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The world has to do more

As Donald Trump correctly praised the work of his military in the campaign to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, he probably didn’t realise that he was highlighting the glaring fact that the fighting of the past few years has absolutely nothing to do with the airstrikes carried out by Britain, France and the US overnight.

The retaliatory action of the three western powers after the chemical attack in Douma a week ago is in fact rooted in violence against the Syrian people by the regime of Bashar al Assad, which started in 2011.

This is a seven-year war that has been briefly and tragically overshadowed by the rise of IS and its declaration of a Caliphate.

:: Live updates – US, UK and France launch airstrikes in Syria


Video:
May and Trump: Why we struck Syria

Getting rid of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has of course been a priority for all the western powers invested in the region. But it has been a tragic smokescreen for the actions of Assad with the support of Russia.

I’m in Kurdish-controlled Kobane, having visited Raqqa and Manbij over the past two days.

Here, the attacks on three installations in Syria are of little importance as long as the US and French special forces and the coalition aeroplanes continue to protect their front lines from the oncoming force of militia backed by Turkey, a NATO ally.

This is yet another phase of the war in Syria. But again, it is not what the airstrikes in Damascus and Homs are all about.

:: What did military action hit?


British fighter jets preparing for take off to attack Syrian chemical weapons facilities. Pic: @ CROWN COPYRIGHT 2018

Video:
British warplanes head for Syria

Since I first slid beneath a barbed-wire fence and sprinted across a highway under the noses of Syrian military and made my way into Homs in 2011, the year of the Arab Spring, Assad’s regime has systematically abused, maimed, imprisoned, driven out and killed millions of people.

The Syrian government said then the uprising was a jihad – western commentators said so too. But unlike any of these two groups, I was actually there. Actually on the streets with doctors and accountants and students. They were not jihadists.

Beneath a walnut tree in a remote mountain in the west of Syria, I sat with a Syrian army colonel who had defected to the rebels, the Free Syrian Army, early in 2012. It was midsummer, peaceful and calm, hidden as we were beneath the branches from the Syrian military who still controlled most of the country.

He predicted in detail a timeline of events he believed would happen if the West did not intervene.

:: Chemical attacks in Syria – A deadly history


The French Defence Ministry has released a video of missiles being launched from one of its Navy ships

Video:
Missiles launched from French navy ship

“Without any help from the outside we will struggle to fight the regime,” he said.

“The regime will claim that the uprising is led by Islamist fundamentalists. The Jihadists will start to arrive. They will take over the uprising. They will make it into a jihad, then Russia will intervene. It will be a disaster for my country. Thousands and thousands will die and more will leave,” he said.

I’ve never forgotten it. And it makes me sick now, realising how right he was, and perhaps guilty too that I didn’t do more.

:: Has Theresa May’s ‘grave’ risk in Syria paid off?


Syrian Central Military Media released video said to show air defence missiles intercepting allied attacks over Damascus

Video:
Syrian defences ‘intercept airstrikes’

The brilliant journalist Marie Colvin died trying to do what me and others failed to do – get someone to listen and someone to care and most of all, to do something.

In the intervening years the brutal attacks with “Barrel Bombs”, rockets, artillery and bullets on a civilian population has been unremitting.

:: Sky Views – History is on May’s side over Syria


Video:
Babies caught up in ‘chemical attack’

Remember the destruction in Aleppo and the horrendous scenes in civilian hospitals of women and children being treated for terrible injuries?

Remember the previous chemical attacks? The “red lines” crossed?

The regime’s denials have always been a straight up lie. The Russian “deny at all costs” mantra has worked a treat for years and years.

The hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced are testament to international indecision and the intervention of states like Russia and Iran to prop up Bashar al Assad, who should and would have fallen years ago without their support.

:: PM faces political fallout from decision to strike


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Video:
President Assad arrives for work

I see little distinction between the mass slaughter of civilians with bombs and mass slaughter with chemical weapons, although civilised society does. Hence last night’s attacks.

If they have achieved nothing more than spelling out to Assad and his supporters that they can’t act with impunity, it has done something. But really the world has to do more.

For seven years I have been coming here. Incredibly, it has got worse.

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