Saturday, April 14, 2018

Syria

Between them President Assad and Vladimir Putin have put Western Leaders in an impossible position.

Dan Hannan MEP wrote a few days ago that if we bomb Assad, bad things would happen, if we didn't bomb him bad things will happen, and whichever of those routes we went down, people will point to those things as proof we should have done the other. Dan was right.

Of all the terrible weapons used during the First World War, the one which the surviving veterans of the war found the most inhuman and ghastly was poison gas, and that is why a prohibition against the use of chemical weapons was established which largely held for nearly a hundred years.

I believe that it would be a terrible mistake to allow that prohibition to fall into disuse and that there is no reasonable doubt that the Assad regime really has used them repeatedly against its own citizens including innocent men, women and children. If there were any plausible evidence supporting the narrative from the Russian regime that the Douma gas attack never took place and was fraudulently concocted by Islamists, they would not need to produce ridiculous suggestions like the allegation that the "white helmets" civil defence volunteers are really Al-Quada terrorists and that, knowing this, the UK government has nevertheless been working with them to stage false reports of gas attacks and other atrocities.

That's the same civil defence volunteers - their official name is "Syria Civil Defence" - who Human Rights Watch describe as their most reliable source of information, as has Amnesty International who also described the "White Helmets" as the "bravest, most heroic people in all of Syria."

However, there are all manner of very good reasons to be extremely careful about any military intervention in Syria, particularly as the certainty of a Russian veto makes it impossible to gain specific UN approval for any such action.
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It is by now obvious that the military attacks in the early hours of this morning by the armed forces of the USA, Britain and France were carefully targeted to avoid hitting civilians or Russian or Iranian personnel, to strike specifically the Assad regime's chemical weapon infrastructure, and to do the maximum damage to that infrastructure with minimum loss of life. The attacks went in at 4 a.m. local time when there would have been just about the minimum possible number of people about.

The Pentagon say they are not aware of any civilian casualties and it's a pretty safe bet that there cannot have been any substantial collateral damage because if the Syrians had found any dead or injured civilians, the Russian and Syrian propaganda machines would long since have started screaming their heads off about them.

This appears to have been a very carefully managed strike which responded specifically to the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons and was precisely aimed at that regime's means of delivering such attacks in future. The governments of Britain, France and the USA appear to have bent over backwards to avoid killing civilians or Russians, and to minimise the risk of escalating the conflict.

Whatever the British, Russian and French governments had done, millions of people would have said they were wrong. In my humble opinion, of the range of bad and terrible options open to them, this limited and carefully targeted attack against the Syrian regime's chemical weapons infrastructure, designed to significantly damage that infrastructure while minimising loss of life, was probably the least worst option available.

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