The chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians and the retaliatory military strike carried out by the United States in Syria on Friday has unnecessarily escalated the violence and tensions in the region at the expense of achieving a viable diplomatic solution. Since the Syrian Civil War started, various organisations have estimated that upwards of 400,000 people have been killed and more than half of the population have been displaced from their homes. Five million Syrian refugees have fled to other countries around the world to seek refuge from a brutal and totalitarian regime as well as a rebel opposition that continues to be funded by western powers.
Both sides seem to only be concerned with the total annihilation of the other and are apathetic about the damage, violence, and displacement that the civil war has caused. The people of Syria, those who are still living in the warlike conditions in the country, as well as the millions that have fled the conflict deserve a swift and peaceful settlement so that they can return home and start to rebuild their lives. No peace settlement can be decided upon until the major powers involved can come to the table and agree to a settlement that puts partisan and national bickering and great power game playing aside and focuses on the people who struggle everyday to live their lives in fear of the horrors that living in a theatre of war entails. Several regional and global powers have already intervened in Syria. At least four states have conducted bombing campaigns while others have supported or sponsored proxies and militias. And what is there to show? The violence and infighting must come to an end so that diplomatic channels can be used to calm the situation.
President Trump’s unexpected reaction achieved nothing. It may have been intended to send a message that the United States and the western world will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons. Or it may have been another vicious move in the infighting in the Washington administration. Whichever way, it only exacerbated the situation. Now Russia has reverted to old Cold War tactics dispatching one of its naval ships to the Mediterranean and has stated that it intends to bolster the air defence capabilities of the Syrian armed forces. Violence will never achieve a permanent peaceful settlement and both the United States and Russia must stop playing their old Cold War era games and work together to solve the crisis not intensify it.
In the short term, the UK and governments around the world must increase humanitarian aid to Syria to help those who are currently suffering tremendous hardships until a deal can be agreed upon. The fact that regime forces and rebel groups are fighting throughout the country does not change the fact that there is a plethora of people who are in desperate need of aid in Syria. The Prime Minister must not lose focus and sight of this priority.
While the UK Government continues to criticise Assad’s regime in public, its failure to accept the UK’s fair share of Syrian refugees, particularly children – as enshrined in the Dubs amendment, betrays the Conservatives’ callous attitude. The Conservative Government, at a time when it needs unity, is showing signs of disunity just days after the strike. In its response to the chemical weapons attack and the airstrike by the US, the United Kingdom has continued to show its increased reliance on the United States in the post-Brexit world order and will continue to agree to Trump’s unpredictable and inconsistent policies in return for a trade deal.
While all parties in the cabinet supported the US strike, the Prime Minister is left bickering with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon over whether the UK should get militarily involved. Instead of working together as a united government to press for a solution to this crisis the infighting leaves the Government disunited and UK foreign policy in disarray. Boris Johnson’s call for swift sanctions against Syria and Russia collapsed at the meeting of the G7 on April 11th suggesting again that the UK post-Brexit will be side-lined rather than empowered.
Plaid Cymru is willing to discuss with the UK Government as well as other parties a plan for ending the Syrian civil war. Only by bipartisan agreement, not only in Westminster but around the world, can this crisis be resolved peacefully. Plaid Cymru MPs stand ready to discuss a proper peace plan in Westminster and would welcome any attempt by the UK Government to facilitate a diplomatic solution that involved all the major powers. The United Kingdom and the international community must step up. The responsibility lies on the UK Government to forge a diplomatic solution to this problem that ensures that a plan for peace prevails.