Sunday, June 16, 2013


"Changing the balance in Syria’s civil war in favour of the rebels has been the stated position of the US and its allies for the past year as the regime of Bashar al-Assad has wreaked death and destruction on one of the Middle East’s most strategic countries. But they’ve had a curious way of going about it. With the shadow of the Iraq war still hanging over America, the reluctance for the most limited of involvement in another Middle Eastern war has instead helped to shift the balance in favour of Mr Assad’s brutal forces. In a further affront to western policy, in recent weeks, Iran has allowed its proxy in Lebanon, the Shia militant group Hizbollah, to fight alongside Mr Assad’s forces, helping to capture the strategic town of Qusair near the Lebanese border. Together, they are now preparing for an onslaught on the partly rebel-held city of Aleppo. Sunni clerics across the region are up in arms. They have reacted to Hizbollah’s intervention by calling for a Sunni holy war in Syria. So now radical Sunni (the jihadi elements among the rebels) and radical Shia are fighting each other in Syria while a vicious sectarian polarisation spreads all across the region. The US on Thursday finally said enough – and it was about time. As European and Arab allies have been complaining, American leadership on Syria has been sorely lacking, and the regime and its allies have taken full advantage of that, gradually escalating the war with the use of the air force, then Scud missiles, then experimenting with chemical weapons, and finally enlisting Hizbollah fighters. There are also Iranian advisers in Syria and, if rebel claims are to be believed, Iraqi Shia militants as well".
Roula Khalaf," The US and Syria – it’s about time: Assad regime has taken full advantage of lack of US leadership ." The Financial Times. 14 June 2013, in
"From a distance, there seems to be a case for the West to move quickly to help the rebels, and create a more level playing field. The aim would not be to prolong the conflict, but to make a negotiated peace settlement more likely.... This would be an easier problem to solve if the conflict was between the Assad government forces and ‘the official opposition’. It is not. The Syrian ‘opposition’ consists of dozens of warring factions, who may well turn their newly acquired arms on each other when (and if) Assad is toppled. There are secular and Christian groups — but also al-Qa’eda, and Jabhat al-Nusra, whose leader has pledged allegiance to al-Qa’eda and has 10,000 fighters. Ahrar al-Sham, a homegrown jihadi group, want Islamist rule without al-Qa’eda, and then there are the 20,000 devout Muslims in the al-Farouk Battalions who say they don’t want an Islamist state, but it’s unclear how much they’d object to one. None of these groups was mentioned by anyone in Monday’s Commons debate — which was conducted in worryingly simplistic terms. ‘When I see the official Syrian opposition,’ Mr Cameron said, ‘I see a group of people who have declared that they are in favour of democracy, human rights and a future for minorities, including Christians, in Syria.’ But does he ‘see’ the Islamist rebels already carrying out beheadings? The legacy of the Arab Spring offers little hope that a post-Assad Syria would develop into a tolerant democracy. The lesson of 2011 is that democratic, secular reformers are far better at capturing western attention than winning subsequent power struggles".
Leader, "The Syrian quagmire." The Spectator (London). 8 June 2013, p. 3. Also in
There can be no doubt that the decision arrived at by the American Administration is based upon flawed premises and reasoning. The type of specious rationales offered up by the biased and egregious Roula Khalaf are par for the course. The facts of the matter as cogently put by the leader in the Spectator are that there is absolutely no way of assuring that the ouster of the Assad regime will necessarily result in the triumph of those (rather vague and shadowy) elements which are termed the 'official opposition'. Indeed, for all that we know, such elements could very well contain extremist, Sunni, Muslim forces which so worry Western Chancelleries. The case example of Libya, post facto to the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime, should indeed put paid to such notions. Already Syria's 'liberated zones', has seen enough examples of executions and bloodshed to put paid to any ideas that the overthrow of the Assad regime will result in the victory of Democratic, secular, liberal elements. Which is not to gainsay for one moment, the fact that the ouster of the Assad regime would be a hard blow to the regime in Persia and its allies in the Lebanon. The real question to my mind is: at what price? The fact is, that only a Western policy of overt, military intervention, using troops on the ground as well as in the air, would have given greater assurance of the sort of outcome which the Western powers should wish to see in Syria. Unfortunately, due to the mis-guided American invasion of Iraq, the tolerance of Western publics for any such policy is non-existent. Therefore, in the absence of any such type of intervention, the idea that merely intervening in the fashion that was seen in Libya will result in the victory of pro-Western elements is seriously mistaken. Given the way that events so far in the rest of the Near and Middle East has run since January 2011, should indicate that any such thinking is (in the words of Neville Chamberlain) 'the very mid-summer of madness'.


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