This week the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee published a good report. They concluded that UK bombing in Syria would not be a good idea. They recommended diplomatic intervention and the start of a difficult peace process.
Meanwhile the international community is edging towards a similar conclusion. The long war has shown that the main combatants are unable to win. The Assad regime has killed many of its own citizens but still cannot exert its control over large parts of the country. ISIL has limited forces on the ground terrorising locals into acquiescence. The Kurds have established some presence in the north but do not wish to extend their military power over the whole country, recognising this would be impossible and undesirable. Other opposition forces have also proved unable even with western assistance to forge a winning force.
Peace talks will be far from easy. There are several important regional powers to involve as well as the USA and Russia. Many of those interested and powerful in the region do not have a preferred outcome for a new Syria which is feasible. Anyone seeking to rule the whole of Syria has to have great powers of persuasion that they can be fair to different religious and ethnic groupings in the country.
Many in Parliament have decided that Syria is not short of bombs and violence. The UK would not be able or willing to make a large contribution to any western alliance intervention. The West’s Commander in Chief, the US President, is uncertain about committing much force to this continuous civil war. I am glad the PM continues to say he would only bring a proposal to bomb Syria to the Commons if there were a consensus in favour of such action. As the Select Committee has just demonstrated, there is no such consensus.