Syria crisis: To intervene or not? A question of life or death

What the powerful, the influential and the well-informed are saying about possible Western strikes on Syria

General Lord Dannatt Former Chief of General Staff

“Although undoubtedly by any moral standards at all using chemical weapons against your own people [is wrong] this does not constitute an open invitation for the international community to impose themselves on the internal affairs of another country.”

Anthony Zinni Retired US Marine General

“The one thing we should learn is you can’t get a little bit pregnant. If you do a one-and-done and say you’re going to repeat it if unacceptable things happen, you might find these people keep doing unacceptable things. It will suck you in.”

Diane Abbott Shadow health minister

“I can’t see anything that would make me vote for intervention in Syria. Essentially, it’s a civil war. What Libya and Egypt have taught us is that these situations in the Middle East are complex. It’s not good guys in white hats and bad guys in black hats.”

Caroline Lucas Green Party MP

“The question is whether this will really be the short, sharp, neat deterrent to further chemical weapons use, or whether – as many of us fear – it risks far more serious escalation.”

Nigel Farage Ukip leader

“I’m opposed because we seem to be getting involved in an endless series of foreign wars, that we enter into without ever really thinking through the consequences.”

Alastair Campbell Former Downing Street director of communications

“To have somebody using chemical weapons against his own people, in the way that Assad has done – I think for the rest of the world to stand by and just say ‘Oh well, carry on, and do it again and we won’t do anything…’  – that would be hugely irresponsible and incredibly dangerous.”

Dmitry Rogozin Deputy Prime Minister of Russia

“The West behaves towards the Islamic world like a monkey with a grenade.”

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei  Iranian Supreme Leader

“The intervention of America will be a disaster for the region. The region is like a gunpowder store and the future cannot be predicted.”

David Cameron Prime Minister

“The National Security Council agreed unanimously that the use of chemical weapons by Assad was unacceptable – and the world should not stand by. We want the UN Security Council to live up to its responsibilities on Syria. Today they have an opportunity to do that.”

Bashar al-Assad Syrian President

“Failure awaits the United States as in all previous wars it has unleashed, starting with Vietnam and up to the present day. Would any state use chemical or any other weapons of mass destruction in a place where its own forces are concentrated? That would go against elementary logic.”

Hans Blix Chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq in 2003

“Since the Western powers have asked for United Nations inspections – and Syria has accepted and inspectors have been put in the field – we all should wait to see the report of the inspectors before action is taken.”

Lord West of Spithead Former First Sea Lord

“An attack is extremely dangerous. You cannot predict what will happen. You have to ask yourself: will it actually further our global security or will it help the well-being of the Syrian people?”

Tony Blair Former Prime Minister and  Middle East peace envoy

“People wince at the thought of intervention. But contemplate the future consequence of inaction and shudder: Syria mired in carnage between the brutality of Assad and various affiliates of al-Qa’ida, a breeding ground of extremism infinitely more dangerous than Afghanistan in the 1990s; Egypt in chaos, with the West, however unfairly, looking as if it is giving succour to those who would turn it into a Sunni version of Iran.”

Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury

“Is it possible to have a carefully calibrated response including armed force, if you are sure about the facts on the ground, that does not have unforeseeable ramifications across the whole Arab and Muslim world? … This a terribly, terribly dangerous time.”

Lord  Ashdown Former Liberal Democrat leader and former UN High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina

“Action taken with the aim of underpinning international law, even if it in the end doesn’t, is better, it seems to me, than no action with the certain consequence of undermining it.”

Ban Ki-moon UN Secretary-General

“It is essential to establish the facts. A UN investigation team is now on the ground to do just that. Just days after the attack, they have collected valuable samples and interviewed victims and witnesses. The team needs time to do its job, Give peace a chance, give diplomacy a chance, stop fighting and start talking.”

Brooks Newmark Conservative MP

“The Assad regime has been using chemicals as a weapon in very small doses to test the red line and to test the West’s resolve. If we do nothing following last week’s larger attack upon civilians, this will in the words of one Syrian I spoke to: ‘Give a green light to the Assad regime that they can use chemical weapons with impunity’.”

Sir Gerald Howarth Conservative MP and former Defence minister

“Where will this intervention lead? Will that be the end of the story or will there be calls for further action? And are we then at risk of having our hand caught in the mangle? I hope when the Government says no decision has been made that is genuinely the case and they are going to listen to Parliament.”

Douglas  Alexander Shadow Foreign Secretary

“It is necessary for the inspectors to provide their information to the UN, and in addition, that information which has led the British and US governments to claim publicly that Assad is responsible should also, as much as it can, be made public.”

Christopher R Hill Former US special envoy to Kosovo

“The problem with Syria is that it’s bombing in the absence of a political plan. I think we’re opening a big door. Every time you drop bombs on something, you can’t entirely predict the results.”

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