Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Syria's Searing Failure: Failure of the International Community to Intervene

It is inconceivable that the world looks on, moved yet unmoved by the plight of Syrian civilians, men, women and children who have no wish but to go about their daily lives in peace, but who have been recognized by the Syrian authorities as a veritable fifth column which has welcomed among them rebel militias battling the government. They are deemed to be at one with the enemies of the regime. And as such, they have been fodder for brutal vengeance.

News Photo: Men carrying children run out of a burning…
Men carrying children run out of a burning building following a barrel bomb attack reportedly dropped by government forces in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on February 8, 2014.  AFP PHOTO/BARAA AL-HALABI

Their neighbourhoods in the suburbs of cities, their towns and wherever else they live as a majority Sunni Syrian presence, have been surrounded by the military of what was once their country. They are completely penned in, their neighbourhoods have become a huge dungeon of despair, a barred jail from which they may neither exit nor enter. Nor can any life-saving food aid, potable water, medical supplies enter.

They are left to starve, to perish one by one. They are also being mercilessly bombed. This one-two punch by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the Sunni population of the country ruled by a minority Shia population leader is meant to diminish the number of Sunnis who can conceivably plot against him and aid the "terrorists" and "Islamists" who threaten the Assad regime which has long oppressed the people of Syria; its Sunni and Kurd demographics.

Many people have died as a result of the "starvation sieges", and many more will join them. The brief pause arranged during the frigidly useless negotiations in Geneva sponsored by the UN and the Arab League managed to have a days-brief interregnum during which roughly 400 starving people were permitted to leave Aleppo and food aid was delivered to the starving. And the Syrian Red Crescent and humanitarian volunteers in the process were attacked by military artillery.

The prevention of food and medicine from reaching desperately trapped people represents a war crime of horrendous proportions; slow death by starvation can be balanced against death achieved through bombardment of toxic chemicals, both achieving like ends. The chemicals were removed by dual agreement, the food is being denied through inaction. In the besieged areas, disease has come visiting along with its companion, death.

Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter allows the Security Council to have its directives enforced through military action. From past efforts to have the Security Council embark on an ameliorative course of action, it's well enough recognized that both China and Russia stand in the way of achieving consensus. Non-interference in a country's internal affairs guides China, lest any interfere in theirs, and Russia's long useful alliance with Syria guides it, irrespective of the horrors.

Yet it is obvious that an external, international force must be put together in an effort to extract those helplessly desperate people from their agony. At the very least to enable the safe passage to haven by those who want to leave their besieged neighbourhoods which have also been bombed to virtual smithereens. And to allow the security of producing food and medicine for ill and starving Syvian civilians.

Russia is on record as promising it would support measures on humanitarian issues. But there is a slight blip there; it will approve such a rescue mission only if Syria would agree to it. A more cynical approach to a desperate situation could never be encountered, let alone countenanced. Either a multinational force could be assembled to step into the situation to rescue the abandoned, or a coalition of those sufficiently outraged to assemble themselves could and should intervene.

That intervention could resemble the operation which took place when NATO with UN approval, decided it would give air cover over Libya, and advisers on the ground to help the rebels fashion themselves into a well-ordered resistance. Alternately before the mounting of a potentially effective solution, President Assad and the opposition might be given the opportunity to act together of their own accord to settle the conflict.

Failing that there is always the much-celebrated, but little-used Responsibility to Protect resolution passed in the United Nations that could be called upon. The Assad regime certainly over-qualifies for representation as a government inflicting atrocities upon its vulnerable population. This horrendous conflict which has taken over 130,000 lives, created millions of refugees, pounded civil infrastructure into rubble, maimed people through detention and torture, and effectively destroyed a country must cease.

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