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The Case for Intervention in Syria

John Rentoul

gas 300x173 The Case for Intervention in SyriaIn, of all places, The Independent on Sunday. Brendan Simms, professor of of the history of international relations at Cambridge University, argues for Nato intervention in Syria.

He says he understands the reluctance of Nato generally and David Cameron in particular, because of

the paradox of pre-emption: you will never be thanked for the evil you have prevented, but you will be made responsible for everything that follows an intervention.

But he says Syria is not like Iraq; it is more like Bosnia. And the longer we leave it the worse it will be, says Simms. His proposal is for limited intervention as part of a wider policy of protecting minorities:

Britain should begin by asking Nato to impose a no-fly zone over the country, and threaten air attacks on all of the regime’s heavy weaponry. This should be accompanied by a political initiative to support the opposition under the Syrian National Council to setting up free zones along the Turkish border, in which a provisional government should be established with representation from all major population groups. This approach needs to be embedded in a broader Western strategy to protect Middle East minorities, especially the Shias of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia whom we have neglected for too long. The west should insist (as in Bosnia) that foreign fighters be sent home, and local Islamists disarmed. Nato should then train and equip the remaining opposition forces until the regime has fallen. There is no guarantee that Christians, Alawites and Shias will not suffer reprisals, but there seems to be little support for this among ordinary Syrians, and in any case the biggest long-term threat to minorities’ survival is the Sunni anger the regime is stoking.

Meanwhile this, on the inconclusive evidence that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons, is sensible (if you leave aside the confusion about Iraq dossiers: the main dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was regarded as dull when it was published in September 2002).

Photograph via Haaretz: Abu Tarek, a 74-year-old retired army officer, trying on a homemade gas-mask assembled using a plastic bottle, coal, cotton, gauze, cola, and cardboard, for protection against chemical weapons, Syria. AFP

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  • PeteDisqus321

    One thing I don’t understand is why people who claim to be against intervention aren’t clamouring for sanctions backed by a blockade to prevent Russian and Chinese weapons getting to Assad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.devitt.566 Chris Devitt

    NATO has already intervened in Syria, it started the conflict nurturing and then arming disaffected people their, no one does this to the U.K. or U.S. despite the fact there are more disaffected people there.The only no fly zone in Syria after what happened in Libya, is likely to exclude NATO from Syrian air space.

    Mr. Rentoul’s view is bigoted and unreal because it omits the reality that this is a NATO threat to everyone else and the rest of the world must defend it’s self against a new world order imposed on them by NATO. The west has lost all moral standing when it’s members gang up on others and finance terrorism, regime change is badly needed in the west, this state sponsored terror is only a distraction for their own people.

  • OzPete66

    If the US intervenes, they will be supporting the Islamic militants who have hijacked this insurgency, as for the Sarin, it probably came complements of Israel.

  • Kippers

    I heard a British ambassador from the region trying to possible defend intervention in Syria but he was incapable of answering any of the supplementary questions: he simply repeated the assertion that lots of people are dying so we have to send arms to the opposition. Sending arms into a war zone is not a way of saving lives, and it is not a humanitarian intervention. Will this really shorten the war? – no answer. Is the opposition really short of arms when they are backed by the Saudis and Qatar? – no answer. If the current regime falls and there is a power struggle between Al Qaida factions and more secular factions (supported by the Gulf States) are we going to support the secular factions? – no answer.

    Simms says: “This approach needs to be embedded in a broader Western strategy to protect Middle East minorities, especially the Shias of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia whom we have neglected for too long. The west should insist (as in Bosnia) that foreign fighters be sent home, and local Islamists disarmed. Nato should then train and equip the remaining opposition forces until the regime has fallen.” Is this realistic? Is this likely to happen? Is the West going to stand up to the Bahrain and Saudi regimes about its Shia minorities (or about anything)? Is the West capable of getting foreign fighters sent home from Syria? Questions to British diplomats on these topics get no answer so unfortunately we are left with the impression that the UK government is trying to ignore the fact that the opposition at present is dominated by Islamists funded by Gulf States, and who appear to have no difficulty in getting arms from places like Croatia.

  • greggf

    There must be a parallel here with events in Europe of the 1930s, and in particular the Spanish civil war.

    NATO seems to advocate the same role of the then mainly leftist interventions in Spain, having form in Kosovo, Iraq and north Africa. Whether such interventions have prevented the forces of tyranny taking hold there is not yet clear. It’s a bit like central Europe was before Hitler.
    In Spain tyranny did result, although it proved far more benign than the tyranny it heralded throughout most of the rest of Europe and Asia. And WW2 resulted followed by the cold war.

    So what can NATO do now to prevent a new tyranny taking hold?
    Already interventions by home-grown European Islamists in Syria are doing what leftists did in 1930s Spain. But unlike in Spain where they were defeated, NATO intervention promises to aid and legitimize them and their new tyranny there.

    Somewhere out of all this conflict the risk is that a new Hitlerite NAZI Germany or Stalin’s USSR, or both, will emerge and cause the same devastation as last time.

    Depressions always result in major wars, it seems to be the only way to escape debt deflation….!

  • trottitout

    Clinton is being called back to testify before the congressional committee because she denied that America was already supplying arms to the ‘rebels’ through Turkey, and this fact is now public knowledge. It’s impossible, frankly, that she didn’t know. I don’t think it reflects at all well on our journalists here that they seem to be unaware of the true state of play or are keeping schtum. Weird.


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