Middle East Power Vacuum Left By US Creates A Dangerous Dynamic
In the 20th century, the United States has helped to maintain the "balance of peace in the Middle East." It is well documented that the United States' drive to balance peace has and always will be driven by the US concern for their own strategic interests throughout the region. It is not surprising that the Soviet Union, now Russia, was a long time competitor for those same strategic interests which provoked a variety of responses from the US, that according to PBS, "ranged from diplomatic overtures of friendship to full-blown war." But ... the American attitude of "we have had enough" has been a game changer to current US foreign policy.
According to Mohammed ben Othman, a researcher for the Alwatani Center Strategic Studies in Tripoli, Libya, "the United States has left a power vacuum in the Middle East." Mohammed also noted that the lack of leadership has "caused the US to lose credibility" in the region. In the past year, the US has been all talk and no action regarding Syria - including drawing a "Red Line" which was crossed on August 21st when Chemical Weapons were used in Syria with no consequences to follow.
Time and time again, the US has capitulated when the "sea got rough," getting backed into a corner and letting Russia take the lead. Senator John McCain has been speaking loudly on this subject from the floor on Capital Hill, on deaf ears, sadly predicting the future.
Assad can use WMDs, #Lebanon Hezbollah can occupy #Syria, Putin can invade #Ukraine, and Obama pontificates. World needs new order.- Hussain AbdulHussain (@hahussain) March 1, 2014
Most recently the United Nations Security Council had a resolution before it to "allow unfettered passage of Humanitarian Aid in and out of besieged areas of Syria using the most direct or safest route." The resolution did not include any language regarding threat of sanctions or other action as originally proposed by the initiating countries. This language was removed by the originating sponsors because it was certain to be rejected by Russia. The resolution that was implemented allowing unfettered access to Syrians in need of humanitarian need is "net zero." It is a resolution that tells the Assad regime to take an action they already know they should be doing and reminds them if they don't, there is no consequence.
Khalid Saleh (head of the Media Office) of the Syrian National Coalition stated on February 22, 2014:
"The Syrian National Council denounces the Assad regime's closing of Babila crossing in rural Damascus, which was opened for one day only after the truce that was signed with the FSA in order to lift the siege and to deliver humanitarian and medical aid to the besieged civilians. This proves that the Assad regime does not care about the life of the Syrian people and that it does not intend to meet its international obligations with regard to allowing the entry of humanitarian aid. The Assad regime pursues inhuman and immoral policies to keep its hold on power. Laying siege to civilian population to subdue them constitutes direct breach of international humanitarian law. This also demonstrates the regime's disregard of the International Community and UN Security Council Resolution No.2139, which demands immediate lifting of the siege imposed on Syrian cities and giving unhindered access of relief and humanitarian convoys to the besieged areas."
Another camp that recently became the poster camp of Syria, because of the severe cases of starvation is the Palestinian refugee camp inside Syria called Yarmouk.
#Yarmouk - A sea of starvation. pic.twitter.com/g0t4aFMerr- Nanice (@itsmenanice) February 8, 2014
The period between February 23rd through March 3rd, Bashar al-Assad has let terror come like a Category 5 hurricane in Syria. He has spread his own brand of "monster's revenge" across Syria; and now that all eyes are on Ukraine, Syrian Activists have said "eyes have turned away from Syria."
Below are highlights of a week, including video clips. This period was just following the UN Security Council Resolution to open humanitarian aid corridors, which it is important to note have not been opened to the date of this writing.
Be warned some of the videos are not for the faint of heart, but ALL OTHERS MUST WATCH! On AJStream last weekend, the moderator asked "Does our moral compass point to NO ACTION I Syria?" If so, then there is something wrong with the FREE WORLD we live in.
A Week In The Life Of Syrians
Below is the story of a week in the life of Syrians documented as the reported by the Local Community Councils and documented by Citizen Journalists - February 23 - March 3, 2014
The regime made several warplane sorties bombarding the Aleppo neighborhoods of Bashqateen, Shfatin, Qataneh, Alkallaseh, Maracen Hananou, the vicinity of the Aleppo Central prison.
Aleppo neighborhood bombed with barrels, and tanks were used to shell the Aleppo industrial district of Asheikh Najjar
In Damascus, regime shelling and mortar fire rained down on rebel controlled areas without mercy.
In the Damascus suburbs of Atiba the Regime forces committed a horrible massacre that caused both martyrs and wounded due to an ambush set for them while they were leaving Eastern Ghota
In Bebila, Damascus, a martyr and wounding a number of the injured and clear breach of the truce 26/02/2014
In Jobar, Damascus, three children in one family were taken from young parents who are in shock with grief. Even after seeing it happen to so many others, you are never prepared for loosing your own children to such a crime as the Syrian War.
In Daraa Hamza Mohammad Al-Refae died of his wounds that he sustained in the Yadouda massacre. Regime artillery shelling occurred in the districts of Ataman, Mukhayyam, Nawa, Annaeemh, Gharya Shargya, Alghaiyyeh Ashargiyya, Albalad, Nahtea, Annaeemeh, Inkhil, TalShihab and Tareeq around the regime Air Defense Battalion. Assud amid clashes between the Free Syrian Army and regime forces. Artillery shelling was also intense.
Regime helicopters dropped two explosive barrel bombs on Daareya in rural Damascus, and Regime tank shelling is targeting the city's southern part. Other rural areas that were targeted were Hreirah with heavy gunfire, Khan Shieh was hit by rocket launchers shelling the area, Beit Jinn, Alkhiyara, Almazraah, Attadamon, and Rankoos were all under heavy shelling and mortar fire for several hours throughout the day.
Deir Assafir, Damascus was the site where many were wounded, most of them are children, due to two regime air strikes. Air strikes caused mass destruction to the town.
In Douma, Damascus, Nisreen Al-Homsi was killed and many others were wounded when gunfire from the Wafidin camp was directed towards civilians.
More than 175 Syrians were killed in a Syrian Army ambush on the Free Syrian Army, who were escorting civilians who required medical attention from a besieged area in Eastern Ghouta, Damascus. This should have been consistent with the UNSEC Resolution and the Assad Regime's attack was in direct conflict with the resolution. The Syrian Army states they were acting to "eradicate terrorists." Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV aired exclusive live footage of what it said was an ambush by Syrian troops on rebels south of Damascus, reportedly killing 175 rebels in an ambush.
Bodies after the East Ghouta Massacre in Syria
A bulldozer picks up civilians killed in a massacre by Syrian forces in East Ghouta
Tadamon, Damascus, was hit with mortar fire targeting the neighborhood along with clashes between FSA and regime forces in the neighborhood's outskirts
In Zamalka, Damascus, Ayman Noah was killed under torture in the regime's prisons. The Free Syrian Army and Assad forces fought on the outskirts of the southern bypass amid regime artillery shelling civilian houses in Zamalka city.
In Kafr Batnah, in Rural Damascus, regime warplanes launched two air raids on the city.
The area of Wadi Barada in rural Damascus was hit with regime gunfire from large caliber machine guns aimed at civilian homes in Baseemeh and Ein Alfijeh villages, injuring a number of civilians.
Two air strikes were launched on the outskirts of Damascus in the suburbs of Yabroud, which left a one meter deep crater in the center square and a car that was parked in the square lodged in the 3rd story of a nearby building (visible in the video below).
According to the Yabroud Local Coordination Committee, "Violent clashes and battles" have been ongoing on the outskirts of Damascus in Yabroud, as government troops pounded the area with shelling and artillery fire. A total of 5 airstrikes hit the city, causing wildfires in the city's neighborhoods. Al-Watan, a pro-regime newpaper, reported that the Syrian army had "implemented a complete blockade of the town," with the intention of destroying a "terrorist den."
A child injured in a regime air strike in Qalamon a suburb of Damascus was taken to Israel for treatment.
In Daraa, Hamza Mohammad Al-Refae died of his wounds that he sustained in the Yadouda massacre. Husam NemrAl-share was died under torture in the regime's prisons in Nawa and in Ashekh Miskeen Basel Khaled Shbat was killed in fierce clashes that occurred between the FSA and the regime in the city's outskirts.
Also in Daraa, regime artillery shelling occurred in the districts of Mukhayyam, Annaeemh, Gharya Shargya, Alghaiyyeh Ashargiyya, Albalad, Nahtea, Annaeemeh, Inkhil, TalShihab and Tareeq around the regime Air Defense Battalion. Assud amid clashes between the Free Syrian Army and regime forces. Artillery shelling was also intense.
In Deir Ezzor, warplanes shelled a funeral in Hatleh town, regime mortar fire shelled the vicinity of the Deir Ezzor military air base and the Jbeileh neighborhood.
In Hama, fierce artillery shelling targets the villages and towns of the southern suburbs. Five deaths were reported due to clashes with regime forces during the control over Qubat Al-Kurdy in the southern suburbs. Ongoing regime artillery and rocket shelling on the townships of the northern rural area. FSA targets Hama military airport with Grad missiles. The regime shelled the township of Qastoon. Hazem Abdulmuneam Al-Jawash was killed by regime forces' gunfire at the Tibet Imam front. The regime sent rockets into the city of Mork. In Kafr Zeitah in the province of Hama, warplanes bombed the city's districts. A number of civilians were injured.
In Homs, where the regime has been systematically attacking since the beginning of the Revolution, the old city's districts received heavy mortar shelling. In Alwaar, which is a district of Homs, regime snipers shot and killed a twelve year old child, and regime mortar fire injured several others. Other districts were bombarded with artillery and shelling took place in Dar Kabira, Addar Alkabeera, Alaa Al-Hassan, Abudfattah Al-Qasem, and Talbeesah. Three children were killed at the Naser Ghaly School in Waer neighborhood.
In the Islamic-Front controlled Sinjar, Idlib, multiple car bombs exploded in an ISIS attack which killed 20, injured 30 on February 27th.
While the Syrian Coalition reports there are "3.3 million people in urgent need of assistance in hard-to-reach areas inside Syria, and there are approximately 9 million people in Syria living as internally displaced persons." The overwhelming humanitarian tragedy, and the international consensus to relieve it, provide the legal justification required to act. The Coalition is in agreement with the London 11 that the "only way to sustainably alleviate the humanitarian tragedy in Syria is to achieve a negotiated political transition that secures the departure of the Assad regime. We reiterate our call to all nations to join us in actively pursuing this political solution."
A political solution is necessary for Syria to bring its multi-cultural community together and discuss how they will move forward together. However, while a political transition is being negotiated with the Assad regime which has no intention of budging, there must be a humanitarian policy established that will protect the innocent people of Syria. This is an obligation under Right to Protect that should have been implemented well before now. Right to Protect calls for diplomatic solutions to be pursued, however, it does not rule out military action if necessary when civilians are at severe risk and the "leader" of a country is not protecting or will not protect them. With over 140,000 killed in Syria, of which 14,500 are children, a solution for Syria is well overdue. These martyred souls are the direct responsibility of Bashar al-Assad.
Nehad Ismail, a Middle East expert and commentator, sums up the US position as follows:
"The U.S. wants to see the moderate rebels it supports fight both the regime and radical fighters such as the al Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS). Increasingly, this is happening on the ground in Syria. For three years the Obama administration refused to provide the right weapons to the rebels whilst turning a blind eye to Iranian and Russian support of the regime. It would be interesting to see whether the forthcoming visit will ultimately lead to a dramatic change in the balance of power on the ground in favor of the rebels battling the Syrian regime and al-Qaeda affiliates operating in Syria."
PBS Documentary: Syria's Second Front / Children of Aleppo
While Syrian people continue to pray each day that the humanitarian aid will come, and then feel defeated when another day goes by when it doesn't ... Assad continues his "hierarchy of horribles." The past two weeks have been particularly heart wrenching, or maybe it is just that the "horribles" have been so many ... it is just overload. The people are shell shocked, so tired of the stress that even those with the strongest of character need respite. A friend told me, "I need to close my eyes and leave this place just for a little while."
I would like to thank YallaSouria and Khaled abo Azez, both Awesome Syrian Activists,for assisting me with insight and videos for this story.
Kimberly Jones is a global nomad who writes about international issues, however, she has a special interest in Middle East and North Africa affairs. Read more stories by Kimberly Jones.
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