Tuesday, 28 May 2013

How do you solve a problem like Syria?

Britain and France's efforts to arm rebels led by a cannibal will not solve any of Syria's problems.

Abu Sakkar, 'cannibal' commander among the Syrian rebels

On Tuesday, Britain and France convinced the EU to end its arms embargo, allowing weapons to be sold to the Syrian rebels. British foreign secretary William Hague celebrated the decision, saying: "It was necessary and right to reinforce international efforts to reach a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Syria." Hague failed to explain how increasing the numbers of guns and bullets in the region boosts the chances of a 'diplomatic' solution being reached, but he is certainly not alone in holding this view; US secretary of defence Chuck Hagel recently said: "Arming the rebels - that's an option."

Immediately after the EU's announcement, Russian politicians continued their support for Bashar al-Assad's ruling regime by promising to ship anti-aircraft missiles to Syria in an attempt to 'dissuade hotheads from entering the conflict'. Israel's defence minister responded by suggesting the Israeli air force - which has already conducted three air strikes in Syria this year - would be compelled to destroy any such shipment. All of which only served to highlight the potentially disastrous, escalatory consequences of employing such an ill-conceived policy.

While the body count of 80,000 in the Syrian civil war is horrific, the human rights record of the rebels is no better than Assad's regime. Both parties have been accused of using chemical weapons and many of the rebels are said to be affiliates of Al-Qaeda - the same terrorist organisation Britain and France recently fought in Mali. Worse, a video has emerged of rebel commander Abu Sakkar approaching the dead body of a Syrian soldier, cutting it open and eating his lung. Are Abu Sakkar and his colleague's any more fit to rule than Bashar al-Assad?

Perhaps there is another solution, suggested in March by Israeli president, Shimon Peres. "The Arab League can and should form a provisional government in Syria to stop the massacre, to prevent Syria from falling to pieces. The United Nations should support the Arab League to build an Arab force in blue helmets," he said, before adding: "The intervention of Western forces would be perceived as a foreign interference." @Taalay

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