Moderate forces in Syria – ‘figment of imagination’

 Britain's Defence Secretary Michael Fallon © Stefan Wermuth
It’s not difficult to determine moderate rebels in Syria as they do not exist said Craig Murray, a former UK ambassador and now a human rights activist. Forces fighting for a secular democratic Syria could be counted on the fingers of a few hands, he added.

British military chiefs admitted to Parliament's Defense Committee that rebels' desire to cooperate is more important than whether they are moderate or hardliners.

RT: Britain’s Defense Chiefs are basically saying that sometimes one has to compromise.  What do you make of that?

Craig Murray: I think it is perfectly plain. What they are saying is that they will arm and support anyone who is fighting against what they perceive as their enemy – President Assad. Whoever those people are, whatever their aims are. This in many ways is a throwback to the disastrous situation we had decades ago in Afghanistan, where Mujahedeen groups were being armed and supported to fight against Soviet troops irrespective of who those people were, and what they were likely to go on and do afterwards.

RT: Is it really that difficult to ascertain who is a moderate and who is a hardliner? Do they have genuinely a very difficult job to decide who is who?

CM: That is not very difficult, because there aren’t any moderates…Forces who are fighting for a secular democratic Syria could be counted on the fingers of a very few hands. The Americans put a huge amount of money into a training program for such people. And the number of people they could actually find to train was in the teens, not in the hundreds. These moderate forces simply do not exist – they are a figment of the imagination. 

READ MORE: Accepting Assad? Fallon’s Syria policy coming unstuck as MPs question war aims

RT: What are the dangers in backing some of the less-moderate rebel groups?

CM: You have to see this as a kind of continuum, where the UK and the US are supporting essentially Saudi funded and Saudi organized and inspired forces to fight a sort of sectarian war across the Middle East. It all ties in with what the Saudis are doing with their bombing in Yemen. Much of it is about support for the arms industry in the West and arms sales rather than any serious attempts to achieve a proper political outcome in Syria. It is very dangerous indeed. We are creating more violence, more radicalization, and more groups who ultimately will be a danger to everybody.

RT: You probably have to include different groups of people that are in Syria in order to get peace. If you don’t include members of the Taliban it’s quite difficult to achieve some peaceful solutions. What’s your take on that?

CM: I think you certainly do. You certainly have to talk to everybody. What you don’t have to do is arm everybody and support everybody to fight. Besides that, you can’t bomb your way to peace, which seems to be the big issue in American strategy at the moment – is obvious nonsense.

RT: Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told MPs the campaign against ISIS peaked in 2014. Is that a signal for scaling-back support for operations?

CM: What we will see is the menace coming from ISIL/ISIS/DAESH – metamorphosing; and it arising again with different names, a slightly different identity yet again. They are not solving the problem in the least, but they may well be making progress against one particular manifestation of the problem, but the actual problem remains.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.