Posts Tagged ‘civil war’

The West must now tread very carefully in Syria

31/01/2017, 01:27:03 PM

by Julian Glassford

Rebel forces have just lost their last toehold in Aleppo. Now residents displaced by conflict may begin to return to (what’s left of) Syria’s historic second city. Whilst we should of course recognise the horrific devastation wrought, mourn the casualties, and put pressure on all sides to cease their use of indiscriminate/inhumane tactics, surely this is cause for relief? Downing Street and the Foreign Office don’t seem convinced.

Having openly criticised Saudi Arabian and Iranian involvement in regional “proxy wars” recently, alas, within days naughty boy Boris Johnson had rowed back on this bout of intellectual honesty. The British Foreign Secretary was back on-message in time to deliver a hastily reworked speech at the Manama Dialogue Summit, where he spoke of a need to engage and work with such countries to encourage and support reform. Emerging from a meeting of foreign ministers in Paris, a day later, he added: “there can be no military solution in Syria”. Notably among attendees at said event was the school-masterly US secretary of state, John Kerry.

Whether Mr. Johnson appreciates that a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to the Syrian civil war remains a prospect every bit as distant as meaningful, progressive reform across the Arabian Peninsula is unknown. Whatever the case, and however one feels about the UK’s idiosyncratic top ambassador, he certainly seems to be spending a lot of time on the road, actively seeking out foreign counterparts, stimulating debate, and occasionally shifting it significantly. All of a sudden the Yemeni  civil war has been back in the news, for example.

The Syrian conflict has now been raging for almost as long as the entire duration of the Second World War. So far, no attempt at a mediated civil settlement has gained any real traction, despite several attempts, with ceasefires having lasted no more than a few months. Scholars of international relations, ethnography, and conflict and security will tell you that there is a reason for this: the battle President Bashar al-Assad and his supporters are fighting is an existential one.


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Syria: Where is the International Brigade?

22/04/2013, 04:08:27 PM

by Jonathan Todd

There is much to enjoy and admire in the New Statesman centenary issue. I read of George Orwell taking a bullet through the throat, as he fought in the Spanish civil war. And that John Gray thinks: “For the foreseeable future, no one will rule will world”. The transition from the G7 to the G20 reflected the passing of power to the global south and talk of the G2 denotes the centrality of China and the US but maybe G-zero is more apt in a world without predominant power.

Is the sorrow of Syria a harbinger of a G-zero world that no one, whether reluctantly or otherwise, is willing or able to police? Roosevelt, unlike Hitler and Stalin, was as disinclined to involve his country in the Spanish civil war as Obama has been to date in Syria. Yet Orwell walked towards the bullets. Where are the Orwells of today? If the war in Syria is a war for rights and democracy, why isn’t the International Brigade on the frontline?

The truth is that Syria is sucking in Jihadists who don’t believe in rights and democracy, not liberals prepared to stand up for these values, which is one of various reasons why Syria is not a simple war for rights and democracy. Little is simple in Syria.

Last week Channel 4 showed a documentary by Olly Lambert, who had spent weeks living deep inside Syrian territory – with both government and opposition supporters. Both sides think that the other would exterminate them if they did not fight and that they are opposing the sectarianism of the other. Western liberals, thousands of miles from the frontline, might see their kin in those who have risen up against Assad.

But how confident can the Alawites and other Syrian minorities be that these opposition forces, largely Sunni and increasingly under the influence of Saudi Arabia and Al-Qaeda, will not extract a bloody revenge as soon as they are able? Why wouldn’t these minorities lay down their arms for a future Syria that respected their rights and gave them the vote if this is what the opposition offer?

If the UK were to arm the opposition then we would be risking these arms being used for the persecution of these minorities. Equally, weaponry from Iran and Russia is being used by the Syrian government to persecute their opposition. While such persecution is utterly repellent, it would be to succumb to Bertrand Russell’s fallacy of superior virtue of the oppressed not to be concerned about the sectarian and extremist motives of the opposition.


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