The question of whether to arm Syrian rebels has become a hot topic at the G8 summit. UK representatives are torn over the decision; David Cameron would like to arm the rebels, while Boris Johnson has declared he is extremely against the idea, describing it as “mad”. The American president, Barack Obama, is also “cold on the idea”. A recent manifestation of extremism – the killing of a 15-year-old boy in Atappo in front of his parents, simply because he made a joke mentioning the prophet Mohammad – demonstrates the instability of Syria. This in itself provides support for the misgivings of politicians like Johnson.
Photo: Huffington Post
Unfortunately it seems unlikely that “pressing weapons into the hands of maniacs” will achieve ceasefire, but the ultimate aim is to end the tragic civil war. Vladimir Putin chastised the West for considering arming Syrian rebels, while Syria denies using chemical weapons, claiming it was a “caravan of lies”’.
Putin is also recorded as saying “You will not deny that one does not really need to support the people who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies, eat their intestines in front of the public and cameras. Are these the people you want to support? Is it them who you want to supply with weapons? Then this probably has little relation to humanitarian values that have been preached in Europe for hundreds of years”.
Even though Cameron and Obama don’t see eye-to-eye on deciding whether to arm the rebels, they do agree that President Assad is “a brutal dictator”. The two-year conflict has already claimed 93,000 lives. Ed Miliband expressed concern at the escalating death toll and this week’s announcements from Washington, which show just how grave the dangers confronting Syria are. There is no assurance that withholding arms will not aggravate more violence and escalate the conflict further, but the situation is delicate, and the G8 summit is one step towards a sustainable peace in Syria.
As Sir Malcolm Rifkind told BBC radio, “there are about 100,000 people fighting for the Syrian opposition,” and “of that, 5,000 approximately, including some international jihadists, are linked to al-Qaeda. They’re not part of the opposition that the international community has recognised”. This suggests that intervention in the situation was necessary. The G8 summit is a meeting of the foremost wealthy countries, and can therefore contribute to a smooth democratic transition. David Cameron put the purpose of the summit in context, when discussing differing opinions with Obama; “we both see the humanitarian catastrophe. We both see the dangers of instability and extremism. We both want to see a peace process and a transition. The challenge for the G8, is to put aside some of these differences”.