Chill­ing echoes of Hal­abja in Syria as the world watches on

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - By Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

The tragic and de­plorable chem­i­cal at­tack on Da­m­as­cus on 21st Au­gust 2013 by the Syr­ian regime brought echoes of the un­for­get­table Hal­abja mas­sacre in 1988. Over 5000 in­no­cent Kur­dish civil­ians dropped where they were in an at­tack that crossed all bound­aries, with thou­sands more in­jured and suf­fer­ing life-long ail­ments.

Yet, as the shock­ing as the chem­i­cals at­tacks are in Syria, some of the world looks on with doubt that Bashar al-As­sad’s regime would per­pe­trate such ac­tion, even ac­cus­ing the rebels of “fab­ri­cat­ing” the event point­ing to the tim­ing of the at­tacks with UN weapons in­spec­tors hav­ing just ar­rived in the coun­try on their long awaited man­date, mere miles from the af­fected zone.

But a dic­ta­tor­ship is just that, it will not stop at noth­ing to cling to power or re­al­ize nar­row minded goals. Ter­ror is a rule not an ex­cep­tion. More im­por­tantly, why would the Syr­ian regime hoard some of the largest chem­i­cal weapon stock­piles in the world if it was afraid to use them? The US and most EU pow­ers have al­ready con­firmed the use of chem­i­cal weapons by the regime dur­ing the bit­ter con­flict.

Go­ing back to Hal­abja, the West knew very well the chem­i­cal might and arse­nal of Sad­dam, af­ter all they were his al­lies against Tehran. Sad­dam’s forces re­verted to chem­i­cal weapons on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions to des­per­ately re­pel ad­vanc­ing Ira­nian forces. The regime had al­ready de­stroyed thou­sands of Kur­dish vil­lages, ter­ror­ized the Kur­dish pop­u­la­tion and com­mit­ted mass mur­der, why would they hes­i­tate at other means to an­ni­hi­late the Kurds?

How­ever, strate­gic in­ter­ests of the West at times play a more cru­cial role in for­eign pol­icy than real jus­tice or pro­tec­tion of hu­man rights. In the af­ter­math of the Hal­abja mas­sacre, Western govern­ments and me­dia were ini­tially muted. The US in­tel­li­gence agen­cies even blamed Iran for the Hal­abja at­tack. Iron­i­cally, Hal­abja was used 15 years later by the US and the coali­tion to jus­tify the over­throw of Sad­dam.

In Syria, the ever thick and mov­ing “red line” of US Pres­i­dent Bar­rack Obama has been crossed many times. How­ever, Wash­ing­ton has done all it can to avoid be­com­ing em­broiled in the com­plex Syr­ian con­flict.

The fact that the Syr­ian regime would even con­tem­plate such at­tacks speaks vol­umes about their per­ceived threat of in­ter­na­tional in­ter­ven­tion. This sets an even more dan­ger­ous prece­dent for other so called “rogue states” keep­ing a close eye on Western re­sponse.

If the US and its EU al­lies fi­nally act, it would be be­cause they are dragged and shoved un­will­ingly than any real pas­sion for ac­tion. Over 100,000 have al­ready died and hu­man suf­fer­ing in Syria has be­come an ac­cept­able norm with­out any con­crete in­ter­na­tional re­sponse.

Of course, the dan­gers of re­gional spillover will in­ten­sify with any Western mil­i­tary re­sponse and the risk of an un­cer­tain and Is­lamist led post-As­sad Syria hardly soothes Western hes­i­tancy, but one must place pol­i­tics, sec­tar­i­an­ism and strate­gic in­ter­ests firmly to one side when hun­dreds of in­no­cent chil­dren are suf­fo­cat­ing to death un­der toxic gases.

If the Syr­ian regime has a grain of cred­i­bil­ity left then it must ur­gently al­low UN in­spec­tors ac­cess to the scene. If they are in­no­cent, then what have they to hide?

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