While another leak from the administration revealed that President Obama had signed a “secret” intelligence finding in the last few months, authorizing the CIA to assist the rebels, the finding is more window dressing than a dramatic change in policy. The US will coordinate activities at a base in Turkey that is a rebel conduit for arms and assistance. Previously it was revealed that the CIA is evaluating various units in the FSA to determine whether they are patriots, or terrorists — a determination that has prevented the West from fully getting behind the armed opposition and supplying them with weapons that could spell the difference on the battlefield.
With diplomatic efforts now officially dead, the world’s gaze turns to the conflict itself and the growing power and ability to resist of the FSA, as well as President Assad’s escalation of indiscriminate attacks on civilians. A shocking BBC report tells of government soldiers going from house to house in Aleppo demanding to see resident’s papers. At least 70 were killed in the operation, while opposition activists claim that many people were dragged out of their homes and summarily executed.
The FSA is also apparently not above committing war crimes. A video has surfaced that shows FSA fighters leading Syrian soldiers outdoors and placed against a wall. After shouting some slogans, the prisoners are murdered in a hail of gunfire.
The increasing ferocity of the fighting has made the city of Aleppo — a modern, cultured metropolis — into a shooting gallery and potential humanitarian disaster of nearly unthinkable proportions. The quarter of a million refugees who have fled the fighting are in danger of starvation and death by exposure to the elements. An FSA colonel, Abu Hamza, told the Guardian newspaper:
“We can’t feed them,” he said. “We need help. We don’t even have food for our own families, or for ourselves. We cannot survive for much longer under these conditions. We are talking a few weeks.”
There is no realistic way to get aid to those people. Even the Red Cross is powerless to move as long as Assad’s troops prevent them from doing so. With the rebels now having captured several tanks and perhaps supplied, via Turkey, with shoulder fired anti-aircraft weapons, the battle for Aleppo is shaping up to be a long, drawn out affair. And the longer the battle lasts, the more dire the humanitarian situation will become.
Did Annan’s mission ever have a chance of succeeding? “Bottom line on Kofi’s mission. D.O.A. from the get go,” Aaron David Miller, a Middle East scholar at the Wilson Center, a research group in Washington, said in an e-mail to the New York Times. “Too much blood spilled for a negotiated settlement between the Assads and the rebels, and not enough for foreign intervention to pressure the Assads to leave.”
Perhaps Annan was partly right; he was never going to succeed unless Russia and China relented in their opposition to strong measures to force Assad to the bargaining table, and the US and other “Friends of Syria” put pressure on Vladmir Putin to change his policy. But the US and the Arab League worked at cross-purposes at times, and much of Europe hung back awaiting a clearer picture. At the end, there was only Annan’s ridiculous “peace plan” that all sides in the conflict ignored and only the well meaning diplomats at the UN who believed still had a chance of working.
And as the debate in the General Assembly is revealing, not all diplomats are “well meaning.” The resolution, written by Saudi Arabia and pushed by the Arab League, was weakened to the point of irrelevancy when, as an AP dispatch relates, “Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Algeria, Argentina and other Latin American nations…had problems with a resolution calling for regime change or for sanctions. The new draft no longer asks other nations to place sanctions on Syria.” One might inquire what’s the point of passing a resolution that has no force behind it and that doesn’t call for any pressure to be placed on President Assad. The answer is, there is no point. The resolution does take a swipe at Russia and China (not by name) by “deploring” the failure of the Security Council to act. But there is no specific call for action by the Assembly for the Security Council to take any meaningful steps to end the crisis.
Thus are consciences assuaged at the UN as the escalating violence in Syria threatens to spill over into neighboring countries and engulf the region in war.
What are men with good intentions to do in the face of such evil and hate? Good intentions didn’t stop Hitler, or Tojo, or any other penny-ante thug since the end of World War II with murder in their heart and mayhem on their minds. President Obama is probably correct in trying to keep the US out of the conflict. But a little more realism should be forthcoming from the administration. If this is to be a proxy war, we should probably do more to see that our proxies win it. The worst case scenario is to have President Assad eventually triumph which would strengthen Russia, Iran, and China in the region. Anything we can do to prevent that — including expending the same amount of energy in supporting the rebels that the Russians are using to prop up Assad — would be a welcome change in policy.
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