To Baroness Warsi: (28.08.13)
You are personally in a better positioin than most Ministers to foresee the possible unintended consequences of missile or other air-strikes. These could be very serious throughout the whole Arab and Muslim world. From being something of a pariah, Assad could be transformed into a noble victim.
It is worth recalling that the missiles launched at Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq under President Clinton, following the bombings of the US embassies, achieved remarkably little. There are strong arguments in favour of continued containment of Syria, reinforced perhaps by diplomatic contact on the ground inside Syria, with the various opposition groups (possibly excluding Al Qaeda). You may have heard the short interview with former US Ambassador, Ryan Crocker, on this point.
Robert Fisk, in an article in the Independent of 27th August, argued that air-attacks will play into the hands of Al Qaeda in Syria and strengthen the allies of the Assad regime.
As an alternative to air-strikes, I sent an email on 23rd August to William Hague, suggesting that every effort should be made to detach Assad’s allies from continuing to help him. Very powerful inducements could be offered to Iran and to Hezbollah, to persuade them to abandon Assad. You can imagine these.
To the American Embassy: ((29.08.13)
A majority of British adults probably oppose air-strikes, and few people anywhere suggest a ground attack. I share their concerns.
It is necessary to look at the past record. There have been Western bombardments of Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Mali, as wells drone attacks in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. Cruise missiles launched under President Clinton achieved remarkably little. Nevertheless, the cumulative impact on the Arab and wider Muslim world must be huge. Russia’s brutal treatment of Chechnya and Georgia begins to look modest by comparison.
Please urge your Government to beware of further unintended consequences. I can appreciate that the President may wish to avoid appearing weak, but I doubt that there is such a thing as a clean surgical strike. Assad may well emerge strengthened rather than weakened and Al Qaeda may well rejoice if force is used.
I suggest that containment of an evil regime is the most promising strategy, coupled with diplomatic efforts to detach Syria’s allies, primarily Iran and Hezbollah.