Coffee House

Assad will go – the question is how much blood will be spilled

16 January 2014

16 January 2014

As we approach next week’s Geneva II Conference, the desire of the majority of Syrians, the moderate majority, for a just and sustainable resolution to the conflict in Syria must be addressed.

At Sunday’s meeting of the ‘Friends of Syria’ Foreign Secretary William Hague, Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and representatives from the Gulf States were of one voice in supporting President Jarba and the Syrian Opposition Coalition and were in full agreement that Assad has no future in Syria. Even privately the Russians and Iranians are increasingly coming to the realisation that it is a question of ‘when’ not ‘if’ Assad goes. The question is how much blood, innocent Syrian blood must be spilled between now and then.

The challenges are many but Geneva II must focus on three core issues.

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First, Geneva II must chart a transition to a Syria free of Assad’s rule. The diplomatic success on removing chemical weapons must not detract from the the core challenge: the removal of a ruthless dictator who continues to kill, maim and drive from their ruined towns and cities thousands with conventional weapons. Today there are over nine million internally displaced people in Syria, 2.3 million in exile as refugees in neighbouring countries and over 130,000 dead. The international community led by the Friends of Syria must do everything possible to support the Syrian Opposition Coalitions vision for a Syria that is a free, democratic country where human rights are safeguarded by rule of law and freedom of religion and the respect of minorities is paramount. The SOC represents the broad spectrum of Syrian society including Sunnis, Christians, Kurds, Druze and most importantly Alawis. They represent the moderate majority.

Secondly, Geneva II must redress the military disadvantage faced by the Syrian Free Army, which receives no weapons from the international community to defend themselves and their communities. On the one hand the Regime, which has over 300,000 soldiers receives support from Iran through support on the ground from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Hezbollah, training, light weapons, munitions and electronic intelligence and from Russia through their support with military advisors, heavy weapons and missile systems. On the other hand, their Al Qa’eda linked rivals ISIS and Jabat al Nusra, while still relatively small (up to 15,000) receive support from extremist networks primarily in the Gulf. The FSA is a broad coalition of ordinary citizens and defectors and number up to 150,000 militia men who are trying to protect their communities. But they are literally running out of guns and bullets. It is no surprise then that they are being driven into the hands of the better funded better supported extremists. Doing nothing is no longer an option. If we fail to provide the means for the FSA to defend themselves and their communities, the combination of Assad and the extremists could annihilate the only opposition who are moderate and in favour of a peaceful solution.  As one senior member of the SOC said to me last week, ‘while the talking continues my people continue to get slaughtered and bombed in their thousands. We need to protect ourselves.’

Thirdly, Geneva II needs to put pressure on the regime to allow a humanitarian corridor and a safe zone in Syria. In the 3 years since the civil war started over 2.3 million people have left the country into neighbouring  Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. This is putting enormous social and political pressure on these countries, especially Lebanon and Jordan. Unlike other Arab Springs which were implosions, the Syrian Arab Spring is an explosion that is ‘infecting’ its neighbours. Combined with the 9 million internally displaced people, we have one of the worst humanitarian crises since the Second World War.

Overall, Geneva II must do everything it can to bolster the Syrian Opposition Coalition, by creating a secure hub for moderates, capable of defending itself and establishing a democratic, secular and tolerant future for Syria.

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Show comments
  • Mo Dog

    Was this article ghost written by Ajem Choudry or an ISIS sympathizer, maybe a Sultan of Saudi Arabia? Give majoritarian rule a chance in Syria and the Sunni kill off all non-sunnis. Egypt gave enough insight into that future.

  • John Marshall

    The SNC is as powerless as it has always been, the FSA a paper army. Islamists have been the main fighters against the SAA and always have been. It is a conflict between the Conservative rural Islamists and Secular Baathists. Democrats are terrible warriors and rarely do they come to power after revolutions, Brook Newmark’s vision for a future Syria is laughable at this point in time.

  • Tom Tom

    Brooks, I think you are wrong. I am more interested in why it was thought an appropriate time for Sharon to “die” finally. The choreography in the region is bemusing and I expect Erdogan to fall before Assad

  • Mynydd

    Syria is not our problem full stop. Mr Cameron/Hague should but out, they have enough problems here at home.

    • Tom Tom

      On but it is. You cannot start a fire and walk away. Saudi terror boss Prince Bandar has threatened Putin over Sochi and Volgograd was the foretaste. US/UK have uncapped terrorism in Iraq and Syria where none existed before……and it was MI6/CIA that unleashed it in Afghanistan and the Caucasus using Saudi money……this mess has blowback big time

  • Graeme S

    This is a case of my enemies, enemy is not my friend … How much blood will be spilt gallons and gallons I am afriad

  • Daniel Maris

    I’ve no idea why the Spectator are giving space to the MP for Braintree on this matter.

    Mr Newmark (who appears far more American than British – see Wikipedia entry for him) seems to have taken an inordinate interest in Syria for many years – long before this conflict. What his motives are, remain a mystery.

    Fortunately he was not able to drag us into a war in support of Jihadists in this area.

    From Wikipedia:

    “Newmark first met Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in 2006 and continued “regular”
    one-on-one meetings until 2011, the start of the civil war.”

    Who was Mr Newmark representing at those meetings? What were their purpose? Reading this article, you’d think he’d never met the guy!

    • Tom Tom

      Brooks has his interests from his days at Lehman and his partnerships. Maybe he is just a John Keegan fan (his wife) and likes military history or perhaps gas pipelines are of interest – which one do you prefer ? the Iranian one through Iraq and Syria or the Qatari one through Jordan and Syria ?

      • mauman

        He would back the Qatari one of, of course

    • mauman

      seems he won’t send his kids to British schools either. off to Harvard. not bad for an MP’s salary.
      And his earlier history. All things military and married to a military historian’s daughter.
      The army links are definitely there. Wonder if that includes arms firms.

      seems like Braintree is getting no attention from their MP at all….

    • mauman

      from his Daily Mail piece.
      I can only deduce that this is also a pack of lies.
      “I asked him why he had allowed insurgents to pass through Syria freely during the Iraq War in order to attack British and American soldiers.” answer “If they want to get themselves killed by your soldiers that’s up to them. If I don’t let them go through they may turn on me and start a revolution to get rid of me”
      Yeah, right!

      • Daniel Maris

        Doesn’t sound like the way most Arab leaders speak.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          That’s the way EVERY ONE of them speaks, laddie.

          • mauman

            uh, no, laddie. They just crush them.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              Well, yea, it’s either one or the other. Libya, Egypt and Syria just let the islamofascists just pass right through, on their way to kill the infidels. Now, if they decided to stick around and make themselves at home, they’d have crushed them.

          • Daniel Maris

            You’re an Arabist now are you? Latest string to your bow.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              …no, but you’re a socialist nutter, fantasizing your own version of reality.

    • mauman

      According the snivelling Hague on Brooks’ visit : “Brooks Newmark went to Damascus in a personal capacity, having visited President Assad on previous occasions at his own expense, but informed and consulted me in advance. He paid for his visit himself”
      Why would he do that?
      Braintree MP visiting President Assad, unofficially. Did Assad say no to business proposals by any chance? Is that why he “has to go”

      • Daniel Maris

        Well if he won’t tell us about all that in an article devoted to the subject of Assad, when will he?

    • mauman

      Brooks “Less than 24 hours ago, I was on the Syrian border, where I have spent the past few days meeting Syrian oppositionfighters from the Free Syrian Army—the FSA.”

      WHY? What business does a Braintree MP have there?

      • Daniel Maris


    • mauman

      things are becoming a bit clearer:

      Overseas visits
      Name of donor: Majlis As Shura, Shura Council of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
      And we all know about Saudi Arabia, don’t we?

      • Daniel Maris

        Ah – the clouds begin to clear…a little.

    • mauman

      Apollo? A channel Islands based Alternative assets company. Again. a junior MP for Braintree advising them?
      That’s at least a bigger city MP role. Sheffield at least!

    • mauman

      ” The return flight to China was paid personally. (Registered 25 September 2007″ why?
      22-26 April 2007, to Iran, to engage in dialogue with Iranian Parliamentarians and others on current affairs in Iran
      27 May-2 June 2007, to Syria

      24-29 September 2006, to Syria and Lebanon, on fact-finding visit to meet senior politicians. Flights and accommodation provided by the Conservative Middle East Council

      Who are the “Conservative Middle East council” ?

      “8-13 January 2006, to Israel, hosted by Conservative Friends of Israel.”
      Now this one is no surprise. The Friends of Israel club.

      “Donation to my constituency party received from Mr M Lewis (business man – personal donation)

      This is the same man who paid for his trip to Washington. He must be a nice guy

      Seems more like Braintree is a place to stay low, but still have the rights and privileges AND INFLUENCE of an MP

      • tastemylogos

        Those damn jews, right? Hope you cleared them from under your bed. They come out of an evening and suck your blood remember. BE CAREFUL. WARY OF THE JEW. ALL 13 MILLION OF THEM ARE EEEVVVVEEEERRRRYYYWWWHHHHEEEERRRREEEE.


        • mauman

          just the Israeli leadership, you idiot.
          What a childish reply. grow up.
          Anyone who thinks Israel is in no way involved is an ignorant moron. I’ll put you on the list

          • tastemylogos

            > Anyone who thinks Israel is in no way involved is an ignorant moron.

            Them Israelis love unstable borders. hahahahaha. THEY WOULD LOVE JIHADIS ON THEIR BORDER. It’s me who is an idiot 😉

            > I’ll put you on the list

            For the gas chambers?

            • Daniel Maris

              You have to explain why analysts – not anti-semites – say Israel supports the opposition then.

              • tastemylogos

                Yoiu’ll have to explain to me why you are incapable of thinking for yourself whilst squaring this hypothesis with Israel’s publically stated and easily deduced fears.

          • tastemylogos

            Hitler’s mein kampf read: It is not the Juden per se, but the communists.

            You his ghost writer? You sound eerily similar.

            • Daniel Maris

              So you are saying no one can criticise Newmark’s attempts to drag us into a war or query what was the purpose of all his many visits to Assad? That’s just plain silly.

              • tastemylogos

                > So you are saying no one can criticise Newmark’s attempts to drag us into a war or query what was the purpose of all his many visits to Assad? That’s just plain silly.

                Your IQ is clearly no higher than that of an autistic chimp because, no, that’s not what I think. evidently.

        • Daniel Maris

          Don’t be silly. Mr Newmark is coming here, pontificating about Syria without giving any account of his personal role as some sort of emissary to Assad. It is well known that Israel supports – for reasons I have never been able to comprehend – the rebels in Syria. Possibly they think a victory for Sunnis there will hasten a general Sunni-Shia civil war, which will allow Israel to survive for another few decades as Muslims beat the s out of each other.

          I have no idea what Mr Newmark’s relationship with the Israeli government is, but he has NOT explained what all those visits to Assad were about (particularly given he is now looking to have the guy deposed).

          People of Jewish origin tend to support Israel and sometimes have very close relationships with various Israeli agencies, as countless biographies attest. That is simply a matter of fact. In other words, it would be a surprise if Mr Newmark was unsupportive of Israel.

          • tastemylogos

            > ‘ It is well known that Israel supports – for reasons I have never been able to comprehend – the rebels in Syria.’

            cite it. well known by who? cranks and thickos like you? You are talking bullsh!t and you sound ‘propa darft’ as they say in Brixton.

          • Guest

            > That is simply a matter of fact.

            problem with ppeople like you is not only stupidity (fact?) but the seeming intractible problem of differentiating between ‘fact’ and baseless ‘extrapolation’. dear oh dear.

            • Alexandrovich

              What a thoroughly bitter and twisted individual you must be.

            • Daniel Maris

              I am not clear what you are asserting. Are you claiming that people of Jewish origin tend NOT to support Israel?

  • Eyesee

    Your article begins by pointing out that Assad will go because even his supporters will tire of him and then it’s curtains. Not the killing, but politics that will get rid of him and possibly stabilise the country. External, international politics. Now, if we had always had an international body, with clear terms of reference regarding the good administration of a country, what are acceptable standards of civilised behaviour and what is not, then we could probably avoid situations like ‘Syria’. We could call it United Nations perhaps. Oh wait, we already have that construct. Except it is debased in its judgement below even the level of Assad. A useless, expensive talking shop. And then there is the mysterious Middle East envoy, who represents we know not who. And the situation needed a corrupt, morally bankrupt individual?

    • Tom Tom

      By that token Samaris, Hollande, Rajoy, Letta, Cameron can all happily depart since noone wants them

  • mauman

    LAUGHABLE propaganda.
    The SNC apparently announced they won’t be attending. “friends of Syria” aka the “instigators of the war”
    I haven’t seen such a load of one-sided bullshit in a long time. Goebbels would be proud.

  • MaxSceptic

    Assad is only a figurehead, representing the Alawite elite who’ve ruled Syria since it became independent. When they fall, they’ll be massacred (with the Christians as their ‘collaborators’).

    To stop themselves being massacred by the Sunnis, the Alawites have to massacre the Sunnis.

    A nice, soft, fluffy, liberal-democratic secular Syrian Arab Spring is not on the cards – and never was (except in the imagination of pink-spectacled wishful-thinkers).

    • Rockin Ron

      I think you are right, hadn’t thought of it like that.

      • HookesLaw

        Really? Left to its own devices Syria might well descend into even more bloodshed. All the more reason for it not to be left alone, which is the point of the Geneva Conference.
        Contrary to Sceptics opinion there is no reason why the region should descend into massacres if the will is there to prevent it. This is what the UN and the ‘international community’ is supposedly for.

        • mauman

          left to it’s own devices, it would not be destroyed now, 100 000 people would be alive and a million other in the un-destroyed homes. Obama, Hague et al would not be looking like the idiots they look like now

        • Tom Tom

          The funniest thing in the cooperation since last summer between Syrian Intelligence and Western agencies unsure how many Jihadis are coming home

        • MaxSceptic

          “This is what the UN and the ‘international community’ is supposedly for.”

          So long as we’re not part of the army that will be needed to prevent these people from killing each other.

          As Bismarck valued the Balkans, so I value the ME.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          Left to its own devices, Syria would no longer have to deal with you socialist Camerluvvies and your islamofascist buddies, who are trying to hijack the country and destroy all Christians there.

      • Peter Stroud

        I reluctantly agree. Sad but almost certainly correct.

    • Tom Tom

      Actually the Alewites and Kurds have to assert their rights in Turkey to survive and split Turkey to create a Kurdistan buffer state for Russia

      • dalai guevara

        We note that delegations of foreign contractors have long entered Kurdistan to establish whether German Zero-Carbon home standards would be the right way forward in a hilly terrain. Perhaps that is not yet affordable.

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