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Brazen display of ruthlessness in Eastern Ghouta

Beneath Bashar Al Assad’s rhetoric of destroying ‘terrorists’ lies a raw realism: no one will stop him

Gulf News

Eastern Ghouta was faced with a barrage of bombs and mortars, that killed hundreds, and it appears, not for the first time, that chemical weapons were used by the Al Assad regime in the Damascus enclave. This week the global press focused on the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Syria.

In a deeply poignant editorial, The Guardian wrote, “Bloodied children. Maimed children. Children pulled from the rubble, grey with dust, their mouths and lungs clogged with sand. Children who have lost their mother, father or brother. And these are the survivors. Unicef issued a blank ‘statement’ to express its outrage, saying it had run out of words. Eastern Ghouta’s suffering — after long years of besiegement and multiple chemical attacks, including 2013’s devastating use of sarin — has escalated again.

Beneath Bashar Al Assad’s rhetoric of destroying ‘terrorists’ lies a raw realism: no one will stop him. ‘The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must,’ Thucydides wrote in the fifth century BC, imagining Athenian justifications for the siege of Melos and the terrible price they exacted for the Melians’ resistance. War gave full rein to greed and ambition, ruthlessness and brutality, the historian believed — but also spawned them, degrading and warping moral standards and perpetuating further conflict.” Criticising the effectiveness of diplomatic solutions and the abdication of global leadership role by the US,

The New York Times said in its editorial, “The civil war between [Al] Assad and the opposition, once seen as the core of Syria’s instability, is now understood as just one element in a web of conflicts tearing Syria apart. In addition to Russia and Iran, Turkey, the United States and Israel all have a presence in Syria, and their competing interests are raising the spectre of wider war, which must be avoided. What of diplomatic solutions? Russia, after feigning to lead such an effort, lost credibility by siding with Al Assad and his route to more carnage. And while the State Department condemned the regime’s violence and named Russia as holding a ‘unique responsibility’ for the suffering, Trump has effectively abandoned America’s international leadership role in the matter.”

The Hindu panned the use of heavy firepower by the Al Assad regime. “The barbaric campaign of air strikes and bombardments launched by government forces in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta have killed hundreds. Eastern Ghouta, with an estimated population of 400,000, is one of the last significant areas held by militants fighting the regime. It fell into the hands of the rebels in the early stages of the seven-year-long civil war, and repeated government attempts to overrun it were foiled. It was here that chemical weapons were used in 2013, killing hundreds of people. When most other rebel-held parts of Syria, including Aleppo, were recaptured by government troops, militants have moved to Eastern Ghouta and Idlib. Now both areas are under attack, In the use of heavy firepower, the assault resembles the government campaign in Aleppo and elsewhere. In Aleppo, one of Syria’s largest cities, Syrian and Russian jets pounded rebel targets in late 2016; this was followed by a ground attack by government troops and Iran-trained militants. Similarly, Eastern Ghouta, which was under a government blockade for years, appears to have been surrounded by ground forces, which could advance to rebel positions inside the city any time” the paper editorialised.

The Globe and Mail wrote in its editorial, “Russia is propping up [Al] Assad and has emerged as the regional hegemon, with Iran and Turkey as wary allies. However one chooses to describe it, an already terrible situation is worsening. But recent events on the Korean peninsula, in other geopolitical hot-spots and in the White House have distracted the world from the Syrian civil war. It’s time we started caring about it again. Commentators in Europe and elsewhere have likened the situation in eastern Ghouta to the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica in the former Yugoslavia — an episode that should have particular resonance to Canadians, given our peacekeeping efforts in the region. Let us not forget the tragedies that can ensue when the world averts its gaze”

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