From Houla to Aleppo: Syria’s Sre­brenica mo­ments mul­ti­ply

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL - [ Joyce Karam is the Wash­ing­ton Bureau Chief for Al- Hayat News­pa­per, an In­ter­na­tional Ara­bic Daily based in Lon­don. She has cov­ered Amer­i­can pol­i­tics ex­ten­sively since 2004 with fo­cus on U. S. pol­icy to­wards the Mid­dle East. Prior to that, she worked as

JOYCE KARAM OR the 60 chil­dren, women and men who were buried un­der the rub­ble of al- Quds hospi­tal in Aleppo, world lead­ers have is­sued state­ments and loud con­dem­na­tions against the As­sad regime be­fore quickly re­sum­ing the talks to con­sider Aleppo’s in­clu­sion in a phony “ces­sa­tion of h o s t i l i t i e s ” ( CoH) that has be­come a smoke­screen for in­ac­tion in Syria.

21 years af­ter the Sre­brenica’s mas­sacre that killed 8000 Mus­lims in east­ern Bos­nia in the sum­mer of 1995, the tragedies of Houla, Ghouta, Douma, Jisr Shoughour, Aleppo and count­less mas­sacres in Syria since 2011 are bear­ing wit­ness that the “Never Again” mantra, is an empty slo­gan when it comes to the Mid­dle East.

Run­ning the clock on Syria: The talk­ing points con­demn­ing As­sad as “blood thirsty” or “il­le­git­i­mate” are rolling in no time from Western cap­i­tals af­ter every mas­sacre in Syria. But on the ground in the flat­tened Sukkariyeh or Baba Amr neigh­bor­hoods of Aleppo and Homs or the veg­etable mar­ket in Maaret Nua­man, these state­ments ring hol­low for do­ing noth­ing to pro­tect civil­ians from bar­rel bomb­ing and sieges by the Syr­ian regime.

The “R2p” ( re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect) doc­trine that emerged af­ter Sre­brenica is nowhere to be found in Syria, as global lead­ers scram­ble

Fto con­tain the con­flict but not to pro­tect civil­ians or end the suf­fer­ing. With more than 470,000 dead, 20 mil­lion in­ter­nally dis­placed or in refuge, the de­bate for ac­tion in Syria is cen­tered around coun­ter­ing ISIS and not pro­tect­ing civil­ians. Yes, the war is a con­vo­luted mix of re­bel­lion, re­gional proxy, and sec­tar­ian con­flict, but its hu­man­i­tar­ian toll makes it the worse since WWII and the cost of in­ac­tion has only in­creased since 2012.

In the eyes of US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, the Syr­ian con­flict is a nui­sance, an in­con­ve­nient dis­trac­tion from the goal of piv­ot­ing to Asia and leav­ing a lighter foot­print in the Mid­dle East. As if Dr. Mo­hammed Maaz, AlQuds’ last pe­di­a­tri­cian, was con­tem­plat­ing China’s role or post- Sad­dam Iraq when he died in the at­tack try­ing to save a child’s life.

Run­ning the clock and di­lut­ing the im­pact of the mas­sacres and re­peated vi­o­la­tions of the CoH, is the US pol­icy for the next eight and a half months of the Obama Pres­i­dency in Syria. Con­ve­niently, that is also the time­line for the Geneva 3 process chaired by US and Rus­sia to ne­go­ti­ate a so­lu­tion. The ne­go­ti­a­tions have turned into a mock­ery of every con­flict res­o­lu­tion struc­ture out there. The CoH cel­e­brated by US Sec­re­tary John Kerry and his Rus­sian coun­ter­part Sergie Lavrov has been vi­o­lated on a daily ba­sis, and is medi­ocre in cov­er­age and ex­pec­ta­tions.

The images from Aleppo of a Syr­ian child cry­ing over the body of his younger brother, or an el­derly woman masked with ashes as she makes her way out of the de­bris, are a recipe that will fuel ex­trem­ism in the long run and across the global spec­trum

The CoH does not cover Aleppo, and vi­o­la­tions in the form of launch­ing rock­ets, or at­tack­ing mar­kets have had no puni­tive ef­fect on the par­ties, since a form of talks and state­ments will al­ways con­tinue. Imag­ine for ex­am­ple a truce be­tween the Is­raelis and the Pales­tini­ans that in­cludes Gaza but not Ra­mal­lah, or one in Libya, that pro­tects Beng­hazi but not Tripoli.

With over than 1000 Syr­ian civil­ians killed in April and av­er­age of 100 since its im­ple­men­ta­tion in Fe­bru­ary 26 ( Syr­ian Net­work for Hu­man Rights), the CoH is turn­ing to a tac­ti­cal weapon used by all the fight­ing fac­tions, to re­group mil­i­tar­ily, ad­vance in strate­gic bat­tles ( As­sad in Aleppo) and as a con­ve­nient front for Wash­ing­ton and Moscow to have a “process” and buy time on Syria.

A nar­ra­tive that feeds ISIS: Nev­er­the­less, the images from Aleppo of a Syr­ian child cry­ing over the body of his younger brother, or an el­derly woman masked with ashes as she makes her way out of the de­bris, are a recipe that will fuel ex­trem­ism in the long run and across the global spec­trum.

What hap­pens in Aleppo is not con­fined to the vic­tims or the in­ter­nal dy­nam­ics of the Syr­ian con­flict. Ab­sent of a plan that ef­fec­tively pro­tects civil­ians, the bomb­ing of hos­pi­tals and veg­etable mar­kets will play right into the hands of ISIS. If any­thing, the at­tacks of the group from France to Bel­gium to Bangladesh have laid to rest myths that ter­ror­ism in Syria can be con­tained, or that airstrikes can de­feat it.

When Ger­many’s chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel pro­posed “refugee safe zones” in Syria, some­thing that both the US and Rus­sia have op­posed, the plan was not for regime change in the coun­try. Ger­many has been more cau­tious in its op­po­si­tion to As­sad than the United States.

Merkel’s plan is pri­mar­ily to shel­ter Europe from the refugee flow, of­fer civil­ian pro­tec­tion, and pre­vent ISIS from cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the pop­u­la­tion’s griev­ances, and con­tain what is shap­ing up to be a decade old con­flict. But for Wash­ing­ton, even pro­tect­ing small ar­eas from mas­sacres in Syria is an un­wor­thy bur­den, while for Rus­sia it’s against the strate­gic ob­jec­tives of help­ing the regime pre­vail.

For ISIS and Al- Qaeda’s Nusra, this sta­tus quo is ideal in Syria in terms of prey­ing on civil­ians’ tragedies to in­crease re­cruit­ment, emerge as a hard­line al­ter­na­tive to the more moder­ate groups and con­firm the con­spir­a­to­rial sen­ti­ment that the West is al­lied with As­sad.

Given the bru­tal na­ture of the war and the very low like­li­hood for an ac­tion plan to pro­tect civil­ians, Sre­brenica mo­ments are only bound to re­peat in Syria. Be­yond the hash­tags and the con­dem­na­tions, their oc­cur­rence is a re­minder of the col­lec­tive fail­ure and the stained legacy for those watch­ing in up­hold­ing the hu­man­i­tar­ian com­mit­ments of the 21st cen­tury. — Cour­tesy: AA.

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