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There can be no peace in Syria while Assad remains

Free Syrian Army soldiers in the Battle of Aleppo (October 2012)

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity

Some thoughts on British intervention against ISIS

  • The rallying cries of “Don’t Bomb Syria” and “No War on Syria” were always ridiculous. There has been war in Syria for years. It’s just that now the Royal Air Force is part of it.
  • It is possible that the RAF giving extra capacity to the existing air forces attacking ISIS may do some good in disrupting supply chains and infrastructure.
  • It is probable that RAF bombing will increase civilian casualties. No matter how much weapons systems improve in terms of accuracy, it is impossible to guarantee that civilians will not be harmed. That is the nature of war. Those MPs on all benches who voted for this intervention will have to live with that knowledge.
  • This is not merely an extension of existing actions in Iraq. Syria is a different and more complex arena, playing out against the backdrop of a multi-stranded civil war, with multiple international interventions.
  • The much-cited, much-disputed 70,000 “moderate” forces on the ground in Syria do exist. However, they are disparate and dispersed, and mostly engaged in fighting the Ba’athist regime.
  • Similarly, Kurdish forces in Rojava may be fighting ISIS, but their concern is protection of their own territory.
  • We cannot abandon Syrians and Kurds for four years, and then expect them to start fighting our wars for us.
  • And what is our war? What exactly is our aim? There is a lot of talk about how one can’t defeat ISIS militarily as it is primarily an ideology, a state of mind. But the core of that ideology is the establishment of a functioning Caliphate. That requires territory. If the aim is to utterly destroy the “Islamic State” then is bombing from the air enough? Or are we just doing this to make ourselves feel better?
  • The focus on ISIS raises the spectre of something ominous and evil: already some conservative and left wing commentators are talking about an accommodation with the Assad regime. We are drifting back towards the worst 1980s realpolitik, where any form of murderous tyrant is accepted as a bulwark against the greater enemy. This is how the Assads have survived from day one.
  • It is increasingly apparent that the vote against intervention in August 2013, after Assad used chemical weapons, will be remembered as a betrayal of the Syrian people. Those MPs on all benches who voted against that intervention will have to live with that knowledge.
  • Assad is still the problem. Assad has always been the problem. Assad is the slaughterer, the bomber, the brutaliser. It is Assad who is to blame for the violence, Assad who is to blame for the rise of ISIS in Syria, Assad who is to blame for bringing the world to this calamitous brink. There can be no peace as long as the Assad regime remains.
  • No one now has any idea how to get rid of the Assad regime.



Padraig Reidy is the editor of Little Atoms. He is Director of Editorial at 89up and has written and ghostwritten for The Evening Standard, The Guardian, The Observer, The Irish Times, The Daily Telegraph, The New Statesman, The Sun, and The Irish Post.