Situation in Syria





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Published on Oct 8, 2016

Five and a half years on from the first newspaper reports describing protests in Damascus and Aleppo as rare, it is difficult now to reconcile such media descriptions with the horrors and atrocities we see in Syria. In those five and a half years, I have advocated the merits of various policies, including a no-fly zone to curtail the capabilities of Assad’s air force, to reluctantly working with the Russians and the Assad regime to defeat ISIS and other extremist groups like Al—Nusra, now rebranded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

Like so many other proposed solutions, these are all now largely unworkable and obsolete in the current context. We have over 1 000 armed groups and militias operating across the country. ISIS continues to hold huge swathes of territory and external interests are taking an ever—greater role in the conflict, and we are now descending into multiple proxy wars. Russia’s decision to transport S 300 surface-to-air missiles is clearly targeted at further limiting the options of the US-led coalition to act against Assad’s air force and increases the chances of unintentional escalation.

Following the recent breakdown of the latest Kerry—Lavrov ceasefire talks and the subsequent diplomatic fallout between America and Russia, any hope now of trying to focus combined military efforts against ISIS and Jabhat seems lost. Russia is now more openly and brazenly than ever allying itself with Assad’s brutal regime and is acting as a joint belligerent in the siege of Aleppo, in addition to the support from Iran.

This offensive has the potential to become a turning point in the entire conflict. It could also prove to be one of the most deadly and atrocious. Already we hear of hospitals and aid convoys being hit and the continued atrocious use of barrel and bunker-busting bombs against civilians. Many politicians and voters still question the merits of intervention, and it is vital that we continue to make the case that there is not only a humanitarian imperative to act against authoritarian dictators killing innocent civilians with impunity, but that not acting also poses risks to our own societies.

The conflict in Syria has seen millions of people flee for their lives, many of whom have found their way to Europe, as Mr Pittella pointed out. We have seen the huge debate that this has fuelled in Europe and how mainstream parties of government are increasingly being pressured by populist and right-wing parties to bring an end to Mrs Merkel’s – in my view, ill-advised – open door policy.

For the first time I see the notion of European solidarity seriously challenged, and I witnessed first-hand how this issue of uncontrolled migration played out during the EU referendum campaign in my country into a Brexit outcome. It is neither right nor possible to ignore what is happening in Syria. We must not allow the legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan to completely tarnish the merits of intervention. After five and a half years of indecisiveness in the West, to limit our options, perhaps a de facto partition of Syria is now the only hope for peace in that country.


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