Johnson Says West Failed Syria, Left Pitch ‘Wide Open’ to Russia

By Kitty Donaldson and Svenja O’Donnell

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson faulted Western leadership in Syria — specifically for setting out red lines for intervention and then failing to follow through with the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.

He argued this was a mistake that allowed Russia and Iran to play out their foreign policies.

“We called on Assad to go,” Johnson said in a speech at his London office on Thursday. “We set the red lines of what we would accept in his treatment of the Syrian population. And then we did nothing about it. We willed the end, and failed to will the means — leaving the pitch wide open for Russia and Iran.”

Problems in the Middle East, he said, “have been exacerbated not so much by Western meddling as by our aloofness.”

U.S. President Barack Obama said in 2012 that his red line with the Assad regime was if there was proof of the use of chemical weapons. When this came in 2013, Obama had second thoughts.

As Obama explained in 2016, to The Atlantic: “We had UN inspectors on the ground who were completing their work, and we could not risk taking a shot while they were there. A second major factor was the failure of Cameron to obtain the consent of his parliament.”

David Cameron lost a parliamentary vote for military intervention in Syria when he was Britain’s prime minister, as lawmakers reflected on the poor result of action in Iraq although he later managed to secure support for air strikes on Islamic State.

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