Advocates of being involved in Syria are out and about talking to Conservative MPs. They want us to agree that it is in the UK’s national interest to be involved in the future of Syria, though they accept for the time being that arming some of the rebels may not be the right policy. The government assures us it is not about to arm the rebels.
To me it is not in the UK’s national interest to contemplate intervention in Syria for a variety of reasons. The UN does not have an agreed view about the desirability of intervention, and the Security Council is split over whether the regime or the rebels should win. It is not therefore important to the UK’s role in the UN for us to take action. There is no UN mandate to enforce.
It is true, as some point out, that other regional powers are getting involed with Syria. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others are said to be “helping” various forces within Syria. Clearly Iran, Israel and other regional powers have a close interest in who governs Syria and what their foreign policy might be. To Muslims, the dispute between Sunni and Shia is an important matter, but not one which concerns a western secular state or state with an established Chistian Church.
It is also true that if Syria is in the wrong hands (and people differ on who that includes) there can be continuing violence from the state.If the regime changed the new one could change the regional balance for the better or for the worse.
However, the more I hear of the complexities and troubles, the more it seems to me the UK does not have the force or the moral and political authority to be able to make a decisive intervention for the better. I also remain to be persuaded that it is in the UK’s national interest to be involved. We do not like the current Syrian regime. We might like a replacement even less, or one may take over that is better. I do not see that we are threatened or in danger from any Syrian regime, if we keep out of the conflict.