities using their particular technological capability and skills. This coalition effort is helping to degrade Daesh’s capacity and seeking to prevent them from expanding the territory they control.

It is also argued that because there is a civil war in Syria and there are currently no ground troops in the country to defeat Daesh, therefore we should not act. In fact the opposition forces that currently exist are actually engaged in fighting President Assad and, on occasions, Daesh, but a political settlement and the formation of a new government that represents all the Syrian people will be a significant step forward in ending the threat from Daesh in the longer term. However, to suggest that airstrikes should not take place until the Syrian civil war comes to an end is to underestimate the urgency of the terrorist threat Daesh poses to us and others now, and to misunderstand the nature and objectives of the extension to airstrikes.

I share the deep concern that many of you have expressed about potential civilian casualties and that is why the motion was specifically about targeted airstrikes against Daesh in Syria; the RAF have been undertaking such strikes in Iraq for the past 14 months. Unlike Daesh, none of us act with the intent to harm civilians; rather, we are acting to protect civilians against Daesh which, as we know, targets innocent people.

I agree that we should also be taking action to cut off Daesh’s sources of finance from oil, and as you may have seen the first two British airstrikes in Syria were targeted precisely at oil fields controlled by Daesh. We also need to stop the supply of weapons, give humanitarian aid, offer shelter to more refugees, including in the UK, and commit to play our full part in helping to rebuild Syria when the war is over. As the Labour opposition, we intend to hold the Government to account on all these things.

I accept that there are legitimate arguments not to take this form of action, but it was clear to me that the threat is now and that there are rarely, if ever, perfect circumstance in which to deploy military forces. The first responsibility of government and of the opposition is to defend the national interest and to defend its people. Therefore, on balance, I took the view that the right thing to do was to support the extension of airstrikes against Daesh to Syria.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. I have pasted below a copy of the link to the Hansard record of the debate, which includes the resolution for specific targeted airstrikes against Daesh in Syria agreed by the House of Commons.

Best wishes

Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP
Shadow Foreign Secretary

Hansard Record of the ‘Isil in Syria’ debate 2 Dec 2015
commented 2015-12-03 12:08:47 +0000
There are clear divisions on this and after watching the debate on and off throughout the day, was impressed by the argument put by both sides.
However for me the contribution by Hilary Benn has got to be one of the best ever, in particular affirming that being on the left and prepared to engage in military action has throughout history been the right thing to do.
commented 2015-12-02 15:34:35 +0000
The 70,000 ‘moderates’ would be advised to contact any Marsh Arabs left in the area for information on backup likely to be received by them from the west.
commented 2015-11-30 16:14:04 +0000
I fully agree with John that there was no Isis as such before the invasion of Iraq, but there were Islamic extremists. Bin Laden and the Taliban existed before 9/11. Al Qaeda had its bases and training camps in Afghanistan where the Taliban had seized power from the Russian backed Socialist government.
The plot to bring down the Twin towers was formulated in Afghanistan.
After 9/11, the Taliban government were given the opportunity to expel Al Qaeda and hand over Bin Laden which they refused to do and the rest is history.
We should have stayed and sorted out Afghanistan but instead took our eye off the ball and launched the then illegal war against Iraq to satisfy the illogical reasoning of George W Bush.
And lets establish when Isis came to the fore. It was as a result of the Arab Spring starting in Tunisia and spreading throughout the Arab world and finally to Syria where there was a popular uprising against Assad. Unfortunately there were many different groupings and amongst those groups were those which had an extreme Islamic agenda , one being ISIS which attracted so called Jihadis from all over the world including the UK, who then launched attacks in Iraq butchering all who opposed them in the most brutal fashion, thus the request by the Iraqi government for legal assistance under international law.

With all due respect to John, I cannot subscribe to his conspiracy theories regarding 9/11, because to do so would by implication raise the spectre that even the London bombings of 7/7 and more recently Paris had been engineered by shadowy government forces.???.
And I emphasise that we are NOT being asked to bomb Syria. We are being asked to bomb ISIS who are based in Syria, a completely different scenario.

And to Chris,I would say I too was once young and idealistic and I DID have a “Little Red book”and may well be out of touch with many of our new members, who as yet have never had to knock on doors, often slammed in your face when trying to get a Labour government elected.Labour were out of Power for eighteen years before Tony Blair. I am no Blairite and up to now not unhappy with our new Leader but.

Jeremy Corbyn had the luxury of voting against his OWN Party on hundreds of occasions as a back bench MP and should allow other back bench MP`s the same freedom.
Yes MP`s have to take into account the views of the membership, but they also represent their constituents who voted for them in the first place when Ed Milliband was the Leader. They also have to make judgements based on their conscience even when against public opinion.
Best example, most members of the public would vote to bring back hanging, but over the years MPs have always voted against.
commented 2015-11-30 12:22:09 +0000
Well said John.
commented 2015-11-30 10:44:55 +0000
“We must do something!”
by John Andrews

“We must do something!” is often heard today in relation to the terrorist group known as ISIS. It’s very true, we should do something, but let’s think for a minute about what “we” already did.
ISIS did not exist until after the illegal war in Iraq, which “our” government supported. Al Qaeda had no significant presence in Iraq until the US/UK governments killed over a million Iraqis, destroyed their country, crushed their army and then, their oil fields safely back under “our” control, abandoned the Iraqi people. An Al Qaeda group established itself in the power vacuum, which then evolved into ISIS. So that’s what “we” already did. ISIS is “ours”; “we” created it, firstly through “our” iniquitous foreign policies, then with “our” arms sales and other material and financial support to a multitude of despicable allies in the region, and then with military training and other assistance from “our” special forces.
So the first thing “we must do” is understand that most of the gangster/ terrorist groups that plague the planet today have been created by our own trusted leaders, to serve the cynical purposes of big business, and the massive military/ police/ “intelligence” organisations who need Permanent War so they can stay in business. ISIS is just the latest from “our” production line – that previously helped to produce monsters like al Qaeda and the Taleban. When ISIS is gone “we’ll” simply promote another monster to replace it – al Shabaab, perhaps? Or Boko Haram? That’s what “we” do: “we” help create monsters, to serve “our” 1%.
The next thing we must do is understand that there’s no depth of depravity that’s too extreme for the monsters. In the deeply murky world of “special” operations there’s something called a “false flag” attack. This is an attack that’s carried out by some terror group (often against their own people), pretending to be someone else – so that that someone else gets the blame. It’s a very old trick of the warmongers, and very successful. Perhaps the best-known example of a major war known to have been started by a false flag was the Vietnam War, which was triggered by the false flag attack on USS Maddox, in the infamous Gulf of Tonkin Incident. Terrorist outrages may indeed be done independently by terrorists – who “we” create directly or indirectly – but they may also be false flags, trying to provoke war. Given the considerable cover-up of events around the destruction of the World Trade Centre, the jury is still out as to whether that was also a false flag.
The next thing we must do is very simple: obey the law. International law is very clear on the subjects of regime change and military interventions in other people’s countries. The US, our “special relationship” buddies, has illegally overthrown governments in over thirty countries since WW2, often with British assistance, and often with illegal military attacks. The US routinely ignores international law and is strongly opposed to the existence of the International Criminal Court, whose purpose is to enforce it. Britain is also building up an impressive dossier of cases that are potentially indictable war crimes and or crimes against humanity. The latest UN Security Council resolution, 2249, does NOT specifically authorise military attacks in Syria; but it does insist we obey international law.
So what “we must do”, is demand our government obeys the law, stops creating monsters like ISIS, and does NOT bomb Syria.
commented 2015-11-30 08:15:44 +0000
Jeremy was elected by people who are sick and tired of self serving, ‘professional’ politicians who flip-flop on headline of the day pressures. Those who oppose and try to undermine him should be aware that they are out of touch. They should also bear in mind that if they recant, a question mark will always be against their name. Let’s listen to the younger, enlightened voices of those who will inherit this country and all the problems caused by the, business as usual, civilian bombing, politicians we have now.
commented 2015-11-28 11:56:19 +0000
I too have replied to Jeremy Corbyn`s e-mail and one of the points I raised was his assertion that it is a serious step to send our armed forces to war, which it is, were it true.
One of my points challenges the emotive use of the term “War”. We are not being asked to go to war. That would imply going to war against Syria, when what we are being asked to consider is allowing the Government to extend our military operations against the organization ISIL which has bases in Iraq (where we are already engaged) Syria.
commented 2015-11-28 01:16:28 +0000
Until the outrages in Paris, the downing of a Russian commercial plane in Egypt and the attacks in Tunis, I was against extending the bombing to Syria, but there comes a time when reality has to be faced and our Leader as a potential Prime minister has to put aside his obviously Pacifist views and rise to the challenge.
When our leader was interviewed on the action he would take if faced with a Paris style attack on London, his response left me flabbergasted and with my head in my hands.
I fully respect his views which in many ways I agree with but if you cannot ever bring yourself to give the order to “Shoot to kill” in order to save dozens of innocent lives, then you should never ever have stood for the Leadership of this Great Party.
We live in a dangerous world where not everyone wants to sit down and talk about their greviances and unfortunately ISIL are one of those organisations.
And to those who suggest that attacking ISIL in Syria will increase the threat to the UK, I would say the threat is already here and to give in to such threats is appeasement.
Yes, we in the western alliances contributed to the rise in ISIL because of our illegal involvement in Iraq, but we are where we are when it comes to the rise of Islamic extremists.
But remember Islamic extremism was on the rise long before the Iraq war. Those extremists at the time Al Quaeda were responsible for 9/11 which resulted in the invasion of Afghanistan.
Where things went wrong was Blair agreeing to support Bush in Iraq which had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11 and for that I will never forgive Tony Blair.
This issue is a matter of conscience and Labour MP`s should be free to vote accordingly and in my opinion should on this occasion support the government in the knowledge that OUR armed forces will apply the greatest of care when it comes to targeting and will NOT embark on indiscriminate blanket bombing.
commented 2015-11-27 23:08:30 +0000
We fail to take proper care of veterans of previous conflict. Let’s not put more in harms way during further, ill conceived, adventures.
Most wars are the product of failings in diplomacy and/or politics. The consequences of such failure should have greater impact on those responsible.
commented 2015-11-27 21:30:32 +0000
Surely we could use the money we will be spending on bombing them to protect our country?

Every time we have gone to war to get rid of dictators there is always someone else with a more dangerous mind and more dangerous thought on what there religion says to do. And unfortunately they are able to get people to follow there beliefs.

I believe we could use the money on better police training to protect people on our streets, more money for our forces, why do we not help the countries that want to bomb ISIL with our intelligence services not just our bombs?

We have a big enough fight in our own country to try and find the people who wish to harm us and to bring together all faiths to be as one and be against ISIL.

Could we bring back national service so we have more people trained to protect our country if ever needed?
commented 2015-11-26 15:07:07 +0000
I wrote to Stephen PHILLIPS over the weekend and received a generic ‘Dear Constituent’ response via his assistant Emma SALISBURY. It was not at all encouraging as he seems to be sticking to his leader’s line on everything these days.
commented 2015-11-26 14:57:41 +0000
Excellent debate and comment. With Cameron making the case today, 26.11.2015, for what a former ambassador to Syria called “recreational bombing” the strength of objections needs to be made known. Please write to Stephen Phillips, write to any newspaper, post on social networks. I will summarise the comments and circulate to the Labour leadership.
commented 2015-11-25 18:30:59 +0000
Sadly with ISIL unlike Northern Ireland, there can be no dialogue. In Ireland the IRA wanted a United Ireland and were open to negotiation.
ISIL want to recreate a Caliphate for all muslims with a single ruler ( Caliph). To force their medieval interpretation of Islam on all muslims and to put to death all who will not convert.
They see women captives as the spoils of war to be bought and sold, to be forced to marry and those who refuse, either executed or treated as sex slaves. One current example is the women of the Yazidi who they see as heretics.
What I describe is the Middle ages and akin to the Inquisition and it is what they aspire to albeit with sheer hypocrisy in that they covet all that is modern, in terms of technology and weapons.
They are essentially a cult that convinces those who join them that what they do is for Allah (God) and they will be rewarded in the afterlife (Paradise) with 72 virgins. As a result they do not fear death and why so many blow themselves up in an act of suicide.

And yes the counter radicalization of those in our country who join ISIL must be tackled but unfortunately military action is required and it will ultimately mean boots on the ground be they Western boots or ideally the boots of other Muslim nations in the region.
And regrettably our new Leader needs to take on board that he no longer has the luxury of being a rebellious back bencher and needs to show some Leadership if he is ever to become Prime minister.
commented 2015-11-25 09:58:52 +0000
Looking back at the IRAQ war I was convinced that it was the right thing to do at that time however the more time has gone on and I have listened to many others that all our interference has done is fragment their society thus creating worldwide unrest, we need to stop interfering.

Something needs to be done against ISIL in light of recent atrocities. Attacking their bases I would support but the danger being is that any mistake could cost innocent lives.

We need to starve them of cash and arms and put sanctions on those countries who supply terrorists.

Diplomatic dialogue. What do these people really want? Do we know? I don’t! I wouldn’t know how that process could be started but lets look at Northern Ireland, whilst it may not be perfect it is today a far cry from the 70s creating a better society for the people of Northern Ireland.
commented 2015-11-24 23:52:47 +0000
On the basis that the UN has called on all members that have the capacity to do so “to take all necessary measures”, I do now support the governments call to be able to carry out bombing missions in Syria as deemed necessary in order to degrade or destroy ISIL. Apart from the fact that the number of planes that will be involved will be few in numbers compared to the USA, Russia and France, I believe in light of what has happened in Paris, that it is right that when deemed necessary that our planes should be able to cross a border from Iraq to Syria which ISIL do not recognize anyway.
I agree with other contributors who point out the complexities of the middle east in terms of religious differences and Tribal loyalties which we in the West do not understand and in many ways have made worse.

I went on the march against the war in Iraq, was against the bombing in Libya and the proposed bombing against Assad`s Syria. The leaderships of these states were evil dictators, but at least they were Secular states and the majority of their peoples got on with their lives without the terror unleashed on them from the skies.
However the evil that is ISIS has to stopped one way or another and that includes those British citizens that subscribe to what can only be described as a “Death Cult”
Be under no illusion that if they could get their hands on Chemical weapons or God forbid a Nuclear device. They WOULD use it.
""Je suis Charlie. Je suis Paris""
commented 2015-11-24 18:49:41 +0000
I believe we should keep well clear of bombing ISIS in Syria. The conflict in Syria is very complex & you need a resolution that all parties agree with. This will include dealing with the Assad regime. I personally think we should listen to the people who live in these middle eastern countries & if that includes redrawing the map of the whole area. Then I believe that is what we should do. If the Sunni, Shiite, Kurds, Druze, Alawites, Assirians & whoever else wants self determination & that’ll stop the conflicts. Then that is what we should be pushing for!
commented 2015-11-24 16:16:52 +0000
Cameron and our war-mongering media are making a lot out of the latest UNSC resolution (2249), pretty much puffing it up as a green light for war. But it is NOT a green light for war. The media are correctly quoting the bit that says member states should take “all necessary measures” to control Isil/ Da’esh (ISIS). But they’re omitting the next very important words… “in compliance with international law, in particular with the United Nations Charter.”
Nowhere in 2249 is Chapter 7 of the UN Charter invoked. Chapter 7 can be used to legitimise armed intervention (as it was in SCR 660, for example, the resolution that allowed the west to kick Saddam out of Kuwait) – but Chapter 7 is missing from 2249.
So not only is it morally wrong for Britain to launch armed attacks into Syria, the legal justification is highly questionable too.
The fact is that Isil/Da’esh/ISIS is a creature of western foreign policy. Our great trusted leaders invented it just as they invented al Qaeda in Afghanistan. They’ve armed it, trained it and provided it with safe havens in neighbouring countries which have long been hostile to Syria.
War has always been deeply cynical – an abomination designed to make powerful evil people more powerful and evil. It wouldn’t surprise me one little bit if the recent Paris terror attack was a false flag managed directly or indirectly by western “special” forces, to achieve the UN resolution.
commented 2015-11-24 13:46:00 +0000
We should stop meddling with ancient societies that evolved over centuries, some longer than ours. Democracy is not the way of tribal societies and cannot be foisted on them. Anyone who watches footage of the results of ‘precision’ bombing can be in no doubt why these poor devils hate the west. Recent footage showed what I believe were Russian aircraft dropping cluster bombs, these have been outlawed by the west. The appalling things, originally designed for runway denial, scatter bomblets over a wide area, these then explode over a period of time. Used against civilians, the victims are often children who pick them up out of curiosity.
Removal of dictators and other unsavoury individuals simply allows tribal conflict to erupt.
Europe decided that trade was the only way to suppress the continual wars between France, Germany and Britain etc. A similar arrangement should be sought in the middle east, an Arab/Muslim free trade area.
Let’s face it, big business runs the world these days. Politicians and diplomats have failed us and simply wring their hands at our plight while they enjoy armed guards and huge security arrangements wherever they go. Are they so valuable? It’s not like there is any shortage of applicants for tickets on the gravy train.
commented 2015-11-24 12:56:02 +0000
The question is a no brainer, unless you do not support the Labour leader. Bombing Syria will not only not stop Isil, as it is exactly what they want, to strengthen their case against the West, who are financing and arming them indirectly through Saudi Arabia.

Britain should also stay out of the internal affairs of Syria unless requested to provide humanitarian aid
commented 2015-11-24 11:53:54 +0000
I agree with Karen. We cannot bomb a path to peace in the Middle East. Every military intervention by the west in the region has resulted in yet more violence, terror and death. There is no alternative to a negotiated settlement through international cooperation, however difficult that may be to achieve. I’ve just watched a You Tube clip of Tony Benn speaking in the Commons (with a youthful Jeremy Corbyn behind him!) against the first Gulf war. His reasoning is as pertinent today as it was then.
commented 2015-11-24 11:31:01 +0000
Finally there seems to some joint action between the super-powers and some co-operation in attacking the evil that is ISIS. This country should join this coalition – although after the decimation of the armed forces by this Government this would of necessity have to be in a minor role. Whilst it is true that in an ideal world the removal of Assad would be preferable. However, Assad commands the Syrian Army which is the only real option for a ground attack. We cannot really be seen to be supporting his regime, but surely it makes common sense to work with the ground forces to defeat the common (to all) enemy of ISIS. We in the west have an abominable record in the past decade in trying to impose western style democracy on countries by deposing their dictatorial leaders. Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt and Libya are now far worse societies than ever they were when ruled by a despot. However, much we may dislike such leaders we should keep our corporate noses out of societies and regimes we don’t even begin to understand.
commented 2015-11-24 11:14:59 +0000
It will not be helpful to engage in a bombing campaign, ISIL is not a single entity or place, it is spread throughout the world in many guises. All that will happen is that innocent people will be killed and martyrs crated. It will also make us more vulnerable to reprisals – nationally and locally.
You cannot declare war on a group you can only declare war on nations, by declaring war we are giving them recognition.
The crucial thing is to starve them of resources to engage in their heinous activities. This requires us to take political action against those states who are (or whom we suspect of) funding/supporting ISIL explicitly and implicitly.
We need to support the Middle East to rebuild itself but we must resect the culture and stop trying to impose our western ways. The war in Iraq has a lot to answer for in creating this situation, we must learn from that. A macho, paternalistic approach is not useful.

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