Will arming the rebels bring on the Peace Conference?

 

            MPs who have argued with Mr Hague against the UK arming the rebels have been told the purpose of arming the rebels is to provide the leverage on the Syrian government and its supporters and opponents to bring them to a Peace Conference.  This has not impressed the MPs who have heard  this argument.

             Now the USA has decided to arm the rebels we will find out if it does bring all to the negotiating table. Now the US intends to arm the rebels there is no obvious need for the Uk to do so as well. Let’s see if it works. Most MPs do think the answer to the Syrian war is a negotiated peace and wish all involved every success in bringing this about.

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37 Comments

  1. alan jutson
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    In my view we need to keep our noses out of this one, other than giving diplomatic help.

    It would seem to me (with little knowledge of the detail) that Russia, holds the key to this situation.

    If the USA want to get involved, let then them go it alone.

    Once again the United Nations proves to be near to useless in such a situation.

    • Gordon Mutch
      Posted June 15, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      Yes agreed. I’m so curious about Russia’s responses to the USA move.

      About the UN: I think of it mainly as a market place for bargaining about national interest matters, and in that context it has worked reasonably well, at least for security council members. Pity about the name ‘United Nations’ and all the well-meaning guff attached to it.

  2. lifelogic
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    It seems to me that you should only enter a war if there is no real alternative, a very likely good final outcome and only a war where you will win, both the war and the peace that follows.

    Then and only then should the country enter it and with all the powers at their disposal in order to win in short order and restore peace.

    A half hearted arming of certain factions will almost certainly make things even worse.

    Blair wars, and this one, fail on all these counts, they have been a disaster.

  3. wattylersghost
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    The solution lies in reconciling the differences between Sunni and Shia Islam. A problem that is thirteen centuries old.

    The British government is unable to resolve the discord between muslims in Britain and their fellow citizens – it can only be arrogance and ignorance that they believe they can resolve Syria’s problems.

  4. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Cameron and Hague can hardly contain themselves in their enthusiasm to get more directly involved in this conflict. We shouldn’t supply weapons and the idea that this is a tactic to provoke movement to a peace conference is risible. There is another agenda here to which we are not privy as so often in these disputes.

    • zorro
      Posted June 15, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      Yes, Cameron seems to have a spring in his step after last weekend……..what with arming the rebels and wanting to open up the UK to a GM free for all……

      zorro

  5. Sue
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    These wars in the middle east are either religious or tribal disputes. These have to come to their natural conclusion. What happens if we arm the “wrong side?” We are then, again, responsible for thousands of people dying who would not have died necessarily had we minded our own business!

    By all means, support the victims of these conflicts with aid and mediating diplomatic negotiations, but it is not our place to take sides in these Arabic countries.

    Neither the EU NOR THE UK should have the audacity to lecture anyone on democracy. Our government treats it’s own citizens with such contempt and happily tramples on hard won ancient rights so frequently, it should get it’s own democratic deficit in order before it lectures anyone else.

  6. M Davis
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    I agree with alan jutson and lifelogic and I would add – NOT IN MY NAME! Not that that meant anything to Tony Blair. Will it mean anything to David Cameron, I wonder?

  7. Cheshire girl
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    I think the short answer to that is No, but I expect we will follow their lead.

  8. sm
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Syria’s uprising is not about democracy, any more than the troubles in Turkey are about an autocratic planning decision.

    Why does the Government want to intervene in a religious war?

  9. Mike Stallard
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    It seems to me that President Obama cares very little for what we think about anything.

    We have more or less given away our military anyway.

    Now we have to act accordingly, shut up and stay on the side lines. We made enough of a fool of ourselves in Basra, to the American disgust. In no way are we gung ho enough for sorting out Muslims.

    We used to be a hundred years ago though. Now we cannot even keep our streets clear of violence.

  10. Jerry
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    The decision by the USA was inevitable, I just prey that we can resist joining them.

    • APL
      Posted June 15, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      Jerry: “The decision by the USA was inevitable, ”

      It’s odd that our Savior Obama has turned out to be as (bad ed) an interventionist as any recent president.

      But why was US involvement ‘inevitable’?

      • Jerry
        Posted June 15, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        @APL: But why was US involvement ‘inevitable’?

        How can I put this diplomatically, lets just say that that without Assad it is almost certain that Hezbollah looses its main backing and safe-haven in the region, now ask yourself who are one of the largest pressure groups in USA politics?

    • zorro
      Posted June 15, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      A done deal like Iraq…..?

      zorro

  11. English Pensioner
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    I can detect no support among my friends and acquaintances for intervention in Syria, particularly in view of the way that many of the rebels seem to be associates of Al-Qaeda.
    We should concentrate on diplomacy, in particular we should do our best to ensure that adjoining countries don’t get involved. There are strong arguments for supplying humanitarian aid to the refugees, particularly those in Jordan, which in Middle-East terms is a poor country with few resources. Jordan has always been friendly towards the UK and we should give them support where necessary. But just because the US intends to give arms to the rebels, there is no reason that we should do the same.

  12. Sean O'Hare
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I think the UK will be seen as instrumental in the US decision to arm the rebels simply by getting the EU arms embargo lifted. We are probably already a target because of it.

  13. Martyn G
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    To go beyond diplomacy and aid where appropriate will be sheer madness and provide our enemies, within and without the UK, with more reasons than ever to hate and harm us. Surely our government must be able see that?
    How about a reality check, such as asking ourselves ‘what possible benefit or benefits will accrue to the UK if we arm one of the combatant armies’? And, ‘if we do so, will it affect the outcome of the war in the way we think it will?’ In the real – not the government – world – I suspect that the answer in bath cases would be a resounding ‘no’.

  14. Denis Cooper
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    If it’s a case of paying for weapons to give to Syrians then any financial contribution from the UK would be dwarfed by the US expenditure. Neither of us could really afford it, both us would be borrowing the money to pay for it, but if it’s on any scale which would make a difference we could afford it far less than the US. Given that the stated position of the US government is that our national sovereignty and democracy should be destroyed by our absorption in a pan-European federation I’m not inclined to listen to any of their blather about democracy; we are allies, and if the US was attacked we would once again do what we could to assist, as we did with Afghanistan, but there’s really no need to oblige them by automatically trailing along behind them in all their ill-conceived adventures.

  15. Mark
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    The Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) was cynically prolonged by the superpowers who agreed with Henry Kissinger’s view: “It’s a pity both sides can’t lose”. When one side was in danger of winning, the odds were tilted back the other way through military supplies and satellite intelligence. It produced some very strange bedfellows, such as the Iran-Contra scandal, the French and Russians together arming Saddam, the GCC countries bankrolling him, Chinese rocketry supplied to Iran, South African oil for arms deals.

    Is the Syrian situation much different? Do we have some global Realpolitik starting to emerge in place of the mistaken support for the Islamification of the Maghreb? Perhaps the real intention is to prolong the civil war, and spread it. After all, much of neighbouring Iraq is also conflicted between Sunni and Shia, Kurd and Arab. If Iran could be similarly dragged into internal conflict, its external threat would reduce.

    The protests in neighbouring Turkey against Islamification should also be viewed through this prism. Many Turks do not wish to become embroiled in (an alleged-ed) battle to establish a new Caliphate with its designs on spreading an Islamic empire.

  16. uanime5
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    If the Russians are supplying arms to one side is it wrong to supply arms to the other side?

    • Bazman
      Posted June 15, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      Could end up in a proxy war with Russia and Russia is very large and very rich with little law and order. It’s like a political conveyor belt.

  17. muddyman
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    When the Americans want it – you can be sure its a bad idea!. Just check out the results of their actions over the past 50 years, not much success there!.

  18. zorro
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I seem to recall Salim Idriss, the FSA General stating recently that the rebels would not come to the Peace Talks unless they were supplied arms……

    zorro

  19. Neil Craig
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    As George Galloway impressively pointed out on Question Time it is not the Syrian government (who have offered to move to a democratic system) who are refusing to negotiate but most of the “free Syrian” forces that we are supporting (and whose commitment to democracy or indeed any sort of freedom seems questionable).

    Arming those who refuse to negotiate seems an unusual way of encouraging negotiation.

  20. Alan Wheatley
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    I suggest the best move for the UK is a change of policy to one of saying and doing nothing on Syria. The likeable but ineffective William Hague will have to resign as the sacrificial minister taking the blame.

  21. Alan Wheatley
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Cameron and others completely removed the possibility of there being a meaningful peace conference by saying early on that Assad would have to go. What possible reason could he have for doing anything that would bring an end to his role in Syria, and probably an end to his life as well if he could not find a safe haven?

  22. Alan Wheatley
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Those who think it is a good idea to arm the rebels because with the current balance or arms they are loosing clearly do not have the faintest idea about civil and international war.

    The more the force of arms is evened out the more likely the conflict is to continue because both sides think they can not loose and think have a good chance of wining. This attitude is accentuated where motivation is idealogical as rational argument carries proportionally less weight.

    The best way of stopping the dying would be for Assad to have overwhelming strength compared to those that oppose him, and to let him get on with taking control of his own country. Of course, this outcome would by far from what many would want. But those who want a different outcome are not going to back their objective with the wherewithal to bring it about.

    UK policy of removing the arms embargo as a means of exerting pressure on Assad would, I expect, have been met with jeers and laughter by all those on the ground.

    I am sorry the foregoing presents such a depressing picture. Idealist and the many well-meaning people who sympathise with those suffering should recognise that, bad thought the current situation is, it could get a whole lot worse.

  23. Mark B
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    The heading of this piece asks, “Will arming the rebels bring on the Peace Conference?”

    No, just prolong the agony.

    Let the Americans play silly buggers’. This is not our fight. We should stay well clear of this. Assad and his regime have never been a threat to our country. I would like us to do all we can to keep it that way.

    Mr. Redwood, I must tell you. No good will come of this and your party will suffer if it tries to follow in the footsteps of Blair & Co.

  24. Peter Stroud
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    I watched part of the Commons debate on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq conflict. I was one that Blair, Colin Powell and others convinced war was essential. How wrong I was, and I was surprised how many principled MPs had not been convinced, and voted against the war. Now we are being told that arming the ‘moderate’ rebels will bring Government supporters to the conference table. Sorry, but this argument is much weaker than the ‘certainty’ that Sadam had WMD. In fact arming any group of rebels is likely to arm those very extremists that sent us to Afghanistan.

  25. Monty
    Posted June 15, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    I find it outrageous that our government is apparently itching to put armaments into the hands of al qaeda linked jihadists. Among those insurgents are British muslims, who will ultimately be returning to these shores, having been trained in guerrilla warfare in Syria. Some of those weapons will be coming back with them. One day, that firepower will be unleashed on our streets, against our own folk.

  26. David Langley
    Posted June 16, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    I think G Galloway is right, Assad is at the table but who represents the people? Behind the religion and the tribal warfare is the money men who cant wait to exploit the situation. Power and a seat at the trough is what motivates them.

  27. David Langley
    Posted June 16, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Pouring petrol on the fire just makes things worse. If we try and force things it would of course completely destroy the country. Alan Jutson is correct.

  28. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted June 16, 2013 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Putin tells Cameron that the rebels are cannibals. Do you believe this?

  29. Leslie Singleton
    Posted June 16, 2013 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    If you ask me it’s just another piece of very strange behaviour on the part of Cameron

  30. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 2:26 am | Permalink

    Our objective should be to get the Russians to reduce their supplies of arms to the Assad government; authority to arm the rebels should only be used as a bargaining chip. If America arms the rebels in the current context, all we will get is a steadily escalating civil war.

  31. Peter
    Posted June 17, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Arming the rebels?

    About as sensible as throwing petrol onto a fire to “put it out”.

    Sadly yet another example of the parallel universe that Cameron and Hague seem to inhabit.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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