Syria has been facing disaster - humanitarian and military - for three blood-soaked years. A recent event has rocked this already volatile region, and deepened the divisions within all sections of society, increasing the chance that this war will be even longer and bloodier than first thought. The Islamists are coming, and this represents an even stronger reason for the West to intervene.
The headquarters of the politically inclusive Free Syrian Army have been overrun by Islamic extremists, who don't subscribe to the official opposition position of moderation and democracy. The Islamic Front (that selfsame organisation) is on the up, and has an enormous advantage over other, more moderate rebel groups: it is being armed, without thought for the cost, by the Saudi Arabian Wahhabist dictatorship. It is not just Iran and Russia who have proxies in this war.
The rise of Islamism in Syria is one which threatens the secular and centrist opposition. While the numbers of Al-Qaeda fighters, for example, in the region are greatly exaggerated, 'the Base' is still a threat through a network of related or copycat organisations. Leaving Assad and the Islamists to decide the future of Syria in death and destruction must be the worst of all possible worlds. Both sides have their bad guys, and isolationist feeling in the West conspires, unwillingly, to leave the two worst factions in this humanitarian catastrophe in the driving seat. This possibility should terrify every one of us.
For Bashar al-Assad remains a deeply evil individual - regardless of the tone of recent events. The chemical weapons sideshow granted him vital time - and the sort of transient legitimacy which murderous Presidents-for-life acquire for momentarily submitting to the wishes of the United Nations. The nice distraction which this has given him must have been warmly received in Damascus: he and his disgusting regime have had the space and time to set about ensuring that they continue their violent and barbaric and oppressive stay in power.
Assad is still backed by Putin in Moscow and the merchants of nuclear annihilation in Tehran. He still receives military support from Iranian Special Forces and the Jihadi terrorist rabble of Hezbollah. This multi-faceted alliance represents the union of all that which the civilised nations ought to oppose: theocracy, terror, tyranny and the bomb.
For those who like to use blowback as their justification for inaction - under-evidenced as it often is - I have a question. Would they, I wonder, like to imagine the possible consequences for the West of leaving terrorists as the largest opposition to a cruel autocrat? I expect I'll guess your answer.
The prolonging of this conflict by staunch and steadfast non-involvement will only harden the convictions and the resolve of both sides. For many, the lack of action against these dual monsters will just be another example in the long history of Western crimes - and what drives people to terrorist means more successfully than a crime committed against innocents?
We are witnessing the creation of a new streak of anti-Western sentiment, one which has witnessed rich and powerful nations refuse to assist their Arab brothers and sisters in overthrowing despotism. Can anyone think of a better reason to hate than a betrayal? A betrayal of the dead and dying of Syria is taking place - and only by adopting their cause as our own can we remove the stain of apparent avarice and mendacity from the history, and the future, of our hemisphere.
If we do nothing, and allow the resultant Balkanisation to grow and fester, then the world will be left with a brutal religious and tribal conflict. And television screens will once more be filled with the horror of torturously long cultural memories begetting vicious ethnic and cultural violence. The potential for this horrendous dichotomy is cause enough to intervene, but there is more.
The death of a British citizen in Syria might change things.
Abbas Khan, who was in the country providing medical help for the relief effort, died in prison on Tuesday. The UK government, usually detached in official comment, was sufficiently convinced of foul play that it claimed he had been 'effectively murdered' by the Syrian authorities.
The regime claimed that he had hanged himself in his cell, but the evidence does not stack up. Abbas was about to be freed and to leave the country - in a mercy mission involving Bradford West MP George Galloway - when he was killed; and prisoners do not kill themselves days away from reprieve. I know that the prospect of time spent with Galloway is unappealing, but it has never been known to drive a man to suicide.
This situation was so damning that even Galloway, an Assad lickspittle and shill if ever there was one, is calling for an investigation and casting doubt on the official story. Let us hope that out of this tragedy comes a renewed desire from the British people to do the right thing: to remove a homicidal government, and to negate a suicidal centre of future Jihad.
The situation in Syria is being called the 'biggest emergency in the UN's history' as it emerges, from a United Nations report, that three quarters of the population of that war-torn Middle Eastern nation will require some sort of aid to merely survive the next year. Polio is spreading, winter is coming, and the war still grinds on. Charities are trying to pick up the pieces, but with hostilities continuing into the third year, and both Islamist rebel and government forces posing a threat to supply convoys and pop-up hospitals, aid workers and volunteers are in mortal danger when they try to follow that basic humanitarian instinct: to protect innocent civilians.
This is why I advocate action. Not because of some secret desire to have a military 'adventure' of my own, but because I and people like me care for the future of the country and its inhabitants. The political situation creates the horror: Assad and Islamists are both hunkering down for the long war, and both are enemies of freedom, and thus of Britain. It is no consolation to the millions of refugees, watching their country slide into extremism, if we merely admit that intervention two years ago might have stopped the onset of Jihad - action is still needed.
James Snell is Columnist for Trending Central, where this article first appeared.
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