The siege of Aleppo

On Tuesday Parliament held an important urgent debate on the cruel end to the recapture of Aleppo by the Syrian government. All of us were horrified by the reports of shelling, barrel bombs and mass killings of the civilian population. We all wanted to see action taken to help the humanitarian workers, the doctors, nurses, and aid staff that are at risk. We all wished there was a way for the west to provide humanitarian aid and to organise a ceasefire. I listened intently to see if there was some way we could help.

We were told by the Foreign Secretary that Syria and her allies have complete control of the air, so it would not be safe to fly in supplies or try to airlift people out. The UK has repeatedly sought through the UN to help organise a ceasefire, but the Syrian regime assisted by Russia refuses. I understand the impatience of some constituents who have written to me about it, urging action. I am sure, however, we all agree there is no point in seeking to put humanitarian staff into this killing field without guarantees that they themselves will be safe. People who bomb hospitals and refuse medical staff safe passage are unlikely allow western relief workers safe passage either.

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5 Comments

  1. Dan H.
    Posted December 15, 2016 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    In a modern war, whoever controls the air wins, eventually. Russia and the original Syrian government are going to win this conflict, and the rebels are going to lose, badly. As has become painfully clear, there is no single rebel group in control of this rebellion, and there is no government-in-waiting that can supplant Assad and bring peace to the region. Any attempt to arm the rebels merely makes us look like incompetent trouble-stirrers now and sours any future relationship we might have with a future Syrian government.

    Assisting rebels is also not in the interests of the people of Syria. If we assist them, we prolong their suffering before the inevitable defeat of the rebels, and as has become obvious, the rebels are a heterogeneous mix of freedom fighters, terrorists, bandits, criminals and the criminally insane, mostly united by their dislike of Assad’s regime (although not exclusively; some of the fighting is between different rebel groups). It is also fairly obvious that this rebellion is aiding and being aided by the ISIS terrorists, so getting rid of this lot assists in shifting ISIS.

    Finally, Russia is involved. The Russians tend to be fairly clear-thinking and are not our friends, but neither are they our enemies as such. The Russians would very much like the EU to cease meddling in Ukrainian business, and disturbing the fragile balance of bribery, corruption, ignored foul deeds and woolly-minded ignorance in the Middle East is a good way to go about this. Recently, the ISIS group have been smuggling crude oil out to Turkey in tankers, being paid cash in hand. Russia destroyed such tanker columns not to hurt ISIS, but instead to stop what was in effect the bribery by proxy of the Turkish regime (the West had been quietly ignoring this trade, in return for the use of Turkish airbases). The Russian Syrian intervention is more of the same: aid a potential ally and you gain a permanent base of operations in that region which the big players won’t want to invade for fear of offending you.

    The last time Russia tried this, it was their invasion of Afganistan and that didn’t go too well (although the CIA operation to aid the Afgan rebels suffered from poor post-operation clean-up; Osama bin Laden was a useful cats-paw but shouldn’t have been left loose). Aiding Syria may not pan out too well either, but mucking around with the big boys when we do not have the military clout to make it stick isn’t going to do us any favours.

    To summarise: this isn’t our fight, and we’ve not got the will, nor the money, nor the military to play with the big boys any more. Best we leave them to it and try to maintain a dignified silence.

  2. Tad Davison
    Posted December 15, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Don’t forget the synopsis of the report I sent to you, that I had formerly received from Baroness Cox. That was an impartial account of what is really going on in Syria, and it includes parts the British media and politicians choose to leave out, chiefly, that those whom the US and the UK support, are equally guilty when it comes to committing atrocities against innocent civilians.

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

  3. Antisthenes
    Posted December 15, 2016 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Something must be done is always the hue and cry when something like this happens. Everyone has the questions nobody has the answers not sensible practical ones at least. When something is actually done the chances are it will be not be what it should be. Especially in these modern times. The British Empire is long gone, the EU is a lame duck and US hegemony is on the wane and so just matching in and sorting it out is no longer an option. Perhaps no bad thing. Let others sort out their own problems out and then see where the pieces fall. All the time looking to our own protection and interests. Have a credible military force (preparing for war is the best way to ensure peace) for the former and make pacts withe devil if necessary for the latter(the only ones who are not are the ethically burdened West).

  4. Posted December 15, 2016 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Unpopular as this viewpoint might be, I honestly believe that a civil war in Syria is no business of ours and we should keep our noses out of it.

  5. Norman
    Posted December 15, 2016 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    With due trepidation in view of the immense complexities and depths of suffering, I’m afraid we simply have no mandate to intervene. From what I know (and I stand to be corrected) the West has been completely wrong-footed in Syria. Why are we supporting ‘rebels’ against a sovereign government that has so far done nothing to us? Whose to say these rebel factions aren’t also potentially nasty?
    Although I wouldn’t trust the Russians, they appear to have a legitimate interest, given their strategic alliance with Assad, and their working tolerance of Iran. As for the West, there must surely be a shadowy alliance with Sunni Arab interests at work here, which means that we might also have blood on our hands. Furthermore, if we’re not careful, this dangerous powder keg could blow up in our faces. In my opinion, now that we have new administrations in place, the proper role of the West must be even-handed diplomacy, along with facilitation of help for displaced persons in neighbouring Arab countries? One proviso might be to grant asylum to properly vetted genuine minorities, who I understand are at risk of persecution from radical elements, even in the refugee camps. So much of this does not get into the MSM. At least Boris and Donald are beginning to talk sense.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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