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Western Military Intervention Won’t Help Syria
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Sumantra Maitra | Date:06 May , 2017 0 Comments
Sumantra Maitra
is doctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham, UK.

The drums of Western military intervention in Syria started banging again in Liberal analytical circles, as renowned voices started calling for another middle east intervention in the West. Surveys upon surveys suggest that majority of British and Americans don’t want to be involved in Middle East, and that Donald Trump himself won over the platform of non-interventionism and nation building at home.[i] 

Armed with yet another uncorroborated report of chemical attack, the natural liberal loop of interventionism is however back, as President Trump launched a series of missiles at a base that was arguably used to launch chemical weapons by the regime in Syria.

On closer observation, the report of the chemical attack is extremely unsubstantiated. [ii]There were no western or independent journalists present, nor were there any reporters who saw any chemical weapon attack. The only news were agency reporters, who reached the area after the strike happened, and who then went on to check the secondary sources of local rebels and residents, almost all of whom are pro-Saudi Wahhabi forces, and therefore reflexively anti-Assad. The videos of the effect of gas attacks are also all secondary rebel sources.

Consider the logic and evidence. The only group or actor in the entire conflict, who does not gain from any chemical attack, is Assad. The American led government is all but disinterested with Syria, and the American public are heavily opposed to any new middle east misadventure. It defies logic that Assad, who’s almost slowly but steadily winning the conflict, would try to escalate by testing the patience of the United States which doesn’t want to join the fray. On top of that, the evidence of chemical weapons is dodgy, and unsubstantiated without direct proof, or independent verification.

The last time chemical weapons were used, it was not done by Assad, but by the rebels.[iii] None other than United Nations claimed that. One of the prime rebel sources, who is constantly on social media prattling about chemical attacks and being quoted by Western journalists, is a convicted terrorist doctor who lost his medical license in UK for kidnapping a journalist.[iv] None of them are unbiased primary sources, and almost all the parties would love the United States to join the fray. Former UK ambassador to Syria, Mr Peter Ford mentioned that this was a dangerous escalation, as the rebels would now know that would bring the United States to the fray, thus increasing the chances of a false flag operation. [v]To paraphrase Bob Gates’s words, the Saudis and Wahhabis would fight Iran in Middle east to the last Americans. [vi] In sum, this is purely a regional Great power war between sectarian forces, with no good alternative if Assad is toppled.

All this debate about chemical weapons capability, and the attribution however miss three simple questions. First, what is the key strategic objective and interest for the West in middle east. Second, what are the ways and means to achieve this key strategic objective. Three, what to do if this inevitably escalates or morphs into something much bigger.

Let’s consider the first one. There is no key strategic objective or interest of the West in middle east. It is a zone of declining geostrategicimportance, and a region where anti-western sentiments are extreme. A glance at the PEW surveys shows that, even in supposedly friendly Jordan, anti-American sentiments are over 50 percent. Also, the Western interventions have turned the region into a complete hell and has destabilized Europe. The intervention and nation building in Iraq, didn’t work, nor did the intervention and non-nation building in Libya, and the proxy war funded by the Gulf states in Syria. All it did is devastate a region ruled by secular leaders, where jihadists have filled in the vacuum. The morality question of a chemical weapon attack rings hollow as well, when Saudi Arabia currently is bombing in Yemen with British weapons, and is accused of using banned Phosphorus shells.

The next question is, what to do once Assad is toppled? There appears no good alternative to Assad, and no single force that could unify a Syria divided into sectarian groups, each funded and armed by a regional power, including Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Considering for a moment that the Western jets bomb and conduct a regime change in Syria, there appears no viable alternative to fill the gap and be a leading figure.There are also valid speculations as to what happened to the Al Nusra and other extremists after the collapse of Aleppo; angood possibility that they disappeared among the “moderate” rebels.

These are rational and logical questions. The people who are promoting an intervention are,however,neither rational, nor logical. They are as ideological and Wilsonian as they come, with a misguided dream to transform the world into some sort of a postmodern liberal democracy, without considering that every society is in a unique evolutionary stage, where imposition of a classic and universal Western political construct is impossible. Unfortunately, reality has a way of ruining these misguided ideological dreams.


[i] For further reading, see, PEW surveys, available online at

tank/2013/05/02/middle-eastern-and-western-publics-wary-on-syrian-intervention/; and Royal Institute of International Affairs study available online at

[ii] “It’s WMD all over again. Why don’t you see it?” Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday, 5th April, 2017

[iii] “UN’s Del Ponte says evidence Syria rebels ‘used sarin'” 6 May 2013, BBC.

[iv] NHS doctor to face trial accused of kidnapping UK photographer in Syria, Guardian November 2, 2012.

[v] “‘Assad not mad’ enough to use chemical weapons: Former UK ambassador”  7 April 2017, Middle East Eye

[vi] “Gates: Saudis want to fight Iran to the last American” December 1, 2010, Foreign Policy


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