Eamon Delaney: Syrians want to overthrow a tyrant but we're standing idly by
The EU embargo on arms going to Syria is in disarray and a good thing it is too. But it is no thanks to the Irish, with our politicians once again clinging to a strictly neutralist policy that shies away from helping the small man to militarily defend himself and sticking to some pious notion of peace negotiations even when war is raging and dictators are on the loose. It was the same with our stance on Bosnia.
Britain and France want to lift the embargo and so allow the moderate rebels in Syria to arm themselves in overthrowing the dictator Assad and, most importantly, gain influence against the resurgent Islamic rebels there.
While it is true that no one wants to see the further militarisation of any conflict, as Eamon Gilmore says, it is also true that arms are already flooding into Syria from the Gulf States for Islamic radicals – and from Russia to Assad himself – and so the whole reluctance to send in more weapons is immaterial.
Worse, it is irresponsible and callous for it abandons the moderate opposition cause against Assad and ensures that in the end it will be the Islamic radicals who take over. And we know what that means – not just for Syria but for the whole region.
Once again, Ireland has taken the cowardly way out.
We could have supported the progressive motion of France and the UK, and the US, and thought beyond our own 'neutralist' timidity. Saying we don't want to militarise the situation further is exactly what Ireland said when it opposed the lifting of an arms embargo during the Bosnian war, thereby abandoning Bosnians to slaughter by the Serbs.
Gilmore said that Ireland's preference is for a peaceful, political situation in Syria. Well, we'd all like that but there's not a hope of it happening. It is a fight to the finish now and it will only get worse.
The only reason Assad has suddenly considered joining international peace talks is that he has recently been boosted on the battlefield by aid from Iran and Russia.
He will string talks along while he increases his bloody grip and Russia supports slaughter.
Should we just stand by and watch?
When the two sides are so unevenly matched, one with warplanes, tanks – and chemical weapons – and the other with rifles and rocket launchers, shouldn't we let the rebels defend themselves? And if we don't, the Gulf states will and the whole opposition will become Islamicised.
The reality is that the West should use what influence it can in the Syrian situation, which has the potential to make unstable the whole Middle East, with global consequences.
Look at the awful murder in Woolwich. Remember, the West also abandoned the Iranian moderate opposition after the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, and look what we got – 30 years of an Islamic Iran!
Libya offers a good example of how the West got involved robustly and early on, and prevented the revolt against Gaddafi from becoming an Islamic one. A radical Islamic regime was prevented from taking power right across the Mediterranean from Europe, by the early sustained action of the UK, France and the US.
This is the same triumvirate who believe that we should do the same in Syria. It is also why France is active in Mali – with our support, by the way.
Irish troops are on the ground there, advising the Mali military on how to fight the Islamic militants who threaten the whole region.
This situation in Syria does not require any such involvement from us.
All it does is ask us to lift the embargo so that other EU states can arm the Syrian opposition to overthrow a tyrant and prevent an Islamic takeover.
So stop clinging to Ireland's outdated notions of strict neutrality, Tanaiste, and face up to our new and more dangerous world.
Let's remember, after all, how we recently pardoned those Irish soldiers who left our 'strictly neutral' army in World War Two to go and fight for democracy in Europe.