Tuesday, June 25, 2013

In Syria, Let Them Fight It Out

thanks to TROP


In Syria, Let Them Fight It Out


Western governments would be mad to intervene in a war whose best outcome would be for both sides to lose. 


The war in Syria has been a catastrophe for the Syrian people. But as the composition of the military opponents has become clearer—al Qaeda-linked Islamists dominating one side, Bashar Assad's forces and Hezbollah the other—it has become obvious that the window of opportunity for outside intervention is closed. We must now have in mind Henry Kissinger's famous remark during the Iran-Iraq war: It's too bad they both can't lose.

Western governments no longer have the will, capability or patience to act in such a forum. And to dabble without wishing to get more deeply involved is a pathetic option.

So when the British prime minister and foreign secretary talk of arming a "moderate opposition" to Assad, they are talking of a diminishing and soon-to-be extinct force. If there was ever a chance of helping such moderates into power, it has passed. What moderates existed have been replaced by extremists, and the West must have no part in assisting them.

It is not Assad propaganda but the simple flood of news that now confirms this. What Vladimir Putin alluded to at the opening of the G-8 summit last week was true: that a young Syrian opposition fighter called Abu Sakkar was captured on video last month cutting out and biting into the lung of an opponent. Similar atrocities include those of "opposition" forces who recently tortured and executed, in front of his parents, a 15-year-old coffee seller in Aleppo. Mohammad Qataa's "crime" was an overheard comment alleged by these judges, jurors, torturers and executioners to be blasphemous.
Other "rebels" include the killers of Andrei Arbashe, a 38-year-old Christian taxi driver who was recently beheaded and his body fed to dogs near the Turkish border, all because his brother was allegedly overheard referring to the opposition as bandits.

Of course, the atrocities do not go in one direction. Assad's forces have been performing acts of barbaric violence from the outset of this war, aided by Hezbollah. We did nothing to stop them then. Yet the British government now appears eager to arm someone—anyone—to tip the balance in the war. This is a mistake.

AFP/Getty Images
Rebel fighters in Damascus.

The moment they do so, their complicity will shift from the tangential complicity of the bystander to the more serious complicity of the enabler. This is not just a moral question, but a practical one too: How do David Cameron and William Hague hope to go about arming only the "good" rebels while ensuring that their weaponry does not fall into the hands of the "bad" ones?



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