Thursday 18 January 2018

Syria civil war could rage for years, warns senior US official

Bashar al Assad
Bashar al Assad

Philip Sherwell New York and Rowena Mason

A senior US intelligence official has warned that Syria's civil war could rage for several years and that the conflict is reviving al-Qa'ida in Iraq.

David Shedd, deputy director of the US Defence Intelligence Agency, delivered one of the grimmest public assessments of the Syrian conflict there as he described the increasing strength of Islamic radicals in the Middle East.

His sobering analysis was echoed by British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday. Syria "is a very depressing picture and it is a picture which is on the wrong trajectory", he said.

"There is too much extremism among the rebels. There is also still appalling behaviour from this dreadful regime using chemical weapons.

"There is an enormous overspill of problems into neighbouring countries.

"Assad may be stronger than he was a few months ago but I'd still describe the situation as a stalemate," Mr Cameron said.

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, Mr Shedd said that if Mr Assad held on to power, he would be a "more ruthless leader who will live with a legacy of tens of thousands of his civilians killed".

But if he was ousted, Mr Shedd predicted a widening sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims that would tear Syria apart "for years to come".

He noted that al-Qa'ida in Iraq, a force that was almost wiped out by US forces in 2007, had been revived by its role in the conflict.

A wave of car bombs ripped through Shia districts in Baghdad yesterday and at least 65 people were killed across Iraq, taking the death toll from bombs and attacks this month to more than 520.

DEADLIEST

With July on course to be the deadliest month there in five years, the outgoing United Nations mission chief in Iraq added to the dire analysis.

Martin Kobler told the Security Council the escalating violence in Iraq was a spillover from Syria as "the battlefields are merging".

"Iraq is the fault line between the Shia and the Sunni world and everything which happens in Syria, of course, has repercussions on the political landscape in Iraq," he said.

Mr Shedd acknowledged the challenge of identifying and helping moderate Syrian rebel forces.

The British government has also backed away from plans to supply the moderate opposition amid warnings from senior military figures that weapons could end up with extremists, potentially presenting a long-term threat to British security. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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