Syria: There is no simple solution

Direct military intervention in Syria is neither desirable nor possible; in sum, there’s no simple solution, writes Left Foot Forward’s George Irvin.

 

George Irvin looks at the dilemmas facing the West in how to deal with Syria

I’m neither a liberal interventionist, nor a non-interventionist. But Syria poses a very real dilemma because – no doubt about it – Bashar Al-Assad is a brutal dictator, just as his father was.

The dilemma is that there is no simple way to intervene and stop the killing.

Because we’re always tempted by simplifications which produce good guys and bad guys, the temptation is to blame Russia and China for not stopping the thousands of civilian deaths which Bashar’s army has caused.

According to the tabloid press, Russia is only interested in supplying arms, and China just wants to oppose us.

The problem with this little story is that the West remained oddly silent when Israel went into Gaza and killed 1500 in January 2009, and of course the West continues to arm tin-pot dictators in other parts of the world.

The other inconvenient truth is that Bashir’s regime is based on the internal support of the Alawite Shia. That means it is often mainly (though not exclusively) Sunni civilians who are killed – whether in Homs, Damascus or elsewhere.

Some readers may recall that when the Sunni of Hama rebelled against Bashar’s father in 1982, the city was razed to the ground and at least 10,000 civilians were killed.

Since Iran is mainly Shia (as is now Iraq), both those countries support Syria. Iraq has a long common border with it (as does the Lebanon), ruling out any effective embargo. Nor is a ‘no fly zone’ very useful – even assuming the UN were to back it – since there is no ‘liberated east’ as there was in Libya.

In truth, as Jonathan Steele pointed out in an illuminating piece some weeks ago, the conflict in Syria is not a simple fight between Sunni and Shia, and that Bashar’s supporters within the country are numerous.

Indeed, he reports a (largely ignored) YouGov poll finding 55% of Syrians want Bashar to stay. Since only 12% of Syrians are Alawite, this suggests non-negligible support amongst the Sunni ‘enemy’.

In these circumstances, the only thing one can rationally back is talks between the government and the opposition. The chances of successful talks taking place may be extremely remote, but sanctions are likely to strengthen Bashar’s hand (as happened in Iraq under Saddam).

Direct military intervention is neither desirable nor possible. In sum, there’s no simple solution.

See also:

World outside Westminster: “If you do not help us, we will be killed”Chris Tarquini, February 12th 2012

As order breaks down in Syria, its Christians suffer the consequencesEd Jacobs, February 7th 2012

Amidst the burning flesh of Homs, Syrians plead: “We are getting slaughtered, save us”Shamik Das, February 7th 2012

Anti-Assad activist: “We need help… We need a no-fly zone… ASAP”Shamik Das, February 1st 2012

Syria: When will the West act?Shamik Das, January 2nd 2012

A Syrian civil war is becoming ever more likelyAlex Hern, October 27th 2011

Syrian government uses hospitals against protestersAlex Hern, October 25th 2011

Syrian Uprising: YouTube clips show continued demonstrations after Hama massacreDaniel Elton, August 1st 2011

Syria, where innocence is no defenceDominic Browne, June 1st 2011

As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.

We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful - and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.

14 Responses to “Syria: There is no simple solution”

  1. leftlinks

    Left Foot Forward – Syria: There is no simple solution http://t.co/Y8rOHNsT

  2. Political Planet

    Syria: There is no simple solution: Direct military intervention in Syria is neither desirable nor possible; in … http://t.co/UejEkg1r

  3. raincoat optimism

    RT @leftfootfwd: Syria: There is no simple solution http://t.co/vAGHwSXw

  4. raincoat optimism

    Good, honest piece by @gwi40 on #syria http://t.co/vAGHwSXw

  5. Patron Press - #P2

    #UK : Syria: There is no simple solution http://t.co/ajUapPA8

Comments are closed.