Syrian Cold War

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There is an inescapable logic 
behind William Loneskie’s call (Letters, 8 October) for the UK to ally itself with President Assad in confronting Islamic State (IS), a view echoed by Allan Massie in the same edition, but sadly, entrenched geopolitical assumptions dating back to the Cold War era mean the odds are stacked against such a policy.

Washington has coaxed various Arab and other Muslim countries (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey etc) into nominal participation in the international coalition against IS, only by pledging, earlier last month, to provide no less than $500 million (£311m) worth of weapons and training to the so-called “moderate” opposition to Assad in Syria.

This follows a pattern established at least as far back as the 1980s, when Western powers funded the Islamist opposition to the USSR in Afghanistan, effectively incubating the movement which led to 9/11.

Meanwhile, of course, cosmetic concerns about Assad’s democratic and human rights deficit amount to nothing more than crocodile tears – Saudi Arabia, for instance, has a far more repressive regime than Syria’s ever was.

However, the USA’s cherished status as the last remaining 
“superpower” hinges on its longstanding economic and military ties (ie arms industry sales) to Saudi Arabia – still worth many, many billions of dollars, even after the advent of fracking for energy supplies in the US.

Hence, as also happened in regard to Bosnia and then Kosovo, when Saudi Arabia says “Jump”, Washington says “How high?”

James Bruce

Church Street