Why I support (limited) western intervention in Syria


by Sunny Hundal    
8:45 am - June 14th 2013

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I doubt this post is going to change many minds, but its worth explaining my position anyway

Imagine a situation where your neighbour is a drunk man who comes home and beats his wife every day. You can hear her screams and unsuccessful attempts to fight him off and feel powerless. The police are unable to intervene and she carries on getting beaten and raped. Do you sit by and do nothing because it’s not happening in your house? I wouldn’t.

Foreign policy isn’t exactly the same, but I’ve always believed we should intervene in other countries if a humanitarian crisis is taking place. I’m not an isolationanist though I recognise that governments don’t always have humanitarian concerns at heart when they interfere in other countries.

Syria is not Afghanistan, or Iraq or…
Would you support an arms embargo on the Palestinians and deny them the right to defend themselves against Israel? I wouldn’t. I bet most of you wouldn’t either.

Ahhh, but Syria is different – you say. You’re right, it is. It is also different to Afghanistan, Iraq and other recent conflicts. Which is why I don’t buy the argument that this is like Iraq (which I was vehemently against) or other conflicts.

This is a minor intervention
The US is not invading Syria (I would not support that) – at most it is offering small arms and ammunition, and perhaps establish a No Fly Zone.

The aim isn’t to flood Syria but increase pressure on Assad and Russia. It is a warning shot with the aim of pushing them to negotiate. At the very least it would make it harder for Russians to feed Assad bigger missiles. This is a VERY limited intervention with support from neighbouring Arab countries such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt. I repeat: it is not Iraq.

Chemical weapons
There’s a reason why the ‘red line’ was chemical weapons, not the 90,000 dead. The UN (and US) aim is to demand action when chemical, biological or nuclear weapons are used, in the hope that it sets a precedent and dissuades countries from using them despite availability. If no action is taken at all and Assad sees this as a bluff, it could open the way for more chemical weapons being used.

How many is too many?
There is a real danger that unless Assad willingly abdicates or transitions Syria to a democracy, the civil war could go on for years. Another 100,000 could be dead. Instead, in an effort to end the stalemate, we have a limited intervention by Nato forces, working in conjunction with other Middle Eastern countries, to put pressure on Assad to step down. To compare this with the bombing of Iraq or Afghanistan isn’t just absurd but actually ignorant.

How many dead people is too many? A quarter of a million people dead? Half a million? A million? Would you oppose any intervention at any cost to human life? I wouldn’t. I think 90,000 is far too much. I also think it should be a limited intervention, and evidence of chemical weapon usage fully explained. I don’t think our govts should get a blank cheque, but neither should we sit by and watch tens of thousands get slaughtered.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


I can’t help but notice all the news reports about the Syrian Rebels using chemical weapons, including the pictures of those affected, seems to have been buried. Or at the least not as easy to find on google these days.

2. Mr Turmoil

After Western Limited Intervention will it stop revenge & ethnic killings all over Syria ?

Will Western intervention escalate the Syria civil war even further dragging other countries in ?

Will it stop the continuation of massacres from either side ?

Who are we really arming and supporting ?

Where will weapons end up ?

Will the rebels turn on each other for control at a later point ?

Will our intervention actually protract this Syrian war ?

Will Syria end up yet another Afghanistan or Iraq where killings continue to this day with bombings on a daily basis with Western troops being shoot died or maimed regularly.

We do not have the answers to all these questions and if Afghanistan or Iraq is anything to go by nothing will change except years of flowing blood and misery.

3. Mr Turmoil

What I am saying is that Western Intervention will not stop the killing within Syria for yours to come. After Western Intervention it will end up a blood bath with revenge killings on a massive scale. Without big battles the killing will continue.

1. What an incredibly facile analogy.
2. Interventions are always “limited”. No-one in charge in recent times said, “hey we’re going to kill hundreds of thousands in Iraq (or wherever).” It always starts with a limited intervention, a no-fly zone, supplying the rebels etc.
3. The numbers game… sigh. Would you kill 50,000 to save 100,000? or 100,000 to save 150,000? etc. That’s what you’re really talking about – it’s not a choice between (A) not saving a million vs (B) saving a million, there is always a cost.

Sunny,

Before the deluge of messages arrive lambasting you for thinking the unthinkable I thought this article would be of interest with it’s comparison of the approach towards Syria and Iraq:

http://hopisen.com/2013/syria/

6. Baton Rouge

I do not support Western intervention in Syria but I absolutely do support the right of the rebels and defenders of the Syrian Democratic Revolution to acquire arms and I do impose this vile 2 and a half year embargo that has allowed Assad to butcher his own people with impunity and in the most barbaric manner possible whilst being resupplied by the Russian imperialists and whilst the Islamist militias were supplied and strengthened agaisnt the democrats by Saudi Arabia. This has been the record of Western `intervention’ so far.

The Syrian Revolution is a legitimate part of the Arab Spring and deserves our (the international labour movement) unconditional support in its battle with semi-colonial tyranny.

I have defended Galloway tooth and nail for many years over many things but his disgraceful performance on Question Time last night put an end to that. This is not a man interested in the liberation of the Arab masses from anybody. To side with parts of the establishment and the far right in backing the arms embargo because we might be arming `Islamists’ is the most disgraceful cynicism and to support bogus peace talks with the mass murdering Assad is to compound cynicism with criminality. Any peace talks with him would have even less content and meaning than those offered to the Palestinians by the Zionists.

Victory to the Arab Spring.

Clearly if there’s something we could do that would most probably help the situation of the Syrian people then we should do it. The question is whether there is anything we can do that’ll actually help a significant amount. Jumping up and down about how many civilians are dying doesn’t really constitute an argument. Nor does the entirely false analogy with a wife beating neighbour – false because in that situation it’s relatively obvious what one could do to intervene effectively.

You make two tentative, offhand suggestions as to what could be done: provide small arms and enforce a no fly zone.

Are the rebels lacking in small arms? From what I’ve read they aren’t in want of AK47s – it’s more tanks and artillery that they’re behind in. I’m happy to be corrected but some evidence that this would actually help would be nice. And then there’s the question of whether pouring more arms into the region won’t just ferment even more violence in the long run. All legitimate questions.

The no fly zone. Well, maybe this would help – but, again, it doesn’t necessarily follow. This needs to be thought through not just hastily asserted as being obviously a good idea.

You really should acknowledge, Sunny, that it’s very possible that Western intervention, however limited, could actually make things worse. Of course we can’t demand certainty before we act but we at least have to weigh up the probabilities.

I’m not a pacifist. I think that sometimes military violence is a necessary evil. But it’s always an evil. The only relevant question is whether it’s the lesser of two evils. This is not a question that you are exploring by reminding us about how horrific the situation is. Yes, it’s awful. But what could we do about it? What would help? What would the consequences be?

Every military action has negative consequences – death, destruction, seeding hatred, reinforcing the military-industrial complex, bolstering xenophobia. Sometimes – and only sometimes – military actions can have positive consequences in terms of saving lives, overturning repressive regimes and so on.

All military actions have negative consequences, only occasionally do they have positive ones too.

Will the pros outweigh the cons in this case? It may seem callous to make it a matter of cost/benefit probability calculation but what other kind of judgement is there? A fundamentalist decision to never approve of any military action, ever? That’s no kind of process. On this I’m with you, Sunny.

Yes, we should be open to the idea of having our military do something. But the burden of proof is overwhelmingly on those who think it’d be a good idea, not vice versa. Merely asserting how horrific it all is doesn’t get us anywhere. This basic fact could just as easily reinforce the argument that we shouldn’t make things worse as the argument that we should try to make things better.

Syria is not Britain’s neighbour unless France or Ireland suddenly moved. So how far away does a “neighbour” have to be before you stop interfering? Next street? Next town? China? In any case if your neighbour was assaulting his wife would you nip round and give her an M4?

It looks like the rebels are no stranger to atrocities themselves. Maybe just for once Britian should keep its bloody nose out of a tragedy that it can only make worse going by previous interventions. The west couldn’t give a damn about the sufferring people, it just wants to frustrate the Russians and liberate some oil.

The rebels have also used chemical weapons, so intervening to deter others from using them doesn’t really work as an argument.

Also, just propping up the losing side with limited intervention won’t do anything but prolong the misery.

On the other hand, if Assad wins, that wil strengthen Iran and Hezbollah, which would be contrary to Israel’s interests.

It’s a tricky one, I must admit.

10. Baton Rouge

`On the other hand, if Assad wins, that wil strengthen Iran and Hezbollah, which would be contrary to Israel’s interests.’

Stalinism doesn’t get much more cynical than this. Hell, fascism doesn’t get much more cynical than this.

The greatest blow to Israel’s interests would be to surround it with a sea of Arab democracy. But you’d rather see tyrants hacking their way through their own populations because you say it would hurt Israel. The thought is disgusting on its own but I can assure you that it would not harm Israel which continues to exist courtesy of the bogus oposition of the Arab tyrants and the Iranian Theocracy.

Stalinism is and always will be counter-revolutionary to the bone and its opposition to the Arab Spring has shown that truth up once again. And what is the pinnacle of the hopes of these people for the world? Really existing socialism? No that’s dead. A world in which power is balanced between five or six major powers above the heads of the 7 billion. Putin is considered a progressive by these people and Assad the Butcher a man worthy of the admiration of the world’s working classes. How in god’s name does this represent any kind of opposition to imperialism?

For some reason, Sunny Hundal seems convinced that ‘limited intervention’ will save lives.

Maybe he should listen to Javier Solana and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, two former NATO Secretary Generals, who wrote in the New York Times recently that ‘Rather than secure humanitarian space and empower a political transition, Western military engagement in Syria is likely to provoke further escalation on all sides, deepening the civil war and strengthening the forces of extremism, sectarianism and criminality gaining strength across the country’.

Maybe he should listen to Oxfam, who say that ‘Millions of people are suffering, but providing more weapons will mean prolonged fighting and more civilian deaths, more long-term damage to infrastructure and the economy, and greater poverty in Syria’.

Maybe he should listen to the UN Secretary General, who says that ‘More arms would only mean more deaths and destruction’.

Or maybe he should listen to The Pentagon themselves, who say that ‘military intervention would be a daunting and protracted operation, requiring at least weeks of exclusively American airstrikes, with the potential for killing vast numbers of civilians’.

He seems completely blind and deaf to the fact that the course of action he is advocating would in all likelihood escalate the situation and kill *more* people, rather than save lives.

“But you’d rather see tyrants hacking their way through their own populations because you say it would hurt Israel.”

I wouldn’t rather see any such thing.

Just making the point that Israel would be weakened by the victory of Iran’s proxy Assad, which is why America cannot allow that to happen.

The problem is, preventing Asad’s victory isn’t the same as enabling the rebels to achieve one. The result of intervention will just be to drag things out.

>> ‘the argument that we shouldn’t make things worse as the argument that we should try to make things better’.

An argument which tacitly accepts, perhaps, that the aim is to ‘make things better’, which is by no means obvious.

It is more likely, given the track records of the U.S., U.K. and France in this region – that of decades long and continuing support for dictatorship and repression – that they are merely looking out for their own interests, with the interests of Syrians a secondary or even tertiary consideration.

That OP sounds pretty dodgy IMO. I just heard Paddy Ashdown on the radio and he would completely disagree.
And it’s not just about Assad stepping down. He’s just a figurehead. He’s the frontman for the Alawites and supported by the rest of the Shia in the region.
And Christians too it looks like.

As Ashdown or maybe John Simpson said, this is turning into a wider Suni v Shia conflict. Who knows what Hezbollah will do if faced with defeat. Start attacking Israel maybe. Bomb Jewsish people in other countries like they did in Argentina? Bomb London?

As for arming Palestinians, who on earth thinks that’s a good idea? Arm who? Hamas? Send them more suicide belts? Mortars so they can fire into Israel across the Green Line?

Thanks for posting this Sunny despite knowing you’ll be drawing fire for it. I don’t agree, but am glad for the opportunity to discuss the pro-intervention case.

Two quick points. First, I don’t see any evidence that intervention will save lives. The chemical weapons (being used in some limited way by both sides) may help create a pseudo-legal case for intervention but is pretty small beer in terms of the horror and tragedy that has been unfolding in Syria.

Second, I agree that Syria is not Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, etc. However, any Western intervention is certainly in the context of more than a decade of utterly malign and misguided liberal interventions that have made the region and beyond a far worse place.

Any intervention in Syria has to be seen in that context and has to be understood in terms of the implications it has beyond the Syrian national boundaries. Our military presence is toxic and simply prolongs this period of bloody interventionism.

Philip I don’t think we’re that far from each other. Besides, Obama has sat on his hands for two years – he can hardly be accused of rushing into conflict.

>> ‘Besides, Obama has sat on his hands for two years – he can hardly be accused of rushing into conflict’.

The Obama administration have been working with the KSA and Qatar to arm rebel groups since May 2012, at least. This is simply a well documented fact:

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-05-15/world/35454790_1_baba-amr-neighborhood-syrian-rebels-homs

So the idea he has been ‘sitting on his hands’ is specious.

18. So Much For Subtlety

I am a strong supporter of intervention in theory. But even so some basic conditions have to be met. We need to make things better not worse. There is no point intervening against the drunk wife beater only to hand the wife over to an even worse man.

Can we make things better in Syria? Not that I can see.

Asad is a weak leader of a psychotic father. The state was made in the father’s image, but the son is not the father. Nevertheless, it is a vile regime and the world would not miss it if it were gone. But. And this is a big but. Who are the opposition? People who shoot 14 year old boys in the head for blasphemy?

This is not going to work out well. There are no liberal democrats outside the English speaking world. There are especially none in the Middle East. We have a weak mass murderer being challenged by some hard core mass murderers. We are better off out.

19. Baton Rouge

Western imperialism has imposed a two year embargo on the rebels whilst Assad has murdered tens of thousands, been re-supplied by Putin whilst Saudi Arabia has been allowed to strengthen the Islamists militias against those that would defend the democratic uprising. Imperialism has been intervening from day one very much to the detriment of the Syrian people. There is no doubt that the West conceded Syria to the Russian sphere of influence in exchange for freedom of action in its own sphere. They have stood by and ignored the most horrendous butchery. If they are heasitatingly advocating a lifting of the embargo now with the limited objective of forcing Assad to the table it is because they are beginning to look weak and impotent on the world stage. It is not because they give a rat’s arse about dead Syrian babies. We, who call ourselves progressive, on the other hand most certainly should. Stalinism has persuaded the international labour movement to join the imperialist blockade and containment of the Syrian Revolution and the Arab Spring in the interests not of the Arab people but the Chinese and Russian elites. It is only heroic resistance that has started to expose the cracks in this unholy alliance of cynics.

Imperialism is entirely self-serving and I don’t call for a Western intervention but I do call for it to get out of the way. I didn’t call for Western intervention in Libya but I certainly did not demonstrate for Gadaffi’s right to blast Benghazi off the face of the planet. It was absolutely right for the Libyan people and rebels to take advantage of the intervention to push through with their rebellion against the Gadaffi tyranny and intervention that was entirely predicated on forcing negotiations and saving the regime. It is absolutely right also that the Syrian people have the right to acquire arms to defend themselves.

>> ‘Western imperialism has imposed a two year embargo on the rebels whilst Assad has murdered tens of thousands’.

No matter how many times you repeat this, it won’t become true. The U.S., KSA and Qatar have been arming rebel groups since early 2012, as reported by the New York Times and Washington Post. See:

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-05-15/world/35454790_1_baba-amr-neighborhood-syrian-rebels-homs

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/world/middleeast/arms-airlift-to-syrian-rebels-expands-with-cia-aid.html?pagewanted=all

Really surprised by the suggestion that we should be actively supporting armed Palestinian resistance.

Syria-wise, it was Carla del Ponte who suggested the rebels were (also?) using chemical weapons, and she is by no means considered anti-west or pro-Russia, having been chief prosecutor against war crimes in former Yugoslavia.

Regardless, there is no point supporting intervention unless you can convincingly argue it will improve the situation. Mere good intentions are not a good justification.

Your opening comparison is flawed. A better opening would be a drunk man and a drunk woman, beating each other with any weapon that comes to hand. Do you pick sides? Do you give the woman a knife? A gun? Knowing that once she is finished with the man, she will be going after his family and perhaps yours too?

Even the supply of hand held SAMs and AAMs requires training. Training requires ‘military advisors’, as does a no-fly zone. You need forward observers on the ground, as we had in Libya. McCain’s idea of cruise missiles hitting runways is nonsense. the Russian S300 system can shoot down cruise missiles – you need B52s, stealth bombers or fast low level attack planes to do that using cluster bombs (illegal?) or Paveway (which is basically another version of the same thing)- drones won’t work either.

There seems to be evidence to indicate that the ‘rebels’ have also used chemical weapons against civilians – but no action against them? Iraq used US supplied chemical weapons in the war against Iran – I suppose that must be OK though.

Think about the cost of one cruise missile. What if that money was used in order to fund humanitarian aid, and to bring ALL sides to peace talks, now, before the conflict forgets political considerations and borders, and becomes a full on sunni vs. shia jihad?

Comment recycled from the invasion of Iraq tens years ago (as are the arguments in this article):

The analogy would be more accurate if you were sitting at home and heard your neighbour beating his wife. You go round, kick the door down and shoot him dead. You then proceed to take over his house, and lock his wife up in the cellar so you can abuse her at your pleasure. The Iraqis …

As a previous poster has noted your analogy also lacks the fact that similar incidents have happened before and you have done nothing or in many cases helped a husband beat his wife. In a more realistic senario you would be a corrupt local policeman who makes up the “law” as he goes based on who his friends are. For someone who is on his good side he will ignore complaints about wife beating etc. and will even come around and sort out someone’s wife if they start making trouble.

However if someone gets on his bad side then they can expect to be in deep trouble. If their wife has any complaints about their behaviour they will be listened to most carefully but if necessary evidence can always be manufactured. The US may be the “policeman of the world” but its actions are like those of the most corrupt policeman imaginable who is driven only by greed and love of power.

24. Shatterface

Imagine a situation where your neighbour is a drunk man who comes home and beats his wife every day. You can hear her screams and unsuccessful attempts to fight him off and feel powerless. The police are unable to intervene and she carries on getting beaten and raped. Do you sit by and do nothing because it’s not happening in your house? I wouldn’t.

You’d do what, beat the man up so he’d take it out on his wife again later? Give her a knife to use on her husband and hope that she doesn’t stab you later?

New Labour is knee deep in the blood of hundreds of thousands already. If you want to take sides don’t let us detain you.

Syria is not Afghanistan, or Iraq or…

You supported the invasion of Afghanistan too – hown’t that limited engagement turning out?

Would you support an arms embargo on the Palestinians and deny them the right to defend themselves against Israel? I wouldn’t. I bet most of you wouldn’t either.

Yes I would support an arms embargo on Palestine. It’s not like giving them arms has stopped their homicidal supporters waging war against us is it?

25. Phil Hartup

Three big reasons not to intervene:

1. It’s not our fight. Israel getting a bug up it’s arse about Russians selling Syria state-of-the-art surface to air missile systems does not justify our involvement. It is no coincidence that the stories about chemical weapons came out about the same time as the stories about new Russian air defence systems.

2. We can’t afford it. While hundreds of thousands of people in this country need food banks we should not be spraying our money around the Middle East blowing people up. Priorities.

3. It won’t help. Look at Libya, what a fine mess that turned into. And Syria has twenty million people. We need to accept that whoever wins, however they win, thousands of people are going to die. The window for effective action closed years ago. There is nothing now to be done except wait.

“As for arming Palestinians, who on earth thinks that’s a good idea?”

Presumably anybody who thinks they have the right to free themselves from the Israeli occupation.

27. Shatterface

The US may be the “policeman of the world” but its actions are like those of the most corrupt policeman imaginable who is driven only by greed and love of power

If America is the policeman of the world it’s Maniac Cop or at least Bad Lieutenant

28. Shatterface

There seems to be evidence to indicate that the ‘rebels’ have also used chemical weapons against civilians

It’s more accurate to say the rebels have been using condiments rather than chemical weapons.

Presumably anybody who thinks they have the right to free themselves from the Israeli occupation.

You want to give them the arms to kick off another war which they could only loose?
Using that line about Palestinains in the OP completely undermined the argument for arming the Syrian rebels for me. As did the idea of the drunk man who comes home and beats his wife every day.
It’s a really poor analogy. I don’t know if people here are calling for the partition of Syria, with maybe the Alawites carving out a new state where they are a majority. Or do people who support arming the rebels want to see their utter defeat – in the same way that Qusayr fell to Hezbollah and the army last week? And what of the seeking of revenge then? When the villages where the Shahiba militia come from are taken by jihadist Sunnis?
This does sound a bit like armchair generals talking to me. Those guns will kill people.

Hey Jim, happy to respond

First, I don’t see any evidence that intervention will save lives. The chemical weapons (being used in some limited way by both sides) may help create a pseudo-legal case for intervention but is pretty small beer in terms of the horror and tragedy that has been unfolding in Syria.

The question to my mind is whether more pressure on Assad and Russia would accelerate or slow the rate of deaths in Syria. I think if the stalemate continues then it could get carry on in the horrific rate it is now. Or it could end up being with Assad back – which would embolden Russia and throw the Middle East into turmoil.

I think the limited intervention we have here has more chance of reducing than escalating since the USA and UK aren’t talking about flooding Syria with weaponry. Essentially they’re warning Syria in the hope Assad gets the message.

However, any Western intervention is certainly in the context of more than a decade of utterly malign and misguided liberal interventions that have made the region and beyond a far worse place.

I agree that Iraq has given any form of intervention a really bad name. This is a huge tragedy which means we now sit on our hands while innocent people die elsewhere.

But its not clear to me how leaving Assad in place would make things better in the Middle East.

Being Isolationist is a comforting position but people also need to start considering the impact of inaction IMO.

31. Baton Rouge

Shitterface: `It’s more accurate to say the rebels have been using condiments rather than chemical weapons.’

Your rank cynicism is displayed on every thread isn’t it?

According to the remnants of Stalinism and the Stalinised Sects there is something called an `anti-imperialist’ hegemony which confronts the imperialist hegemony. They didn’t do anything to build this hegemony and it consists only of a variety of semi-colonial tyrants, the Chinese police bureaucracy and the Russian imperialist kleptocracy. Anyone that doesn’t give full support to this bloc or `hegemony’ must be on the other side and these people are intensly relaxed about the number killed by the people on this side of the hegemony just as they happily supported the Gulag, or the invasion of Hungary of Czechoslovakia or Milosevic’s alliance with the Bosnian-Serb fascist militias. If Erdogan started killing people on the scale Assad has they’d be all over it like a rash but Assad is one of their’s so he can kill as many as he likes. They are trying to persuade us that the lifting of an arms embargo constitutes a Western or imperialist intervention when the actual intervention was the imposition of the arms embargo on the Syrian National Democratic Revolution in the first place.

32. Baton Rouge

`Really surprised by the suggestion that we should be actively supporting armed Palestinian resistance.’

What should really surprise you is that the `democratic’ West arms, funds and supports a vicious land grab and ethnic cleansing by a bunch of sectarian religious terrorist nutters. If you don’t like the Palestinians defending themselves there is an easy solution: get out of Palestine nobody asked you to go there.

33. Shatterface

Your rank cynicism is displayed on every thread isn’t it?

It’s like chosing sides between Alien and Predator.

Whoever wins, we loose.

Sunny, you’re not on sure ground when you start off with you wouldn’t deny the Palestinians the right to defend themselves. Except, err, surely that’s exactly what we are doing and have been now for decades? We constantly hear Israel has the right to defend herself, but do our politicians ever say that of the Palestinians?

Nor is this going to be a “limited” intervention if it involves the setting up of a no fly zone. No fly zone means taking out Assad’s air defences, which are far superior to those we quickly destroyed in Libya. Assad might have let Israel get away with a couple of bombing raids, but he’s not going to put up with the kind of prolonged assault that setting up a no fly zone would require.

Even if it’s just weapons, which as others have pointed out and despite the incessant claims from the rebels that they don’t have any, they seem to have had enough to kill 40,000 Syrian soldiers/militia, as the UN’s latest figures suggest, it’s hardly limited if they give the rebels what they want. What they have long demanded is heavy weaponry, and seeing as there is no such thing as the Free Syrian Army, rather a loose alliance of battalions which are increasingly dominated by Islamists (and that’s without bringing the actual al-Qaida aligned thugs into the equation) there is no guarantee whatsoever about what happens to it once it’s been supplied.

Regardless of how the uprising started in Syria and how vile the Assad regime undoubtedly is, what we have now is a situation where the mainly Sunni rebels are increasingly threatening to slaughter those they regard as infidels. This hasn’t been helped admittedly by the intervention of Hizbullah, but it didn’t start with Qusayr. The reason Assad has lasted this long isn’t that the rebels haven’t had the weapons to finish the job, it’s because Assad has far more support than reporters and our governments have given him credit for, or at least prefer him as the lesser of two evils. Sending weapons now isn’t go to push Assad towards negotiating, it’s just going to intensify the conflict further. What we ought to be doing is demanding that the rebels turn up to the delayed Geneva conference. That might at least offer a brief glimmer of something.

@Baton Rouge,

“What should really surprise you is that the `democratic’ West arms, funds and supports a vicious land grab and ethnic cleansing by a bunch of sectarian religious terrorist nutters.”

So rather than arming the Palestinians, actually a better initial response would be to stop arming, funding and supporting this land grab. Then if negotiations still didn’t progress, you could consider further measures – but the same argument would apply as with Syria: no reason to trust the West’s intentions (in its hypothetical plan to arm the Palestinians that we’re discussing whether we would back) and no reason to support the West’s move unless there’s actual evidence that it would improve the situation.

“If you don’t like the Palestinians defending themselves there is an easy solution: get out of Palestine nobody asked you to go there.”

I am not in Palestine. I am not sure if you are using “you” as an impersonal pronoun or if you are implying that I am Jewish and that if I am Jewish, I am then to be held responsible for the actions of people in Israel.

In the Cold War, Mutual Assured Destruction proved to be an effective deterrent to the use of nuclear weapoms by either side – as well as deterring the possibility of a pre-emptive Soviet Blitzkrieg attack across the north German plain.

Would arming the Syrian opposition with chemical weapons deter the Syrian government from their future use in the civil war there? In WW2, Churchill’s threat to retaliate with chemical weapons was sufficient to deter Nazi Germany from using the weapons on Britain.

37. So Much For Subtlety

19. Baton Rouge

Western imperialism has imposed a two year embargo on the rebels whilst Assad has murdered tens of thousands, been re-supplied by Putin whilst Saudi Arabia has been allowed to strengthen the Islamists militias against those that would defend the democratic uprising.

So …. you’re saying the Trots would be winning if it was not for the West’s refusal to arm them? It looks like the West’s refusal to give guns to anyone is doing no harm to anyone at all. Why do you think it is an outrage not to sell people guns?

There is no doubt that the West conceded Syria to the Russian sphere of influence in exchange for freedom of action in its own sphere.

What I like about Trots is that they treat matters of opinion as matters of fact and matters of fact as matters of opinion. No doubt? You mean you have no evidence. And that such a confident assertion is your way of covering up the fact you have no evidence. Or even a sane reason to believe.

It is only heroic resistance that has started to expose the cracks in this unholy alliance of cynics.

They shot a fourteen year old boy in the head for blasphemy. In the street. Can you please explain to me what is heroic about this?

They have stood by and ignored the most horrendous butchery. … Imperialism is entirely self-serving and I don’t call for a Western intervention but I do call for it to get out of the way.

It has got out of the way. And you condemn it. So what is it, should they stand by and ignore the most horrendous butchery or not?

It is absolutely right also that the Syrian people have the right to acquire arms to defend themselves.

And they have the absolute right to do so. Never took you for a Second Amendment man, but I assume you also support the right of British people to carry and bear arms, right? We need our own Second Amendment as promised in the Magna Carta, right? What they do not have a right to do is buy them from the West.

38. flyingrodent

There’s no such thing as a “limited intervention”. It’s not possible to consent to a bit of war without also “writing a blank cheque” for our government to take any action that it considers necessary.

Recall: the UN resolution that supposedly justified invading Iraq in 2003 was drafted in 1990 by people who were surprised to discover that they’d somehow given the US and the UK carte blanche to bomb, invade and occupy the country for the entirety of Saddam Hussein’s lifetime.

Our war in Libya was theoretically a humanitarian mission to prevent Gaddafi’s thugs besieging, bombarding and storming cities, that was then widened out by our government into a general permission to besiege, bombard and storm cities.

There are no half-measures in modern war, as far as the British government is concerned. “Limited intervention”, so far as it means anything, is a mere political wedge, a foot in the door.

It really shouldn’t be necessary to point this out in 2013.

I notice Mr Hundal merely recycles the spin. For example, the 90,000 dead included government dead – killed by the “rebels”, who are on record filming themselves eating the hearts of government soldiers among other revolting atrocities. His simplistic “battered neighbour” analogy breaks down because it doesn’t fit the Syrian situation – it’s a piece of rhetorical manipulation, and he should be ashamed of it.

40. Richard W

The problem as I see it in Syria is the same throughout the ME, it’s not obvious that the people seeking to depose the tyrant are any better than the tyrant himself. Therefore, from our perspective what does success in Syria look like? One brutal sectarian faction replacing another faction may well be better for the people of Syria, but I don’t see what difference it makes to the UK when the civil war does not affect the UK.

Almost the entire region is riven with incomprehensible sectarianism and tribal identities and loyalties. You do not get civil wars without atrocities by all sides. Moreover, providing arms is de facto choosing sides. Therefore, when atrocities are committed using the arms we provide to “our side”, and they will be. We will get the blame for the actual atrocity. That is what I mean by what does success look like.

Appeals to so-called humanitarian intervention just leaves the interventionists open to charges of hypocrisy. If there why not elsewhere? It looks like deluded wishful thinking to believe the tribal violence will just disappear if Assad is deposed. An ongoing civil war looks the most likely outcome accompanied by the great revisionism. Before we know it we will be reading how Syria was a place of peaceful stability filled with gay arts workshops and day centres where everyone met to exchange vegetarian recipes. The nasty West got involved with their arms and ruined the human rights loving tranquility. So lets not give the revisionists any ammunition and just stay out of the conflict.

“Do you sit by and do nothing because it’s not happening in your house? I wouldn’t.”

I would. I’d fucking piss myself. LOL

While not being against intervention in principle I think the situation in Syria would only be made worse by the introduction of more weapons from the West. If anything the country needs fewer weapons, but that’s not going to happen.

I think the only interventions that would help the situation are humanitarian aid and support to refugees and diplomatic efforts on all fronts.

The support of Western intervention by neighbouring countries is a red herring. If they want intervention they should lead. They won’t because they know full well the blowback they would suffer, as would the West.

Your entire analogy of the situation in Syria is Bollocks.

More than 350 British Royal Marines are being sent to Jordan as part of an 8,000-strong multinational exercise while Iran is preparing to send 4,000 troops in to Syria.

You liberal fools.

45. Peter Stone

David Cameron shouted from the roof tops that it was barbaric/savage for an extremist to kill a soldier on the streets of London but it is alright to support rebels that kill children and mutilate then eat a soldiers heart and spread the images around the world.

46. thoughtful

stop the prevarication…what does Putin want?

Sunny is just the useful idiot who argues against Putin without being believed by anyone…..

47. thoughtful

so Sunny is advocating a contra-Putin line….interesting

If anyone takes the responsibility to protect seriously, in the way Sunny describes with his analogy, they would be aiming to strengthen the ICC and set up a powerful UN army. Because otherwise it is just about allowing any State to pick and choose the goodies and baddies according to its own convenience and going after them.

Why should the biggest kids on the block, with long histories of killing their neighbours with little conscience always decide who to take out, and who to keep arming while they “beat their wives” all they want?

I understand why Sunny might run to the big armies to help him get rid of a smaller one. And perhaps he will try to keep them involved to stop any revenge ethnic cleansing and sectarian violence as well forever more. But let’s not pretend it is principled – it is a tactical decision to side with one bully against another to stop them killing people in a particular place. But violence to achieve political goals is if anything being promoted as a principle – unless there is energetic activity before, after and alongside it to strengthen supranational legal structures.

I note the article did not investigate who is taking what position regarding negotiating a peaceful settlement and the terms of settlement they are seeking. Surely that should be the starting point for our discussion here?

49. Man on Clapham Omnibus

The big picture here is that whilst the case for WMD in Syria is not convincing, the break down in the buffer zone in the Golan Heights is. The US are thinking of going in to protect the Jews to whom they are beholden.

Putin wants to retain some prescence in the Middle east before the whole of the area gets tied up by UK/US conglomerates.
This whole democracy thing is a laughable sideshow.

51. Knowledge Expanda

Erm, when UK, French, US warplanes bombed the crap out of Gadaffi + his Forces, the opposition ‘land-forces’ they were fighting (and had been for years) were infiltrating Al Qaeda troops!!

Fancy that – our own forces supported ‘them’

Then there is the highly suspect felling of dictator/genocidal types all over the middle east.

Their iron hands kept the tribes at bay, (look at the hundreds of thousands dead and mess left in IraQ after saddam!)

- what is being ‘prepped’ is European invasion by Muslim forces being unleashed (supplied with ammo, equipment by the zionists now in charge of European countries and ignorant populations) leading to WW3?

Since WW2 opposition zionist manipulated Govts (take UK/US vs afghan invading Russia) have been training and supplying extremists in the knowledge needed to turn their countries into killing grounds of mainly CHRISTIAN soldiers!

Orthodox russians lost tens of thousands as Cia led US/UK specialists supplied arms and training, IFD training/knowledge now used to kill British – CHRISTIAN troops!

2+2 ‘an all that > “ONWARD”

An interesting fact was, after the naughty tribes split after the “idolising of the calf” incident in the Old Testament, one half (still into paganist practices) disappeared up North > Syria way > Khazaria way :)


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