Before reading this, if you are unfamiliar with the present situation in Syria, I have posted a “spark notes version” of the conflict.
Today, a New York Times article caught my eye. The title, “Syrian President Calls Donald Trump a ‘Natural Ally’ in Fight Against Terrorism”, stuck me as bitterly ironic. How could a man with a track-record of terrorist acts be in the market for an ally in the “fight against terrorism”?
First, let’s backtrack. In 2011 the middle east erupted in revolts known as the “Arab Spring”. The Syrian government reacted to these protests by killing and torturing hundreds of civilians. This was Assad’s first strike.
In an interview with Barbra Walters of ABC News, president Bashar al-Assad denies ordering the killings of protesters in 2011. He claims, “They are not my forces. They are military forces that belong to the government…I don’t own the country, so they’re not my forces.”
Interesting. Assad, head of the Syrian state, will not claim responsibility for the blood that has been shed by his own soldiers. Yet, international law states, “… a State is responsible for all acts committed by members of its military and security forces.”, as transcribed by the United Nations human rights council.
Even though Assad claims that he did not order the killings of these protestors in 2011, he is still ultimately responsible for the actions carried out by his military, who did, in fact, kill 300 protestors within a five-day span.
Throughout the continuation of the Syrian Civil war, pro-government forces have committed a laundry list of atrocities against Syrian civilians. The United Nations report states that: “Government forces and the Shabbiha had committed the crimes against humanity of murder and of torture, war crimes and gross violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including unlawful killing, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, sexual violence…”.
While these may commonly be regarded as side-effects of warfare, it is salient to note that the “murder”, “torture” and “sexual violence” exhibited, was perpetrated on the Syrian civilian population by their own government.
The FBI defines terrorism as the active intimidation of a civilian population; the violations listed prior fall under the definition of international terrorism. Given this, it is ironic that Assad is claiming to be anti-terrorism when he has allowed his military to terrorize his own people.
Furthermore, Assad’s anti-terror sentiment falls short when ISIS is addressed. The Syrian government has allowed ISIS to run rampant throughout the Middle East simply because ISIS is attacking Assad’s opposition. The Times published an article about Assad’s relationship with ISIS; In this, a Sunni businessman that is “close to the regime” states that, “If the regime were serious about getting rid of ISIS, they would have bombed Raqqa by now. Instead they bomb other cities, where the FSA is strong.”, which proves that Syria views ISIS as an asset rather than an enemy.
Given the numerous acts of terrorism and lack of action against ISIS, it is clear that president Bashar al-Assad is not interested in fighting terrorism but rather instigating it for his own benefit.
The Syrian government has recently used chemical weapons on civilians. This has resulted in the death of over 70 people, including children. This action by the Syrian government breaks Geneva Protocol while simultaneously undermining the Obama administration. Obama had set a “red line” in regards to terrorism: the use of chemical weapons would result in military action by the United States. By disregarding this warning, Assad has demonstrated that he does not fear or respect the United States.
To those that disagree with the measures taken by the Trump administration, I have a few genuine** questions for you:
What alternative do you suggest in dealing with this crisis, if not military intervention?
If now is not the proper time to get involved, at what point do you draw the line?
I strive to be as open-minded as possible, I urge you to discuss this topic (and others) with me 🙂