I recently read a statement by Saudi Arabian diplomat Prince Turki al-Faisal that carries several meanings. He said: “Europe complains of the big number of Syrian refugees. The solution is simple. Take one Syrian refugee, that is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and you’d be done with the problem of another 10 million Syrian refugees.”
This is literally true, because the struggle in Syria is because of Assad. It is also true in general terms, as there are direct solutions, instead of the complicated ones that politicians have sought that are irrelevant to the original problem.
Cameron sees that the problem in Syria is in both the Syrian regime as well as terrorist organizations.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
British Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement calling for supporting the fighters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and cooperating with them falls within the context of a direct solution. While arguing the case for military action against ISIS, he said there are around “70,000 Syrian opposition fighters – principally the Free Syrian Army – who do not belong to extremist groups and with whom we can coordinate attacks on [ISIS].”
He clarified that the majority of the FSA are soldiers that defected from the Syrian army and have nothing to do with extremist ideology.
Cameron’s statements came during a 10-hour debate in the House of Commons regarding Syria, in which the PM attempted to convince MPs to approve British airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. The debate between the British politicians was a heated one as usual. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attempted to thwart Cameron’s proposal by granting the BBC an interview that was broadcast the same day as the debate in the House of Commons; however, he failed.
Cameron defeated Assad’s logic, and MPs voted for military intervention. His justifications for intervention and vision of a solution are clear. Cameron sees that the problem in Syria is in both the Syrian regime as well as terrorist organizations. As long as fighting ISIS has become necessary for the security of Britain, Europe and the world, the solution is in supporting Syrian nationalists, like the FSA, and this can be the basis of a solution for the Syrian struggle.
Cooperating with Assad will fail
The solution which the Russians resorted to, and which some western governments no longer mind, is cooperating with the Assad regime to fight ISIS. However, this solution will fail as even if, in the best case scenario, it resolves half of the problem and eliminates terrorist groups, it actually maintains the origin of the problem and the major source of tension, namely the regime which has become the Syrian people’s enemy, after it killed 300,000 people, displaced 10 million others and destroyed most cities.
Therefore, no matter what they do, terrorism will emerge again as long as the cause is there. What Cameron is calling for is supporting Syrian nationalist powers that are willing to fight terrorists to defend their land, and can establish a new governance that represents all the Syrian people.
It’s true that the situation in Syria has become complicated; however, resolving it via the Russian approach of fighting ISIS and letting the Assad regime rule further complicates it. This proposal actually adds fuel to fire. We think the Russians who adopt this proposal, which is similar to Iran’s, will change their stance now that they deal with facts on the ground. Cameron indirectly spoke about this on Wednesday when he said the Russians have also begun to deal with the FSA and to recognize its presence.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Dec. 4, 2015.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.
- Cameron to MPs: time to strike ISIS in Syria
- Kerry says raids not enough after UK strikes ISIS
- Britain rightly follows France into Syria conflict
- Assad must not get away with his crimes
- Germany approves anti-ISIS military action in Syria
- Russia ‘intensifies strikes’ on ISIS in Syria
- Chicken-and-egg question over Syria: Assad or ISIS first?