Last week the Syrian regime bombed Al-Kamouna camp for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Idlib. These IDPs had fled from the hell of Aleppo to what they thought would be a relatively safe haven. Instead, over 100 of them were killed and injured in what was clearly a war crime. It was committed just hours after most UN Security Council members condemned the regime’s brutal attacks on Aleppo, considering them war crimes given the systematic destruction of the city’s hospitals and infrastructure.
However, Russia prevented the council from issuing even a simple statement condemning the bombing in order to prevent it from being the first page of the list of Assad’s crimes for which he could be held accountable according to international law. It was with this green light to act with impunity provided by Russia that Assad’s air force attacked the IDP camp. This didn’t stop UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon demanding the Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.
Moscow and Damascus both resorted immediately to deception in order to ward off any accusations of responsibility for this criminal act. They accused Al-Nusra Front of killing those displaced in a camp which is in an area under the group’s control. Washington also participated in the deception, with the secretary of state saying no more than “nothing justifies attacks on civilians.” The extremely hesitant US thus joins Assad and the Russians in covering up what really happened, because the Syrian president’s responsibility for this would require the Americans to determine the next step as well to see if they are willing and prepared to engage in a campaign that demands international sanctions, including referring Assad to the ICC. However, the Obama administration’s weakness makes it prefer to evade the truth in order to cover up its inability to face up to it.
What is the result of this lack of responsibility demonstrated by Russia and the US? The alarming answer to this question is the legitimisation of genocide. This is not an exaggeration, as the meaning, concept and conviction of genocide is being used by everyone associated with Assad’s regime and official discussion points, from the official “mufti” to those chosen as “guests” on the television channels. With the escalation of the conflict and the heated search for an end to a crisis that has become more complicated both internally and externally, the regime believes that it has a solution supported by its Iranian and Russian allies – genocide — elements of which it has adopted periodically since 2011 in a repeat of the 1982 Hama massacre that the US also chose to overlook.
An example of this genocidal mentality and its justification can be seen in the heinous acts committed by the Kurds from Afrin on the bodies of those they’ve killed. It was one of the ugliest incidents of the war, but it happened and passed without anyone addressing it, as if it was something normal. The mentality of genocide has also found its way into the minds of individuals, as we saw in the disgusting selfie taken by a journalist against a bloody backdrop.
In 1994, the Hutu majority in Rwanda wiped out nearly 800,000 people from the Tutsi minority within 100 days. The international community waited many months before deciding on a response and establishing a special court to punish the perpetrators who received the go-ahead from then authority in power. These crimes morphed into “guilt complexes” felt by the majority of leaders and diplomats at the time, both within and beyond Africa. Until recently, the Rwanda genocide was considered to be the last of the massacres committed in the 20th century, which witnessed two world wars that killed 70 million people, as well as millions of others who were victims of regional wars and civil disputes. The failure to stop the Rwandan crime was attributed to a number of reasons, including the failure to recognise its realities and facts, a shortage of documented information on the incidents, a delay in predicting and assessing its magnitude, and the weakness of the international willingness and motivation to take action.
Coincidentally, the genocidal war in Chechnya was taking place at the same time, but the US gave priority to its interests over exposing Russia’s crimes, choosing instead to sacrifice Chechnya, and other countries after it, just as it is doing now with Syria, in order to satisfy Russian ambitions. However, it will not succeed.
In Syria’s case, where we have witnessed a massacre on live television for five years and two months, we can only talk about a complete lack of international will to do something that has changed all standards and concepts. The world is preparing to accept slow genocide. Nobody can claim that they do not know what is happening in Syria. Even so, we have seen the obliteration of dozens of reports, information ignored and the body count stopped at a quarter of a million; it is, I guess, an “acceptable” figure.
However, a study conducted by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (UNESCWA) and Britain’s University of St Andrews, is shocking: “An estimated 2.3 million people, 11.5 per cent of the country’s population, have been killed or wounded, thousands more are under arrest or unaccounted for, 6.5 million are internally displaced and 6.1 million have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. Gross domestic product (GDP), which in 2010 stood at $60.2 billion, is now at $27.2 billion (2010 prices), representing a contraction of 55 per cent. Total losses incurred in five years of conflict are estimated at $259.6 billion. More than 80 per cent of the population is living below the poverty line (28 per cent in 2010). Millions are deprived of the essential necessities of life: 13.5 million are in need of human assistance and 12.1 million lack adequate access to water, sanitation and waste disposal, over 4 million of whom live in Damascus, its suburbs, and Aleppo.” These are areas that the regime intends finish off in order to achieve what Assad called “the final victory” in a telegram thanking Vladimir Putin.
All of the supporters of Assad and his regime, publically and discreetly, especially Russia, Iran and the US, are all complicit in every massacre he has committed and they will stay behind him in his intention to use genocide as the “final solution”, to use Nazi terminology. They want him to achieve this final victory. He has not sensed, at any point, that two major countries truly differ in their opinion regarding his survival. The US does not want to interfere and has openly opposed the arming of the opposition in a manner that would allow it to protect its sites. It also overlooked the Iranian intervention when it was only limited to “experts” and militias, and it still overlooks this even after Tehran openly began to send Special Forces, senior officers and soldiers to Syria (over 30 of whom were killed recently). As for Russia, it has never let Assad down at any point, and when he faced real danger, it become involved directly and has put its status on the line to save him and impose a political solution that suits him. On top of all of this, Russia has subjected its secret talks with America to Assad’s interests.
What was revealed in Aleppo and then in the bombing of the Kamuna camp was not only the approach of genocide or the difficulty in reaching a comprehensive truce, but also the US-Russian efforts to cover up the false “political solution” that actually aims to subordinate the Syrian conflict to the war criminal Assad and his gang of killers. Perhaps this approach to the logic of genocide is what pushed the French, the British and the Germans to sound the alarm bells, which is what the Arabs and Turks did before them. They support the American action and understand much of its aspects, despite its vagueness and confusion. However, they reject the idea of the Americans following the Russian-Iranian approach and justifying and overlooking Assad’s crimes.
The Europeans believe that there is a vast difference between using the US-Russian understanding to urge Assad and the opposition to come to a political understanding that requires commitments and concessions, and using this understanding to please the Iranians and encourage the Syrian president to carry out a military takeover and protect him from any accountability or responsibility. What is more important is that the Europeans who wanted to alleviate or ease the waves of refugees and therefore accepted a political solution, albeit one that is unfair to the opposition, realised that the Americans and Russians lied in terms of the truce being upheld or the feasibility of the proposed political process.
What is happening now is that the difficulty in establishing a truce and ensuring that it is respected and upheld by the regime and the Iranians has made it difficult to get the opposition to return to the Geneva talks, because the game that is being played with people’s lives has been exposed. Now the regime does not even want the unfair settlement, as it wants to break the truce deliberately in order to hinder negotiations. This is what drove the Europeans to call for a new initiative, as the formulation stemming from the Vienna talks, that later became UN Resolution 2254 has been ruined — and destroyed — by the Russians, Assad and the Iranians.
Translated from Arabi21, 12 May, 2016.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.