Leader: Answer to Syria lies with Russia and China
IT SHOULD not have taken a massacre. Finally, the West has stepped up pressure on the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, as a response to the murder of more than 100 civilians, including nearly 50 children, in the Houla region on Friday.
In the murky world of the near civil war in the country it has proved impossible to verify whether Assad’s troops were directly involved or whether the executions were carried out by militia supported by his government; there is no doubt over the motive for the killings.
The people whose lives were taken were in an area which has been at the centre of opposition to Assad and his regime which claims it is fighting for its survival against what it calls terrorists, but who the outside world see as the country’s equivalent of the Arab Spring movement.
Such was the horror and revulsion at the deaths in Houla that western governments, including the United Kingdom, have expelled a number of Syrian diplomats in an effort to dissuade Assad from further acts of bloody slaughter against his own people. Welcome though the latest diplomatic expulsions are, they are likely to have little or no effect. Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke yesterday of further European Union sanctions being imposed, but again, Assad is virtually certain to ignore them as he has done all previous moves to alter his behaviour.
So if EU sanctions will not stop the carnage in Syria, what will? Military action is not the answer. Even if it were possible to assemble a force to invade the country and effect regime change, there is no appetite for such a strategy in the West. The United States and the United Kingdom, the two countries that have been most ready to intervene militarily in other countries, are trying to extricate themselves from Afghanistan, and voters in both countries would simply not tolerate more of their troops dying, and die they would, invading Syria.
And if there were to be a successful invasion which ousted Assad, the examples of both Iraq and Afghanistan prove that the post-invasion process of “nation-building” can cost more lives than the initial military action itself. There has, therefore, to be another way and the answer, if answer there is, must lie with Russia and China. Up until now these two countries have blocked moves to impose sanctions made at the UN Security Council, of which they are permanent members.
However, it must surely be clear to these two super-powers that the time to stand by an ally, or to stand aside in the name of neutrality, has passed. If they continue to protect the Assad regime, they must realise they will be seen as condoning the massacre of innocents at Houla. Appeals to Russia and China to eschew their power-politics approach with its lack of scruples and act with other countries in the common interest of ordinary victims of conflicts have rarely worked in the past. To prevent the horror of another Houla, we must hope that is about to change.
Car-maker’s success an object lesson
Amid the economic gloom and doom, the double-dip recession, the demands for a Plan B and contingency planning to combat the domestic effects in the event of Greece leaving the euro, at last some good news for the United Kingdom: a manufacturing company based here is not only surviving but thriving.
Jaguar Landrover may be owned by the Indian industrial conglomerate Tata, but the fact that the car-maker made a pre-tax profit of £1.5 billion in 2011-12, up from £1.12bn the year before, is a much-needed shot in the arm for our country, our economy and our balance of payments.
The reason for the success is simple. Tata invested billions to rescue a famous firm in danger of collapsing and concentrated on producing high quality, well-designed and keenly priced products – including the new Range Rover Evoque and Jaguar XF models.
On top of that, the company wisely looked east, to the fast-growing economies of Asia – China in particular – where the burgeoning middle-classes are looking to buy goods that are not just high quality, but also have high status value. The firm has also announced a joint venture with a Chinese manufacturer to build vehicles there, something some people may fear will mean job losses in this country – it employs some 19,000 people in the UK.
But even this is a positive development. After all, Nissan and Toyota have factories here.
So, despite all the bad economic news, and sadly there is plenty of it, we should celebrate Jaguar Landrover’s achievement and hope that others learn the lessons of investing in people and high- quality products.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North
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Wind direction: North east