27 Mar 2013

Miliband fears Syria will ‘dissolve in front of our eyes’

Former Foreign Secretary David Miliband tells Krishnan Guru-Murthy that the west’s failure to intervene in Syria means the Assad government could go on killing people for another two or three years.

David Miliband’s new role running a charity called the International Rescue Committee in New York might see him making more humanitarian interventions on foreign affairs and we got a taste of that today in his resignation interview when we discussed Syria.

Wrong lessons

The spectre of Iraq is hanging over the whole process, he admits, warning the west is in danger of learning the wrong lessons from the tragedy of the war.

He points out that the west should also learn the lessons of Bosnia, where military intervention was delayed and flawed but ultimately saved lives.

In Syria, Miliband warns that all the things people fear about Western intervention – refugees, people dying, humanitarian disaster – are happening because we are not intervening.

Read more - Kofi Annan: 'too late' for military intervention in Syria

He also argues that the west is effectively the only place that is not in fact intervening. Russia and Middle Eastern countries, he points out, have already acted on one side or another.

No-fly zone

He says there is no point in Britain talking about small scale intervention such as supplying small arms to the opposition – the real thing causing massive damage and loss of life is the Syrian airforce.

Pointing out that Turkey raised the idea of bringing in a no-fly zone and that Syria has continued to use warplanes to kill people on the ground the former Foreign Secretary clearly thinks that scale of intervention is what needs to be considered.

He also, intriguingly, told me he believes the prime minister is thinking of big intervention, not a small one. Whether that is because the two have discussed the matter is not clear – but it would not be unprecedented for David Cameron to have asked David Miliband’s advice.