After Gaddafi: Now we must take down Assad and Ahmadinejad

The success of the Libya operation should encourage the West to help remove Syria’s Assad and Iran’s Ahmadinejad. The job in the MidEast is far from done

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Syria and Iran should be next
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The Commentator
On 21 October 2011 09:11

Britain and the other Western countries that participated in the Libya operation are rightly giving each other a well-deserved pat on the back today.

Gaddafi is confirmed dead. His regime is destroyed. So far as we know, we have not suffered a single casualty. The mission has been a resounding success.

Of course, what happens next is anybody’s guess. We only ever had a hazy view of who the rebels are and what they stand for.

Will Libya transition to democracy? Will it lurch sideways into a new form of despotism? Will it be something in between?

We don’t know. And, in any case, only the Libyan people can resolve such issues. Our job in the country is largely done, at least far as the military is concerned.

But that is very different from saying that our job in the wider Middle East is done.

The one concern we have always had about the Libya campaign is that it could all too easily serve as a distraction from far more important strategic priorities such as Syria and, above all, Iran and its nuclear programme.   

Having expended so much political capital to get international consensus and to rally domestic, popular support there is a danger now that there is that much less to draw on for any campaigns to remove Bashar al-Assad in Syria – no less a monster than Gaddafi and leader of a much more strategically significant country – and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – probably the most dangerous man in the world.

And we must be clear that these really are major strategic priorities.

Syria is not just run by a bloodthirsty psychopath, it is an international menace. Breaking the Assad regime would represent a huge blow to Hezbollah in Lebanon and simultaneously reduce Iran’s ability to play regional puppet master.

As for Iran itself, what is at stake should be self-evident. The day Iran gets nuclear weapons, the world crosses the Rubicon.

We must not shirk our responsibilities. We must ensure that that day never comes. And if that means a military attack, then so be it.

The demise of Gaddafi is indeed cause for celebration. But it must not encourage complacency – a sense that we have done our bit and can now relax.

Sadly, that is a luxury we cannot afford.

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