Syria bloodshed: Will it only get worse in 2016?
No progress can be made in ending the conflict if the resolutions already made are continuously abandoned
The past year saw an increase in the number of foreign actors directly intervening in the bloody Syrian conflict, yet the humanitarian crisis has worsened and the security situation continues to deteriorate. Several issues should be immediately addressed in the first several months of 2016 while moving toward the broader goal of ultimately ending the conflict in the latter months.
Demanding all parties uphold U.N. Security Council resolution 2254 and committing to diplomatically and militarily engaging the Syrian opposition are both crucial. Secondly, the United States and Russia should amend the chemical weapons agreement – which was implemented after the Sarin massacre in 2013 - to bar the use of chlorine gas. Third, the focus of all talks in the immediate term should call for halting the Assad regime’s indiscriminate barrel bombing campaigns and facilitating the transfer of humanitarian aid to the most at-need areas. Meanwhile, Arab states should recommit to the U.S.-led coalition’s fight against degrading both al-Qaeda and ISIS (ISIS) militant groups.
Russia has flagrantly violated resolution 2254 since its implementation in mid-December, bombing a number of hospitals and at least one school in Idlib province. Allowing signatories of the agreement to disregard it with impunity renders the document useless. Each violation should prompt an investigation and subsequent consequences. The U.N. should not wait for breaches to mount before addressing them but should instead convene a meeting each time locals report a violation.
No progress can be made in ending the conflict if the resolutions already made are continuously abandonedBrooklyn Middleton
The second issue that should be prioritized is the Assad regime’s continued usage of chlorine gas. An extremely regrettable consequence of the chemical weapons deal struck in 2013 is that it effectively allowed Assad to continue carrying out chemical warfare with impunity. Absent of any repercussions, the likelihood of another major chemical weapons massacre increases with every chlorine attack the regime carries out.
No excuses for stalled talks
Lastly, the focus of all negotiations and talks in the immediate future must seek to, first and foremost, halt the bloodshed. Efforts to do so should begin with the Assad regime, which remains responsible for the vast majority of deaths in Syria – much more so than barbaric ISIS and al-Qaeda fighters. It is worth reiterating that the U.S. will continue to call for Assad’s ousting while Russia and Iran will refuse to agree to such a reality; this major issue should not be used as an excuse for talks to stall.
While there can be no shift in the U.S.-held position that Assad must go, in the meantime, efforts should be made to deal with issues that can actually be immediately addressed. Debating the future of Assad’s grip on power and whether Syria will be ready for elections in the next calendar year is pointless while civilian areas are still being turned to rubble. The priority of talks in the absolute immediate term should be pressuring all parties to facilitate the transfer of humanitarian aid to areas in dire need, including in Madaya where reports indicate starving to death Syrians are being forced to eat cats to survive.
As these issues are addressed, Arab states still must re-commit to aiding the U.S. in its fight against ISIS. According to the New York Times in November 2015, eight Arab and Western states conducted only five percent of the thousands of airstrikes in Syria - a totally unacceptable percentage that underscores the fact that Arab states are not leading the fight against ISIS.
A number of agreements made abroad in recent years have not halted the bloodshed on Syrian soil. 2016 has to be year the international community follows through on all the red lines it has drawn in the sand. No progress can be made in ending the conflict if the resolutions already made are continuously abandoned.
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.
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