i Editor's Letter: Shifting alliances



My enemy’s enemy is my friend. And so we end up, in a script worthy of Waugh or Heller, with the official head of the Syrian rebels proposing a new civil war for his country, a second civil war, in which his forces will  ally with those of their mortal foe,  Bashar al-Assad, to drive out extremists linked to al-Qa’ida. And then what? Resuming their old conflict, the one that has claimed at least 117,000 lives in less than three years? Our Defence Correspondent Kim Sengupta has the story.

When the House of Commons voted against UK military intervention in Syria this autumn, people expressed relief that we would not be further entangled in this sorry chapter of Middle Eastern history. Let us dream on. Western security agencies rank Syria as the most potent terror threat to Europe, with hundreds of young men from the US and, in smaller numbers, Britain, having gone to fight. Talks in the new  year between rebels – disillusioned by Western inaction – and the Assad government may lead to them uniting against a common enemy.

The West also wishes to see the Syrian army survive the Assad regime – a sensible desire, given the  chaos in Iraq when its army was stupidly disbanded after Saddam’s  fall in 2003. That left 250,000 angry  men with guns redundant overnight.

As for Britain? We await the return of our terror tourists.


On janitorial matters: our Voices pages in the paper have been given a lick of paint. Nothing dramatic, as you’ll see today, but a cleaner look. We have dropped the grey backgrounds and orange text because of your correspondence - hat tip here to Shoreham’s David Rushton, David and Dianne Shearn from Midsomer Norton, John Raper, Maurice Sharp… Controversially, we’ve gone for black print on white paper.