What next on Syria?

 

Could Homs become the new Hama?

In other words, could Syria's President Bashar al-Assad be about to follow the example of his father President, Hafez al-Assad, who massacred not just hundreds but thousands and, perhaps, tens of thousands of people 30 years ago in order to quell a revolt against his regime? *

That was the fear discussed at a meeting of the National Security Council chaired by David Cameron. It examined the consequences of Russia and China's veto of a United Nations resolution condemning the Assad regime.

Ministers believe there are only two possibilities now - either Russia changes its mind and decides to turn on the Syrian regime, or some of those who wanted a UN resolution will arm the Syrian rebels.

Ministers are concerned that the Syrian opposition are not as organised or co-ordinated as the Libyan forces who assembled in Benghazi. They are keen to do all they can to help whilst trying to avoid the appearance of a rebellion led or organised by the West.

The next key move will be made by the Arab League when it meets this Saturday but the British government has discussed the possibility of staging an international conference on the future of Syria in London to bring together opponents of President Assad.

Many of those interested in the future of Syria are due to be in the UK anyway in a little over a fortnight's time for the London Somalia Conference. That event on 23 February will see senior representatives from more than 40 governments gathering in the capital, along with the UN, AU, EU, World Bank, the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the League of Arab States.

The aim of any conference would be to encourage greater co-ordination between different Syrian factions and open discussions between them and their potential supporters in North Africa, the Gulf States and some Arab states.

Some will draw parallels with the Libya Conference in London last year, which was the precursor to military action. Ministers are clear that there is no chance of that, though once again it is the Qataris who are taking the lead in the region and it is they who are expected to arm the rebels.

* The Hama massacre in February 1982 effectively ended a campaign by Sunni Muslims, including the Muslim Brotherhood, against Assad's regime. Reports of the number killed range from 1,000 killed to 40,000. Witnesses to the attack recall it on this BBC World Service programme.

 
Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 68.

    The economy of the UK is slowly going into meltdown with another £50 billion printed today. In the meantime Cameron, posing as some sort of world statesman, is concentrating on our good friends (?) in Syria. Naming Russia and China as emerging markets, and then having a sideways swipe at them is not a great sales ploy.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 67.

    49.AndyC555

    Most hardworking people paying considerable tax on modest wages, often PAYE with little choice.

    Meanwhile others set up an overseas bank account in the name of their dog and their boss pays £200,000 into it. It is labelled an 'investment' and tax is not paid. This is lawful.

    I think this case actually demonstrates very clearly what people are saying about the tax system.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 66.

    Assad of course may be right in his assertions that the revolt is due to outside influences with a view to regime change. In which case Russia and China, who may well have this information have decided to upset the plan. This arguably could be a case of creating a situation, and then standing back to condem the likely consequences to bring about change in Syria.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 65.

    49,50. A new verdict under English law: innocent by virtue of charismatic cockney charm and of love of football.
    Two probs.: 1. INCOME EQUALITY must be seen as applying to likely-lads as well as to aristos (with the toffs doing the manual work!) 2. If Ed M shot Lansley and declared class war, the 99% would just see it as the arcane ruling elite squabbling. Revolution is bottom up not top down.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 64.

    The West has won this battle. Syria will change, one way or another. The Arab states will remember the positions of China and Russia and in the long run they just made a major mistake. Consistent with their views but out of touch with reality. Cynicism directs Russian policies and the pay-back by the Arab states will be at the appropriate time. Putin and Assad have similar views on government.

 

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