UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson looks much older than usual as he poses in this image with US secretary of state John Kerry at Lancaster House, London. Perhaps someone has finally explained the realities of his earlier sabre-rattling comments? [Image: Justin Tallis/PA.]

UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson looks much older than usual as he poses in this image with US secretary of state John Kerry at Lancaster House, London. Perhaps someone has finally explained the realities of his earlier sabre-rattling comments? [Image: Justin Tallis/PA.]

It seems western governments have “no appetite” for any military confrontation with Russia – and quite rightly so.

Such action could escalate into a full-scale war – possibly on a nuclear level. While some boneheads in US (and UK) political and military circles might want that, the rest of us certainly do not.

Notice that Iran is mentioned as an ally of Russia in the Syria conflict. Only yesterday, This Writer’s brother, known in blogging circles as Beastrabban, was telling me about concerns that the US military was on a ‘regime change’ tour of the Middle East, with those in Iraq and Libya already removed, Syria a work-in-progress and Iran next on the list.

Then it gets casually dropped into the UK foreign secretary’s conversation. Watch carefully to see how quickly he tries to stir up public support for action against that country!

Mr Johnson’s comments about Russian President Vladimir Putin calling off a trip to France due to political pressure should be read alongside Mr Putin’s own explanation. He seemed concerned that an event to mark the opening of a Russian religious and cultural centre would be overshadowed by the international situation.

Certainly he could be said to be feeling the pressure; it could equally be said that he was taking the diplomatic option and ensuring that a celebratory occasion would not be ruined by other concerns.

Does John Kerry look weak because he went back to the negotiating table after saying he was breaking off contact with the Russians over Syria? I would disagree with that opinion. It takes strength of character to accept that another opportunity has presented itself, and then go back and take advantage of it.

Turkey’s idea of an international convoy to Aleppo is similar to that put forward by Mr Putin in the interview mentioned above, of a convoy providing humanitarian aid.

Would it work? I don’t know. It seems worth a try – and if that happens, it should be remembered that Russia proposed the idea.

There is information on the reasons for the disagreement between Russia and the US on the al-Nusra terrorists in Aleppo. Apparently the terrorists are fighting alongside moderate forces allied to the west, who do not want to abandon them.

This complicates the situation considerably. It would be easy to suggest that the terrorists have created a variation on the usual ‘human shield’ tactic that induces them to site their headquarters in hospitals, for example. But this time the ‘human shield’ appears to be participating willingly.

The only way to ensure the safety of non-combatants, it seems, is to negotiate a ceasefire in which the terrorists and the moderates all leave the city. But why would they agree to that, when they want to take control of it?

More negotiation is needed, then. But how much talk can be tolerated while the death toll is rising?

The US and Britain said on Sunday that they were considering fresh economic sanctions against the Syrian government and its supporters in response to the continued bombardment of Aleppo, but failed to develop any consensus for tougher military options, including a no-bombing zone.

At the end of four hours of talks in London among the countries backing the Syrian opposition, the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, was forced to declare that “there is a lack of political appetite, to put it mildly” among western nations for going to war in Syria.

Johnson has been canvassing support for a no-bombing zone, but there is little support for the proposal either in the White House or Downing Street, largely due to fears it will lead to a Russian counter-strike and a deeper conflagration. Syrian opposition figures are hoping to persuade Hillary Clinton to adopt a more robust attitude, should she become US president next month.

Johnson said the west was looking at new proposals, but added: “I would not pretend that in those proposals there is some magic solution for this appalling slaughter because the real answer lies with those who are perpetrating it, and that is the Assad regime and its puppeteers in the form of the Russians and the Iranians.”

Johnson also described as “very significant” the French move to turn a visit from Vladimir Putin to Paris into a discussion about Syria, at which point the Russian president pulled out of the trip. “They are starting to feel the pressure and it is vital that we keep that pressure up,” Johnson said.

Kerry has also been made to look politically weak by declaring last week that contacts with the Russians over Syria were being broken off due to Russian breaches of the ceasefire, only to restart talks with Russia on Saturday in Lausanne alongside Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It appears that Russia excluded France and the UK from those talks in a sign that the old International Syria Support Group is being broken up.

In the fullest account of Saturday’s meeting, Turkey revealed that it had proposed an internationally flagged convoy, as opposed to a UN convoy, to seek to break the siege of Aleppo.

The parties had discussed the possibility of settling a ceasefire on the condition that al-Nusra’s presence in the region comes to an end.

The west, Russia and Syria agree that al-Nusra is a terrorist organisation, but the group is fighting alongside moderate forces in Aleppo backed by the west, and the moderate forces, many with similar ideological affinities, are unwilling to abandon them.

Source: US and UK consider tougher sanctions against Syria and allies | World news | The Guardian

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