Ancient cities and World Heritage sites across Syria have been turned into wastelands of blood-soaked rubble littered with infants’ shoes and toys. Almost 300,000 Syrians have been killed and 11 million displaced. If there is one person to blame for the four-year-long tragedy it is Bashar al-Assad, who instructed his army to slaughter his own citizens rather than heed his people’s call to step down. He put his chair before his country and he is responsible for the influx of terrorists.
Assad is the greatest war criminal of our time, and as long as he is in Russia’s embrace he can sleep soundly. He is assured of immunity because, firstly, Syria is not a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and, secondly, he is confident that the U.N. Security Council cannot refer him to The Hague thanks to Russia’s power of veto. Russia makes a mockery of international laws and institutions set-up to hold leaders to account for crimes against humanity.
Decisive action is needed so that Syrian families trudging through a freezing Europe with their babies can go home.Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor
What concerns me most is how impotent the international community has become, both diplomatically and militarily. Assad’s future is being used as a bargaining chip in this disgraceful geopolitical power play in which Syrian lives are considered collateral damage.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s defence of Assad has nothing to do with warm personal chemistry between the two leaders. His longevity is dependent purely on his usefulness to Moscow’s interests:
• Preservation of Russia’s naval base in the port of Tartus – its only deep water base on the Mediterranean.
• Compliance with the demands of Russia’s prime regional ally Iran seeking to maintain Syrian state control over the capital, the Mediterranean coast and areas of central Syria serving as a conduit for Iranian weapons destined for its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah.
• The necessity of proving to Moscow’s allies that they will not be abandoned when the chips are down and also to encourage regional partners allied with the West to shift into Russia’s sphere of influence.
• Projection of Russian power in the Middle East through the agency of an informal Russian-Syrian-Iranian (and a potential Iraqi) bloc.
Unfortunately, President Barrack Obama’s hesitancy to stop the bloodshed some years ago following the regime’s use of chemical weapons, the ineffectiveness of year-long U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against ISIS and his unwillingness to put boots on the ground left a vacuum for Russia to fill. Obama’s ‘Syria strategy’ has been marked by failure.
America’s programs to train and arm ‘moderate’ rebels have had to be binned because without heavy weapons they were no match for the better-armed terrorist groups. Since Russia seized the initiative, the U.S. is trying to play catch up with ramped up airstrikes and the insertion of a 50-strong contingent of Special Forces set to work alongside Kurdish and Arab fighters battling ISIS.
The White House has no plans to assist opposition forces fighting to bring down the Assad regime, as deduced by an irate Senator Lindsey Graham recently while grilling Secretary of Defence Ash Carter and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford on the administration’s objectives during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing recently.
Under the veteran lawmaker’s relentless battering, Carter was forced to admit that U.S. strategy is solely to assist rebels fighting ISIS. In his testimony Graham promptly lost his cool. “Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are gonna fight for their guy, and we’re not gonna do a damn thing to help the people who want to change Syria for the better by getting rid of the dictator in Damascus,” he ranted.
“So what you’ve done gentlemen, along with the President, is you’ve turned Syria over to Russia and Iran. You’ve told the people in Syria, who’ve died by the hundreds of thousands, ‘we’re more worried about a political settlement than we are about what follows...’”