[Published 22 September 2013]
Only divine intervention now seems likely to justify continuing support for the anti- Assad forces in Syria by the group known as the London 11 - United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
An unnamed Pentagon official has made this very clear in a Sunday Times article on 15 September headlined “Who’s calling the shots”:
“What everyone’s missing here is that the US has effectively chosen to back Assad,” a Pentagon official said. “There won’t be airstrikes in the foreseeable future and the administration has made clear that any help for the moderate opposition will be, to use Secretary Kerry’s words, unbelievably small. The facts on the ground are that Assad — who is still being armed by Russia — is winning.”
The Syrian opposition is clearly teetering on the ropes - indicating the failure of the London 11 strategy announced on 22 June:
“Doha, Qatar (CNN)—Foreign ministers from 11 countries meeting here cited the presence of foreign fighters in the country and the alleged use of chemical weapons by Damascus in agreeing Saturday to increase arms shipments to the rebels.
In a statement, the ministers representing the “London 11,” an offshoot of the “Friends of Syria,” said they would “provide urgently all the necessary materiel and equipment to the opposition on the ground, each country in its own way in order to enable them to counter brutal attacks by the regime and its allies and protect the Syrian people.”
The weapons are to be funneled through the opposition Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Military Council (SMC).
The alleged use of chemical weapons, which President Bashar al-Assad has denied, and the involvement of Hezbollah and Iran left the participants no choice:
“but to provide greater assistance of one kind or another, each nation making its own decision as to what it is comfortable doing, but all of them committing to do more to help the Syrian opposition,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters.”
Exacerbating Syria’s agony is the growing number of foreigners fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army - undoubtedly causing great concern among the London 11 as disclosed in this disturbing report in The Telegraph on 15 September:
“Opposition forces battling Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria now number around 100,000 fighters, but after more than two years of fighting they are fragmented into as many as 1,000 bands.
The new study by IHS Jane’s, a defence consultancy, estimates there are around 10,000 jihadists - who would include foreign fighters - fighting for powerful factions linked to al-Qaeda.
Another 30,000 to 35,000 are hardline Islamists who share much of the outlook of the jihadists, but are focused purely on the Syrian war rather than a wider international struggle.
There are also at least a further 30,000 moderates belonging to groups that have an Islamic character, meaning only a small minority of the rebels are linked to secular or purely nationalist groups…
...Fears that the rebellion against the Assad regime is being increasingly dominated by extremists has fuelled concerns in the West over supplying weaponry that will fall into hostile hands. These fears contributed to unease in the US and elsewhere over military intervention in Syria”
Certainly the western nations among the London 11 would have been appalled at the following remarks appearing in the Sunday Times article by a resident in the largely Christian town of Maaloula - following the entry of anti- Assad forces:
“These people are not after Bashar [al-Assad]. Their main aim and goal is to establish an Islamic caliphate. We have been living for 40 years as Christians under Assad. Now they place a gun to our head and say we have to convert to Islam.”
Another distraught resident declared:
“They broke into homes, stole things. They broke crosses and destroyed holy books. They fired at homes, ransacked, looted and destroyed anything with Christian symbols”
Moral imperatives might certainly have motivated the London 11 to initially take sides in the Syrian civil war.
However with this war claiming over 100000 deaths and seven million displaced Syrian civilians during the past 30 months - the time for the London 11 to call it a day must surely be approaching.
As the USA, Britain and France haggle with Russia in a vain attempt to procure face-saving terms for a United Nations Security Council Resolution to destroy all chemical weapons in Syria - the prospect of a ceasefire enabling their collection continues to evaporate given the disparate forces now fighting against Assad.
Intervention in Syria by the London 11 has been disastrous - as the increasing human casualties make so starkly clear.
The Pentagon official’s assessment declaring Assad the emerging winner is being increasingly confirmed with each passing day.
This conclusion may be unpalatable to the London 11 - and the group must shoulder some responsibility for the catastrophic humanitarian outcome.
A ceasefire between Assad and the SMC accompanied by an offer of safe passage and political asylum for SMC fighters and their families to the London 11 countries - would isolate the foreign jihadists - forcing them to exit Syria or die fighting Assad’s forces.
Assad would see off his armed opponents - Russia would see its pro-Assad stance justified - and the London 11 would have acted honourably to save those it supported.
These attainable goals - backed by Russia and America - represent a heaven-sent opportunity to end Syria’s hell and destroy its chemical weapons.