Syria, the west’s response and international law | Letters

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Readers including Mark Rylance, Brian Eno and Francesca Martinez respond to the escalating situation in Syria

Before insisting on a military attack on Syria (After Douma the west’s response must be military, 10 April), it might be as well to reflect on historical precedent. In 1936 a revolt broke out in a Spanish province against the legitimate elected government of the republic by half the army. Although intensely disliked by the privileged and the Roman Catholic church in Spain, it was, like Assad’s, the legitimate government of Spain. The League of Nations authorised an arms embargo on Spain which was rigorously enforced by blockade by Britain and France (two substantial maritime empires at the time) in the Mediterranean and Atlantic. As a result, a prolonged civil war ensued with thousands of casualties, with the legitimate government deprived of the resources essential for fighting the rebel forces, while the fascist/Nazi governments of Italy and Spain poured arms and troops (especially air forces) with impunity into the conflict, which lasted until winter 1938.

What was the result of the now inevitable defeat of the legitimate government? Hundreds of thousands of refugees poured into neighbouring countries, where most remained. Forever. A criminal dictator ruled Spain, murdering hundreds of thousands of innocent victims, a dreadful dictatorship ensued for nearly 40 years and the aftereffects continue to this day, as in Catalonia. Be careful what you wish for, Mr Tisdall.
Greg Levitt
Maidstone, Kent

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