Published on 15 Nov 2012

Syria – the UK analysis changes

The National Security Council is taking a look at a bunch of options on Syria, as Nick Robinson reported. The PM clearly thinks Syria has moved from being a ghastly but self-contained civil conflict to a strategic concern with what looks like pretty much guaranteed spill-over into wider impact.

It seems like David Cameron’s view now is that Syria is not just a humanitarian tragedy but is looking like one of those mushrooming problems that will come on to everyone’s radar in a few months’ time. It could be a serious new engine of jihadist recruitment and could destabilise the entire region on a big scale.

So the analysis is no longer “there’s nowt much we can do” but “we should explore what can be done to limit Syria’s wider impact.”

As with Libya, there are signs of movement on French policy too. That said, the NSC will be acutely aware that nothing can happen on Syria policy without the US. In a sense, today’s meeting isn’t preparing for British action it is, at this stage, preparing for a conversation with Washington. President Obama’s administration used to take the same “nowt much we can do here” view as the FCO on Syria. London assumes that is now changing faced with the same facts as we are looking at.

The options list will probably look a lot like the one that was first put in front of the NSC when action against Libya was considered – air action, no fly zones and everything from direct support to rebels to logistical support and urging third countries to give direct support.

We are some way off a change in policy but if there is one then today’s meeting will have been a staging post.


It looks like the government could be days from recognising the newly unified Syrian opposition. That could come as soon as Tuesday, when William Hague is due to make a statement to the Commons.

The foreign secretary will meet the Syrian opposition in London tomorrow and press them on how inclusive they intend to be. There are some concerns in Whitehall that not all groups in Syria are fully included in the group coming to London. Syria is not like Libya where the government/opposition broadly broke down into a pretty straightforward geographical division.

In Syria, the divisions can be street by street. Britain is not expected to follow the French in jumping in and recognising Friday’s visitors as effectively “the government in waiting”. London could well end up recognising them as “a” legitimate representative body of the Syrian people rather than “the” legitimate representative.

That same reserve can be expected on the EU arms embargo – the French have already asked for it to be lifted and the UK will take more convincing.

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3 reader comments

  1. zolani says:

    The west is obsessed with white supremacist complex, for them to forget their recently devastating wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq is beyond reason and understanding.Their think-tanks are so dumb they can’t learn anything from history.I really feel sorry for the average white person who are so used to comfortable life and in a space of decade they will have to scrounge in rubbish bins like their African and Asiatic brothers been doing for the past hundred years.It seems capitalism is biting back home for its appetite for wars of conquest and resources to garner maximum profits.The history of their predecessors the fall of Roman empire is repeating itself. They do not care about their general populations only the perceived glory of leading the world despite financial implications.Hard luck on common people just watching while their counties are being looted by Military-Industrial-Complex for their main customers are western governments who need to create wars in order to by military equipment.This has strained their financial power and has pushed them deep into dept but they have not learned anything from their warmongering.

    1. Ml says:

      Go and eat some chicken (from the bin)

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