Syria Policy Should Be Based in Realism, Not Emotion | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Syria Policy Should Be Based in Realism, Not Emotion

Comment Writer Harpreet Pannu argues western intervention in Syria is futile and there is a need to reevaluate our actions

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past month, you’ll probably be aware of the recent alleged chemical attack in Syria and the Western air strikes on Syrian regime sites which followed.

It’s hard to argue that we should stay silent in the face of possible war crimes and indeed, a quick glance of the papers and media suggests that opinion amongst the UK middle classes is moving steadily towards greater intervention against the Assad regime. However, despite the impassioned pleas to “think of the children” and the accusations of being a “Putin stooge” that anyone who has ever seriously questioned UK foreign policy will probably have been subjected to at some point, I have yet to be convinced.

Let me get something clear; I have never cared for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He is a brutal dictator, pure and simple. His quasi-monarchical regime has a history of corruption and bloody repression. He often appears to be indifferent to the suffering that his forces have afflicted and his international support amongst some in the anti-imperialist movement seems to mainly stem from the fact America doesn’t like him.

I was wrong to call for Assad’s overthrow. The alternative to him is indeed much worse

I used to be a rebel supporter once. I was an enthusiastic supporter of the now-defunct Free Syrian Army (not to be confused with today’s Turkish proxy group made up of ex-ISIS members). Blinded by hatred for Assad, I would try to ignore the increasing prevalence of Wahhabi extremist and al-Qaeda linked groups within their ranks and their increasingly horrific war crimes. I couldn’t bring myself to accept that Assad was increasingly appearing to be the lesser evil. Eventually, when ISIS sprang out of Syria and set up their so-called “caliphate”, setting the stage for a series of devastating terrorist attacks across Europe, I swallowed my pride. I was wrong to call for Assad’s overthrow. The alternative to him is indeed much worse.

The Western media has a lot to answer for with regards to its Syria coverage. The level of implicit bias and utter lack of professionalism have played a direct part in misleading people into thinking war against Assad is a remotely sensible option. Whilst nothing is proven until the OPCW return with their report, you can be certain I am not a Kremlin propagandist because I am increasingly thinking that there may have indeed been a chemical attack. Not because the BBC said so. The same BBC that runs every story about a Syrian army siege with pictures of children covered in blood and titles like “At least in heaven there’s food”; notice how they do not do the same for children dying of cholera due to the ongoing Saudi siege of Yemen. This is politics for you.

Western intervention will only lead to more innocent Syrians losing their lives. All it achieves is making us feel better

Nor do I get my info from the likes of “independent journalists” such as Vanessa Beeley or Eva Bartlett, whose level of journalistic professionalism is such that they refer to any armed group opposed to the dictatorship as “terrorists”. I refer to truly independent journalists such as Patrick Cockburn or Robert Fisk, who have been on the ground in Syria and held both sides’ noses to the grindstone. This group of experts is overwhelmingly sceptical about Western military intervention and, if you base your decision-making on facts and logic rather than the biased and often hysterical reporting all too common in the media at the moment, it’s not hard to see why.

Returning to the strikes, what exactly do we expect to achieve by bombing Assad? Bearing in mind that this man makes a career out of defying the West, such limited strikes would be unlikely to deter him from doing this again. A wider strike campaign weakening the regime would lead to the advance of Wahhabi extremist groups, such as the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front; these groups, unlike Iran or Assad, pose a direct and serious threat to our national security. Even the Jaish al-Islam group in Douma (that the alleged chlorine attack was probably aimed at) holds views that would likely place its members on a terror watchlist in the UK. We need to accept Assad has won. Western intervention will only lead to more innocent Syrians losing their lives. All it achieves is making us feel better.


30th April 2018 at 9:00 am

Last Updated

30th April 2018 at 9:09 am