Boris Johnson: Work with Assad and Putin in Syria
The Mayor of London argued that, despite disagreements with Vladimir Putin and the Syrian dictator, “we cannot afford to be picky about our allies” in the conflict.
Mr Johnson voted in favour of military action in Syria, but in his Daily Telegraph column he said he thought the Prime Minister’s figure of 70,000 non-extremist forces potentially available to fight Isil may have been “exaggerated” and “may include some jihadists who are not ideologically very different from al-Qaeda”.
“We need someone to provide the boots on the ground; and given that we are not going to be providing British ground forces – and the French and the Americans are just as reluctant – we cannot afford to be picky about our allies,” he said.
“Who else is there? The answer is obvious. There is Assad, and his army; and the recent signs are that they are making some progress.”
He said it was not “morally impossible” to work with President Putin – about whom he said: “Despite looking a bit like Dobby the House Elf, he is a ruthless and manipulative tyrant” – and compared the situation to the alliance with Stalin in World War II.
The UK Government has repeatedly said that Assad must stand down in the long term in order to pave the way for a new administration that can unite Syria against Isil.
Mr Johnson said there should be a “timetable for Assad to stand down”, alongside an alliance of all anti-Isil powers.