G8 Conference and Conflict in Syria

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Date: Wed 19th June 2013

The G8 Conference in Northern Ireland and discussions over the conflict in Syria has understandably dominated the news this week.

Almost 100,000 Syrians have already died in the conflict, which began in May 2011, after the Syrian Government was accused of arresting and torturing a group of young protestors.

This week the US announced they would provide assistance to the Syrian rebels in the form of weapons and ammunition.  This followed tests that had shown the chemical weapon Sarin had been used by the Assad Government.

President Assad is undoubtedly a rogue leader but I am not convinced that providing arms to the rebel fighters is the right response.  Both sides have committed atrocities in this struggle and there are dangers in providing weapons in such a volatile situation. 

The conflict is not a clear-cut division, but composed of a number of different groups on both the Government and rebel sides.  It would therefore be incredibly difficult to control what happens to those weapons once they are handed over.  There are Al-Qaeda elements working with the rebels who could subsequently be in possession of any weapons given to the mainstream rebels.

The other very real concern is of this becoming a conflict by proxy, where each side is armed by different countries and it becomes an international, rather than civil, conflict. Both Iran and Russia support the Assad Government whereas Britain and the US do not. 

We are already assisting the people of Syria. We are actively involved in providing diplomatic assistance and military advice.  However, I remain uneasy about providing military hardware in such a complex and uncertain environment. 

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