Paddy Ashdown has been writing in the Independent about this week’s developments and diplomatic stand-offs regarding Syria. He said that the west has allowed its influence to be diminished by successive failures:

We bluster in the UN, Washington and London about willing the ends, but we have nothing left but bombs to will the means. The levers to make things happen in Syria now lie in Moscow and Tehran – all we are left with is a bomb-release button at 30,000ft.

This is a diplomatic failure of inglorious proportions. Historic proportions, too, since the result will inevitably be another ratchet down in the West’s influence, already grievously diminished by our failures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. One would have thought that we would have learnt the lessons of those defeats. But, still – sadly, stupidly – when the West sees a problem in the world its first instinct is to bomb it.

He asks what some great foreign secretaries of the past would have done:

The great Foreign Secretaries, Canning and Castlereagh, would have known what to do. They would immediately – I mean three years ago – have started building counterbalances with Tehran, Ankara and yes Moscow too (despite Ukraine). There would have been sacrifices of course: an earlier and perhaps less congenial deal with Tehran; an uncomfortable acceptance that, though we share no values with Russia we do share a common interest in Syrian peace and defeating Sunni jihadism too; and a deal with Turkey would have been tough, because of Kurdish separatism.

So how do we rescue the situation?

We should be holding Russia to account for Assad’s barrel bomb excesses. We will have, for the sake of our own face, to leave Assad’s future hanging in a fog of diplomatic ambiguity. But we could – and should – move fast and purposefully to anchor Russian offers of help with Isis within a wider formal coalition which brings in Tehran and Ankara.

British aircrafts joining the action over Syria as part of that wider coalition, might make better sense than it does now. In these more fluid diplomatic circumstances there could be a role for protection zones or, perhaps most interestingly – not a no-fly zone – but a no-bombing zone.

You can read the whole article here.

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