Solution for Syria recedes
It was almost in the bag. US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov thrashed out a cessation of hostilities for months to allow aid convoys to reach stricken areas. The mood changed for the better; hope, albeit fragile, was in the air.
Residents of eastern Aleppo could once again breathe. Young boys played football in the street. Women took the opportunity to buy essentials. Men socialized with friends in cafes or had a haircut instead of standing guard, guns at the ready.
But almost as food and medicines began trickling-in, the United Nations halted deliveries because Syrian Red Crescent trucks were bombed. Moscow and Damascus denied involvement. The opposition maintains remnants of a Russian bomb were found at the devastated scene.
Worse, the US Air Force ‘mistakenly’ bombed regime forces battling Daesh terrorists, killing more than 60 and wounding over 100. The prolonged attack only ceased when Russia pointed out the ‘error’ and soon afterward Moscow called for a closed-door emergency session of the UN Security Council; a move that was attacked by the US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power in language not usually associated with diplomats.
She flounced out of the meeting and met with the media instead, calling the emergency session “a stunt replete with moralizing and grandstanding,” a “cynical” effort to embarrass America. Her tone was aggressive, her apology rang hollow. She has yet to explain how the US with all its sophisticated surveillance capabilities and satellite feeds was unable to differentiate between soldiers in uniform and rag tag terrorists.
The regime claimed the attack proved that the Obama administration was in bed with Daesh. Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin expressed his own suspicions on that score, adding even if it was a genuine mistake, the US should have coordinated the strike with the Russian command. The cease-fire was dead in the water.
Moscow asserts the US is having trouble extricating the ‘good guys’ with weapons, such as the Free Syrian Army, from hard line fundamentalist groups. The White House condemns Russia for failing to control its Syrian partner.
Power’s hissy fit has further soured relations between the two major powers. The efforts of Kerry and Lavrov to reach an understanding wasted. Each side is engaging in a war of words with the other. Budding trust and goodwill have evaporated.
So where does this leave the Syrian people, in particular two million civilians trapped in both the regime and the opposition-held parts of Aleppo, who’ve been short of food and medicines and now that a water plant has been bombed and another taken out of action by rebels, they’ve been deprived of access to running water.
As if they haven’t suffered enough already, regime and Russian warplanes have gone on a bombing spree, no doubt in retaliation for US strikes on Syrian soldiers while fierce ground battles between rebels and regime ground forces rage around Aleppo’s environs. They are only targeting fighters, or so they claim, but there is nothing precision about their targeting when entire homes are collapsing like houses of cards. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he’s “appalled at the chilling military escalation.”
Innocents are being treated as inconsequential as pawns on a chessboard. They are the ones paying the price for the US-Russian discord. No one knows the death toll because bombs are dropping so thick and fast that rescuers can’t reach people buried under rubble.
Over 200, including children, are known not to have survived. Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Moallam boasted to the UN General Assembly that his country was making great strides in its war against terrorism. Almost half-a-million Syrians have gone to their graves. Half the population is displaced. There is nothing to boast about here.
In the meantime, top Syrian officials still say they are keen to forget a political solution. The question is when? After blood-soaked cities have been razed to the ground? It appears that Assad is going all out to take back populated areas whatever it takes. The more successful he is, the less leverage the opposition will have if negotiations ever get off the ground.
As long as foreign powers remain at odds, the horror will continue — and as long as the screams of gassed children and the anguished cries of mothers who’ve lost theirs don’t assault the sensitive ears of channel-surfing television viewers honing-in on the X-Factor or “The Housewives of New York, we can all sleep sound in our beds.