Syria and pressing concerns for the region

While the Geneva talks, if they are actually held, are tipped to fail, a political settlement may well be the only hope, not only for Syria, but also for the region. 

Sarah El-Richani
3 June 2013

While the repeated condemnations of Hezbollah’s intervention on the side of the Syrian regime are justifiable for a variety of reasons, they are myopic and overlook the foreign intervention on the side of the rebels, be it logistical or financial.

Indeed, intervention on both sides of the conflict has become a reality and is one of the main reasons the militarised conflict has dragged on for as long as it has.

The primary concern should therefore not be the inevitable foreign intervention in this conflict but the need for a political settlement, which would prevent the increasingly radicalised and sectarian conflict from spilling over into the region.

Spill over events in wobbly Lebanon have thus far been scattered and contained. Last week, a fragile and, no doubt, temporary ceasefire was reached in the flashpoint city of Tripoli, which has witnessed intense fighting. Meanwhile the so-called FSA in Qusair has been lobbing rockets on the nearby Hermel district in Lebanon. Last week, two rockets fell in the southern suburb of Beirut, a stronghold of Hezbollah, less than a day after the party’s secretary general justified his movement’s involvement in Syria and called on Lebanese factions to spare Lebanon and battle out their differences in Syria. 

Despite Hezbollah’s call to spare Lebanon and battle out differences in Syria, the rockets and an unrealistic FSA ultimatum for Lebanon to withdraw Hezbollah fighters from Qusair, amplified fears that losses in Syria might be avenged in Lebanon.

Furthermore, and although it is yet to be confirmed, initial investigations into the murder of three Lebanese soldiers in the border town of Arsal last Tuesday have linked the crime to members of the Farouk brigade fighting against the regime in Syria. This is the second time this year Lebanese soldiers have been targeted and killed in the border town of Arsal, known to be sympathetic with the rebels and a main conduit for weapons and fighters.

As the Lebanese parliament unconstitutionally voted on extending its term by 17 months, citing the precarious situation as well as disagreements over a new electoral law, another neighbour seems to be getting jittery. Israel has struck Syrian targets for the third time this year. While the Syrian army has done very little to liberate the occupied Golan heights in recent decades, contrary to what Assad claimed in his latest interview, Israeli involvement in Syria or clashes with Hezbollah are feasible.

All the while, the number of refugees continues to rise, overwhelming neighbouring countries who are straining to cope financially and logistically. Furthermore, the kidnappings and sectarian atrocities committed in Syria show no sign of abating. While the Geneva talks, if they are actually held, are tipped to fail, a political settlement may well be the only hope, not only for Syria, but also for the region. 

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

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