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Saturday, 4th January 2014

Western Policy towards Syria: Ten Recommendations

Source: Chatham House

In the face of the mounting crisis in Syria over the past two and a half years, Western governments (primarily those of the United States, United Kingdom and France) have oscillated between explicit demands for President Bashar al-Assad to leave and implicit acceptance of him as a viable partner in UN-brokered peace negotiations. During this time, they have moved from considering military intervention to including al-Assad in the Geneva II meeting, tentatively scheduled for January 2014, following his agreement to surrender Syria’s chemical weapons in September.

Western positions have thus not been as consistent as those expounded by the main supporters of the Syrian government (primarily Russia and Iran). In parallel, but not directly linked to negotiations, Western governments have taken the lead in coordinating humanitarian efforts for up to half of the Syrian population, which is now in urgent need of assistance.

This paper seeks to inform a more strategic approach to the overall Western response to the crisis in Syria and its immediate neighbourhood. It argues that a more effective Western strategy must be based on moving away from the simplified popular depiction of the conflict as primarily sectarian and religiously based. Such a strategy needs to involve clearer objectives, including ending violence, minimizing killing, and preventing state collapse. It also needs to be targeted at the areas where the West has leverage, and move beyond the focus on uniting the opposition under the umbrella of the Syrian National Coalition, to engage with a broader swathe of Syrian opinion.

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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

Adrian can be reached at adrian.janes@freepint.com

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