UK may be drawn into Syria conflict

 

Britain will find it increasingly difficult to avoid taking part in action in Syria, a former Army commander warned today.

Colonel Richard Kemp, who led UK forces in Afghanistan, said the escalating civil war meant it was more likely that western governments would intervene to stop the bloodshed spreading to neighbouring countries.

Last week President Bashar al-Assad's regime was rocked by the assassinations of two defence ministers and a series of military defections.

Col Kemp said today: "Whether or not Assad falls, the question of military intervention will remain a live issue.

"External intervention has been under way in Syria for months, with Russia arming the regime.

"At the same time Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with US and Turkish facilitation, have been arming and funding the opposition; and this covert support has been substantially responsible for the progress opposition forces have made in recent weeks.

"Western political leaders may have no appetite for deeper intervention. But as history has shown, we do not always choose which wars to fight - sometimes wars choose us."

Options could include arming opposition fighters, diverting cash to rebel authorities or joining a coalition for military action.

Prime Minister David Cameron ordered British forces into action last year in Libya, with RAF jets enforcing a no-fly zone, Royal Navy warships firing missiles off the Libyan coast and special forces helping rebels topple leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Col Kemp's comments came in A Collision Course for Intervention, a paper published by the Royal United Services Institute as tension is ramped up along Syria's borders, sparking fears of wider regional conflict.

Foreign Secretary William Hague last week criticised China and Russia for vetoing a United Nations Security Resolution which would have increased pressure on President Assad's rule and could have paved the way for military action.

Col Kemp added: "Military planners have a responsibility to prepare for intervention options in Syria for their political masters in case this conflict chooses them.

"Preparation will be proceeding today in several Western capitals and on the ground in Syria and in Turkey.

"They will however have grave reservations over the consequences and the cost of intervention as well as the geopolitical implications.

"Aside from the stance of Russia and China, the absence of a coherent opposition movement that could replace Assad without potentially increasing bloodshed will be high among those reservations.

"Up to the point of Assad's collapse, we are most likely to see a continuation or intensification of the under-the-radar options of financial support, arming and advising the rebels, clandestine operations and perhaps cyber warfare from the West.

"After any collapse, however, the military options will be seen in a different light."

A spokeswoman at the Foreign Office said the Government was committed to a peace plan drawn up by former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan.

Foreign Secretary William Hague has previously called on Russia to increase pressure on the Syrian regime to implement the plan, while admitting "cautionary words about military intervention" were understood by ministers.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman added the UK Government was seeking a peaceful resolution to the crisis without the need for military intervention.

She said last week's UN Security Council Resolution was tabled under Article 41 of the UN Charter, and related to sanctions against Syria and not military action.

The legally binding resolution would compel Assad to comply with Annan's plan, she added.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea