UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says the West is considering broader military operations against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to protect what he called “the Syrian opposition.”
Johnson made the comments as he discussed the current situation in Syria with the foreign affairs select committee at the British House of Commons on Wednesday.
The secretary told the lawmakers that US, French and German foreign ministers would gather in London on Sunday to discuss Syria’s military operations in Aleppo province.
“Most people I think are changing their minds on this and are thinking we cannot let this go on forever. We cannot just see Aleppo pulverized in this way, we have to do something. The mood of the House of Commons has changed from 2013. Whether that means we can get a coalition for a more kinetic action now I cannot prophesy. But what most people want to see now is a new set of options,” Johnson said.
“It is vital we consider them and we will do that now,” he added.
Backed by Russian air support, Syrian government forces launched an assault on Aleppo last month to capture militant-held parts of the city, days after a US- and Russian-brokered truce collapsed on September 19.
Syria’s victories in Aleppo have prompted concerns among Western governments who actively seek to remove Assad from power by backing what they call “moderate rebels.”
Johnson said in his remarks on Wednesday that the foreign-backed militants should not get their “hopes up too high.”
He also blasted the House of Commons for voting against military action in 2013, calling the move a “big step backwards” that allowed Russia to “occupy” the space “we vacated.”
According to the foreign secretary, the West was also mulling tougher economic sanctions against people close to the Assad government.
Johnson also raised the possibility that due to the constant failure of the 25-nation International Syria Support Group (ISSG) to end the years-long conflict in Syria, the West might consider working in a smaller group in future.
The UK is part of a US-led coalition that has been carrying out airstrikes against alleged Daesh positions in Syria and Iraq since 2014, without a UN mandate or permission from Damascus.
The airstrikes have on many occasions targeted civilians and government forces, raising suspicions about the West’s true objectives.