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Vara ShaileshShailesh Vara is the Member of Parliament for North West Cambridgeshire.

After Iraq and
the continuing struggle in Afghanistan, scepticism about intervention in
foreign crises may appear on the surface to be the wise approach. It is obvious
that there are no easy answers, and no easy options, for Britain in its efforts
to help bring the Syrian nightmare engulfing the Syrian people to an end.

Helping the moderate rebels to defend themselves would be fraught with
difficulty, but that doesn’t mean Britain should simply turn away and be
prepared to leave the Syrian rebels and their supporters to be slaughtered by
the Assad regime forces, Hezbollah and their backers. 

The Prime
Minister has arguably not received the credit he deserves for his leadership on
the world stage in preventing a massacre of the Libyan opposition in Benghazi, eventually
leading to the overthrow of the odious Gadaffi regime.

As Conservatives, we
should be proud of this Government’s achievements in helping the Libyan people
gain a chance at freedom. Although the Syrian case is far more complex and
difficult, it would be hard to justify our intervention and support for the
Libyan people, while doing absolutely nothing meaningful to help ordinary
Syrians. 

The public
certainly has its concerns, but allowing tyrants who use chemical weapons on
their countrymen to prosper is not the British way, and we should be proud of
that. Nor is it in our national interest either to allow Assad and his backers
to regain their grip (with so far 93,00 dead), or allow the appalling civil war
to spiral further downwards into destruction and barbarism.  


While there may
be sharp differences of opinion about the wisdom of providing various degrees
of support to the Syrian rebels, there is common consensus that every effort
must be put towards getting effective negotiations going and a durable peace
agreement agreed as soon as possible.

Much of the real work lies ahead, but the
importance of the G8 agreement should not be overlooked. First and foremost, in
contrast to what happened in the lead up to the Iraq war and its aftermath, the
G8 agreement managed to keep the international community together despite
fundamentally different prior positions. Rather than some countries going it
alone and others refusing to get involved in peacekeeping or reconstruction
efforts, the American and Russian governments are now committed to working to
get a peace conference set up in Geneva. The Prime Minister deserves credit for
his international leadership on this. 

Secondly, and
again a demonstration that the lessons have been learned from the chaos that followed
the Iraq conflict, was the recognition of the need to keep Syrian institutions
intact in the event of the downfall of President Assad. It is surely not
without significance that Russia, a long-time backer of the Assad regime,
signed up to a communique that clearly envisaged a change in the government of
Syria to a “transitional” governing body: an acknowledgment that Syria cannot
return to business as usual under the Assads. Privately, Vladimir Putin is
reported to have insisted that his priority is the avoidance of chaos, rather
than a personal commitment to the continuation of the Assad regime. 

Finally, we must
not forget the immense suffering of the Syrian people amidst the various
political debates at the G8, in Parliament and elsewhere. While the agreement
of a G8 text will bring little comfort to people in Syria in itself, the
agreement of $1.5 billion (£960 million) of new money, including more than
doubling the UK contribution, should deliver some meaningful relief to the
millions of people made homeless by the crisis. 

These are meaningful achievements in the right
direction, agreed under British leadership. While it is right to acknowledge
the difficulties involved in the Syrian situation, tying the Government’s hands
would be the easier option but the wrong one.

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