As the west failed to achieve its promises to the Syrian civilians, the backers of Assad regime didn’t miss the chance and helped him to tilt the tide of war in his favor, breaking down the rebels’ resistance that lasted for years and nearly ending the Syrians’ dreams in freedom and better future without Assad.
The Assad regime forces, backed by Russian air power, Iranian ground forces and Shi’ite militia fighters from Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, has been tightening its grip on rebel-held districts of Aleppo since the start of this year.
Helicopters continue extensively dropping barrel bombs in conjunction with airstrikes by warplanes on areas in the eastern neighborhoods of the city, accompanied by artillery shelling by the regime forces in the same places.
Hundreds of people were killed while more than 275.000 were trapped in the rebel-held areas, nearly half of them have fled the clashes in the past days to face abduction, threats and humiliation on the other side of the city.
In the face of devastation and suffering on such a massive scale, the world has time and again failed to help civilians in eastern Aleppo. This is emblematic of the impotence of the international community, which has repeatedly failed to do anything to stop rampant abuses and violations of international law as the Syrian catastrophe has worsened over the last five years.
Many ceasefire agreements accompanied by peace talks meetings were organized to help find a solution to the crisis, but Assad regime breached every ceasefire and hindered every peace talks meeting without any pressure moves or real steps from the western powers, while Russia and Iran kept giving Assad every support possible.
UN is being held hostage
Russia and China on Monday vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have demanded a seven-day truce in Syria’s Aleppo, giving Assad regime a green light to complete its annihilation of the remaining civilians in the city.
It was the sixth time Russia has vetoed a Security Council resolution on Syria, always repeating the same phrases about not giving the “terrorists” the chance to regroup and “fight the Syrian people”, while the truth is that the real terrorists are Assad and his allies who led Syria to this tragic situation.
The U.N. Security Council has been held hostage by Russia, which has repeatedly used its veto to shield the Syrian government. During the past five years, Moscow has vetoed five resolutions that sought to end some of the horrific abuses and to bring to justice those responsible by referring the situation to the International Criminal Court. Just last month, Moscow vetoed a resolution aimed at ending airstrikes and bloodshed in Aleppo.
The two U.N. Security Council resolutions, 2139 and 2165, that eventually were approved demanded unfettered access for humanitarian relief, the lifting of sieges on the city, and an end to attacks on civilians, torture, and enforced disappearances. They have, however, been flouted on a daily basis with no consequences for the perpetrators. And even when it hasn’t been used outright, the threat of Russia’s veto power has been enough to paralyze the Security Council and prevent it from imposing targeted sanctions on Syrian government officials for not complying with the two resolutions.
U.N. officials and world leaders have expressed shock and outrage at the continuing bloodshed. But the people of Aleppo need more than their words of condemnation.
To stand any real chance of ending crimes against humanity in Syria, concrete measures are needed — such as sanctions that target officials who have ordered unlawful attacks, a comprehensive arms embargo to stop the flow of weapons to the Syrian regime, and a means of bringing perpetrators of war crimes to justice.
A Security Council decision to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court would at the very least signal that those responsible for Syria’s atrocities will not go unpunished. Absent such steps, these horrors will continue to proliferate not just across Syria, but across the globe.
The cruel betrayal of eastern Aleppo’s civilians will be a stain on the world’s conscience for years to come. Nothing can make amends for the failures that have led to global inaction on this catastrophe. The least we can do is to try to ensure that the horrors they have endured are not allowed to happen again.
The fate of rebel-held Aleppo spells the abject failure of the west’s contradictory and piecemeal policies. It is a humiliation for the UN. Its fall will be an unequivocal victory for Russian strategy. Aleppo will join an infamous list of cities whose names are synonymous with mass crimes committed while the world looked impotently on: Srebrenica, Grozny, even Guernica. Once again, it’s never again. The consequences, both for radicalisation and for the balance of power in the region, are hard to fathom exactly. But they will not be good.