Western leaders seem worryingly unaware of the risks of military involvement in Syria

Some form of Western intervention in the conflict looks imminent

Share

Almost exactly a year ago, Barack Obama warned that if the Assad regime in Syria resorted to the use of chemical weapons in its fight with the rebels, it would have crossed “a red line”. Now some form of military action by the US, acting in concert with Britain and France, looks imminent following talks at the weekend between Mr Obama and David Cameron, when the two leaders promised “a serious response” to the carnage inflicted on a rebel-held suburb of eastern Damascus.

As the military chiefs of the US, Britain, France, Canada, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia descend on Jordan this week to decide the precise form of that response, we again step into the unknown, and it is hard to feel the slightest optimism about the outcome. If Western governments do try to knock out Syria’s air defences, one of the options up for consideration, strikes will be undertaken in the teeth of bitter opposition on the part of Russia and China, whose governments won’t be represented in Amman, and which don’t, or don’t want to, hold Bashar al-Assad responsible for the massacre near Damascus.

Russia will be furious that the West is against plunging into the Middle East without international agreement, and just as the regime said it would allow UN inspectors access to the site in question. But even assuming Russia’s anger is contained, or that Iran can be kept out of a field in which it feels a direct strategic interest, a bigger question is what military action can now hope to achieve in Syria, where war has been raging for the best part of three years with no end in sight.

Presumably the hope in Washington, London, Paris, Ankara and Jeddah is that the rebels will redouble their assaults on Damascus and finish Mr Assad off once they see the West finally show its teeth. The problem is that we still don’t know who “they” are. Now, more than ever, the rebels are united only in detesting Mr Assad. Beyond that, they remain hopelessly split between jihadist warriors who view supportive Westerners as useful idiots and mainstream Sunni opponents of the Alawite-dominated regime, all of which raises the question of how the US, Britain and France intend to help the rebels they prefer over those they fear.

It is also disturbing that none of those advocating the use of force to expedite the fall of the Assad regime seems to have given much real thought to what kind of society they expect to replace the one that has been in power for several decades.

The Prime Minister should beware the example of Tony Blair, who seriously thought that if he and the Americans got rid of a hated dictator they could install democracy in Iraq. We all know what happened there. If the plight of ordinary Syrians is worsened as a result of any new Western military adventure, undertaken for much the same reasons as the war in Iraq, Mr Cameron will have to accept his share of the blame.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Dom Joly owns a pig. That thinks it's a dog.  

I'll bow out. Let Wilbur, the pig that thinks it's a dog, bring home the bacon

Dom Joly
 

Forget charging by the page - with books, heart matters more than heft

Katy Guest
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'