The US announced late last week that the US would start arming the rebels because it was clear that Assad had used chemical weapons on his own people. Not unexpectedly, Russia defended the Syrian government and said that chemical weapons had not been used.
Nonetheless, a shiver of dread ran through me. This sounds an awful lot like Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, the justification for the US going to war there, with all the subsequent catastrophe which this had caused and the disaster that still stalks that land.
And now chemical experts in Washington are saying it out loud: they are highly skeptical of the evidence supposedly proving the claims that Assad has used chemical weapons.
The situation in Syria is tragic, almost 100,000 people have been killed there already, whole cities have been destroyed, and at least half a million Syrian refugees are living in camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq. But I’m afraid that our getting involved in Syria will make things worse for everybody. Not better.
The Syrian conflict is multi-layered. The conflict between the Sunni and Shia Muslims goes back more than a millennium. Overlaying that are the conflicts between Iran and countries like Saudi Arabia, and between Russia and China on the one hand and the US and the West on the other.
There is also the difficulty of controlling who our weapons will actually go to. Weapons the US sent to Afghanistan to help the rebels there against Russian occupation are even now being used again US troops there. And the Syrian rebels are not a united front. There are Al Qaeda operatives there, and the rebels cannot even agree to coalesce behind one leader. Weapons are sold, captured, abandoned, and would certainly get into the hands of fighters who ultimately would try to impose a regime that would severely limit the rights of the Syrian people. As I listen to the news analysis over here in Britain, I’m not convinced that Assad is not the preferred option.
The chances of the conflict spilling over into neighbouring countries is also high, and could escalate into a major war with global ramifications.
And would American boots on the ground there help resolve the situation? If Iraq and Afghanistan are anything to go by, they would not. We do not understand the complexities of the mid-east conflicts, and more bombs and drones and raids will not bring peace.
And so I am terribly apprehensive about America’s announcement that it is going to send military aid to the rebels. We cannot make things better by sending in more arms.
We should stay out of it.
I just look at the map with photos from the BBC and tremble.