Despite my support for new sanctions on Russia, I am anxious that the West is getting closer to directly supporting the moderate rebels and focusing on overthrowing Assad. If the rebels ever did come to power, this would surely lead to further conflict; firstly, many of Assad's sympathisers would still exist and therefore form new resistance and secondly, the current rebel groups are incredibly divided and there is a high chance that they would start fighting amongst themselves if they formed a government together.
As much as I think Assad is a tyrant and that he should go, avoiding bloodshed is our utmost priority. I am anxious that the West are looking for the perfect solution – they won't find it. We need to compromise in order to preserve life.
Lewis Chinchen Sheffield
US Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that he “can’t imagine a stable and peaceful Syria” with Assad in place. I have the sense that if, because eventually it will happen, a regime change will be enforced on Syria by the US, then we all can breathe easy and celebrate the success of the introduction of parliamentary democracy in that country, just as we had reasons to celebrate regime change and the introduction of “democracy“ in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
It would be churlish of me to suggest that all of these regime changes have a well-documented history of having caused sectarian strife and killings of the most horrendous kind of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people.
None of the western do-gooders, mainly the US and the UK, have any strategy in place to broker an acceptable peace settlement in Syria. By all accounts, it was the West, Turkey and Saudi Arabia who supplied weapons to the opposition in Syria. And that started some five years ago now. The body count continues. The wolves continue circling the camp.
When Angela Merkel met with US President Trump recently, she suggested that it would be better if we would talk with each other, rather than about each other. Did anybody else hear her cry from the wilderness?
Gunter Straub London, NW3
Following the recent chemical attack in Syria and the US response, calls that Assad must be removed have intensified. I hope that in the eventuality of this happening that the West, this time, have a plan as to what happens next. Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria – when will our politicians realise that there is no parliamentary democracy waiting in the wings?
Chris Elshaw Headley Down
I suspect I fall into a common bracket of readers who can’t determine whether the American administration was right or wrong to bomb a Syrian aerodrome in retaliation to the likelihood that the Syrian air force used nerve or poison gas against innocent civilians last week.
However, I do know that one innocent child’s life has the same value regardless of its geographic location or ethnicity, or its parent’s religion. This for me makes it very difficult to understand how the American and UK Governments can justify taking military action in Syria whilst supporting other attacks against innocent children elsewhere.
Our Government is supporting Saudi Arabia with armaments supplies and the provision of military experts whilst we know that their actions in Yemen have caused many civilian deaths, and their continued blockade of essential supplies of food and medical aid are causing extreme hardship for the Yemeni civilians, with the greatest impact being on babies and small children. Perhaps one of your excellent reporters could ask our Prime Minister and the US President on my behalf why they place such a high value on Syrian babies and children whilst apparently placing no value on those of Yemen?
David Curran Feltham
I pity those who think President Trump was really agonised by watching horrid scenes of Syrian children drenched in blood. President Trump is only worried about his survival chances at home. Military attacks do not do anything for those living on the rubble of their neighbourhoods; for those agonising in pain without essential medicines, vaccinations, life-saving equipment, and so on, and for those undertaking treacherous voyages across raging seas to reach safety in continental Europe.
What Trump has really achieved is bolstering Putin's military and navy presence in Syria and deflecting to some extent attention from his own troubles at home. Nothing was best in achieving this than by using Arabs and Muslims as pawns in his chess game with his political adversaries. Also a lot of questions remain unanswered: first, every missile launched costs £800,00 dollars – who paid for the 95 missiles? Why not do something to save innocent civilians being persecuted and brutally murdered in Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Burma?
Why not make a U-turn and rescind the travel ban on Syrian refugees then? Why not end the plight of Israelis and Palestinians locked down in a brutal show for over seven decades? More importantly, why not focus on the US itself? According to Trump, the murder rate there is the highest ever in 47 years.
Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob London, NW2
Oh how I agree with David Barnett's article about local newspapers (It’s not the internet that’s destroying local news – it’s greed, 5 April). There is a real need for local press in addition to national press. No national newspaper is going to be report on what our local councils are up to, or what devious goings on might be happening locally. Equally, I do not look to my local Gazette for reports on Westminster machinations. I need both to get a full picture.
And on the matter of being promoted out of your favourite job, that is widespread among other professions, eg education. Who was it who said, “We are all in danger of being promoted to at least one level above our level of competence”?
Patrick Wise Cirencester
No doubt you’ve seen the report of the Asian woman who confronted a male EDL supporter at a rally in Birmingham last weekend. The man's name was Ian Crossland. This is what he posted on Facebook on 5th June last year: “Good night folks. Peace out unless you're Islamic, then may the fleas of a thousand camels infest your arse hole.” And he describes himself as “South Yorkshire's finest” on that same page.
Patrick Cosgrove Shropshire
Today’s biggest weapon
If you’ve not read it, you must read George Orwell’s essay “You and the atomic bomb”. One line struck me as particularly relevant considering the mass technological change we have seen in the past few years: “Ages in which the dominant weapon is expensive or difficult to make will tend to be ages of despotism, whereas when the dominant weapon is cheap and simple the common people have a chance.”
I wonder what Orwell would have made of today’s society and in particular the dominant weapon of the time, the internet. The late noughties saw a wave of optimism in the internet and its emancipatory power. Stories of bedroom start-ups making millions, small niche businesses expanding their reach to a global audience and free flowing information that enabled all, no matter how remote, to see the truth.
If the past 12 months have taught us anything, it is that far from being the weapon of the common people, the internet has become a nexus of control and political influence that would impress the most effective of propaganda machines.
At face value, by Orwell's standards, should we not be pleased? For the price of a Sky broadband tariff, and inexplicably a landline charge, we too have access to the weapon that the Kremlin has, that GCHQ has and that Donald Trump has. But do we really? We are all becoming increasingly aware of Russian involvement in swaying the US presidential election. What too is coming to light, and in my opinion is far more terrifying is the impact Cambridge Analytica had on the EU referendum.
A company owned by friend of Nigel Farage, Robert Mercer, used hugely advanced and expensive data analytics tools to construct psychometric profiles of British voters in an effort to influence their votes through Facebook advertisements. Far from this being a hysterical fear by one paranoid millennial, this weapon used by the Vote Leave campaign is seen as so powerful that it has warranted an investigation by UK privacy watch dog the ICO. Fears over the exploitation over personal data and the weaponisation of the internet are growing.
This is where my point lies, the internet gives us all the power to expose injustices in 140 characters or less. But don't be fooled, the internet is not a cheap weapon that puts us “the common people” on a level playing field with the elite, the internet is a weapon that is expensive and extremely difficult to make. It's time we all woke up, before the clock strikes 13.
Jasper London, E5