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

    Comment number 8.

    In Libya the rebel 'army' would not have survived/succeeded without the 'no-fly zone'. And that was against a barely organised Gadaffi militia. In Syria they are up against what looks like an organised and brutal army. If the UN/International community don't come up with some sort of workable approach to resolving this soon then heaven help the Syrian rebels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    War, baby.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Perhaps Tony Blair in his current role could discover some weapons of mass destruction in Syria. But that would have to wait until we finish with Afghanistan and the Argentinians cease to be threat because we will be a bit short of flesh power and hardware.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Three options:

    1. Impose a cease-fire, conduct voter registration exercise, hold free election.
    2, Tell them they won't be let to play in the international community until they behave.
    3. Ignore the suffering caused by thugs.

    But no. It will be the 'Take a side and impose that side on the country regardless of the will of the citizens' that we have seen so many times. Never mind the dead

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    History repeating itself, with recent echoes of Iraq and more pertinently Libya..an exiled opposition backed by various interests...

    Russia and China were surprisingly accomodating with Libya, but were outspoken at the regime change and whats viewed as imperialistic acquisition of Libyan assets...it seems they Rus and Chi are once bitten twice shy..

    Its dengenerating ineviatibly to war..

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    The usa ans us to arm the anti goverment protesters, civil war, massive loss of life, let people believe they are free, then tell them to adopt our values, free market .
    or in short be exploited by capitism rather than a dictator, great choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Yet another despot refuses to go quietly - and instead of recognising the inevitable, clings to power by turning on his own people.

    As usual, Russia and China back the wrong horse and show the total moral bankruptcy of the UN

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    the British Govt should do the same thing it did in East Timor ,Burma and Darfur...NOTHING
    why the double standards , if its a muslim country go in all guns blazing
    Im sure the saudis have enough BAE fighter jets to sort this out
    if the UK and US had any moral legitimacy left they would press the CIA,Mi6 and Mossad to stop giving weapons to the Terrorist known as Free Syrian Army ( Al Qaeda)


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