Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Syria Seven Years On

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 19th March, 2018

Syria destruction 4 largeSeven years ago, as the Arab Spring swept across North Africa and the Middle East, demonstrations began in Syria. By chance I was there when the first manifestations occurred, in Deraa, before they spread to other cities — especially after the violent way the authorities cracked down on the early protesters. This was hailed by enthusiasts as Syria’s Revolution, with the major commercial centre Aleppo mainly coming under rebel control. But how badly things subsequently went wrong. Seven years on, the revolution that turned into a civil war is still going on — longer than either the First or Second World War — hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced and much of the country is in ruins. Bashar al-Assad and his mafia-like clique are still in charge and indeed since the Russians and Iranians piled in are increasingly with the upper hand, pounding and moving in on remaining rebel strongholds such as eastern Ghouta.

Last night I took part in a debate on Orient News TV, a Syria-focussed TV station based in Dubai and Amman, discussing the seventh anniversary. I was asked why Europe failed to get as deeply involved in Syria as the Russians have and explained how Britain in particular was scarred by the negative experience of the Iraq War and late by the chaotic outcome of the Libyan intervention. Besides, given the history of colonialism in the area, would the Syrian people really have taken kindly to British or French involvement? There are some in Britain who regret that Parliament voted against intervention in 2013, but would it have made a positive contribution if the vote had gone the other way? The UK only really got involved when it came to fighting Daesh (ISIS), and now limits activity mainly to RAF reconnaissance and personnel training. The US has been more directly involved, especially in helping the Kurds, who are now under attack from Turkey, while funding for some of the self-styled Islamic groups have had huge backing from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The Assad government, emboldened by recent military successes, brands all opposing forces as terrorists, but in truth they are a motley crew, pursuing different agendas. But the voices of the ordinary people who just wanted a taste of greater freedom and democracy than that accorded them by the Assad dynasty have been almost completely drowned out. And a peaceful settlement remains tantalisingly elusive.

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