Opinion: Arming the Syrian Rebels

The Independent reported this week that Cameron faces serious Cabinet split over arming Syrian rebels.

Nick Clegg is said to have warned at a recent meeting of the National Security Council that supplying weapons to the Free Syrian Army might only escalate the conflict, killing many more people without any realistic prospect of decisive victory and that it could be “next to impossible” to ensure that British arms do not fall into the hands of Islamist militants.

A Whitehall source said Mr Clegg did not believe “there was a military-only solution to Syria” and would not back any attempt to arm the rebels without co-ordinated international support, including from the Americans.

With the Syrian National Coalition undecided as to participating in an International conference in Geneva, Joint UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, says the Syria peace conference may now take place in July.

The argument put forward for arming Syrian rebels are included in this article helping the Syrian rebels bargain from a position of strength in Geneva. The authors argue:

It comes down to the question of what Washington can do to increase the chances of getting something meaningful out of Geneva 2. The status quo is simply a recipe for failure. Indeed, rebel relative inferiority on the battlefield means the death of the political track, the continuation of Assad’s military onslaught, and the prolonged dominance of terrorist fighters in Syria, outcomes that the United States so desperately wants to avoid. Washington cannot expect Geneva 2 to produce anything if it doesn’t help the rebels negotiate from a position of relative strength. No wonder why the rebels are so hesitant to send their political representatives to Geneva, lacking necessary ammunition for talks with a tough-minded and brutal adversary that has powerful allies. A rebel trip to Geneva today is like a call for surrender.

This argument is similar to that of  William Hague’s and similarly relies on psychological pressure and bluff without any real concerted action aimed at addressing the humanitarian situation.

We should now be thinking long-term about Syria and the Middle-east. I share the view of former diplomat and UK Special Representative in Iraq 2003-4, and current chairman of the United Nations Association-UK. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, that feeding the conflict gets us nowhere. It is time to get serious in using the tougher instruments of diplomacy, as we did eventually in the Balkans. He points the way in suggesting the Geneva conference forum be:

First, a forum for addressing future arrangements for a state with a variety of different and troubled minorities.

Second, a mechanism for bringing together the various outside stakeholders who can affect the outcome, even the Iranians, who can do more damage outside than inside the tent.

And third, a clearing house for much better organised and supported humanitarian efforts — the number and distress of refugees and battered civilians is beginning to overwhelm the neighbourhood.

* Joe Bourke is an accountant and university lecturer, Chair of ALTER, and Chair of Hounslow Liberal Democrats.

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in Europe / International and Op-eds.
Advert

34 Comments

  • Rocky Fjord 7th Jun '13 - 10:55am

    Finally a voice of reason, sanity, and human decency.

  • At last it looks like Nick has listened to wiser heads like Ming Campbell’s. lets hope this gets reflected in the parties briefings which have been disappointing this far.

  • Human decency would probably at least involve arming the rebels with defensive weapons.

  • David White 8th Jun '13 - 12:39pm

    Oh dear, when will British governments realise that we no longer ‘rule the waves’? As to the ‘send a gunboat’ notion, it would be difficult to find a spare one – the RN has more admirals than ships. Perhaps the Treasury will permit the Foreign Office to invest in an up to date atlas – so the foreign secretary could discover that there are very few ‘pink bits’ nowadays.

  • Jonathan Brown 8th Jun '13 - 2:17pm

    It’s tragic that there has been so little real thought put into our response to the Syrian crisis. Blithering on about how sending weapons might inflame the situation in total misunderstanding of what has actually been happening over the last couple of years.

    Seems that Jeremy Greenstock makes some good points, not least about the inclusion of Iran in any meaningful talks.

    But if we’re not going to acknowledge that the regime sees the talks as nothing more than a strategy for buying time to complete a military victory and the rebels see it as nothing more than a trap, we might as well call it off now.

    We must put serious effort (and money) into supporting the refugee populations. And if we want to see anything resembling a ‘least bad’ political outcome on the ground, then we have to restore our credibility – and the credibility of moderate Syrian opposition groups – by giving them the weapons, ammunition, food, medicines, fuel, communications equipment, etc. that they need to effectively defend the civilian population of rebel areas from regime reprisals, and their reputations from the extremist groups.

  • Nick Clegg’s stance is that the UK can only act as part of an International coordinated
    effort that includes the USABritain must not act alone in arming Syrian rebels, warns Nick Clegg .

    Sir Jeremy Greenstock, argues it is time to get serious in using the tougher instruments of diplomacy, as we did eventually in the Balkans – that would mean UN enforcement of a ceasefire and peacemaking as a preliminary to peacekeeping.

    The implication is that a cessation of hostilities has to be imposed by the UN security council. Greenstock suggests that the outcome from the Geneva II conference requires:

    1. A means of addressing future arrangements for a state with a variety of different and troubled minorities – whether that be a confessional type arrangement as in Lebanon or a confederation of autonomous regions pending longer-term constitutional arrangements for free and fair elections. What cannot be expected is that the Assad regime or the Baath Party wll be simply excluded from the outset in any participation in the future governance arrangements for Syria or at least the parts of the country they currently control.

    2. A mechanism for bringing together the various outside stakeholders who can affect the outcome – Iran and the Hezbollah political wing together with Saudi Arabia and Qatar as well as the regional states – Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Isael and Egypt together with the permanent members of the security council.

    3. Much better organised and supported humanitarian efforts that provide for immediate access by UN organisations to displaced people inside Syria with full state cooperation in providing emergency aid and relief.

    If the Balkans settlement is to be the model then UN mandated troops on the ground will be required, not to bring about regime change, but to provide protection to the civilian population from armed incursions and enforce the ceasefire agreements. Russia provided peacekeeping troops in the Balkans and might be willing to do so in Syria along with Turkey and members of the Arab League.

  • nuclear cockroach 9th Jun '13 - 2:13am

    The wars in Europe and on its periphery since the collapse of Communism have concerned repressed questions of identity hanging over from the earlier collapse of the Russian, Austrohungarian and Ottoman Empires in the wake of the Great War. The Balkans settlement is widely posited as a model for the resolution of those questions of identity. No one seems, however, to have considered that that settlement worked by partitioning a dysfunctional state (Yugoslavia) into smaller states which could co-exist in (relative) peace. No one has appears to have addressed how that might work in Syria.

    Does anyone seriously think that a stable unitary Syria could continue exist in a hypothetical post-Assad future? Surely this civil war has gone too far for that. The only way I could imagine Syria continuing within its present borders would be with Assad remaining in control, complete with bloody mass reprisals against all the communities that rebelled against his rule, purges against any perceived waverers and enormous repression. Such a prospect is utterly dreadful: a civil war claiming a hundred thousand dead, followed by a peace claiming a further quarter of a million. And Assad himself reduced to a pawn of Teheran and a prostitute of Moscow.

    As for intervention, is it not already two years too late? A peaceful demand for civil rights has now been usurped by jihadis with no intention whatsoever of leaving Syria as a liberal democracy. Western reticence in this humanitarian catastrophe is yet another tragedy born of GW Bush’s pointless, illegal and poorly planned and executed war in Iraq.

  • Nuclear Cockroach,

    your comment is an insightful and ominous assessment of the state of societal breakdown in Syria. Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent at the Independent has recently published a detailed essay in the London Review of Books asking the same question Is it the end of Sykes-Picot? noting:

    “The feeling that the future of whole states is in doubt is growing across the Middle East – for the first time since Britain and France carved up the remains of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. ‘It is the end of Sykes-Picot,’ I was told repeatedly in Iraq; the reference was to the agreement of 1916 which divided up the spoils between Britain and France and was the basis for later treaties. Some are jubilant at the collapse of the old order, notably the thirty million Kurds who were left without a state of their own after the Ottoman collapse and are now spread across Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria. They feel their moment has come: they are close to independence in Iraq and are striking a deal with the Turkish government for political rights and civil equality. In March, the Kurdish guerrillas of the PKK declared an end to their thirty-year war with the Turkish government and started withdrawing into the mountains of northern Iraq. The 2.5 million Kurds in northern Syria, 10 per cent of the population, have assumed control of their towns and villages and are likely to demand a high degree of autonomy from any postwar Syrian government.”

    If the Dayton agreement is to be the model, this would suggest separate areas of control for Sunni, Alawite and Kurdish Syrians with Damascus as a shared city with links to both the Alawite dominated coastal region and the Sunni dominated interior.

    This Guardian interactive map goves some indication of the current areas of control viz a viz ethno-religious splits Syria crisis: the balance of forces

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jun '13 - 9:11pm

    nuclear cockroach

    Western reticence in this humanitarian catastrophe is yet another tragedy born of GW Bush’s pointless, illegal and poorly planned and executed war in Iraq.

    Aren’t the rebels “illegal” as well? I find it grimly amusing how following the Iraq war, Trots have become such keen supporters of “international law” and are forever and ever banging on about “Bush and Blair’s illegal war”. I mean, come the revolution, the workers are at the barricades, and out come the cops saying “You lot, what you are doing is ILLEGAL”. And the revolutionary vanguard say “Oh, sorry, didn’t realise that, we’ll go home then”?

    Sure the Iraq war was wrong, but that was because it had little backing in the Arab/Muslim world, and seemed to have been undertaken on the assumption that a reasonable government would somehow appear on the overthrow of the dictator rather than, as was not entirely unpredictable, a civil war break out.

    Not just Trots, but even Liberal Democrats, are far too ready to play the “blame Blair” game on Iraq, and make out that Blair and Bush are entirely responsible for all the deaths in that civil war, as if they somehow planned it to be that way. Most of the Muslim world has played it as well, with tragic consequences as young hot-heads get all worked up about it. I think all concerned need to grow up and accept that the blame for deaths caused by faction fighting in Iraq falls primarily in those running those factions, not on Blair and Bush. I don’t believe Blair and Bush were evil in their support for the Iraq war, nor were they intent on “attacking Islam”. What does it say about Islam if you hold that an attack on a cruel dictator is an attack on Islam?

    So, on Syria, we should make it quite clear. The Islamic world has told us, re Iraq, that any involvement in conflicts in that part of the world is an “attack on Islam”. Very well, we should not get involved on those grounds alone. If we do not get involved, do not blame us. The blood is on the hands of those who have told us that such involvement is an attack on their religion.

  • nuclear cockroach 9th Jun '13 - 10:32pm

    @Matthew H

    Just to be clear for anyone reading your posting, I am most emphatically not a “Trot”, but am a member of the Liberal Democrats. I don’t, in any case, see myself as being particularly of the left or of the right.

    I’m not sure what your post is really trying to say. Again for clarity, I do blame GW Bush – and his coterie of jocks, court jesters and lightweight academics – for an unnecessary war. I do not oppose war, I do however oppose war undertaken lightly.

    As for Syria? I think the West should have intervened right from the start, flattening the Syrian air defences and destroying its government’s ability to communicate and to control the conflict. That reticence by the west, is clearly the result of the disastrous war in Iraq, which was carried out for personal reasons by GW Bush (he blamed Saddam Hussein for an assassination attempt on his father), was desperately under-resourced and was implemented without adequate planning either for the conflict itself or for maintaining peace after the conflict.

    I believe, however, that it is now far too late to go to war in Syria, as the democratic opposition has been replaced by something much more sinister. Without Western help, the Syrian opposition may lose; such a loss will result in a sacrifice of human life that will be written in blood in the annals of infamy. But, seriously, what can be done?

  • nuclear cockroach 9th Jun '13 - 10:37pm

    @Joe Burke

    I wouldn’t like to model anything on the Dayton agreement. Bosnia-Herzegovina is the one part of former Yugoslavia in which the inter-ethnic tensions have not been resolved in a satisfactory manner. Belgium is not a good political model for territories in which mass murder has been used as a political tool.

  • I think the Dayton accords were the best that could be salvaged from a near impossible situation where the belligerents had every reason to try to hold territory under their control. The agreement did bring hostilities to an end, preserved Bosnia as a titularly integral state and left the working out of longer-term governance arrangements to the Bosnians themselves.

    The spread of this conflict across the Middle-east does not bear thinking about. It should concentrate minds at the security council on finding a way to stop the killing, when you have voices like Ann Marie-Slaughter penning articles like
    The Syria Lessons in which she writes:

    Human suffering, even on a massive and destabilizing scale, will not move the world to action. In a recent conversation about Syria with a couple of well-known foreign policy experts, one participant suggested that the Middle East’s current borders, drawn in colonial times, cannot last and must be redrawn. I pointed out the possibility of a Middle East conflagration equivalent to the Thirty Years War in Europe, which is estimated to have killed between half and three-quarters of the population of some of the participating states. One of my interlocutors agreed, but said that we could do nothing to stop it, because “that’s the period of history we’re in.”

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jun '13 - 1:30am

    nuclear cockroach

    Just to be clear for anyone reading your posting, I am most emphatically not a “Trot”, but am a member of the Liberal Democrats. I don’t, in any case, see myself as being particularly of the left or of the right.

    Sure, I mentioned Trots because I find the incongruity of revolutionary socialists tut-tutting because something is being done that is “illegal” to be amusing. While the Trots took the lead in this “Tony Blair, mass murderer” stuff, there’s plenty of LibDems not far behind. The Trots are absurd anyway so we should not take their sloganising too seriously, but I’m sorry to see too many LibDems using similar intemperate language on this issue. It’s not particularly a left-right thing, just a “kick Blair” thing. Well, the consequences of this are that some hot-heads have taken the sloganising to its next logical step, with “Iraq” being used as an excuse for the most horrendous actions here from silly kids, who appear entirely ignorant of the facts that i) the invasion of Iraq was intended to overthrow one of the world’s nastiest dictators ii) most of the deaths following it have come in vicious faction fighting between various gangs, mostly claiming allegiance to various forms of Islam, they have not come from British and American soldiers.

    That’s not to say that British and American soldiers have behaved like angels in Iraq. Military personnel mostly don’t, this has to be factored in with any consideration of using them anywhere. It’s not to say that western intervention in Iraq was right – I believe it to be wrong because it was predictable that what has happened would happen, and fairly predictable there would be politically motivated people who would use it as a stick to foment anti-western feeling.

    As for Syria? I think the West should have intervened right from the start, flattening the Syrian air defences and destroying its government’s ability to communicate and to control the conflict

    Well, yes, “shock and awe” is what that’s called – it is PRECISELY what was intended in Iraq. So why do you call for it in Syria but regard it as wrong on in Iraq? It was incredibly naive to suppose once that happened a nice democratic government would just have arisen in Iraq, just as it would be incredible to suppose similar would happen in Syria.

    And that’s my point. Anyone who says it was wrong to intervene in Iraq must by the same logic say it is wrong to intervene in Syria. Anyone who is appalled by what is happening in Syria and thinks “we should do something” ought to have the decency to think back to Iraq and perhaps realise that Blair’s “doing something” was motivated by similar considerations, even if it went disastrously wrong, and predictably so.

    I quite agree with you that the reaction to the Iraq invasion across the Muslim world serves to rule out any consideration of western intervention in Syria. If anyone in the Muslim dares use the line “the west is evil for standing back” we must be sure to throw back the line “well, you said the opposite in Iraq”.

  • nuclear cockroach 10th Jun '13 - 2:39am

    @Matthew Humpback

    Sorry, I never mentioned Blair, not once. You did. I laid the blame at GW Bush’s door; it is pretty well known that Bush blamed Hussein for what he thought was an assassination attempt against his father. There was no valid military reason for the war in Iraq; the reasons were personal. I think Blair was just stupid getting involved, but I see no reason to say that Blair caused the war.

    ‘Well, yes, “shock and awe” is what that’s called – it is PRECISELY what was intended in Iraq.”

    No, you are just being argumentative. The Iraq war had no genuine military or humanitarian purpose; there was a fictitious pretext involving a weapons program that could not be sustained after a decade of crippling economic sanctions. An intervention in Syria would have had some rational justification, that of protecting Syrian citizens from their own government, which had turned its weapons on its own people.

    “It was incredibly naive to suppose once that happened a nice democratic government would just have arisen in Iraq, just as it would be incredible to suppose similar would happen in Syria.”

    Iraq – no planning was made whatsoever by the US Government for what happened after the Iraqi armed forces were defeated. Your statement therefore doesn’t amount to anything useful. At the time of the Second Gulf War, various neo-con fools talked up American military superiority and spoke nonsense about “war lite”. It is conceivable that the outcome in Iraq could have been very different if the US government had committed a million men at arms to Iraq immediately the Iraqi government and armed forces had been defeated, rather than the paltry hundred and fifty thousand that were initially committed. If you go to war, you should budget properly for it. The cost of success is enormous.

    Syria – it would have been much more military demanding to topple Bashar al-Assad than to topple Saddam Hussein. I don’t believe that would have been realistic. However, it would have been possible to create humanitarian safe zones, leaving Assad in nothing but nominal power in those areas. I certainly wouldn’t downplay the cost involved. It would have created a long-term commitment, perhaps lasting decades.

    “Anyone who says it was wrong to intervene in Iraq must by the same logic say it is wrong to intervene in Syria. ”

    Cobblers. If you add apples and pears you might peaches, but you’ll get a lot of red ink on your homework book. You say that because it is an easy argument for you to make, but it’s also nonsense. The two situations are different.

    All this is moot. though. I think it is already too late for an intervention.

    As for your continual statement that the Arab cum Muslim world is opposed to Western intervention in Syria, I am not sure that that is actually correct. The governments of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar, to name just three, have been actively and openly supporting the opposition and there is no reason to believe that they would have opposed some degree of western intervention. Those selfsame governments were not in favour of toppling Saddam Hussein, however, as they saw him as a barrier to Iranian/Shia meddling in the Arab world.

    Your lumping of Muslims into one “Muslim world” is foolish – and undoubtedly offensive to a large number of Muslims. The Islamic world is diverse, with strong doctrinal, national, ethnic and cultural differences. Various Muslim nations have taken different positions with respect to the Syrian Civil War. Iran, for instance, supports al-Assad. Saudia Arabia would see him deposed.

  • The British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has a report on its website today that members of an Al Qaeda-linked Islamist group in the Syrian city of Aleppo have allegedly executed a 15-year-old boy in front of his parents as punishment for what the group regarded as blasphemy Syrian teenager Mohammad Qataa ‘executed by Islamists for blasphemy’.

    The sheer horror of the brutal torture and murder of children by fanatics on both the regime and rebel side highlights the impossibility of any internally negotiated peace deal. As Nick Clegg has noted it could be “next to impossible” to ensure that British arms do not fall into the hands of these kind of Islamist militants.

    The role of the West has to be limited to humanitarian intervention, logistical support for a regional led relief operation and pressure on Russia to deliver a political solution. Turkey is the key country in leading a relief operation supported by Jordan, the Gulf states, otherArab League countries and Nato air support.

    Both Turkey and Jordan can justify a temporary encroachment into Syria to secure their own borders and populations. The aims of a relief operation have to be the establishment of humanitarian safe zones in Idlib province and around Aleppo and its surrounding districts in the North and Deraa on the Jordanian border in the South. This would necessitate driving out Al Qaeda-linked Islamist groups from these areas.

    If the fighting can be princiaplly contained in the corridor from the outskirts of Damascus to Homs/Hama, Russia would have to take the lead in developing a political settlement that could be accepted by the Assad regime and the Syrian National Coalition. No negotiations can be realistically undertaken with Islamist extremists and criminal gangs – they will have to be jointly confronted and expelled by the regime and rebel forces alike.

  • nuclear cockroach 10th Jun '13 - 11:33pm

    Joe, your last comment makes a lot of sense to me.

    However, there is no current guarantee that the Turkish government can continue to pay attention to what takes place beyond its own borders, as the political unrest in Turkey shows no signs of abating. Middle class, middle aged women are protesting on behalf of democracy, not just student radicals out on a jolly.

    Justine Greening has expressed concern for the refugees. I think she is right. We should start by caring for those fleeing the conflict.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jun '13 - 11:46pm

    nuclear cockroach

    Cobblers. If you add apples and pears you might peaches, but you’ll get a lot of red ink on your homework book. You say that because it is an easy argument for you to make, but it’s also nonsense. The two situations are different.

    Cobblers yourself. The two situations are very similar: a repulsively cruel dictator in charge, who anyone with a shred of humanity would think well rid of. Do you really think Saddam Hussein was someone so wonderful and nice and accepted by his people that there was no humanitarian argument to get rid of him? I found the way that this man suddenly became a hero to the likes of George Galloway and various Trot groups indicate of one of the I despise about that lot – they still act as if they are paid by Moscow gold even if they aren’t any more, so their idea of the world is whatever the Americans are against they are for.

    Although the immediate pretext for the war in Iraq was the supposed existence of weapons of mass destruction, I do think that part of the motivation was the humanitarian one of getting rid of that cruel dictator. Had it come off, as I suspect Blair and Bush in their naivety thought it would, and a reasonably liberal government put in place, it would have been win-win, and those of us who opposed the war would have been made to look silly at best and appeasers to one of the worst rulers ever at worst.

    Of course the reality was that cruel though the dictators were, there were seething conflicts underneath they were keeping in control, and it was fairly obvious these would blow up once the dictator was removed.

    The only real difference is that Syria can’t be painted as an anti-American thing, so anti-American trendies make out that it’s oh-so-different. Sorry, I myself had no time at all for Blair and Bush, but I’m not going to let my feelings about them cloud my judgment on Iraq. Saddam Hussein was evil. If he could have been got rid of that would have been a good thing. Blair and Bush were in a position to get rid of him. Had they the support to do it from the Muslim world, that would have been a great humanitarian success.

    And, yes I do say “Muslim world” because though I appreciate there are many different Muslim cultures and many different forms of Islam, across these the overwhelming view of the Iraq war has tended to be one which is skewed towards seeing Blair and Bush as motivated entirely by negative impulses, and one which tries to shift blame for the deaths that occurred after it away from the faction fighting.

  • nuclear cockroach 11th Jun '13 - 12:52am

    Again you knock down another straw man that I have not proposed. I agree with you that Saddam Hussein was an evil tyrant. I defy you to point out where I said that he was not! However, you are extremely foolish if you propose that the loss of perhaps a million Iraqi lives was a price worth paying for his removal. His removal from power on humanitarian grounds, if that were the real goal of the Second Gulf War, should have been accomplished without the total loss of civil control in Iraq that followed. However, I seriously doubt that humanitarianism was ever GW Bush’s motive in Iraq. The only motivation that looks remotely plausible is the entirely personal one, that of revenge. If Blair was motivated from a humanitarian sense of liberal intervention, then he was simply didn’t give sufficient consideration to the planning, financing, logistics and manpower required to successfully carry out both the war and the subsequent peace. Blair went to war frivolously – and that must surely be a damnable sin.

  • Nuclear Cockroach,

    I would certainly agree we should be focused on caring for those fleeing the conflict. I think Erdogan will align his policy with the US. If, as is being reported, the Americans decide to send arms to the Syrian rebels this week then Turkey is likely to be the main supply and training area.

    Syrian rebels basing themselves in Southern Turkey does not sit well with the Turkish public and moving these armed men back into Syrian territory, as well as shifting refugees into safe zones within Syria protected by Nato Patriot missile batteries, may help in placating public opinion.

    Getting the Russians to deliver on a political solution is a big ask, but it is an approach being put forward by Dr Aidan Hehir, Director of the Security and International Relations Programme at the University of Westminster What can be done in response to the Syrian Crisis:

    Deployment of a Peacekeeping Force

    By definition the deployment of a peacekeeping force requires the consent of the host state; at present the Assad regime has demonstrated a determined unwillingness to countenance any form of direct external interference. This does not mean, however, that is impossible to conceive of a situation whereby a peacekeeping force would be acceptable to Assad.

    The key determinant here is the position of Russia. Given that Russia has twice vetoed draft resolutions put to the Security Council its position to date does not appear particularly disposed to the peacekeeping option. Nonetheless, by virtue of its vetoes Russia has invested significant political capital in the outcome of events in Syria. So long as the situation deteriorates Russia’s association with the Assad regime constitutes an embarrassment. Russia’s evident determination to regain its status as a world leader means it is incumbent on it to demonstrate that it more than just a recalcitrant “spoiler”. It may well be in Russia’s interests, therefore, to pressurize Assad into accepting the presence of a UN Peacekeeping mission mandated to monitor a ceasefire and oversee an inclusive political process. This would allow Russia to portray itself as a world power capable of resolving internal disputes; China would likely support a Russian-led initiative.

    As the violence perpetrated by government forces continues to turn international opinion against Assad and the rebel’s receive international military and economic aid, the government may be amenable to a peacekeeping mission which at least enables the future of Syria to be determined through a process in which both it and Russia have a role. With some say in the future of Syria – and the influence wielded by Russia – the Assad regime could potentially secure immunity from prosecution and exile, as was the ultimate fate of President Saleh of Yemen. The nightmare scenario for Assad and his supporters is the fate of Gaddafi and Mubarak.

    There is a precedent for such a scenario. On 5 September 1999 the 78.5% of voters on East Timor chose independence over autonomy within Indonesia. What followed was described by the UN as ‘…nothing less than a systematic implementation of a “scorched earth” policy in East Timor, under the direction of the Indonesian military’. While Indonesia’s complicity in the violence was widely acknowledged it was clear that no intervention would take place without Indonesia’s consent given that both China and Russia stipulated that this was a sine qua non for any action. Eventually, owing to pressure from China and the withdrawal of World Bank and IMF loans to Indonesia, President BJ Habibi agreed to UN-sanctioned peacekeeping force which was deployed to the island – under Australian command – on 20 September.

    Therefore, though the idea that Assad could agree to a UN peacekeeping mission may initially seem unlikely, history demonstrates that there comes a point when even aggressive despotic regimes – such as Indonesia in 1999 and Sudan in 2004 – calculate that it is prudent to bow to international pressure and accept the deployment of UN troops. International pressure should, therefore, be targeted on Russia emphasising that the longer the crisis lasts the greater the damage to Russia’s status as a credible world power. It should be made clear that the alternative to a peacekeeping mission is the overthrow of Assad – either through rebel victory as in Libya or army defection as in Egypt – and that such a scenario would negate both Russia and Assad’s influence over the future of Syria. A peacekeeping force could be designed to accommodate active Russian participation so as to demonstrate Russia’s role as a world leader and assuage the fears of the Allawite community. The peacekeeping mission should be mandated to enforce a ceasefire and prevent all parties, including the rebels, from controlling new territory or cities. The political process established in the wake of a peacekeeping deployment could be presented in a way which does not explicitly call for regime change but which naturally encourages such an outcome, especially if it is clear that Assad could secure exile and immunity from prosecution. While this “solution” potentially panders to Russian hubris and facilitates the unedifying spectacle of Assad escaping criminal prosecution, it has the advantage of avoiding further slaughter, the possible fragmentation of Syria and a regional conflagration which could embroil Turkey, Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jun '13 - 12:30pm

    nuclear cockroach

    Again you knock down another straw man that I have not proposed. I agree with you that Saddam Hussein was an evil tyrant. I defy you to point out where I said that he was not! However, you are extremely foolish if you propose that the loss of perhaps a million Iraqi lives was a price worth paying for his removal.

    And there you go, proving my point. For the sake of political opportunism, a way of kicking people to whom you are opposed (Blair and Bush), you make inflammatory comments which HAVE had serious effects when they have been repeated time and time again. You make out that all the deaths in Iraq since the invasion are due to Blair and Bush. You ignore the extent to which they are due to the vicious civil war that broke out after the invasion. Blair and Bush may have been extremely foolish to have gone into this without plans for a follow-up, and not seeing that a civil war of that sort was a likely consequence, but I don’t think they planned it to be that way.

    I believe the war in Iraq WOULD have been justified if it could be sure that it would depose the tyrant and put in place a better government in a way where any deaths due to the war would be less than deaths due to the tyrant remaining in place, AND also if there was general acceptance of this amongst people living in the region. Which there was not, none of that. Therefore I opposed the war. I have said that in this thread, your claim here that I thought it justified is wrong.

    For similar reason I oppose the large scale violence which YOU are saying we should have inflicted on Syria, these are your words: “I think the West should have intervened right from the start, flattening the Syrian air defences and destroying its government’s ability to communicate and to control the conflict”. Sorry, as the VERY SIMILAR situation in Iraq showed, it doesn’t work like that. You might think a clinical “flattening” could be done and no-one else much would be hurt, but Blair and Bush thought like that about Iraq. You might think that once this flattening took place, a decent liberal government in Syria might have arisen, but Blair and Bush thought like that about Iraq.

    Sorry, but when there are people like you, only too willing to spread the line that all violence in Iraq is due to the evil west, to exaggerate the effects of western troops and ignore the horrendous violence caused by factions who took advantage of the result, and to take away responsibility for atrocities from those who actually did them, whipping up anti-western paranoia, I have absolutely no doubt how the “flattening” you supported in Syria would have been received. It would have been put forward as another example of the evil west wanting to kill Muslims, and used again and again to shift blame from violent minded people in that region doing violence to each other. The only reason you take such a different line on Syria than you did on Iraq is because it isn’t a western political opponent of yourself who is proposing this “flattening”, so you can’t make political capital out of opposing it. You are just playing up to the silly victim mentality now popular in that part of the world, supporting the line that the west is always wrong, so we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t, and passing away any blame for violence from those in that part of the world who seem so capable of and happy to inflict it upon themselves.

    My understanding is that a central tenet of true Islam is about taking personal responsibility for one’s own action, as one will be judged by God for them. It is in the light of this, also a strong personal tent of myself, that I make these comments.

  • Matthew,

    there is a recent piece by Bill Keller in the New York Times Syria is not Iraq quoting Vali Nasr, who left the Obama foreign-policy team in 2011:

    “The challenge to this administration from 2009 has been how to move this country past the Iraq war into a sensible, viable foreign policy,” added Vali Nasr. “That hasn’t happened. We’re paralyzed like a deer in the headlights, and everybody keeps relitigating the Iraq war.”

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jun '13 - 4:57pm

    Joe, I have read that article, and it dos not change my mind. I’m not “paralyzed like a deer in the headlights”, I’m making a rational decision. The almost universal response to the Iraq situation by people speaking on behalf of Muslims and by most westerners to the political left of Blair and Bush was that intervention in a Muslim country was somehow an “attack on Islam” and could never be done out of anything but self-interest which is judged to be against the real interests of people living in that part of the world. “numplear cockroatch”‘s line (since he can’t be bothered to spell my name correctly, why should I be bothered to spell his correctly?) that twists and distorts things so that all the deaths in a bitter civil war are made out to be just the fault of Blair and Bush, leading for example to naive people living just a few miles from my home in south-east London going out and kill British soldiers because they are inflamed into thinking they rather than Sunni/Shia militias are doing the killing, is a good example of that. We have been told almost universally we should not intervene, so we should not. And the blood stemming from what happens because of that is on the hands of those who spread those lines.

    Of course I accept that the vast majority of Muslims and the vast majority of political leftists don’t support terrorism. However, so long as they go on saying things like “the loss of perhaps a million Iraqi lives” as if this was deliberately done in full conscience as a direct decision by Blair and Bush, they are justifying it, because if the distortion they use really were the truth, then that terrorism would be an acceptable response. My own view is that Blair and Bush genuinely believed their intervention would be a short sharp shock, and the deposition of that cruel dictator would result in a much better government springing up. This was incredibly naive, yes. But evil, no.

    Muslims need to accept that the violent and illiberal attitudes that predominate in the parts of the world where they dominate are a problem they must tackle. The political “it’s all the fault of the west”, and kindly meant excuses that real Islam does not teach that sort of thing, serve just as an excuse to turn minds away from accepting they must deal with this problem themselves. Syria shows us it does not require the intervention of Blair and Bush to cause huge numbers of deaths. Muslims must themselves be moved to develop a more mature and spiritual form of their religion, a counter-reformation to the development in the other way it has had in recent decades.

  • Matthew,

    I thought the Keller article was supportive of your line of argument that “all concerned need to grow up and accept that the blame for deaths caused by faction fighting in Iraq falls primarily in those running those factions, not on Blair and Bush.”

    BBC2 have been running a documentary series on the Iraq war with the third and final episode airing on Wednesday this week. It is a good reminder of how the intervention went so badly wrong there – particularly the decision to disband the army and security services leaving 300,000 men, with military experience and training, without pay and any means of supporting their families.

    I was working in California at the time of the first Gulf war. There was not strong public support to go to war to free Kuwait – even though there was strong representations from the Arab world that Saddam had to be confronted by the US. At one point, George Bush Snr tried to explain the US interest in simple terms i.e. Oil and American Jobs, but when that was not enough to sway American opinion the message reverted to the tried and tested formula of freedom and democracy and ultimately the atrocities committed by Iraqi troops tipped the balance.

    The second war on Iraq did not have the same rationale as in 1990/91, but nonetheless was still a consequence of Saddams earlier invasion of Kuwait in the changed climate following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. No-fly zones were only established after Saddam had crushed Kurdish uprisings in the North and the Marsh Arabs in the South. By 1998, Bill Clinton had already committed the US to regime change in Iraq – the 2001 attacks in New York brought that policy to the fore.

    There were millions of Iraquis killed during the 1980’s war with Iran, hundreds of thousands more in the Gulf War and subsequent repression of rebellions during the 1990’s. The killing has continued virtually unabated before, during and after the 2003 invasiion despite the prescense of 180,000 US troops in the country at one point.

    Syria faces the same prospect – a population squeezed between a murderous dictator on the one hand and hundreds of disparate and factionalised armed groups on the other hand. The key issue for ordinary Syrians is security and the restoration of law and order. That will not be achieved by simply supplying arms to moderate rebel groups or by divorcing International diplomacy from military options.

    Ultimate responsibility for tackling this security crisis lies with the UN Security Council of which the UK is a permanent member. We cannot shirk that responsibility because radical Islamists seek to capitalise on any support for a humantarian intervention as an attack against Islam. Conversely, we need to be sensitive to the political ramifications of Western support for the Arab countries of the middle-east. The people in greatest danger from these Jihadists are the populations of the region, especially the most vulnerable women, children and elderly. It is on those most as risk that we need to keep the focus of the International community.

  • nuclear cockroach 11th Jun '13 - 11:50pm

    @ Matthew Humpback

    It is quite funny reading what you write. You spend all the time putting words into people’s mouths, then work yourself into a lather about it. I haven’t written about the “evil west” at all. You have. Continually. It’s your problem. There is much I think that Tony Blair did right, I have never said he did not. I am frankly astonished that you maintain that my view is “Muslims good, West bad”. It isn’t even a caricature of my position, it’s balderdash. I have clearly stated that the world of Muslim heritage is like the world of Christian heritage, it contains many strains of thought and identity, some benign, some malign. I don’t propose to waste further time with someone who is incapable of reading, however. Particularly someone whose previous posts on this particular site have included statements to the effect that anyone not orthodox in their Roman Catholic faith will be damned.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jun '13 - 11:08am

    nuclear cockroach

    You spend all the time putting words into people’s mouths, then work yourself into a lather about it. I haven’t written about the “evil west” at all.

    I mean by this the words you used which attributed all the deaths due to conflict in Iraq since the invasion to Blair and Bush. This way of thinking is commonplace, we see it repeated all the time. The result of words like yours being repeated so often is that some really do think that Blair and Bush deliberately invaded Iraq with the idea of killing a million or so Muslims out of hatred for Islam, and respond accordingly.

    I have clearly stated that the world of Muslim heritage is like the world of Christian heritage, it contains many strains of thought and identity, some benign, some malign.

    Yes, and I don’t disagree with you on that. Indeed, everything I have written here is based on being conscious of that. I am critical of dominant trends in modern Islam precisely because I am aware of its many strains, and would wish to see others develop and prosper. I can see the horrible things being done in many places and by many people in the name of Islam as similar to the horrible things that were done by in many places and by many people in the name of Christianity in the past. It is because of this that I most definitely would not go down the route of supposing Islam is inherently violent. I am aware of the strong figures who helped move Christianity and my own version of it away from the nastiness it had sunk into at the time of the Reformation, and would like to see similar strong figures arise in Islam. But I think this requires an ability amongst Muslims to be self-critical and move away from the victim culture. That victim culture is, I believe, encouraged by well-meaning people like yourself.

    I don’t propose to waste further time with someone who is incapable of reading, however. Particularly someone whose previous posts on this particular site have included statements to the effect that anyone not orthodox in their Roman Catholic faith will be damned.

    Perhaps you could point out where you think I have said that, because it is not my position and never has been, it is not even the position of the current Pope.

    By the way, I think your deliberate misspelling of my name indicates a rather juvenile mentality in your part, it detracts very much from what you are trying to say. The spelling of my surname has remained the same as it is now since surnames first emerged, see here for an example of its use in the 17th century. The “bach” ending comes from a place-name, it is a place-name element found in the West Midlands and Welsh borders, with the most prominent place having that form being the Cheshire town of Sandbach.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jun '13 - 11:25am

    Joe Bourke

    Ultimate responsibility for tackling this security crisis lies with the UN Security Council of which the UK is a permanent member. We cannot shirk that responsibility because radical Islamists seek to capitalise on any support for a humantarian intervention as an attack against Islam.

    Yes, but I think we must be explicit about the way that that capitalising HAS had an effect on what we are capable of doing. Also, note that while it may have been started by “radical Islamists”, it has influenced many others who would definitely not fall into that category. It does make it harder for us to be willing to consider action if we are in an environment where anything bad that happens – and when you bring in the use of armed troops, bad things DO happen – will be put down as due to us being anti-Muslim.

    That is why I say this is a problem in the Muslim world and the Muslim world needs to deal with it. Any intervention on our part must only be because it has been requested and with enough support across the Muslim world to make that clear we are doing so because of a widespread request. As you say “The people in greatest danger from these Jihadists are the populations of the region, especially the most vulnerable women, children and elderly”. I agree, that is why I say it is the responsibility of all the Muslim world to be the prime movers in dealing with this, and if they do not, the blood is on their hands.

    We need to get over Iraq, but so do all of those who are unwilling to admit that what happened in Iraq was down to the cruel dictator who was there and vicious faction fighting when he was overthrown as factors just as strong as the invasion. Silly lines which put the blame for all those killed solely onto Blair and Bush not only don’t help get people out of that way of thinking, they help keep them there. And I think that is causing huge damage to Islam, and I think that is a shame.

  • Matthew,

    “Any intervention on our part must only be because it has been requested and with enough support across the Muslim world to make that clear we are doing so because of a widespread request.”

    Fully agree with your comment and it is among the key reasons why I would oppose arming of the Syrian rebels by the UK/France, as without a broad International coalition supporting the action, we will be seen as taking sides in a civil/regional/Great Powers conflict.

    Any intervention must not only be broadly supported by the wider Muslim world, but must also have a clear legal basis. The 1945 U.N. charter prohibits the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, and stipulates that only the U.N. Security Council has the power to determine whether there has been an actual threat to peace and what should be done about it. In the case of Syria, permanent members China and Russia would veto any such call to action. However, there are several legal routes that can be employed in an effort to bring sone form of relief to the Syrian popoulation.

    Article 51 of the UN Charter provides for a right of self-defence that could be invoked by Turkey and/or Jordan. Turkey has had a jet shot down, another rescue flight fired upon and exchanged artillery fire with Syrian troops as well as placing patriot anti-missile defence systems on its border. Jordanian and Syrian forces have exchanged fire as Syrian army units have fired on refugess crossing into Jordanian territory. Jordan is itself threathened by Jihadists and the Syrian conflict is already spilling over to the Kingdom. Turkey as a member of Nato could rightly call upon other Nato members for support under the collectice self-defence obligations of the alliance.

    In November last year, the six member states of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – were first to recognise the new National Coalition for Syria as “the legitimate representative of the brotherly Syrian people”. France, the UK, EU and US eventually followed suit with full recognition. In December, 100 countries at the Friends of the Syrian People conference in Marrakech, Morocco, also recognised the coalition. Absent were Russia, China and Iran, which have backed President Assad or blocked action by the UN Security Council. The National Coalition, as the legitimate government in waiting of the country, can legally provide the basis for furnishing of military assistance, without the need for a UN resolution. The obvious partners for the Syrian opposition are the neighbouring states most at risk from a spillover of the conflict, supported by a coalition of countries that have recognised the new Syrian council.as the sole representative of the Syrian people.

    However, I believe that humanatarian intervention limited to protection of civilians under the doctine of responsibility to protect is the appropriate response at this juncture.Based on the available evidence, a prima facie case exists that the Syrian government is committing atrocity crimes on a scale not seen since Kosovo, Rwanda, and Darfur. Although the international community has attempted to use peaceful measures to stop the Syrian government’s attacks, multiple rounds of sanctions and a variety of diplomatic overtures have been unsuccessful. While the Security Council could authorize an intervention under its Chapter VII powers, it remains deadlocked due to opposition from Russia and China, which have vetoed three resolutions aimed at forcing Syria to stop its attacks on civilians. Therefore, as a last resort, the international community—either through a regional coalition or a coalition of the willing—has a right under customary international law to use force in Syria for the limited purpose of stopping atrocity crimes, provided that the force is narrowly tailored to accomplishing this humanitarian goal.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jun '13 - 11:57pm

    JoeBourke

    Based on the available evidence, a prima facie case exists that the Syrian government is committing atrocity crimes on a scale not seen since Kosovo, Rwanda, and Darfur.

    Yes, and similarly Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Yet we are told continually that intervention there was an anti-Islamic evil, as I have said not just by fringe “Islamists” but by many others, including the likes of “nuclear cockroach”. That has been my point all along in this thread. Sure there were a mixture of motivations in Blair and Bush, but the strong reaction against what they did, the readiness to blame them and them alone for the deaths in the conflict that build up afterwards, and the complete playing down of the atrocities of that “indefatigable” dictator that was overthrown, so that silly kids in Woolwich probably hardly even know of his existence and really do suppose British troops went out to Iraq with the express wish to kill a million Muslims as “nuclear cockroach” uses words which can be read as suggesting, act as a strong disincentive against any such humanitarian intervention.

  • Matthew,

    some of the key differences between Iraq and Syria are noted in the Keller article. Syria is already a haven for terrorists and a sectarian civil war has broken out – not as a consequence of an invasion but as a result of regime actions and the response to it. Turkey and the Arab League are looking to the US/Nato for material support in finding a solution. There is no question of the UK/West putting troops on the ground or getting embroiled in a sectarian or wider regional conflict.

    There seems to be as much resentment developing towards the West as a consequence of inaction/ineffective measures to offer assistance with stopping the slaughter, as there might be as a result of support for a regional humanitarian intervention.

    Kori Schake, a research fellow at the Hoover Institute suggests arming the rebels is an unattractive option, given the increasingly radicalized factions. She has floated a proposal focused on moving refugees camps back to self-governing safe areas in Syria protected by the Free Syrian army, with Nato providing protection against Assad’s air and rocket forces A strategy for intervention in Syria: help the refugees and argues:

    “Such an intervention would have many advantages, first and foremost assisting the victims of the war. It would also staunch radicalization, develop opposition leadership, reduce pressure on Syria’s neighbors, and prevent the Assad government from winning on its own terms – all while limiting US involvement in the intervention.”

    I think great care has to be taken by the West not to engage in any action that can be portrayed as a selfish strategic interest and to stay clearly focused on the human rights issues.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Jun '13 - 11:19am

    Joe Bourke

    There seems to be as much resentment developing towards the West as a consequence of inaction/ineffective measures to offer assistance with stopping the slaughter, as there might be as a result of support for a regional humanitarian intervention.

    Yes, but this is all part of the victim culture. We can’t win because there are too many out there who will twist whatever we do to make anti-western propaganda out of it. As I’ve been saying, I don’t mean just those who are outright terrorists and the like, I also mean well-meaning people who repeat this sort of thing in a milder form while not going anywhere near the lengths of endorsing terrorism.

    An acceptance in the Muslim world that there is a problem with too many who have violent and aggressive interpretations of Islam, and a real willingness to develop better and more peaceful and spiritual forms would help. The blame-the-west mentality serves to stop the sort of mature thinking that is needed for this. Muslims themselves must take the steps to resolve the problems. The west is not responsible for the horrors taking place in Syria now, it is home grown. There is enough money and power in the Muslim world to resolve it, if there was also willingness. If there is no willingness, then who is to blame? Sorry, I say not us. The almost universal response to the Iraq situation from the Muslim world (I know not completely universal – I was in Kuwait myself for a short time some years back) was that the west should not stick its nose in Muslim business. Therefore, yes, the blood is on their hands. The atrocities we see are a stain on their character. If we judge their religion by what we see, well, that’s hardly unfair. It needn’t be like that – but THEY have to make the move to change it.

  • Matthew,

    I appreciate the point you are making – we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Syria is not however, simply a Muslim problem. Next to Egypt, it has the largest Christian population in the Middle-East (now facing an Iraqi style expulsion/extermination) and borders both Lebanon with its large Maronite Christian component, Israel and Turkey with its modern secular tradition.

    The UN is reporting today that the death toll has reached 93,000 and is likely much higher Syria death toll at least 93,000, says UN .

    Jim Muir, the BBC correspondent in Beirut writes:

    “The latest figures from the UN show clearly that the Syrian conflict is by far the bloodiest and most enduring of all the Arab uprisings. It’s the only one that’s mutated into a full-scale, heavily militarised civil war. The casualty figures have risen dramatically, especially since the two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, became caught up in the violence last July. Since then, the number of people killed has averaged more than 5,000 every month. Even at the height of the sectarian bloodletting in Iraq in 2006, the monthly death count only twice went over 3,000.

    With no end in sight for what the UN Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called the “drastically deteriorating pattern”, the UN is braced not only for worsening casualty figures, but also for vast numbers of refugees joining those who have already flooded across the borders into neighbouring countries.”

    The Muslim states that are actively engaged, Saudi Arabia and Qatar on the Sunni side and Iran on the Shia/Alawite side are not there for humanatarian purposes – they are concerned with maintaining/expanding the political influence of their respective power bases and sects in the region. All of these states fund and arm prosribed terrorist organisations whether it be AlQueda franchises or Hezbullah. In such a mileiu the Arab League is impotent. The only outside body that can bring a resolution to the conflict is the UN or a coalition of the willing comprised of regional actors – both Muslim and non-muslim states.

    Rather than arming Syrian rebels or waiting on the outcome of another round of already fading peace talks, I would like to see Turkey backed by Nato air support and with the full cooperation of the Arab League, undertake a relief operation as far as Aleppo and establish a humanitarian safe zone for refugees in the North-West of the country.

    As to there being enough money and power in the Muslim world to resolve it. Providing for millions of displaced refugees is going to be a test for the willingness of oil rich states to engage with the human rights agenda in the middle-east, as would be organising and backing a Jordanian relief operation to Deraa and establishing a safe zone to accommodate refugees in Southern Syria. Such an initiative will only be undertaken, in my view, if the Arab states can count on US backing for their intervention.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jun '13 - 1:51pm

    Joe Bourke

    I appreciate the point you are making – we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Syria is not however, simply a Muslim problem. Next to Egypt, it has the largest Christian population in the Middle-East (now facing an Iraqi style expulsion/extermination) and borders both Lebanon with its large Maronite Christian component, Israel and Turkey with its modern secular tradition.

    Yes, I’m very much aware of this. However, when I’ve mentioned the Middle East Christians in the past, I’ve been accused of doing so out of some sort of religious bias, so I deliberately did not here.

    In fact what has happened to these communities disgusts me, and I am sorry but I am disgusted at the hypocrisy of so many Muslims because they don’t seem bothered by what their co-religionists are doing. Had it been a minority Muslim community forced to flee like this, we’d soon have heard about it. We here again and again and again about the plight of the Palestinians (who also once had a large Christian component), so why so little about the larger number of people forced to leave their homelands in recent years because they are Christians and Muslim-oriented oppression is forcing them out?

    As a Catholic, I myself felt I had a duty to speak out against IRA terrorism when it was happening, and I did. That was even though the IRA themselves did not use the “Catholic” label and never claimed to be doing what they were doing out of religious motivation. Because they were often identified as “Catholic” I felt I had a moral duty to disassociate myself from them, and I did, in public commentary. I would expect any Muslim who is REALLY ashamed by what is being done in the name of his or her religion to do the same. “Nuclear Cockroach” accuses me of making statements “that anyone not orthodox in their Roman Catholic faith will be damned”, which I found astonishing, because I am reticent about my religion here, I certainly wouldn’t say something like that, especially here, even if it was a view I held, which I do not – in fact there have been numerous statements from the RC Church since the Second Vatican Council which have rejected that idea, and I’m certainly not one of those traditionalist types who thinks Vatican II was a mistake. However, the one time I have made a statement about anyone facing damnation in the traditional Catholic sense is on this issue – I cannot interpret Catholic teaching in any way except to say that Gerry Adams, Martin MacGuinness, and all others who were active in supporting the IRA are damned to hell if they do not repent if this mortal sin.

  • Matthew,

    You may remember Mairead Maguire, of Peace people fame from the Northern Ireland trouble. She has recently returned from Syria and issued a report and appeal of behalf of the Syria Mussalaha Reconciliation Movement Report and Appeal – mussalaha del Syria to the International community – to support a process of dialogue and reconciliation in Syria between its people and Syrian government and reject outside intervention and war.

    The uncomfotable message (for Western and Gulf state leaders) from this report is that many of the refugees driven out to Lebanon by armed rebels and foreigners were supportive of the regime. These regime supporters candidly admit that the regime is autocratic and abuses human rights. Nevertheless, many believe that their replacement will likely be worse.

    According to this view, Syria is in danger of being overtaken by terrorists from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Chechnya, Libya, and other sources, and that they will tear the country apart. Whatever the faults of the Assad regime, therefore, it is the only thing preventing the utter destruction of Syria.

    The message the Peace Delegation received across the board in Lebanon and Syria was:

    1) stop foreign intervention,

    2) stop the fighting and

    3) facilitate a national dialog of all Syrians to decide the future of Syria.

    This would entail all outside parties (in the Muslim world and elsewhere) agreeing to end aid to combatants and letting Syrians settle their differences amongst themselves.

    We kmow Gandhi was speaking a universal truth when he said “Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.” It remains as difficult as ever, however, to apply the principles of non-violence to International humanatarian crises when it is those Syrians who reject violence in favour of peaceful protest, that bear the brunt of the suffering.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarPaul Holmes 26th Jan - 7:38pm
    @Neil Sandison. I would be interested in how you would expect these 'teams' to be 'found, created, trained, organised and funded'? Especially as you seem...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 26th Jan - 7:37pm
    Sesenco Indeed. The swing achieved by Richard Allan in Sheffield Hallam in 1997 - 18.2% - was truly exceptional, but then he was a truly...
  • User AvatarJames Pugh 26th Jan - 7:21pm
    And Rory Stewart has come out very strongly in favour of the Met using facial recognition technology
  • User AvatarPaul Walter 26th Jan - 7:05pm
    I have now issued a new post with the revised spreadsheet showing 91 seats. Thanks again everyone, I hope you enjoyed joining in!
  • User AvatarNick Collins 26th Jan - 6:49pm
    @ John Peters Thank you. I missed John Death's article when it first appeared. His idea of naming the coin the "Refugee" reminds me that...
  • User AvatarTonyH 26th Jan - 6:41pm
    Excellent speech. I'm so pleased that, both in 2015 and today (and also in the Scottish Parliament debates referred to above), LibDems have been at...