The tragic civil war in Syria between the Alawite-led government of President Bashir Assad, and the numerous disunited rebel brigades (including ISIS) that battle for control of the country, has been marked by extreme violence on all sides. The conflict has already claimed over 250,000 lives, more than 4.5 million people have fled the country, a further 6.5 million are internally displaced, and the nation’s infrastructure is in ruins. Regional and international powers including the US have attempted to intervene, all with their own geopolitical agendas. However only the Russian intervention on Assad’s behalf, both military and diplomatic, has had any significant impact, and despite furious criticism by the West, Putin has persuaded the US to make its top priority the defeat of ISIS rather than the fall of Assad. The distinguished foreign correspondent Jonathan Steele will discuss the situation with us. Jonathan has spent many years in the Middle East and Russia, and was the Guardian’s Moscow bureau chief during the collapse of communism. He has won numerous awards including the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, and has twice been named International Reporter of the Year in the British Press Awards. He is the author of widely acclaimed books on international relations, including four on Russia, and is currently Chief Reporter of the website Middle East Eye.
23rd January 2017