The Syrian war

Why has the west failed to resolve the Syrian crisis? I am no apologist or supporter of the Russian actions, but it is clear today that Russia has placed herself in a much stronger position than the USA to influence and shape events in that worn torn and distressed country.
The main reason is the West’s indecision about who to support and who to oppose in this complex, long and devastating civil war. First the West was inclined to side with the forces against Assad, seeing the end of his regime as being a step to a better Syria. Then, with the emergence of ISIL, the West decided ISIL was even worse than Assad, and switched its attention to trying to defeat ISIL. This is difficult to do without committing ground forces, and without having strong local ground forces in alliance. As the West certainly did not want to side with Assad, the main opponent of ISIL on the ground, it made it complicated to intervene. Russia decided early on to side with Assad as the lesser of the evils, and to accept or live with the brutal methods that Assad was using to try to quell the revolts in his country.
Western policy tried to support and create a third force in the maelstrom, a force of so called moderates or democrats who would be able to see off ISIL on the one hand, and to deal with Assad on the other. Given the extreme methods of ISIL and the large forces of Assad using the armed services of the Syrian state, this was always going to be unlikely. It is difficult to recruit and train enough united genuine moderates who will show common purpose and military ability against such dreadful forces set against them on both sides. In a Sunni/Shia civil war there is no obvious third way. In ISIL controlled Syria ISIL is the main enemy, and in government controlled Syria Assad is the main enemy. All too often weapons sent in to help moderates fell into the wrong hands. All too often the so called moderate forces disappointed in one way or another. The Kurds, with one of the biggest contributions to the third force have their own agenda of self government and territorial division, and are opposed by Turkey, a NATO ally of the West.
The West under President Obama in the dying days of his administration is trying to broker a peace. Diplomacy is important. In the end if the various combatants cannot force a complete victory and realise they cannot, they have to talk. They need to give politics a chance. The problem is with Russian support and with the US and NATO effectively out of the military activities, Assad probably thinks he can win or can make considerably more progress against his various enemies. He does not seem to mind destroying the physical buildings and facilities of his homeland or killing many people who ought to be his citizens.
Like many people who look at Syria from afar and grieve over the pictures and reports, I have no obvious answer. Many of us in the west would like there to be answer we could influence or deliver, but it is difficult to see one. Those who say the West should be prepared to use more force to balance things up have to answer how would more bombs and more deaths help? How could the west defeat both ISIL and Assad, whilst leaving a country and people who could then pick themselves up and create peaceful government? To those of us who say give diplomacy and persuasion more of a chance, it is a fair riposte that it seems even now the warring sides are still not yet ready to try to find a political solution.
Sometimes the best the West can do is to do no more harm.

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59 Comments

  1. Lifelogic
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    Indeed, do no more harm. Intervention only makes sense if you are sure you can win both the war and the peace. You can rarely if ever be sure of this as can be seen from history.

    A lesson that governments & politicians could also usefully learn in so many other areas where they distort the market and kill innovation, to hugely damaging effect. Heath provision, taxation, education, transport, energy, food production, housing, most benefits provision – to name just a few.

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    Allister Heath has actually said something I disagree with for once. He thinks Carney should stay on (despite the appalling use of his office to try to unfairly distort the referendum result, and kill UK democracy). But he does go on to say:-

    There has been no real debate about the side-effects of ultra-activist monetary policy. May has hinted at her disapproval: if she really wants to change things, she will need to pass new legislation modifying the Bank’s role while strongly signalling to the markets her commitment to sound money and financial stability.

    I certainly agree with him here, but does she have the courage? She has already flunked Hinkley C. She is only a geography graduate after all, still we shall know very soon.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/09/23/whatever-his-faults-carney-should-stay-in-charge-at-the-bank-of/

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 24, 2016 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      Rather a frightening picture of a shifty looking Osborne on the front of the FT today, I am not going anywhere, I want to see what happens next and I am on plan B he seems to say.

      Can the emergency budget and mortgage increase threatening, tax borrow and waste, landlord and pension mugger, greencrap peddling, central wage controlling, HS2 pushing IHT ratter really not see that he should just shut up and crawl away.

      Preferably taking all his half baked failed socialism and his lefty friends with him.

      Looking at his choice for lunch it seems he has rather dubious tastes in food too.

  3. alan jutson
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Spot on John.

    Far too many different sides in this conflict, for us to be involved, and all of the armed strength is with Russia and Assad who are not afraid to kill thousands of people in their quest for victory.
    The West has already tried regime change in Iraq and Libya with absolute dire consequences, so have we learned absolutely no lessons at all.

    So sad to see innocent people being treated in this way, but afraid The West should recognise that we cannot be the Worlds policeman for all Nations.

    Humanitarian and Diplomatic aid under the UN, YES
    Helping set up local refugee camps and guaranteeing their safety (with the UN) Yes.

    Otherwise we just seem to be extending the timescale of misery for all.

  4. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    John Kerry, US Sec of State spoke at the UN recently in the presence of Sergey Lavrov Russia’s Foreign Sec, and remarkably for some, Boris…who it is said is on OUR side.

    Kerry opined it was as if he were speaking in “a parallel universe”. Notwithstanding that our Boris appeared to be there perhaps in Kerry’s view a hologram projected from the planet UK, Kerry was in fact speaking in an almost sci-fi fictional world.
    Picture if you will a “parallel” scenario where Syria and the RAF are regularly bombing and strafing positions in the USA in support of American murderously armed rebels against the legitimate government and President of the United States. Factor in the Russian Government and airforce helping the USA President to repel the invaders.

    America is on the opposite side of the world to Syria. It is not a “parallel universe” but it is not the Middle East. In point of fact there is nothing East or Middle about America. It is in the West. The astronomical chronologically empowered atomic compass indicates so. Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov are eons away from their own worlds and must have somehow been transported to Syria through a wormhole. Clearly Syria has nothing in parallel with either.

  5. Newmania
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Why, exactly can the West not side with Assad then ? The problem with Syria is not that there is no good to be done but that the West no longer has the stomach for action in the real and imperfect world . There is always good reason for doing nothing and I do not think Mr Redwood is in any position to know what the position for other forces on the ground might be.
    The way forward is quite clearly to re establish order on the only way possible and then provide what pressure and assistance we can in the future .
    Inaction, and the wish to thaw relations with Putin( a great fan of Brexit and admired by a certain cast of mind in this country) wiffs a bit to me

    Perhaps we should have referendum on it ?

    • Anonymous
      Posted September 25, 2016 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      “Perhaps we should have referendum on it ?”

      If we had taken referenda on middle east interventionism the people would have voted sensibly against it (as they voted sensibly against the EU) and ISIS would not now exist.

  6. Ian Wragg
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    It was stupid of the West and NATO to intervene in what is essentially a civil war.
    The conflict is being used to displace western Europe aided and abetted by the luvvies.
    We are storing up trouble for the future having thousands of unemployable youth sucking on the welfare teat.
    They don’t appear to be doctors dentists or engineers as the BBC would have us believe.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 24, 2016 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      Indeed having listened to the BBC I just assumed that they all spoke perfect English and were doctors, dentists or engineers all with several degrees.

      Just as one might assume all scientists and engineers are female is judging from BBC reports.

      An absurd discussion on the BBC radio 4 this am (yet again) on the “gender pay gap”. The women in the discussion all seem to have completely failed to grasp the reality and logic of the situation. Despite the fact that one was a maths professor and should certainly have known better.

      Women earn less because they do different jobs, fewer study maths, further maths, physics, computer studies, engineering. They are less money motivated, take career breaks and sensibly value a work life balance. Furthermore if there were lots of brilliant underpaid women around the competitive market would clearly correct this very quickly.

      Is this really too hard to grasp for these female BBC “experts”?

      In my family anyway the money that I earn is nearly all spent by the women anyway, do women really want their men to earn less?

      The only way to close the gender pay gap is huge and damaging discrimination against men and not employing the best person for the job. Is this what the BBC want?

      • hefner
        Posted September 24, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

        According to HESA, ONS, and Deloitte analyses, even within “science and engineering” jobs, there is a gap in median starting salary and pay for graduates: (so I think LL’s usual comment about women not wanting responsibilities but babies might not really fit there)
        Women £25,000 vs. Men £26,000

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted September 24, 2016 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      ‘luvvies’

      – There is also the equivalent of ‘luvvie’ on the right of politics with people who CAN be narcissistic / sociopathic, selfish, Machiavellian, and greedy individualists (and as a right-winger, I include myself as falling prey to these traits, from time to time, perhaps more than time-to-time, let others be the judge of that).
      I think it best that we avoid words like ‘luvvie’ as it just sets up an ‘us versus them’ dualistic way of looking at the world. This country needs to come together more, no matter what people’s politics are, and so best to avoid words such as ‘luvvie’ i think (a cheap word used by journalists in order to easily hook their readers but ‘ordinary’ people mustn’t use this word i think).

      • Lifelogic
        Posted September 24, 2016 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

        I do not see it as “an equivalent” but yes there are plenty Trump types around too.

        To say anything much at all you have to generalise and have these group terms. One can hardly discuss every person in the UK individually. We all know what the lovvies are. We all know what they nearly always say or “think”.

        They clearly believe the government has a magic money tree that should be used mainly so that “the arts” (as they all the amusement industry). Then it does not have to pander to paying customers which can be a bit unpleasant for some.

        They think the BBC, the dysfunction NHS, feckless people, the greencrap and everyone else should also be funded in this way. They hate Brexit. They think everyone should get grants to go to performing arts schools for years on end, or study “the arts” regardless of any economic demand. They further tend to think actors, musicians and the likes should be given lots of benefits while they “rest” between jobs.

        Perhaps I generalise too much, but it is largely true.

      • Bob
        Posted September 24, 2016 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

        The luvvies constantly use stereotyping to characterise their political opponents, but they don’t like it when the same is done to them.

  7. Roy Grainger
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Not much point us discussing this as Mrs May personally decides what UK will do on Syria as she personally decides everything else. We used to have cabinet government but not any more. Now she has completed “slapping down” (via briefings to journalists from No 10) each of the three Brexit ministers in turn for daring to discuss policy in their areas of responsibility she can move on to the rest of the cabinet. On Syria Russian jets attacking an aid convoy seems somewhat provocative but it seems Mrs May has decided to do nothing about it. Probably the best move, though one wonders what Putin will try next.

  8. Anonymous
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    The sixth form elites in the West fail to understand that some religiously divided peoples cannot handle democracy. They are better under dictatorship. The sixth form elites in the West see themselves as liberators from dictatorship and they see all other religions as benign and superior to their own.

    The result is action with indicision – the very worst combination.

    It comes from “We can’t just stand here and do nothing !” thinking.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 24, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      Perhaps it is not such a good things for UK democracy and peace that Theresa May is pushing for even more state funded religious schools then?

      • hefner
        Posted September 24, 2016 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

        I certainly agree with LL’s statement

    • John B
      Posted September 24, 2016 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      One of my all time favourite quotes from Ronald Reagan (I think?) is “Don’t just do something, stand there!”

  9. Kevin
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    JR writes: “Assad…does not seem to mind…killing many people who ought to be his citizens”.

    The main problem I find with analyses such as these is the apparent assumption that the West is or ought to be the world’s conscience. I do not think we have earned that position. Take the following example:

    In the explanatory notes to the Mental Capacity Act, prepared by the Departments of Constitutional Affairs (“DCA”) and Health, we read the following statement:
    “A donee of [a lasting power of attorney – ‘LPA’] can be given power to refuse to give consent to life-sustaining treatment on behalf of the donor [when the latter becomes mentally incapacitated] (see section 11(7) and (8)). The donor’s [European Convention on Human Rights] Article 2 [right to life] and Article 3 [freedom from torture or inhuman or degrading treatment] rights could be engaged…. Sections 6(7) and 26(5) provide that action can be taken to preserve life or prevent serious deterioration [in the person’s condition] while the court resolves any dispute or difficulty. These provisions are designed to protect a person’s Article 2 and 3 rights, while also discharging the obligation to respect the Article 8 [private life] rights of those who choose to give powers to a donee under an LPA” (emphases added). (In other words, our law does not mind if you are tortured as long it can prove that you asked for it.)

    The above statment, I believe, is both breathtakingly evil and stultefyingly boring. It would appear that this is the British way. Readers will notice that I had to spell out in square brackets what is meant by the less attention-grabbing phrase “Article 2 and Article 3 rights”. No doubt Assad, if asked about his alleged actions, would describe them in terms equally less attention-grabbing. From the outside, however, we can perhaps “expose the shocking reality” behind such “self-serving language”.

    Except that, here in Britain, we could be accused of using the same language ourselves.

  10. Fred
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Oh please. The West is not trying to broker peace. It has consistently and constantly supported extremists. The whole war is a proxy attack on Assad and indirectly Russia by Washington. They even used their air force to openly attack the troops of a sovereign state defending the country against terrorists who then launched an offensive. The belief that western governments are anything but the aggressors in Syria is a fantasy.

    • Mitchel
      Posted September 24, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      I am in full agreement with you.I find it near impossible to believe that the sustained air assault(one of the aircraft was ours) on the Syrian troops last week was an accident.Equally I’d be very surprised if the attack on the aid convoy was by Russia.Cui Bono?

      There seems to be a further complication that our host has not mentioned in that the various strands of the US administration appear to be pursuing different objectives with regards to Syria.

      Peter Ford,our former ambassador to Syria,was on BBC TV news this morning-he has been one of the few voices of sanity from the UK mainstream during this whole crisis.You could see the presenters were uncomfortable with what he was saying about the west’s involvement.Boris,on the other hand, has got off to an appalling start as FS,showing himself,like the rest of the Establishment,to be little more than a tool of the US and Saudi Arabia.

    • Tom William
      Posted September 24, 2016 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      What an extraordinarily muddled comment. Did the West start the war?

      As for the comment on “their air force” they have admitted a mistake, which was partly due to a communications failure with the Russians.

      Was the aid convoy, destroyed by the Russians, an example of “supporting extremists”?

      • forthurst
        Posted September 24, 2016 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

        “What an extraordinarily muddled comment. Did the West start the war?”

        TW is the one who is muddled, presumably because he knows nothing about the Syrian conflict other than the odd snippit of necon propaganda. The ‘West’ started the war – Yes. Wake up. Here’s a hint: the ‘West’s’ public discourse on what they are doing and why makes absolutely no sense at all; this is because they are lying, OK?

      • acorn
        Posted September 24, 2016 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

        Did the West start the war? The post Ottoman Middle East conflict started a hundred plus years back, between two basic tribes; it has continued to split in more ways than I can count.

        But; as I have been told by Arabs in the Emirates, there would be no Daesh / ISIS, if the 2003 Invasion of Iraq had not occurred.

        Salafi jihadist militants, that follow a fundamentalist Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam, were suppressed by powerful leaders. Democratic, they are / were not! US hegemonic neo-cons under the guise of NATO; with the smell of Arabian crude oil in their nostrils, buggered it all up. You know the rest.

        The sooner we get a European-Asian (Eurasian) Defence Treaty Organisation to replace NATO; and, get the US neo-cons out of Europe, the safer this planet just might be. We currently have the most dangerous nation on this planet, about to elect, one of the two candidates that are guaranteed to start World War 3, on any one or more continents!

      • zorro
        Posted September 24, 2016 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

        ‘Did the West start the war’….. No, their surrogates supplied those who started the war. The only thing prolonging this war is the supply of armaments from the military industrial complex in the West. There is no meaningful ‘democratic’ opposition. It’s a chimera…..

        All this nonsense about ‘nasty, evil Assad’. He was in charge of Syria since 2000, and Syria was doing quite well thank you until some of our ‘friends’ decided to bring in regime change for their own ends.

        Do you know how many asylum seekers there were arriving in the UK from Syria under ‘nasty, evil Assad’ before 2007? Any guesses?

        The political elite in the west have engendered an absolute disaster for their own purposes, as they did in Iraq and Libya.

        The Americans are a ‘mistake’. How many times do they have to make ‘mistakes’….. If you believe that they are genuine, I think that you need to take some time out. The most sophisticated military machine that the world has ever seen with obscene amounts spent on military spending (dwarfing many other countries) is able to work out who they are firing at, particularly when they have advanced drones conducting surveillance the day before the attack, and can work out who they are attacking over several hours. Funnily enough, ISIS were on hand to launch a ground offensive… Fancy that?

        zorro

        • zorro
          Posted September 24, 2016 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

          I look forward to seeing the evidence (shouldn’t be too difficult) showing that the Russians or Syrians undertook the strike against the aid convoy.

          zorro

      • mickc
        Posted September 25, 2016 at 3:05 am | Permalink

        Was it destroyed by the Russians? Extremely doubtful, there would be no benefit. Most probably it was the US or their allies.

      • APL
        Posted September 25, 2016 at 8:21 am | Permalink

        Tom Williams: “Did the West start the war? …”

        Actually, Yes. From the moment Assad took over from his father, there were press reports, Assad isn’t competent, he isn’t his father, bla bla bla. In the propaganda arm of Western governments called laughingly ‘the free press’.

        Then Western governments ( actually the US ) started identifying disaffected factions in Syria and agitating and arming them.

        Presto!! Bloody Civil war.

    • Bob
      Posted September 24, 2016 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      Nigel Farage was right. We should stay out of it.
      Cameron was determined to get involved, hence the 2nd vote.

    • anon
      Posted September 24, 2016 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

      How many mistakes does it take for you to question if it was actually an intended action?

      It was not long ago Parliament voted to prevent us bombing “someone” in Syria.
      Why are UK forces reportedly involved?

      We should confine actions to humanitarian needs, preventing genocide and only against those that seek to harm us.

      Assad has not threatened the UK, although if we are acting within Syria without a UN mandate then one could reasonably expect some response.

      Those that make political decisions to change regimes or foreign governments should to be accountable.

    • getahead
      Posted September 25, 2016 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      Agreed Fred.
      Syria was a tolerant country with a moderate leader. Unfortunately Assad allied himself with Iran, the enemy of the Arabs, the enemy particularly Saudi Arabia, the ally of the U.S. And round and round we go.

  11. Dr James Thompson
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    In countries where the only organising principle is cousins, Western democracies should not tread.

  12. Mark B
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    The first thing the West needs to stop doing, is pouring more petrol (armed forces and assistance to third parties) on the flames.

    “The main reason is the West’s indecision about who to support and who to oppose in this complex, long and devastating civil war.”

    That is because this is NOT the West’s fight. The UK for one has no interests in this. The fight is mostly a ‘regional’ one.

    “Like many people who look at Syria from afar and grieve over the pictures and reports, I have no obvious answer.”

    I do not trust our media to give clear, accurate and unbiased accounts as to what the situation really is. You have to look elsewhere in order to try and get a more balanced view.

    As to not knowing what to do, what about staying out of it and fixing the problems (mostly caused by the political class) at home.

  13. Antisthenes
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Syria is a mini equivalent of a world war where different nations and groups are fighting one another either directly or by proxy. Russia, Iran, Assad and sectarians are currently the ones who are winning and will win in the end because the USA is totally inept at doing anything to change that outcome. The rest of the West cannot be blamed because where the USA leads they must follow.

    Obama and Kerry a nightmare team probably to be followed by another even more monstrously inept , Clinton. The West long been in decline because of the rise of left wing progressives and statism is losing it’s ability to defend itself against undemocratic forces that have evil intent. Forces that see appeasement, lack of resolve, humane actions and those that seek peaceful means to end a dispute as weaknesses to be exploited which Russia, Iran, Islamic terror groups are are doing with considerable success.

    When the West needed leaders like Thatcher and Reagan we got Obama, Merkel and Cameron and more of the same ilk. As yet I do not see any future leaders with qualities that can restore the West’s defences, bring stability at home and abroad and sort out the financial mess the West has made for itself.

    The future looks bleak. The UK has made a start with Brexit and a Conservative government if Theresa is made of the right stuff (her rhetoric would appear to suggest she is) but cannot do it alone. Other must follow. Unfortunately the most important player the USA does not seem to be going to be one of them.

  14. Prigger
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    The BBC loses documentary film evidence. Now,I do hope the BBC stores for posterity the big-owl utterances of Kerry, Obama and western military top brass.The latter being either too fat, too small, too unfit, too-too-too to have ever achieved their rank legitimately.
    In a few hundred years their grotesque justifications for being even so much as a thousand miles of the Middle East will look like those meticulously kept extremely well-educated ships’ logs detailing black slave numbers, sizes of heads, noses, general health and straightness of limbs and the precise amount of thin gruel given with the Helpe of the Lorde our God who is forever preffente amongst us.

  15. The Active Citizen
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Thank you for writing on this subject again.

    1. Assad is a tyrant. Accounts of his brutality to his own people are legion, and he is supported by Russia which rarely worries about such things. However he poses no direct threat to the security of the UK.
    2. ISIS/Daesh is a tyrannical organisation which overtly wishes the destruction of the UK and advocates the mass-murder of our citizens at home and abroad.
    3. Neither Assad nor ISIS/Daesh are acceptable to the UK, but there is no realistic third alternative which could run all or a major part of Syria. Any accommodation with the Kurds would involve only part of the country, and would be fiercely resisted by our NATO ally Turkey.

    The West’s recent history of military interventions in the Middle East have proved disastrous. Now is not the time to add to this sorry list when there is (once again) no real prospect of the outcome being a country which in any way resembles something we would consider civilised.

    I would add that even a unilateral, ill thought-out, and sudden response to the Syrian crisis by Chancellor Merkel caused its own crisis within Europe which endures to this day and will have ramifications for generations.

    Sunnis, Shias, and all the variants and extremes will continue to kill each other for decades to come. I say this with no pleasure and long for the day when religion is no longer the primary cause of military conflict and the barbaric regimes in the World.

    In this particular conflict, I agree with your final thought : “Sometimes the best the West can do is to do no more harm.” I suggest we focus more on measures to overcome the spread of Islamic extremism in general and to influence the rich countries of the region who fund this.

    • getahead
      Posted September 25, 2016 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      On the contrary Assad is a moderate.

  16. turboterrier
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Same old same old when it comes to the middle east. They have been fighting for a thousand years and the “civilised nations intervention” is a waste of time and effort and the only people who will gain from the whole tragic affair are the munition suppliers and the construction industries that will eventually have to build the country back up no doubt well supported by funding from the “civilised nations”

    Some times it is better not to get involved simply because in some areas of the world dictatorships work albeit, we don’t like them, but they work. They can be corrupt but sometimes you have to wonder about the way the “civilised nations” operate when taxpayer monies are wasted in such alarming amounts on projects that anyone with a basic understanding of common sense would run a mile from.

    All the time religion is part of the process it is a no brainer to trying to establish and assist nations to work and live together in peace. Up to now religion has been kept out of the EU bloc but as sure as the sun rises in the east over the next few years it will change to accommodate the very large influx of other religions some that are not at all compatible with the more established nations.

    The UK had better start to listening to those politicians who have the same concerns that Sir Winston Churchill had in the early 1930’s. There is and will be a threat to the way we try to live our lives for the betterment of our people if we just sit back and ignore what is happening in our towns and cities.

  17. Ed Mahony
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Syria is terrible. But there is also a serious problem facing Europe with the rest of the Middle and North Africa. Firstly, Europe needs to come together, itself, to create a continent of peace, prosperity and security. This will take time (although Brexit has seriously undermined this). And then Europe needs to invest in the Middle East and North Africa to build up their economies – resulting in greater prosperity and so peace and security. Not to extend the EU into the Middle East and North Africa but enough investment to take the sting out of all the trouble we see there at the moment: civil war and conflict in general and how this results in terrorists threatening Europe as well as mass immigration from this part of the world, threatening Europe as well.
    Another reason why Brexit was a really bad, narrow and short-thinking approach to geopolitics regarding Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (However, it’s still not too late too pull back from Brexit, whilst at the same time, trying to reform the EU, whilst we’re still in the EU, in particular, regarding immigration – so far, Brexit has shown that it is not going down well with the EU, Japan, China and the US, and economists in general, and I think it won’t go down in the future either with historians, for many reasons, including the UK resigning its moral duty towards playing a role of creating stability in Europe and from Europe into the Middle East and North Africa).

    • Anonymous
      Posted September 24, 2016 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      “However, it’s still not too late too pull back from Brexit”

      Pack it in, Ed.

      Unless you want Britain to descend into violent conflict then don’t dare overturn a democratic vote.

    • turboterrier
      Posted September 24, 2016 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      @ Ed Mahony

      Surely the EU had placed the self destruct charges in the road they appeared to be taking?

      It was only a matter of time before the EU was going to implode and I think that the UK being the first to break away was purely coincidence.

      .

    • Bob
      Posted September 24, 2016 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

      @Ed
      The UK is not “resigning its moral duty towards playing a role of creating stability in Europe” Quite the contrary, the biggest threat to stability in Europe is the EU. If the UK’s return to self rule can lead the way for others to leave and become part of the free world it will bode well for stability in the region.

  18. bigneil
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    We were originally told that ISIS/ISIL/Daesh or whatever today’s name is, consisted of a few people. I can only say that it is taking a hell of a lot to wipe out a “few” people and in the attempts to do so we are now being flooded with thousands more times the amount of ISIS people – all claiming to be refugees. Joe Public warned the powers that letting them all in would also be letting in thousands of the terrorists. No-one listened. We now have them living all over Europe, on our taxes, costing us a fortune. How many more non – contributors can we expect in the UK. All getting their free NHS – -which the panel on QT 2 days ago said we should increase taxes for. Hey Govt – Great idea – Bring them in, pay for their lives, then increase our taxes to keep the sponging, free loading, West hating, terrorists healthy while they plan our destruction.
    When more and more attacks start here, can we safely assume Ms May will put on a sad face and say ” Lesson’s have been learned”?

    • Anonymous
      Posted September 24, 2016 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      To quote the old saying, the Left has a supply-and-demand problem with bigotry: there isn’t enough to go around to support the apocalyptic world view they hold so dear so they’re recreating it here.

  19. BrynP
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    It is hardly a civil war when the majority of the rebels are imported from elsewhere and paid for and armed by the neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. The US and Israel have done a great deal to stir up the current mess and create the environment under which ISIL could flourish, and whilst our own direct involvement is less obvious we continue both to meddle behind the scenes and to sell many of the bombs and weapons which are being used there.

    • Tom William
      Posted September 24, 2016 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

      It is fundamentally a religious war, apart from the Kurds who the West has let down for nearly 100 years. The West is too mealy mouthed to say so or lay the blame where it lies.

    • backofanenvelope
      Posted September 24, 2016 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      It is a civil war. A civil war between two sorts of religious bigots that has been going for 1400 years. Until we have leaders that make it plain that it is nothing to do with us we are going to have problems.

      What we need are some leaders that say the rules and regulations of the Koran are irrelevant to us. The laws of England are what we live by.

  20. Elliot Kane
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    It’s even more complicated than you say, John.

    Firstly, Assad is an Alawite, which is an offshoot of Shi’a Islam, IIRC. Not that that functionally matters all that much right now, but it does mean that not all Shi’a Muslims will see him as an ally.

    Secondly, Iran and Saudi Arabia are fighting a proxy war in Syria, with Iran backing Assad and the Saudis supporting various rebel groups. A win for either would leave them as the main power in the region, for good or ill.

    Thirdly, the West’s stated intentions have been flat out delusional from the start, and our strategy has been worse. There are no moderates to train or arm, just a number of ever-shifting alliances between groups vying for power, whatever the cost. They’ll happily pretend to be as moderate as we’d like, then join up with IS or some other group the next day, if they think it advantageous to themselves.

    Fourthly, Russia is the only major foreign actor in the region who is being at all realistic. If we want peace in Syria, the best thing we could do is to throw our weight behind Russia and form a firm alliance with them – an alliance that is in any case in both our interests as IS are an enemy to all of us. We will need to stop pretending we have been doing anything useful up to now, though, which may be hard for some of our politicians to stomach.

    The problem with the West’s intervention in Syria is identical to that we had in both Iraq and Libya: we have an idea of who we don’t want in power, but no idea whatsoever of what we will do once we oust them, nor who we will replace them with. Where Russia are engaged in Realpolitik, the West are engaged in real stupidity. We seem to have absolutely no-one who can see further than the end of their nose when it comes to foreign problems.

    The West don’t even seem to have any clearly defined goals that are at all based in reality. If we want peace, the fastest route to it is by allying with the strongest side. If we want to end IS, the same. Instead, we are trying to overthrow the strongest side and IS at the same time, leaving… well, what, exactly? Another Libya, with an endless civil war between the remaining groups, all fighting for the scraps of what is left of an increasingly devastated Syria? What kind of policy is that? Who is the west’s candidate for leader of Syria when the dust settles? What are our plans to aid in the reconstruction? Do we have people lined up to help with construction, administration and all the other things that will be needed? Are we properly liaising with our chosen leader to make sure his/her plans align with ours?

    Why do I get the idea that all the West are really doing is standing on the sidelines, crying and hand-wringing very ostentatiously so that everyone can see how compassionate we are, without actually doing anything useful? Virtue signalling writ large.

    We should be absolutely ashamed that the only ones doing anything useful out there are the Russians.

  21. PaulDirac
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    The article shays away from the well known fact that the “democratic opposition” is mainly supported by Turkey and the Sunni regimes of Saudi- Arabia and some of the other Arab rich countries.
    The West has some peripheral, involvement in the indirect fight against the Assad regime and quite rightly so.
    Assad is a brutal dictator and mass murderer of his own people, guilty of using chemical weapons against them, but as we saw in all previous intervention in the Middle East and North Africa, sitting it out is usually the best option.
    What could we have done constructively? Bomb Damascus? Fight Russia?
    It is a sad fact, which “the West” needs to internalize that not every situation has an acceptable (to the West) solution.
    The USA learnt this in Vietnam, we had this huge lesson in Iraq and Afghanistan, do we need another lesson?
    Assad and the Russians have evidently decided now that the civil war in Syria must end quickly. They will apply more brute force and finish Aleppo.

  22. Mitchel
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Furthermore,given what our allies are doing with weapons supplied by us in places like Yemen,I don’t think we are in any position to criticize Russia or Iran for their involvement in Syria.

  23. ian
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    I see the defences minster has big smile with thumbs up it must be popcorn time.

  24. Bert Young
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    The lack of effective leadership is one reason the West are hamstrung in dealing with the problems of the Middle East ; Russia has stepped in and supported Assad because a) Putin knows that to control the constant Shia/Sunni factions only a dictatorial form of control works , and b) Russia has more to gain by influencing the price of oil .

    The West really can only stand in the wings and wait for a result . Bombing by the West will not overcome the problem on the ground – all military leaders have agreed this is true , and we and the USA are not in a position to commit troops in numbers . A stalemate exists and we ought to come clean and admit it .

  25. Framer
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Any country we intervene in brings, in time, migration to the UK.

  26. forthurst
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    In response to Fred

  27. Margaret
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    My fear is that it will come to a head and the west will be involved a lot more than we would like.

  28. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Mr Corbyn, yet again within 12 months, has given a taught class to his detractors. Also provided us all with most welcome definition of a word rendered of those who would and do and should not scold him so unfairly: The Labour PLP ,171 without a single victory to their name:
    “Entryist”= ( derived from a French word which, in Anglo-Saxon goes without saying in polite company ) . A person who is not a family member, a friend, or a friend of a friend,and/or you have not or have not had intimate relations drunk or sober, who makes application quite innocently to join the Labour Party simply because they are British , wish to do their duty and try to help people to the best of their ability.

  29. Prigger
    Posted September 24, 2016 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    Riddle: Who or what has gone unnoticed but is noticed above all other?
    Answer: Mr Corbyn

    In the scheme of things, if you keep winning even the tiniest race, but regularly, despite all considerations, you win, win, win, then you will succeed eventually in all races even the biggest. Mr Corbyn is better known, now than any other politician except Boris ( stabbed almost dead), Farage ( stabbed, in truth, almost dead ).

    Opponents of Mr Corbyn in his own Party especially have always underestimated him. Good they will not be in High Office, lest he allow it. They are not worthy and never were.
    Mr Corbyn stands more than a chance against Mrs May. She has never fought a real battle. But there is blood all over Corbyn’s face. None of it his own.

  30. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted September 25, 2016 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    A ‘moderate’ Sunni opposition can only be built up with Turkish support and if there is to be a diplomatic solution Turkey must at some point enter the diplomacy. In that respect, it is good that Erdogan and Putin are talking. Turkey has taken more refugees than it wants to, so it has an interest.

    We have to ask ourselves whether it is possible to reconstitute the nation of Syria with Alawites and Sunnis living in peace. Ditto Iraq with Shias and Sunnis.

    It is almost an article of faith with the USA that borders must not be changed because that leads to war (and what is happening at the moment?!), even though the borders were originally determined by Colonial powers.

    Do we think of Bosnia as a single nation? Or is the reality that there is a Bosnian controlled bit, a Croatian controlled bit and a Serbian controlled bit?

    Is the idea of a Sunni Muslim caliphate straddling northern Syria and Iraq so intolerable, provided only that the militants are defeated? If we wanted to look after our own interests better, we might think about defeating the militants in our own country.

  31. Ronald Olden
    Posted September 25, 2016 at 4:47 am | Permalink

    The behaviour of the West in the Middle East and Libya in the past 15 years has amounted to little short of random self destructive terrorism. We have variously switched sides been in two or more sides at the same time, and caused universal chaos.

    The only thing the West should be doing, is ensuring that the flow of oil continues and that Israel is sufficiently safe that it doesn’t get forced into using nuclear weapons. The rest of it us nothing to do with us.

    Even a brutal tyranny is better than anarchy. I’d rather live under Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, or Assad than what, thanks to us, they all have now. In fact I would probably be safer living in North Korea.

    All these Neo Cons and foreign office geniuses, should take a day off, and read Hobbes Leviathan and find out it means to be a proper rational ‘conservative’. You could ask any man or woman in a pub what to do in the Middle East and get better advice than these people have provided.

    The West should stop all this nonsense and leave it to Russia. At least they are competent.

  • 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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