Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Syria - the enemy of our enemy is not always our friend

There are times when the old saying "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" can have an element of truth, but there are times when it is a fatal mistake, and never more so than when dealing with Syria.

There were good and bad arguments on both sides when parliament voted a few years ago on whether to authorise military intervention in Syria after the poison gas attack, but one of the invalid ones which has sometimes recently been offered is that attacking President Assad meant helping DA'ESH (which has since claimed to be an "Islamic State") who were much less powerful at that time.

There are more than two sides to the war in Syria. Here is a map published this month in the Economist showing which areas are believed by the Carter Foundation/Institute for the Study of War to be mainly controlled by various factions including the Assad regime (light blue), DA'ESH (red), other rebels or Kurds (yellow or green) or others, or in gray where no one faction has outright control.

Anyone planning military intervention - or making a sensible argument against it - needs to be aware of how complex and difficult the situation is.

Today for instance, Russia told the US that their aircraft in Syria were going to start "Anti-ISIS missions" against DA'ESH - but reports from the ground indicate they may actually have attacked not DA'ESH but other opponents of Russia's ally Assad.

The realities of politics may mean that a obtaining a peaceful settlement in Syria will force the West to deal with Assad, at least in the short term. But neither he not DA'ESH should be regarded as allies or friends by anyone who wants to build a peaceful and democratic Syria.

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