TONY Blair and other advocates of regime change by force in Syria are ignoring the disasters it creates.

Iraq's continuing sectarian civil war includes al Qaeda, which wasn't in Iraq before the invasion.

It has become stronger than ever since the US ended funding for Iraqi awakening militias. Al Qaeda In Iraq helped establish the group's Syrian wing, Al Nusrah.

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Since Col Gadaffi's overthrow in Libya, militias have tortured and killed his supporters and even his former opponents, along with thousands of black Libyans.

British and French embassy staff have also been attacked and US embassy staff killed by Islamist groups. Al Qaeda has also been able to use Libya as a base for attacks on French targets in Niger.

Regime change by force in Syria would also strengthen al Qaeda and merely replace Sunnis and Assad opponents being tortured and killed with Alawites, Shia, Christians and Kurds and Assad supporters becoming the victims.

There have already been massacres of Alawites by anti-Assad foreign jihadists in the town of Aqrab and by Islamist rebels of Shia in Hatla.

Tens of thousands of Syrian Christians have fled from Sunni extremist groups.

Lebanon's electoral law, which guarantees Muslims and Christians an equal share of seats in parliament, shows sectarian civil wars can be ended by equal power sharing.

In Syria, power sharing could be between opponents and supporters of Mr Assad, including a referendum on replacing the presidency with a multi-member ruling council, indirectly elected by parliament, to give every faction a share of power.

Rebel groups which signed up to power sharing could become Syrian army units under their existing commanders, with an agreement that within a fixed time half of all professional soldiers and officers would be non-Alawites, along with similar changes in the composition of the police and judiciary.

Any armed group which rejected the agreement or continued hostilities (most likely including Al Qaeda / Nusrah) could be attacked as an enemy by all who had until it was defeated, disarmed and disbanded, or accepted the agreement.

Duncan McFarlane,