Leading article: First, stop Syria's war spreading

 

Share
Related Topics

It is difficult to see a clear winner emerging from the ever-bloodier civil war in Syria. President Bashar al-Assad admitted yesterday that his government needs more time "to win the battle" against the rebel militias. He did so as the crash of artillery fire resounded across Damascus and Aleppo and large parts of the country have fallen under rebel control. For all their superiority in firepower, government forces are under continuous attack.

Mr Assad may not be winning, but there is no sign of his regime imploding, despite the defection of the Prime Minister and the assassination of key security leaders. The situation is very different from Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi's support suddenly collapsed a year ago under the weight of Nato air attacks and its own isolation rather than pressure from the insurgents.

The Syrian rebels have shown that they can take over whole districts of Damascus and Aleppo, but they have been unable to hold them. They may win in the long term, but that could be far in the future after tens of thousands more Syrians have been killed. The latest news of the massacre in the town of Daraya suggests both sides now feel free to slaughter the lowliest supporters of their enemies. There is every chance the butchery will get worse.

One of the reasons why the Syrian war is so bloody, and may continue for a long time, is that it is really three conflicts wrapped into one. There is the struggle of the Syrian people against the government, but also the long-running confrontation in the region between Shia and Sunni, and between allies of Iran and its opponents. Saudi Arabia and the absolute monarchies of the Gulf are not helping the Syrian rebels out of any desire to bring democracy to the Syrian people.

Mr Assad yesterday ruled out "safe havens" for refugees on Syrian territory, and it is true that the establishment and defence of these would probably mean armed conflict between Syria and Turkey. At this stage, both government and rebels believe they have a chance of winning a clear victory, unlikely though this may be. The rest of the world cannot stop the war, but they should do their utmost to try to prevent it from spreading to Lebanon and destabilising the rest of the region.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in new political order

Michael Ashcroft
Ed Miliband said the Tories are a danger to family finances  

Election 2015: Me, my 18-year-old son, and why I’m voting Labour

Matthew Norman
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before