Monday 18 December 2017

Alex Spillius: Assad's regime has gone beyond the point of no return .. but how does the West get shot of him?

THERE is one thing that everyone agrees about Syria – that President Bashar al-Assad will go. No leader can kill as many of his people in such a short time and hope to stay in power. His murderous regime has passed the point of no return. With every day that its rockets and shells demolish buildings on top of women and children in Homs, with every execution of a soldier who refuses to fire on civilians and every digitally recorded police beating, he and his ruling cabal travel further along the road of unacceptability.

What no one in the international governments determined to see him gone can quite agree on is how to hasten that end. Western nations and the Arab League invested a great deal in a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have condemned the violence and called for a transition to democracy. A resolution would have sent a powerful signal not only to Assad but also to those around him that the world was coalescing against them. Mild though the wording was – the text contained no mention of sanctions or the specific removal of Assad – Russia and China exercised their power of veto.

Moscow feared losing its last major ally in the Middle East, an arms contract worth billions and its last naval facility outside the former Soviet Union. Vladimir Putin, moreover, did not want to appear weak before the West when he has an election to win next month. Beijing, meanwhile, was happy to ride in the slipstream of Russia’s non-interventionism.

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