When one is looking at a tragedy taking place on the scale of what we are seeing in Syria today, and in particular the historic city of Aleppo, it is incredibly easy to let anger and outrage take over.
I have been fortunate enough to visit many of the great cities in Syria and my heart goes out to the many victims of this horrendous conflict.
However, we are talking about one of the most brutal civil wars since The Battle for Spain 1936-1939. Indeed, there are parallels, and for Aleppo read Guernica, a city which was of course raised to the ground by Hitler’s Condor Legion. This was also a war that involved numerous outside players, and was all the more complex and long running as a consequence.
My starting point in all of this is any sovereign government must surely have the right to try and quell an armed uprising, and this is exactly what Bashar al-Assad faced back in 2011. Of course I utterly deplore his brutal methods, including the use of chemical weapons and bombing of hospitals. But, one should never forget that this all started as a civil war. The added tragedy is that a major power in Russia is now using it as a proxy for its own ambition in the Region.
At the same time, we are taking military action alongside America against ISIL/Daesh and to some extent are now inevitably being pushed into a situation whereby we are going to have to work alongside the Syrian Government Forces of Assad.
There are no easy answers but I have 4 immediate suggestions as priorities:
1. More effort must be made to get vital aid and food supplies through even if this entails some form of UN military escort. My own legal opinion is that this would be possible under The Responsibility to Protect doctrine.
2. The UN need to look urgently at working alongside other organisations to set up more refugee camps in the immediate region.
3. We need to redouble our efforts to destroy ISIL/Daesh so as to remove them from the equation.
4. We need to make a renewed effort alongside the US to work with the Russians on a post-conflict transition plan. Of course, Bashar al-Assad cannot be part of a future Syria but it would be naïve in the extreme to believe that he can be excluded from this transition.