I spoke with 13 BBC outlets, Al Jazeera Arabic, TRT World, and Voice of Islam Radio on Thursday about the latest developments in Syria, including an imminent US-UK-France response to last Saturday’s chemical attacks by the Assad regime near Damascus.
Discussions project a strike on an Assad regime military facility by the weekend — but explain why this will not be enough to halt the killing of civilians by regime and Russian attacks.
More interviews will be uploaded throughout Thursday and Friday Friday.
A discussion also including George Parker of the Financial Times, looking at both UK and US deliberations.
My best guess is one of two options. Either Russia, within the next 48 hours, gives a clear assurance to the international community that it will now draw line against any further chemical attacks by its ally the Assad regime — something which it has failed to do for five years now…
…or, if Moscow fails to do that, there will be US military action which includes Britain and France by the weekend — a one-off attack against an Assad regime military facility, rather than a full intervention.
There will have to be firm talking with Moscow. Not only, “How do we avoid a confrontation?”, but also “How do we get to political talks at least to stabilize the situation?”
Now you have to talk to the Russians not about overthrowing Assad, but about getting to a point where all civilians are assured of security.
Russia has covered for the Assad regime’s chemical attacks, has tried to deny they even happened, has even tried to say these were attacks by Syria’s opposition. Unless you go to the Russians and say, “Look, we cannot tolerate your covering for these chemical attacks”, they will occur again and again — because the Assad regime won’t stop.
More important than Donald Trump’s tweet is what the Pentagon is doing, with a review of targets for a strike, and the consultation with Britain and France.
I’m always worried with any escalation in the Syrian crisis, but let’s be honest, the main victims who have been more than worried over the past seven years are the Syrian people — with more than 500,000 killed, many of them civilians, more than 11 million displaced, and the threat of conventional and not only chemical attacks continuing.
If we are going to be concerned, the focus should not be on a new Cold War but on a very real war that has killed more than 500,000 Syrians and displaced more than 11 million.
What you really need from the international community is protected zones for Syria’s civilians outside regime-controlled areas, which say that overflights by the Assad regime’s air force — or even by Russia’s warplanes — are not allowed. Until you do that, you haven’t taken a significant step.