Editorial: It is time to be realistic about Syria

The situation is grim - but there are practical measures the West could take

Share

If Syria’s devastating civil war has attracted less attention in recent months, it is not because the situation is either less sanguinary or more optimistic than it was. Rather, it is because so few people are able to get into the country and report back on what they find. In The Independent today, Robert Fisk writes from Damascus of  a city under siege, clinging to a semblance of normality while the shells continue to fall.

For all the stoicism, the situation is grim. More than two years on from the first demonstrations against Bashar al-Assad, some 70,000 people are dead and many millions are  displaced. Yet Assad remains relentless and  the violence only escalates. According to Human Rights Watch, the regime’s air force is  deliberately targeting civilians. There is also evidence of the use of cluster bombs, and both sides accuse the other of chemical attacks.

The natural response to such horrors is a desire to put a stop to them. As William Hague put it at the G8 foreign ministers’ meeting, Syria “is turning into the greatest humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century so far”. “We cannot watch this happen,” he concluded.

The sentiment is a fine one. Had Russia et al not blocked progress at the UN in the early months, there might have been constructive moves to be made. If there was ever a time for intervention, however, that moment has passed. The situation on the ground is now too murky; the dangers of regional, sectarian conflagration are too marked; and the fissiparous rebels are too alarming in their alliances. This week’s declaration of allegiance to al-Qa’ida from the al-Nusra Front, even as the US Secretary of State hinted at wider support for the rival Syrian National Coalition, emphasises the problem.

There is something we can do. Sanctions, arms embargoes, and a role for the International Criminal Court would be a start. Humanitarian help, particularly to Syria’s refugee-flooded neighbours, should also be increased. As  regards military assistance, though – whether direct or indirect – it is too late.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Front End Web Developer - Magento

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Greater London - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Ric...

SThree: IT Recruitment Consultant

£22500 - £30000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking for experie...

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner / Handyman

£16575 - £18785 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Dundee based butchers requ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Children shouldn’t even know the word 'diet' — obesity and lack of body confidence are symptoms of the same cause

Natasha Devon
Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Madonna, Deadmau5, Kanye West and Jay-Z at the Tidal launch event in New York  

Tidal: An overpriced music streaming service that only benefits the super-rich members of a messianic-like cult? Where do I sign up??

Michael Segalov
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat