Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Non-intervention in Syria is not an option

The situation in Syria and the surrounding area is catastrophic. The numbers killed and maimed continues to climb. The United Nations now supports three-quarters of the country’s 20 million population. There are over 2.3 million refugees across Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordon and Iraq.

This month the Geneva 2 conference will attempt to bring together many of the participants to the conflict to discuss reducing the violence. It is vital they take as their starting point the wishes of the Syrian people who have suffered so much since 2011.

With MPs from across the House I have signed a letter which appears in today’s Times. It calls for the Geneva process to chart the transition toward a Syria free of Assad’s rule. There is no possibility of an agreed ceasefire, let alone any process towards peace and reconciliation, if the dictator and his supporters remain.

Second, it identifies the need to redress the military disadvantage faced by the Free Syrian Army because of its commitment to a democratic political process. To those who are not persuaded by the need to intervene and say, ‘Intervention has nothing to do with us; it will play into the hands of al-Qaida’, I say that the reverse is true. We can and must intervene. If we do not offer this support the combination of the Assad regime and al-Qaida extremists could annihilate the only moderate force in the country.

With the UN seeking $6.5bn to alleviate the humanitarian crisis – more than it needs for the rest of the entire world – Geneva 2 must move us closer to a solution. The international community can do this by supporting the Syrian opposition coalition in its work to create a secure hub for moderates, capable of defending itself and establishing a democratic, secular and tolerant future for Syria.

In the parliamentary debate about chemical weapons last August Labour showed itself to be hesitant in supporting any kind of intervention in Syria. This, in my view, was a mistake. Not only does the UN doctrine of Responsibility to Protect legitimise intervention but the price of non-intervention to date has been a burgeoning humanitarian crisis, many more dead and injured and the establishment of al-Qaida in the country.

A successful diplomatic initiative is, of course, preferable to military intervention. But diplomatic and peace efforts have completely failed so far, and show little prospect of success. Are we really going to continue to sit on the sidelines wringing our hands?


Meg Munn is member of parliament for Sheffield Heeley. She tweets @MegMunnMP


Photo: Freedom House

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Meg Munn MP

is MP for Sheffield Heeley


  • The abiding characteristic of deeply unpleasant, undemocratic states is their propensity for occasional self slaughter.
    It’s building up nicely in Africa, and can’t be far away in the rest of the Middle East.
    The western democracies can choose a winner and support them, at least till their hatred bursts forth and they turn the guns on us as well as each other. Or we can stay well away from these often suicidally-religious hell holes and do our best to look after the inevitable casualties. That is something we happen to be extremely good at.
    Stoking the fire simply keeps it burning longer.

  • The UN needs to intervene. The seriousness of the situation needs a radical course of action. This was taken in Europe in fairly recent history and needs to be taken again

    Separate part of Syria as a protected zone, enforced and protected. This may involve a so called ‘steel wall’ which will protect those seeking peace. Those who look for power through death and fear should be kept outside until the futility and waste of life leads to a new course of action. Syria has too large a displaced population for others to support in other places. The logistical costs alone could be spent on direct basic needs in the land of their birth. We have to give peaceful Syrians the best chance to return and reoccupy their homelands. This can not be achieved by a separated Nation in other lands, to advocate such a split will take generations to return to democratic Nationhood.

  • Like intervention has done SO well in Iraq and Afghanistan and helped nation-building there…military involvement in Syria will just embroil us in yet more unwinnable, difficult conflict that will cost us money, lives, and still further depreciate our stock in the Middle East. But if the Americans want it, then Progress will back it.

  • ‘Jaw-Jaw is better than War-War’ said WSC in WW2 — but millions still died. Notwithstanding his warning, Churchill’s restraining remarks were ignored by Adolf sHitler as he was a paranoid/delusional/psychopathic/schizophrenic drugged-out murderer the likes of which we hope never to see on this planet’s face ever again. But that’s not the way history has taught us – they pop up every few years down the ages. Pres Assad of Syria is married to a British born woman, which I only mention as she must have family in the UK who are looking at the unfolding Syrian horror story with dismay, as we all are. Assad’s mostly quiet, and, what seems to be, a very professional demeanour, as is portrayed over TV clips, is so very unlike any madman I have ever seen ‘gracing’ our news reels. He appears to be focussed and in control of all his faculties. Who are his opponents and what is their argument about? I, like ‘000s of other Britons would love to know — we only see our lads and lasses being shipped out to got to war [again] and sometimes being shipped back in black bags, not knowing the why’s and wherefores, only that some politician has made his or her mind up that “Enuf is Enuf! Send in the Troops!”. We as citizens in UK, civilians mostly at the moment, in UK [ and Scotland at present] have a right to know before any pre-emptive strikes are made by United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force fighter jets — we don’t want another Tony & George closed-doors fiasco on our hands [on the eve of 2015 GE do we Ed?]. Any sane citizen would suggest UKs lobbying in Geneva should take the form of restraint, and not knee-jerk politicking: ‘Syria! Desist! Its gone on for too long now’, which sounds very much like a school ma’am chastising a wayward child. WAR IS FOR KEEPS, remember that when the casualty reports come in

    Any UN initiative which is not backed by a Russia and Chinese dead in the water, to use a phrase. Syrian citizens are suffering badly. So are Congolese/CAR and a half dozen other African States suffering as badly if not worse: CANNIBALISM [cannibilism last night’s news in Congo] can’t be nice to see by anyone, medic, soldier or civilian. Can anyone explain the ‘root causes’ to me of all these strife-torn SOVEREIGN States? A non-specific ‘ Oh! its sectarian, secular and ethnocentric-religious’ answer won’t suffice for me as I am confused with the definitions used these days.

    Whatever terms we use, Churchill’s ‘jaw-jaw/war-war’ comment can also be read as being a generic derivative of THOU SHALT NOT KILL. Protect innocents by all means at our disposal, but don’t instigate further death of innocents and our soldiers because you are tired of all the ‘Jaw-Jaw’ and they still haven’t learned their lesson. What lesson was that, Ma’am? Which page again?.Diplomacy and dialogues are what politicians are supposed to be good at [?] and are further paid princely salaries to do so.Don’t advocate War ever again. Protecting the innocent and sending in a PEACE FORCE — IF WE ARE ASKED TO DO SO.

    If the United Nation’s member States don’t have any ‘qwik-fix’ solutions, and it seems Mr Banki-Moon as Sec’General, is completely powerless and out of his depth on Syria and has his own financial and ideological limitations when he considers not wanting to end up skint@UN, again by being made cash-$-strapped by USA non-payment of members fees [ the US is still the biggest $ contributor to UN] on the one hand and ideologically challenged by China and Russia on the other. Britain is are a 5th-rate [sliding to 6th soon] power in the world and we have a very quiet Sec’State Will Hague as our current FO-mouthpiece who has very little to offer in the form of Jaw-Jaw advice for Syrians [no news there then]. At least TB, my hero, had some backing from political parties over Iraq and was not afraid of a tough decision — he spoke up. Was he right? Only history will tell us the answer to that one.

    it ends up now with Syria needing assistance of UK — says who? who in Syria has ASKED for our help? Be specific, i.e., a name will do, ma’am. Using UK armed forces were a total failure in Afghanistan and Iran. Not on the part of the soldiers who were and still are “UP.4.IT” Politicians’ decisions we can only hope are guided by recent history — very recent as WAR still happening in Afghanistan as we speak.
    Jaw-Jaw still sounds better than War-War Winnie.

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