Friday, 17 July 2015

Latest: A response to Nicholas Burns and David Miliband

This debate is intended to explore how to respond to the Syrian regime’s ongoing air attacks on its own population. It is hosted by Syria Solidarity Movement UK.

Earlier in 2015 we agreed on a call for a no-fly zone for Syria, a decision that has been controversial even within Syria Solidarity UK. To encourage debate we want to publish arguments both for and against, as well as analysis of issues involved in choosing one form of intervention versus another.

We make our call for a no-fly zone in solidarity with Syrians: with Syria Civil Defence rescue volunteers, with non-violent activists of the Planet Syria campaign, with Syrian doctors, with the Syrian Coalition, with Syrians who first called for a no-fly zone in street demonstrations as long ago as October 2011.

Please respond in the comments, or if you would like to submit an article please email us at

Our latest contribution is a response to a recent article in the Washington Post by Nicholas Burns, a U.S. undersecretary of state from 2005 to 2008, and now a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and David Miliband, president and chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, and Britain’s foreign secretary from 2007 to 2010.

Nicholas Burns and David Miliband on a No-Fly Zone for Syria

By Kellie Strom, campaigner at Syria needs a No-Fly Zone.
The first public step in imposing a no-fly zone is to issue a final demand that Assad forces stop bombing. That demand can be accompanied by a parallel invitation to all appropriate parties to inclusive talks. What must NOT happen is for imposition of a no-fly zone to be made conditional on political progress.


The case for a no-fly zone in Syria

By Mouaffaq Nyrabia, the Syrian National Coalition’s EU representative.
The senseless acts of terrorism in Paris and Copenhagen, the increasing use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, alongside the large numbers of refugees fleeing Syria for Europe, demonstrate that the crisis is one which the wider international community must urgently address. However the US-led anti-ISIL is not working. In order to save lives, alleviate the refugee crisis, and set the basis for a peaceful transition, the only feasible option four years into this bloody conflict is a no-fly zone.

Intervention means war

By Patrick Porter, Chair of Strategic Studies at the University of Exeter, Academic Director of SSI and Senior Associate Fellow at RUSI.
Syria in 2015 is not Libya in 2011, or Iraq in 1991. Each context is different, each correlation of forces is different. But there is at least a strong possibility, suggested by recent experience, that once we step into the conflict, the reasons we enter are replaced by a new set of pressures.

We don’t know enough, satisfactorily, about beleaguered countries like Syria or its wildly complex war. But we do know a little about ourselves to anticipate how we might respond if out intervention is met with defiance: and defiance we can reasonably expect, as we know that Assad is serious about his survival.

Stop the barrel bombs in Syria

By Raed al Saleh, head of Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets. This article was first published by The Washington Post.
No words can adequately describe what it is like to save a life. It is pure elation to find and rescue a baby from beneath mountains of rubble. But for us the elation never lasts because we are constantly under attack.

The NFZ demand risks diversion and division

By Brian Slocock, a long-time left activist and retired political scientist.
The simple fact is that a No-Fly Zone will not happen within the next two years. The US government has recently reiterated what everyone knows to be its policy—it will not support any form of NFZ. Given the geopolitical context of the Syrian conflict—involving both a major regional power like Iran and a global power like Russia—regional states like Turkey will not act on their own.

Incredibly loud and extremely ignored

By Bente Scheller, Director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Middle East office in Beirut, and author of The Wisdom of Syria’s Waiting Game: Foreign Policy under the Assads.
There are many ways to die in Syria. Silently, through malnutrition as a result of starvation campaigns, or as a result of the devastation of the country’s deliberately targeted health system. Visibly, because the victims die at the hands of ISIS which wants to convey the message of its ruthlessness and absolute brutality. And incredibly loud but mostly unnoticed through the continued airstrikes the regime’s air force is carrying out on daily basis.

A measure of last resort

By Barry Andrews, CEO of GOAL, the Dublin-based international aid agency.
Four years ago the government of Syria began, in effect, to prosecute a war against its own civilian population. Since the carnage began, the world community has stood by and did little while Syria has torn itself apart. This “hands-off” attitude (one could hardly elevate it to the status of a policy) has failed miserably. The conflict in Syria continues unabated, with no prospect of an end in sight, and casualties mounting by the day.

No-Fly Zone: A dangerous illusion

By Mark Boothroyd, a founder member of the Syria Solidarity Movement.
… the demand is that the governments of Britain, France and the US act in accordance with UN Resolutions 2139 and 2209 and implement a NFZ to stop the barrel bombing and chemical weapon attacks and provide a safe zone for civilians, refugees and aid workers.

While this demand would be supportable if those countries were honest and pure in their intentions towards Syria, they are not. They are imperialist powers whose history of interference and reactionary policy in the region goes back to the Sykes-Picot agreement and before.

A No-Fly Zone to save lives—and to change the political dynamic

By Scott Lucas, Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham, and founder and editor of EA WorldView.
I have supported no-fly zones and safe havens inside Syria since 2012. I still support them.

I support no-fly zones and safe havens, first and foremost, because I believe they will save the lives of some Syrians and improve the lives of many others.

Sins of omission can be mortal

By Clara Connolly, immigration lawyer and human rights activist.
When Assad began to show his people, and the world, that he was prepared to destroy the country so that he could continue to rule it, neither his people, nor the watching world, could comprehend the manic destructiveness to which he would descend. When things get that mad, bad, or surreal, human beings tend to think ‘surely something can stop this?’