David Cameron made separate phone calls to President Obama and President Hollande this evening to discuss the situation in Syria. In his conversation with Hollande, the Prime Minister discussed how to 'build on the non-lethal support recently announced by the UK and agreed that France and the UK would work more closely to identify how they could bolster the opposition and help a potential transitional Syrian government after the inevitable fall of Assad,' a Downing Street spokesperson said.
What will that inevitable fall from power look like? In this week's Spectator, Douglas Murray argues that the International Criminal Court has changed the way dictators let go of power. In the old days they might have disappeared into exile, but now they see an incentive to hang on to the bitter end, killing thousands more people in the process. He says:
Of course it is justice, but the new international justice puts legal purity ahead of the saving of human lives. It also too often provides a smokescreen for the failure of traditional policy. Last week the United Nations — which has proved so incapable of stopping the bloodshed in Syria — released a report concluding that the regime of Bashar al-Assad had committed war crimes. What does the UN expect to be the result of such a conclusion? That Bashar al-Assad will realise he has been bad, and cease and desist? Or will it only serve to enforce his realisation that, like Macbeth, he is ‘in blood/ Stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more,/ Returning were as tedious as go o’er.’ What incentive does official condemnation give for Assad to go? Assuming he would at least want to try to save his wife and family, this is exactly the moment at which the UN could do something practical. Not by grand-standing, but by persuading Assad’s remaining wretched allies finally to do their bit, and spirit him away.
And why shouldn’t Russia — which has done so much to help Assad prolong the killing in Syria — now be encouraged to take him? Why shouldn’t the UN seek to persuade Iran — which has run Syria as a protectorate over recent years — to give the Assads a villa in downtown Tehran? It may not be the Assads’ preferred permanent bolthole. The fragrant and bloody Asma, wife of Bashar, may resent waving goodbye to the shopping arcades of Paris and London. She may even find herself pining for the fields of Acton. But even a bungalow outside Vladivostok looks appealing if the alternative is swinging from a Damascene lamppost.
That is their concern. The concern of this country and the international community should be simply to minimise the loss of human life. If that means getting the leadership out, then we should be bold enough to do so, even if it means letting a mass murderer go unpunished.
You can read Douglas' full article in tomorrow's Spectator and on our site if you are a subscriber. Click here to subscribe to the magazine from £1 a week.