Letters: Western meddling has failed in Syria

These letters were published in the October 3rd edition of The Independent

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The end result of Western meddling in Syria is likely to be a military victory by the Syrian, Iranian and Russian forces, in the air and on the ground, that will return peace to a nominally secular democracy.

There will be promises to the Sunni, but there will also be widespread retaliations, corruption in the rebuilding of the country and heavy-handed suppression of any discontent. Assad will remain, if he wants to.

There will be a reluctance for refugees who have settled elsewhere to return. Isis will disperse but the ideology will not go away, atrocities will be more far-flung.

This is the best we can hope for because we have failed to find any other political force that can establish and sustain peace in Syria.

It is time we learnt that turning countries upside down is worse than leaving them with despotic leaders.

A better way to curb such rulers is UN-led cooperation. No one should be allowed to act with impunity; everyone should be accountable. It could be done and is far better than punishing the victims of despotism with sanctions and civil wars.

Jon Hawksley

London EC1


“To choose as our first purpose in Syria the removal of Assad was folly” says Paddy Ashdown (1 October). At present nothing that the West or Russia is doing holds any hope of bringing peace to Syria in the near future. We must give up the demand that Assad must go, and instead start working on a peace process to which all the major powers can give their backing.

If Russia and the US threw their weight into serious negotiations they could almost certainly enforce a ceasefire between Assad and moderate rebels. Along with their powerful regional allies they could ensure that human rights were respected going forward. 

Once a ceasefire was achieved the Syrian army could lead an assault on Isis – something which no one else could do in a way to ensure stability after Isis was gone.

David Cameron should be using his influence with Obama to this end.

Dr Brendan O’Brien

London N21


Paddy Ashdown is right about the damaging delay of British diplomacy as regards the Syrian crisis. It is worth wondering why this has occurred.

He mentions the “burning coal” of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. But this cannot be addressed while Britain hangs on to the coattails of the US, whose Congress will not allow any support, and hardly even mention,  of Palestine.

Until the enormously powerful US lobbying groups and right-wing-sponsored think-tanks, with their strong support for Israel and Saudi Arabia (both bitterly hostile to Assad’s Syria), can be bypassed, there can be no movement towards diplomacy or resolution.

Christopher Walker

London SW18


Your assertion that Syria is being betrayed somehow by the intervention of Russia in the conflict (Editorial, 2 October) assumes that the policy of the “West” – primarily the US and UK – to exclude Bashar al-Assad from any peace process has been correct all along.

In reality the opposite has been true as evidenced by your own correspondents, in particular Patrick Cockburn. The government of Syria, even at its most belligerent, has maintained the support of its army and a large proportion of its population who understand that any alternative will be far worse. Facing the Syrian and Iraqi governments now are a plethora of hostile forces. They may include some moderates whose allegiance cannot be relied upon, and who are happy to accept weapons and training that they will put to whatever use they deem fit.

To hold out any hope of a peaceful solution for this troubled land, the Syrian government and Mr Assad must be included in the process to tackle the extremist groups. To that end the US, Turkey, Iran, France, the UK, Russia and other European countries will have to find a way to work together in all our interests.

Peter Coghlan

Broadstone, Dorset

The myth of trident’s independence

Much has been made of the need to retain Trident as our “independent” nuclear deterrent. On BBC radio Professor Michael Clarke, director general of the Royal United Services Institute, said that technically the UK deterrent is independent. He heavily emphasised the word technically and also said that it was inconceivable that we would fire without US approval.

He must also know that if the US did not approve of a UK policy which might lead to Trident being fired and “were to withdraw their cooperation completely, the UK nuclear capability would probably have a life expectancy measured in months”. That quote is from a cross-party British-American Security Information Council inquiry report of July 2014.

So we are only technically independent for as long as the US so wishes. As the build-up to the prospect of a nuclear exchange would take more than a few months, it is entirely conceivable that if the US did not approve the prospect of a UK Trident firing it could render it unusable.

Meanwhile, maintaining this notionally independent deterrent is starving our conventional forces of the ability to respond to those same real-world threats that we actually face but cannot counter. Meanwhile, Trident becomes not a weapon of last resort but nearly our only resort.

Robert Forsyth

Commander RN

Deddington, Oxfordshire


The Labour Party’s 1964 manifesto stated: “We are not prepared any longer to waste the country’s resources on endless duplication of strategic nuclear weapons. We shall propose the re-negotiation of the Nassau agreement [to buy Polaris, the predecessor of Trident]. Our stress will be on the strengthening of our conventional regular forces so that we can contribute our share to Nato defence and also fulfill our peacekeeping commitments to the Commonwealth and the United Nations.

We are against the development of national nuclear deterrents … We believe in the inter-dependence of the western alliance and will put forward constructive proposals for integrating all Nato’s nuclear weapons under effective political control so that all the partners in the alliance have a proper share in their deployment and control.”

The Labour Party won that election on a promise to give up the “independent” nuclear deterrent – despite a vigorous campaign by Sir Alec Douglas-Home to discredit the policy. Sadly, Harold Wilson reneged on the commitment.

Robin Paice



Trident is an expensive fraud that some politicians want to keep simply for the egotistical reason that it guarantees that they dine at the top table. In this they are aided and abetted by unions who think that their members’ jobs depend on it. There have to be much cheaper ways of creating jobs for goodness sake.

Tom Simpson


Baffled by the rules of rugby

Watching the Rugby World Cup, I have been particularly impressed by the attitude of the players at the intervention of the referee. In stark contrast to soccer players there are no histrionics or barging of the ref.

However, I suspect this may be because, like me, most of the players, judging by the quizzical looks on their faces, are as unaware of the rules as everyone else. Only the referee understands the technicalities. Sometimes even the TV pundits are at a loss to explain the offence committed among the melée of a collapsed scrum.

It can undoubtedly be spectacular, but if the World Cup competition is to attract converts to the game let it be a catalyst for Rugby Union to reduce its rules by at least 50 per cent. Give us a chance to understand the match. Or should we rely on the advice given to one spectator who had lost sight of the ball in a ruck: “Never mind the ball – just watch the game.”

Graham Barlow

Wirral, Merseyside

A suitable stage for powerful women

Emily Dugan (“Why has theatre failed to create a Queen Lear or a Ms Loman?”, 1 October) makes an interesting and valid point that strong women make audiences uncomfortable. 

Could I note, however, that it is theatre audiences that are uncomfortable. Opera audiences thrive in the presence of strong women on stage. Indeed, what would opera be without an Isolde, a Brunhilde, a Minnie, a Marschallin, a Tosca, a Violetta, a Rosina, a Dorabella, a Donna Anna, an Aida? 

Héctor Eduardo Luisi

Bethesda, Maryland, US

Beware the pesky pine marten

Those celebrating the reintroduction of pine martens in Britain (report, 29 September) may like to know that these animals have become a pest in Poland, because they have a habit of invading the warm engine compartments of cars and gnawing through vital cables. I have one Polish friend who had to spend a vast amount of money remedying this damage when one day his car refused to start.

Tony Crofts