Will the Syrian regime ever ease the suffering of its people?

The United Nations has reportedly confirmed it is highly unlikely to support or facilitate air drops of humanitarian aid to areas besieged by Bashar al-Assad’s criminal regime without the regime’s approval.

In what marks the latest utter failure of Syrian civilians, the UN is capitulating to Assad’s continued practice of denying humanitarian aid in areas opposed to him. Using starvation as a weapon and humanitarian aid as a bargaining chip in negotiations has been a key part of Assad’s strategy for years.

Assessing now that there is any likelihood he will give the UN or any other actor approval for airdrops of aid is ludicrous; moreover, allowing the Syrian regime to dictate how, when and where humanitarian aid can be distributed is a betrayal of Syrian civilians and reinforces the notion that humanitarian law is merely a suggestion.

Begging the murderous regime to allow the international community to help alleviate suffering in Syria marks a new and despicable low in this bloody conflict; involved parties must plan to act unilaterally to ensure aid is delivered to every area that is in dire need. No reasonable party can justify looking to a regime guilty of exterminating its own people for support of humanitarian missions.

No reasonable party can justify looking to a regime guilty of exterminating its own people for support of humanitarian missions

Brooklyn Middleton

According to the Guardian, the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) reportedly agreed in April that the UN World Food Program would conduct airdrops of humanitarian aid beginning on June 1 if the Syrian government continued to block the transfer of aid via land.

The deadline has come and gone and, predictably, the regime has continued to block aid deliveries on the ground, prompting British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to issue a statement indicating that the regime “has cynically allowed limited amounts of aid… but it has failed to deliver the widespread humanitarian access called for by the international community.”

Military response

Despite the meeting in April and the progress that was ostensibly made, the AP reported the UN is now reneging on its air drop plans; it is a staggering new development in the conflict. After years of the regime blocking access to aid workers on the ground, there is every reason to assess Assad will act to block the same in the air. That said, aid deliveries without the regime’s approval are unlikely to be met with a military response; Assad and Russia are not likely to seek an escalation with the West over humanitarian aid deliveries. Notably, even if the regime begins to allow a trickle of aid into besieged areas, awarding itself a small PR victory, it will eventually block such humanitarian operations.

The latest UN reports estimate that almost half a million people remain in besieged areas, the vast majority of who – approximately 452,700 - are trapped by the Syrian regime. The UN and international community cannot sit by as spectators while aid is successfully dropped to areas under siege by the opposition or the barbaric ISIS but not the regime. The UN cannot only aid the civilians that the Syrian regime chooses.

From the most embryonic stages of the conflict to the birth of the worst refugee crisis since World War II, the world has repeatedly failed to protect Syrians. Air drops of humanitarian aid must be planned and executed without delay and without chasing approval from the Assad regime.

Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst currently based in New York City. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama's policy in Syria as well as Bashar al-Assad's continued crimes against his own people. She recently finished her MA thesis on Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, completing her Master's degree in Middle Eastern Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here: @BklynMiddleton.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:51 - GMT 06:51
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