EXCL Former Army chief Lord Richards: We should let Assad win back Aleppo
The former head of the British military has said the West should allow Syrian president Bashir al-Assad to "take back" the besieged city of Aleppo and then join forces with Russia to take on Isil.
Putting himself at odds with the UK government, Lord Richards said the only way of solving the crisis in the region was to "allow Assad to win".
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson are among those who have accused Vladimir Putin of war crimes over the indiscriminate killing of civilians as Russian bombers help the Syrian regime attack rebel enclaves in Aleppo.
But in an interview with The House magazine, crossbench peer Lord Richards - who was Chief of the Defence Staff from 2010 until 2013 - said civilian deaths were "inevitable" in the ongoing conflict.
He said: "If the humanitarian situation in Syria is our major concern, which it should be – millions of lives have been ruined, hundreds of thousands have been killed – I believe there is a strong case for allowing Assad to get in there and take the city back.
"The opposition groups – many of whom are not friends of ours, they’re extremists – are now intermingled with the original good opposition groups, are fighting from amongst the people. The only quick way of solving it is to allow Assad to win. There’s no way the opposition groups are going to win."
He added: "We want the humanitarian horror of Aleppo to come to a rapid halt. The best and quickest way of doing that is to encourage the opposition groups to leave. The Russians are undoubtedly using their weapons indiscriminately. If they’re going to attack those groups then there is inevitably going to be civilian casualties.
"The alternative is for the West to declare a no-fly zone and that means you’ve got to be prepared to go to war with Russia ultimately. I see no appetite for that and nor, frankly, do I see much sense in it. It sticks in my throat to say it because I have no love for Assad.
"The fact is, the only way to get it to stop now is to allow Assad to win and win quickly and then turn on Isis with the Russians."
Elsewhere in the interview, Lord Richards also suggested that a victory for Donald Trump in next week's presidential election could improve international security.
He said the controversial billionaire was "wise enough to get good people round him and probably knows that he’s got to listen to them and therefore I think we should not automatically think it will be less safe".
He said: "It’s non-state actors like Isis that are the biggest threat to our security. If countries and states could coalesce better to deal with these people – and I think Trump’s instinct is to go down that route – then I think there’s the case for saying that the world certainly won't be any less safe.
"It’s that lack of understanding and empathy with each other as big power players that is a risk to us all at the moment.
"Therefore I think he would reinvigorate big power relationships, which might make the world ironically safer."