The situation in the Middle East is spinning dangerously out of control. The government ought to be playing a key diplomatic role in protecting human rights. We’d like to see them stressing the human cost of further escalation in the Middle East, and warning all combatants in Syria that there will be a day of reckoning for human rights abuses. If there’s one single thing the UK should be doing over the region it’s stressing the need for accountability over war crimes and other abuses. The UK should make clear that there will be no impunity for those that commit human rights abuses, whether it’s armed groups or government forces. Meanwhile, with refugee flows from Syria reaching a staggering scale, the UK should be working to ensure that more is done to alleviate the pressure on neighbouring countries like Turkey and Jordan.
Allan Hogarth is head of policy and government affairs at Amnesty International UK.
Western States should be wary about the consequences of intervening in the affairs of the Middle East, especially by overtly supporting the region with military aid. In Syria specifically, mechanisms to stop the spread of arms to rebel factions are still not at an advanced stage. Supplying military equipment will only escalate the problem further. This will lead to a more intense war, simply with better weapons and more money; the stalemate will remain. A far better option would be the limited insertion of Arab Special forces to target tanks, and in particular aircraft, which is where the Syrian President Assad retains a qualitative edge. If Western states sent their military forces to the region, many would regard them as neo-imperialists. It is likely that, if they were to undertake a mission like this, the policy would backfire badly.
Michael Stephens is researcher for the Royal United Services Institute in Qatar.