'Beside the external Islamic patron states, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey on the Sunni side, there is Russia arming al-Assad's forces against rebels who are being (very tentatively) supported by the US – almost as if we were back in the cold war.'Yet the US and Britain is already doing things it should not ( covertly backing the insurgents and trying to dictate the terms of any peace ) and not doing the things it should ( most obviously engaging in diplomacy with Iran). But it will not do this because Iran is regarded as the enemy of the UK's geopolitical interests.
Garton Ash does not mention the obvious fact Turkey is a NATO member which is irresponsibly stoking up the conflict in Syria by training Syrian Muslim Brotherhood militias to fight Assad. He omits that Saudi Arabia is the lynchpin of Britain's strategic policy for controlling Gulf oil and Iran's main regional competitor and foe.
The alliance with Saudi Arabia preserves the balance of power in the Middle East against Iranian influence. In Syria, it was the fear of Iran propping up its ally Assad, when set against having a Shia government in Baghdad, which has led to Saudi Arabia backing Wahhabi militias in a proxy war.
Saudi Arabia is a vital supplier of oil to the West and locked into a strategic partnership in which billions of pounds worth of arms deals bring profit for Britain's aerospace industries. Along with Qatar and other Gulf states fearing Iranian influence, Saudi Arabia is a major investor in Britain.
All of this is not mentioned by Garton Ash. Yet these basic facts are essential in understanding the geopolitical stakes in the civil war in Syria and why the only way of securing a ceasefire, which would involve Iran and not making Assad's departure a precondition to negotiations, is unlikely to happen.
Garton Ash knows diplomacy that involves Iran is vital but just asserts 'it's simply not happening, nor likely to happen any time soon' and that politics is 'blocked' for reasons that seemingly have nothing to do with Western interests or its heavy dependency upon oil from Saudi Arabia.
Garton Ash goes on to claim,
'The record of western military intervention in this region is disastrous. Yet the notion that not intervening in any way, militarily or otherwise, is always the most moral option simply does not stand honest scrutiny.'Yet if Garton Ash had scrutinised the West's actual intervention in Syria and its wider context in effectively backing those states funding Sunni fundamentalists, he would see that this was not a moral option but based very much on a cynical realpolitik to preserve oil and arms interest.