It is not a good idea to intervene in Syria. I can’t put it any more simply and clearly than that. I have heard many of the arguments, indeed I heard many of them before about Iraq, and I disagreed with them then too. Indeed I refused to go to Iraq when invited to do so by the British Government because I did not want to be associated with that military venture. Later when I did go to Baghdad to try to get the various sides to engage in negotiations, it was on an entirely non-governmental mission. One of the people I met there was the US Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker. I was impressed by him then, so I was interested to hear him speaking on the Today programme yesterday. He made clear his view – based on his experience in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere – that this was not a case for intervention by us but for containment and diplomacy. When it was clear to me some time ago that there was a possibility of reaching an understanding between Syria and Israel (and there was a real chance at that time) I went to Damacus to meet with the Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mouallem. I returned some time later to meet him again with a number of colleagues, though it was then clear that the prospects for a peaceful outcome were slipping away. These meetings and many others in all the countries in the Middle East over a decade and more have made me very aware of the history of that very troubled region. What we are seeing is not as presented to us – simply an authoritarian regime cracking down on a democratic uprising. It is massively more complex than that. The whole region is sliding into a bloody civil war between Sunni and Shia and instead of finding ways of containing and mitigating it, the West is adding fuel to the sectarian fires. This is like the wars of religion in Europe and the bitter blood-letting could last a generation or more. We are coming in on one side of the fight, with Russia (and possibly China) lining up on the other side. This is neither politically wise, nor morally responsible. In response to the warnings I have been giving about this for some time, one of my Lib Dem MP colleagues said to me that he could not see how our intervention could possibly make it any worse. If the Commons votes to give the Government support to intervene without a UN Security Council resolution, I fear he may well find out how much worse it could be. This could turn a truly horrible situation in Syria into a regional catastrophe of unforeseeable proportions.