The Guardian asked me today to explain in 300 words what I would do to help stop the horrors in Aleppo. This is what I told them:
When faced with the devastating images of dust-covered, broken children being pulled from the rubble in Aleppo, and seeing the bombardment of civilian areas continue every day, the understandable temptation is simply to lash out at the Russian and Syrian governments responsible for these horrors, and talk the language of retaliation and escalation.
I share the anger, and I share the determination that those responsible for war crimes in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria must be held to account.
But in the short-term, that is not going to stop the fighting and the suffering. Indeed, the idea of a no-fly zone would risk making the situation much worse, putting us one bad decision away from British and American forces ending up in combat with Russia’s.
So first, we need more statesmanship and less brinkmanship. Instead of protesting outside the Russian embassy, Boris Johnson needs to be inside talking to the Russian government about solutions.
Second, we must support the proposal from the UN’s Syria Envoy Staffan De Mistura personally to escort the 1,000 Jihadist fighters in East Aleppo out of the city, just as happened in Homs.
That would not just isolate the Jihadists from the moderate rebels left inside Aleppo, but would remove what De Mistura calls the ‘easy alibi’ that the Russians are using to justify their attacks.
Third, if that breakthrough can be delivered with good faith on all sides, that could potentially be the basis to revive the Kerry-Lavrov ceasefire, open humanitarian channels into Aleppo, and start the process of negotiating a lasting peace.
And fourth, crucial for securing that peace, we must de-escalate overseas military involvement in Syria, and get the fourteen countries currently engaged there, including the UK, to withdraw.
These are practical, concrete steps which at least offer the possibility of calming the situation, establishing a ceasefire, delivering relief to Aleppo, and securing a lasting peace.
It will be extraordinarily difficult, but the alternative – further escalation between the West and Russia, and the total destruction of Aleppo by Christmas – does not bear thinking about.
You can read the full article here