Our Prime Minister – David Cameron – has publicly signalled his intent to commit military force against the Al-Assad government in Syria, even if the full support of the United Nations cannot be secured. Have British governments not learned from the past? After the Iraq War which was carried out in similar circumstances, a sizeable proportion of people believe that Tony Blair should be arrested and punished for war crimes.
For Cameron and senior government officials, the Syrian situation is an extremely sensitive issue and needs to be handled very carefully. After the perceived failures of Iraq and Afghanistan, military action in the form of boots on the ground is unlikely to happen, especially with an election coming up so soon. The United States Secretary of State John Kerry has already advocated direct military action, so it is looking likely that the US would lead any possible military intervention.
Consequently, the UK government is in an awkward position. Major ill feeling does exist within the country about a tendency of the UK to simply follow the US no matter what; many could interpret David Cameron as following in the footsteps of Tony Blair. In addition to this, the Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband has asked his Labour members to oppose any military action unless it is supported by the UN. It would seem that Miliband has already lined up a position to criticise the government; obviously in preparation for 2015.
Of course, there is far more at stake here than just power politics, human lives are at risk. The Syrian Civil War has already taken hundreds of thousands of lives and destroyed towns and cities. An expansion of this is certainly not suitable. Syrian opposition to the government is also hampered by the fact that it is not completely united and has also been guilty of some atrocities and accused of being ruthless in dealing with civilians. The major issue is obviously the supposed chemical attack which has taken place, which is still yet to be confirmed by UN weapons inspectors.
Personally, I believe there is a much greater concern of the possibility of further fighting if there are any military strikes on government targets in Syria. There is a great risk of aggravating others in the region; mainly Iran. Iran and Russia are the only major allies that Syria has and any action by the West will probably be met with diplomatic pressure or maybe even more military action. However, most of the other Arab powers such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan are very hostile to the Al-Assad government. Turkey is also against the government, with them carrying out military manoeuvres and having suffered border clashes. The region’s major loser will be Israel, with strikes against Syria most likely leading to attacks on Israel in order to try and spark some kind of reaction to blunt this Arab support; which could get very, very messy indeed.
Now it is clear that the Syrian question will go to the Commons, the debates will rage on further. Hopefully, the majority of Britain’s politicians will bear in mind the human cost of any action, rather than just wanting to cover their backs ready for the 2015 election.