Paddy Ashdown: Arming Syrian rebels could make things worse

Paddy Ashdown went on Murnaghan to say in no uncertain terms that now was not the time to be even talking about arming Syrian rebels and cautioned against any actions which could sound like a “Desist or we send our arms” message to Assad. The problem with that approach, he said, is that if you make a threat, you have to carry it out or nobody will ever believe what you say again.

I’ve been busy on Storify this morning.  My tweets summarising his comments are here. Here’s a selection:




Update: You can now read the whole transcript here on the Sky website.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Last year Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi visited Iran to propose a regional quartet to end the conflict in Syria that would include Egypt, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. By involving all the important regional players, Morsi’s plan addresses the core threat that the two year old Syria conflict poses – a widening confrontation between Shiites and Sunnis across the Middle East.

    In recent days we have seen three developments in the middle-east that could provide some hope for a way-out of the tragedy that has engulfed Syria and the further militarisation of the conflict.

    The first is the unexpected election in Iran of a Moderate cleric Hasan Rowhani after gaining support among many reform-minded Iranians looking to claw back a bit of ground after years of crackdowns and a reset of the country’s political order.

    The second is the Egyptian presidents severance of his country’s diplomatic relations with Syria. Morsi said he was organizing an urgent summit of Arab and other Islamic states to discuss the situation in Syria. He also urged world powers to enforce a no-fly zone and warned allies of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, to pull back. “Hezbollah must leave Syria… there is no space or place for Hezbollah in Syria,” said Mr Morsi.

    The third is the offer by President Putin to send peacekeeping troops to Syria’s border with Israel.

    Morsi seeks a withdrawal of foreign militia in Syria – not only Iranian sponsored Hezbollah but also Saudi and Qatari backed armed groups in the country. His task is an onerous one, but nonetheless has the potential for a lasting regional solution albeit backed by a Western enforced no-fly zone and Russian peacekeeping troops.

  • Great Paddy just let them die!! Bad things happen when good people do nothing!

  • Eddie Sammon 16th Jun '13 - 7:54pm

    I agree with Paddy – we should not arm the rebels.

    We need to make sure that anyone who doesn’t want to fight can leave the country – how difficult is it for a Syrian to leave at the moment?

    The EU and the UK need to welcome Syrian refugees with open arms, even risking the fact that some Al Qaeda might come over.

  • Malcolm Todd 16th Jun '13 - 8:22pm

    Unfortunately, bad things also happen when good people do the wrong thing, even from the best of intentions. Nobody opposes intervention in Syria because they want more people to die; the question is whether intervention will make things worse or better. Even the best possible intervention (even if we could agree what that would be) wouldn’t stop the killing immediately or completely; and we could easily make matters worse.

  • Main thing wrong with this headline is ‘could’ should be replaced with ‘would inevitably be’.

    The death count is fairly evenly split between government and rebel forces, as reported by SOHR:

    The government have regained control of most of the country it seems, and even according to rebels have 70% of national support (increasing number of rebel fighters are coming from Tunisia, Libya and various gulf states). The fiercest opponents seem almost identical to those we are fighting in Afghanistan and previously in Iraq (and that Russia fought in Chechnya, and motivated the Boston bombings).

    What started out as something comparable to what’s now happening in Turkey (large scale unrest against the establishment), was fanned by Qatar and Saudi arms injections into something far worse – pouring more petrol onto the fire won’t put it out.

    If you want to put an end to Assad, you’ll have to try much harder than in Libya, and stoke the ire of far more committed allies. Iran wasn’t too keen on Gadhaffi in any case, since he was far too much of a religious liberal, and he’d never been faithful enough to Russia for them to stick to his cause. The result was they allowed his country to turn into mush (which seems to have been a suitable outcome for the western viewpoint).

    Can’t quite imagine sorting this out militarily without seeing Iran, and then probably Russia and who knows, maybe even China too head on.

    Or alternatively we could try and live in peace with the world.

  • David Pollard 17th Jun '13 - 7:39pm

    I agree with Paddy.

  • There is no military solution to the problems in Syria. There are some strange ideas about democracy. A country can only elect leaders that are acceptable to Western powers?

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