Assad & the UK: The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend

In the fight against Isis, Assad is on our side, even if that’s only for the short-term. David Cameron must realise this.


Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad who is currently leading the fight against Isis in Syria. (Photo: Guardian)

Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad who is currently leading the fight against Isis in Syria. (Photo: Guardian)

Bashar al-Assad will eventually have to go – there’s absolutely no doubt about that. He has committed unthinkable, brutal acts against his own people in order to keep the Assad name in power in Syria. The likes of David Cameron and Barack Obama have made this very clear.

At a first glance at Assad’s regime, many would tend to side with Mr Cameron and Mr Obama on this view. Self-admittedly I did the same when initially analysing the situation in Syria. However, even though Assad has done bad, he is on our side in the fight against Isis. It’s no secret that the threat of terrorism is a massive worry for the British people, with 68 percent of people believing terror attacks from foreign citizens pose a serious threat to the UK, according to a YouGov poll. Voters of Ukip believed this was the case, the most of any other party at 86 percent. This is why for the sake of the UK, the last thing we would want to do at this stage is remove Assad from power.

The idea is that if Assad falls as a result of a US and/or UK intervention there will be even greater chaos, not only in the region but with international relations too. The chaos internationally relates to the fact that both Russia and Iran are strongly behind the Syrian government – goodness knows what taking out Assad could spark. It would be incredibly difficult to even go about removing Assad from power with Russia siding with him anyway. The risk is just not worth taking.

Russian pilots with their plane in Latakia, Syria. (Photo: New York Times)

Russian pilots with their plane in Latakia, Syria. (Photo: New York Times)

Currently looking at the state of the region, it begs the question: if Assad fell who would be there to take the reins? Some would say a section of the rebels should but if you look closely at who the opposition consists of, you would realise that it is very fragmented. Out of the likes of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Islamic Front, al-Nusra Front, Kurdish forces and Isis, the most credible group in the Syrian opposition is the FSA, but how could they take the baton? They are composed of large numbers of separate units. The only established group on paper is Isis but this is obviously contrary to our main aim. This leaves neutral heads turned towards the USA or UK. Surely we would have to form a transitional government alongside being fully committed to taking the driver’s seat in a war which is not ours to fight. Look what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan. Imposing a regime change runs the risk of starting our own personal war with sections of the Syrian rebels. Even if a transitional process did run smoothly, we would most likely be talking about years of remaining in the region in order to bring peace, order and democracy to Syria.

Members of a unit of the Free Syrian Army in Homs Province, Syria. (Photo: The Guardian)

Members of a unit of the Free Syrian Army in Homs Province, Syria. (Photo: The Guardian)

Ultimately, we will never get anywhere with eliminating the threat of Isis in Syria if we don’t make “friends” in the region. As mentioned, provisionally the best option would be with the Syrian Government Forces and Russia. Whether this was in the form of air strikes, armament support or military action on the ground we would be much better having Assad on our side than being on our own.

I cannot support boots on the ground, as firstly, we have no urgent reason to put troops in Syria, and secondly, without a thought through exit strategy that would suffice, we would end up making it up as we went along, much like in Iraq. I am favour of UK air strikes against Isis along with 67 per cent of the British public, as according to ORB International, these types of air strikes don’t come along with the same trouble as other forms of intervention does.

I’m in no way suggesting that we side with the Assad regime forever, and in one way or another I do think that military or diplomatic force by the UK or USA will be necessary in order to remove Assad and introduce democracy. Syria is a land of uncertainty. The only certainty is that in the short-term at least, Assad is part of the solution, not the problem.

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Aron Taylor
Aron Taylor

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