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Why Assad’s old and new war crimes do not faze him

Assad continues to feel emboldened by the international community’s refusal to address his past war crimes

Brooklyn Middleton

Published: Updated:

The video footage of the latest Syrian regime bombardment of a civilian site showed mangled bodies lining the ground among scattered fresh vegetables. On the first day of the week, as families likely attempted to prepare for the week’s meals to come, a round of intense airstrikes devastated a market in Duma, killing at least 100 people and injuring at least 500 others. The brutal attack on 12 August once again underscored the utter barbarity of Bashar al-Assad’s disgraced regime. And the assault also proved Assad continues to feel emboldened by the international community’s refusal to address his past war crimes.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted that the criminal regime carried out at least four airstrikes on the crowded area and after a five-minute pause – presumably a window of time in which people rushed toward the carnage to help – at least several rockets struck the same site. United Nations Political Chief Jeffrey Feltman's stated the attack "would be yet one more war crime for which those responsible must be held accountable.” But held accountable by who - no one knows. Surely not by any single actor in the international community: Not the U.S., which plans on pulling the Patriot missile defense system from Turkey amid what Pentagon officials told the Associated Press was due to “a declining Syrian military threat.” Obviously none of Syria’s allies including Russia, which reportedly, just sent at least six MiG-31M fighter jets to Assad fighters. Domestically, U.N. special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura released a statement calling the attack "unacceptable under any circumstances.” Syrian government officials had a predictably absurd response, stating Mistura bought into "propaganda circulated within circles known for their hostility to Syria." It is highly unlikely the Syrian regime will be held accountable for their latest, well-documented attack against innocent civilians and yet again, any condemnation is likely to be ephemeral and limited to words.

Targeting civilians

It is worth noting too, that it was not the first time the Assad regime intentionally targeted civilians trying to gather food for themselves and their families; in one example of many such attacks, in late December 2012, at least 68 people were killed as they waited in line at a bakery in Halfaya. Reports noted no less than eight bombs were dropped at the site. In a study conducted by McClathyDC, credible evidence corroborated locals’ claims that hundreds have been killed while waiting for bread at dozens of different bakeries across the country since 2011. In an interview with the site, a U.N. official stated that, "The number of reported attacks on bakeries and bread lines is extraordinarily high…If such attacks are indeed proved to be systematic or widespread targeting of civilian populations, then they may amount to both crimes against humanity and war crimes. All parties must halt all such attacks.” The article referenced was written in January of 2013. Over two and a half years later, intentional regime attacks targeting markets continue while the Assad remains in power. While every senseless attack intentionally targeting civilians is reprehensible, the Assad regime’s continued targeting of Syrians attempting to feed themselves and their families is especially haunting.

Assad continues to feel emboldened by the international community’s refusal to address his past war crimes

Brooklyn Middleton

Meanwhile, as the blood on the streets of Duma continues fading, Syria marks the somber anniversary of the Sarin attack that left, according to the White House, at least 1,429 people, including at least 426 children, dead on August 21, 2013.

Perhaps there is no grimmer evidence of the ramifications of allowing Assad to continue killing than by a massacre taking place at a market days before the anniversary of what U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon called, “the worst use of chemical weapons on civilians in the 21st century.” As the war-torn country commemorates the attack, world leaders should hang their heads in collective shame for allowing the Assad regime to continue killing with impunity.

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Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst reporting from Israel. Her work has appeared in Turkish and Israeli publications including The Times of Israel and Hürriyet Daily News. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama's policy in Syria as well as the emerging geopolitical threats Israel faces as it pursues its energy interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. She is currently researching Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant groups to complete her MA in Middle Eastern Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here: @BklynMiddleton.

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