Syria: Cameron warns of false choice between Assad and extremists

David Cameron and Barack Obama The G8 is deeply divided over Syria

Find the moderates. That has been David Cameron's instruction to his ministers and to Britain's diplomats.

He insists that Britain does not have to choose between backing what he calls President Assad's murderous regime or the rebels who Boris Johnson called Syria's maniacs.

It is, the prime minister claims, in our interests to back those who can help re-build Syria after its war ends - those who the foreign secretary warned today face possible extermination.

Even before the intervention of the Mayor of London, it was clear Mr Cameron simply did not have the support in his party or his coalition to move beyond assisting, training and aiding those people.

His hope is that they will be armed by the United States. His problem is whilst he lacks the support to act President Obama has, so far, given every appearance of lacking the enthusiasm to do so.

This summit is an advert for the tranquillity of Northern Ireland - a place scarred for so long by conflict - but it is also a reminder that the world is deeply divided on how to handle what William Hague today called the worst human tragedy of our times.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    AfA@9 "Arrivals: surprisingly, 8"
    sieuarlu@10 "I don't believe Cameron's motives..."
    PCS@12: "Was it Col North…"
    sagamix @16: "… an urge that needs to be fought."
    Up@snuff @17: "What will happen if no moderates are found?"

    We begin to jest, but "worst human tragedy" or "just the latest", HOW is The Great Game more practical / promising than making peace - home & abroad - in equal partnership?

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    When is a moderate with a gun & rocket launcher not a moderate?

    The search for moderates. Sounds to me rather like the desperate search to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in order to justify the invasion & Gulf 2 war in 2003.

    What will happen if no moderates are found?

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Very tempting for a British PM to try to become a player in the Middle East but it's an urge that needs to be fought. With weapons if necessary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    seems to me if one wants to stop a war, there is no reason to take sides, just stop supplying ammunition, to both sides. Or am I missing something.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    So William Hague called Syria "the worst human tragedy of our times"

    Yes things are very bad, but it is just yet another tragedy on top of an on-going list of tragedies, caused by unwanted and unneeded political interference by the UK & USA?

    Cameron, Hague - if you bothered to ask your electorate, you'd find that the majority don't share your warmongering attitudes. Please stay out of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    12.PCS - "Remind me was it Col Oliver North who armed Mr Bin Laden, or did he warn someone not to?......."

    That was weapons to Iran (the Iran/Contra Affair as it was known) - one could argue the US come a long way from those days.....!

    Then again......

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Remind me was it Col Oliver North who armed Mr Bin Laden, or did he warn someone not to? I'm having more and more senior moments these days. Whatever it was it all turned out quite badly, and I'm not just talking about 9/11, and the financial melt down that followed it eventually! Anyway's history does repeat itself!

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Why waste time and effort on Syria. Syria is not our business, and even if it were our business, there is absolutely nothing useful we, the UK could do about it.l

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Perhaps President Obama doesn't want to be Cameron's"poodle." President Obama is accustomed by now to being the "wagger,"not the "waggee."

    If the rebels are going to be armed, the West had better hurry up about it.From what I see on TV, they may be running out of fresh targets. Every other building seems to have already been hit at least once. I don't believe Cameron's motives are humanitarian

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    bryhers @8
    Are we nearly there?

    Arrivals: surprisingly, 8
    Bilateras: explore capacity, needs, democracy
    Economy: EZ & states, stabilise demand, equal income-shares
    Foreign: genuine outreach, democratic example, due caution
    Counter-terrorism: uniting people, transform / isolate 'terrorists'
    Tax transparency: on equal incomes, real experts to reform
    Press conf: united in confession & commendation

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    The idea you can disinfect the opposition of extremist elements combines self delusion with political posturing.

    The same motives that means Libya is now run Lrun by competing warlords and is a weapons market for jihadis from Africa and the Middle East.

    Obama feels a need to be seen to be doing something but not too much or he risks a proxy war with Putin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Every combatant in Syria is an extremist - they have driven each other to that position!

    The necessity is the find some way of reducing sectarian violence between the factions, but sadly with all the arms in the country this is unlikely - so the only strategy can be partition.

    We, the rest of the World are responsible - the West for not clamping down on the Wahhabi extremists (Saudis!) etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Moderates don't do street fighting. Moderates are keeping their heads down hoping no one will notice them. Their time may come if the fanatics run out of steam, but if the history of the Middle East teaches us one thing; it is that moderates never seem to last long in power. Even a combined NATO/Russia peace keeping force wouldn't stop the killings. Only the Syrians can do that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    "Find the moderates"
    Then - if they wish - rescue them
    Agreement on this, the least the West AND Russia should offer, NOW

    Syria, as a country, whatever the excuses (ancient tension, modern naivety, local or central over-reaction), has failed to stand on its own two feet. Its people must be rescued from themselves, perhaps for partition, or redrawing of regional boundaries, with full UN support

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Mr Cameron,there are no moderates,only nutters and victims and,sadly, no apparent solutions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Be very careful Mr Cameron, don't make strong man noises one day and the next announce defence cuts, it is risible to expect foreign powers to respect our word when we have only half a navy, no functioning fixed wing aircraft carriers and no fixed wing carrier aircraft!

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    If the Syrian rebels need arms, the Sunni interests in the region should be providing them, or at the very least paying for them. Better yet, western nations/Israel should stay our of Syria; ask Russia to secure Assad's chemical weapons stockpiles in return for the western powers agreeing not to interfere with Russian interests in Syria...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Impotence on this scale - inability to prevent & protect - should bring reflection on context, the international out-working of just those ills that afflict at home, of competition and distrust, fear and greed, the seeking of advantage rather than of contribution to the commonwealth. Some cry 'freedom', in the command of others: but in equal partnership all enjoy freedom, in their own fair 'spend'



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