Daily Telegraph – 22 February 2019
Con Coughlin (Comment, February 20) rightly notes that UK politicians were naive to expect military action to bring democracy and pluralism to the state of Syria.
Yet that outcome was never on offer – not in 2013, when Parliament was asked to approve attacking one side in the Syrian civil war, nor two years later, when it was asked to approve attacking the opposite side in the same civil war.
As was said at the time, there was no third option between President Bashar al-Assad and the Islamists. It truly was a choice between “monsters and maniacs” – brutal authoritarians or totalitarian extremists. Challenged on this point, David Cameron, prime minister at the time, declared:
“Is there a third way between a Daesh-style state and President Assad, the butcher, remaining in charge of this country? My answer would be that there has to be a third way, we have to find a third way.” (Liaison Committee evidence, January 12, 2016)
His notion of 70,000 “moderate” fighters was a fantasy. Apart from the regional Kurdish-led forces, there were few ground troops in Syria for the RAF to support. If Assad had gone the way of Saddam and Gaddafi, not only would another Islamist swamp have emerged in Syria, but the regime’s stockpile of deadly chemical weapons would have fallen into the hands of Daesh and al-Qaeda lookalike groups. And to what use would they have been put after that?
Dr JULIAN LEWIS MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA