The West babbles on, and Assad is the winner

Talks in Rome did nothing to hide the fact Syria's people have been betrayed

Share

I sniff treachery. Because – let’s be frank about it – something is going very wrong with the narrative of the Syrian war. Our Western lords and masters – as untrustworthy today as they were when they sold Poland to Stalin at Yalta – have started to talk much less about their visceral desire to destroy Bashar al-Assad and much more about their fear of the corrosive presence of al-Qa’ida within the rebel forces fighting to remove the Syrian president. As the Syrian tragedy deepens, so our moral Western policy towards the damned of this ghastly war has turned into a betrayal of its people.

Forget about Rome this week and our “pledge” – I love this news agency gunk – “to empower (sic) the Syrian people” and support the “supreme military command” (which does not exist) of the Free Syrian Army with bandages and radios.

The whole sorry story began, I think, exactly a year ago when La Clinton – mercifully now absent from US policymaking until the next presidential elections – made an astonishingly cruel statement to CBS television in Rabat. Squeaking about the refusal of the Syrians of Damascus and Aleppo to join in the uprising against Assad, she then – apparently referring to a recent statement by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the post-Bin Laden al-Qa’ida leader, in which he said he supported the Syrian opposition – asked: “Are we supporting al-Qaida in Syria? Are we supporting Hamas in Syria?”

Duplicity

Infinitely more frightful was the pitiful version of Lord Palmerston who now masquerades as our foreign secretary and who – just before he arrived in Beirut to truffle through potential oil discoveries off the Lebanese coast – gave a speech to the Royal United Services Institute which positively reeked of Potsdam-like duplicity.

While claiming that Britain had not lost faith in the Arab revolutions – Churchill said as much about his fidelity to Poland after handing the country to Stalin – William Hague said that Syria was the most serious case of a revolt being “hijacked” by militants. The country, he claimed, was “the No 1 destination for jihadists anywhere in the world today”.

Incredible. This might almost have been a speech by Bashar al-Assad himself, who has been repeating this for almost two years about “al-Qa’ida terrorists” in Syria. Even putting aside the fact that Mali was supposed to have assumed the mantle of “terror centre” less than two months ago, this was an extraordinary statement for the pitiful Hague to make.

He babbled on about UK and other European extremists in Syria, then added: “They may not pose a threat to us when they first go to Syria, but if they survive, some may return ideologically hardened and with experience of weapons and explosives. The longer the conflict continues (in Syria), the greater this danger will become.”

Ergo, I suspect, let’s bring this war to a close. Why else are Hague and Lavrov now talking about “dialogue” between rebels and regime? But the most recent reports from rebel-held Syrian territory do indeed speak of looting and sectarian kidnappings and killing, ransom and retribution, of what one report from Atme – a rebel base on the border with Turkey – speaks of as a “beautiful” revolt marred by corruption. “The real revolution in Syria is over. We have been betrayed,” Abu Mohamed (described by Agence France-Presse as a “respected rebel leader”) has said. There are countless accounts, even from government-held parts of Damascus, of hostage-taking for both cash and political demands.

The injection of Jabhat al-Nusra fighters and other proto-jihadis has fouled the secular nature of the battle so badly that Assad’s original claims that al-Qa’ida was the regime’s enemy is beginning to look frighteningly true. There have been battles between the Free Syrian Army and al-Nusra and between al-Nusra’s own commandoes.

West in retreat

Arab journalists who loathe Assad have been all too aware of this, not least since al-Nusra apparently claimed responsibility for a car bomb in Salamieh which killed dozens of civilians. “This movement with its criminal terrorist methods and doubtful patriotism must not be allowed inside the revolution,” Hazem Saghieh wrote in Al-Hayat. “It closes the doors on the foreign nations which could help the revolution. It turns away from the revolution the Syrian minorities – Alawite, Kurd, Christian Druze and Ismaeli – as well as those among the Sunnis who believe in a civil state.” Too true.

Goran Tomasevic, the award-winning Reuters photographer, filed a brilliant dispatch from Damascus only last week. “Rebel fighters in Damascus are disciplined, skilled and brave,” he wrote. “I saw them … mount complex mass attacks, manage logistics, treat their wounded – and die before my eyes. But as constant, punishingly accurate mortar, tank and sniper fire attest, President Bashar Assad’s soldiers on the other side … are also well drilled, courageous – and much better armed.”

And there you have it. Both sides still think they can win – so the war goes on. But the West is in retreat. Forget support for the rebels. Even the gutless Obama has stood up to his generals and forbidden them from arming the good guys/bad guys. Wait now for some Yalta-like bleating for talks between Assad and his enemies. “So terrible is the bloodshed that even our hatred of Assad must take second place to common humanity”; wouldn’t that do as a template for Palmerston-Hague?

And at the risk of being proved wrong in just weeks, I must add a small addendum. I came across a ferociously anti-Assad friend in Beirut last week. “He might survive, I think,” she said. Indeed.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

Citifocus Ltd: ACA - Financial Reporting

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Chartered accountant (ACA or CPA), must be...

Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; VMWare, Windows; Disley; £40k

£40000 per annum + benefits: Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; V...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Developer / App Developer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join one of the UK's...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party  

If people voted for policies, the Green Party would win the next election

Lee Williams
 

Are we really to believe that the mansion tax would stop Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie moving here?

John Walsh
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?