Saturday, 27 June 2015

Syria: Civilians Pay the Price

'Ideally, those under arms who oppose the Assad regime would not take the poisoned bait of collective punishment and sectarian targeting spread promiscuously by the regime over the past four years. But some have, thereby imposing on their external supporters and suppliers an obligation to secure immediate corrective action. ISIL, of course, is beyond the pale and is not in any event part of the Syrian Revolution. Yet those seeking to draw Nusra away from its murderous al-Qaeda origins might concentrate first on stopping its war crimes.

It is, however, the Assad regime that runs circles around “anti-Government armed groups” in terms of gross criminality. Consider some of the Commission’s more striking passages:

  • “ . . . the Government continues to direct attacks towards locations where civilians are likely to congregate, among them, bus stations, marketplaces, and bakeries.”
  • “In particular, the continuing use of barrel bombs in aerial campaigns against whole areas, rather than specific targets, is in violation of international humanitarian law and, as previously documented, amounts to the war crime of targeting civilians.”
  • “The larger strategy [of the regime] appears to be one of making life unbearable for civilians who remain inside armed-group controlled areas.”
  • “The previously documented pattern of attacks indicating that Government forces have deliberately targeted hospitals, medical units, and ambulances remains an entrenched feature of the conflict.”
  • “Government sieges are imposed in a coordinated manner . . . [I]n particular, Government forces have refused to allow aid deliveries of essential medicines and surgical supplies . . . [G]overnment authorities act in direct breach of binding international humanitarian law obligations to ensure that wounded and sick persons are collected and cared for, and to ensure the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief.”
  • “Everyday decisions—whether to go visit a neighbor, to send your child to school, to step out to buy bread—have become, potentially, decisions about life and death. Large numbers of children have been killed in bombardments of their homes, schools, and playgrounds.”

The Obama administration is operationally indifferent to all of this. This is not to say it is at a loss for words when describing the depredations of Bashar al-Assad, a person it stubbornly continues to recognize as the President of the Syrian Arab Republic. Yet its strategy for degrading and destroying ISIL—notwithstanding effective military-humanitarian interventions at Mount Sinjar in Iraq and Kobane in Syria—is operationally silent on protecting Syrian civilians from the regime. This despite its intellectual acceptance that Assad’s program of mass homicide produces recruits for ISIL from around the world and convinces increasing numbers of Syrians that ISIL may be their best bet for protection against regime atrocities.'

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