UN investigators link US, Syrian and Russian forces to war crimes

The UN said required precautions were ignored during the air strikes. (File/AFP)
Updated 11 September 2019

UN investigators link US, Syrian and Russian forces to war crimes

  • US-led forces have carried out air strikes in Syria
  • Syrian government and allied Russian warplanes are also conducting a deadly campaign

GENEVA: Air strikes by US-led coalition forces in Syria have killed or wounded many civilians, indicating that required precautions were ignored and war crimes may have been committed, United Nations investigators said on Wednesday.
Syrian government and allied Russian warplanes are also conducting a deadly campaign that appears to target medical facilities, schools, markets and farmland and which may also amount to war crimes, the report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said.
The investigators also accused Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, a militant alliance formerly known as Nusra Front that is the dominant armed group in Idlib, of firing rockets indiscriminately and killing civilians.
The eight-year-old war has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands and forced 13 million people from their homes, half of whom have left their shattered homeland.
Backed by US-led coalition air power in a fight to oust Daesh, the Syrian Democratic Forces, which include Kurdish fighters, retook the group’s last major stronghold of Hajjin in eastern Syria in late December.
The coalition’s Al-Jazeera Storm operation resulted in a high number of civilian casualties, including in a series of strikes on Jan 3 in Sha’fah, south of Hajjin, that killed 16 civilians including 12 children, the UN report said.
“The Commission finds that there are reasonable grounds to believe that international coalition forces may not have directed their attacks at a specific military objective, or failed to do so with the necessary precaution,” it said.
“Launching indiscriminate attacks that result in death or injury to civilians amounts to a war crime in cases in which such attacks are conducted recklessly,” it added.
Coalition officials could not be reached immediately for comment on the report.
Night raids by SDF forces backed by coalition helicopter gunships killed and wounded civilians in Shahil and other parts of Deir Ezzor province, in further apparent violations of international law, the investigators said.
Syrian government forces carried out repeated air strikes in Saraqib, in northwest Idlib province on March 9, damaging Al-Hayat women’s and children’s hospital, despite pro-government forces being aware of its coordinates, the report said.
In Idlib on May 14, “pro-government forces airdropped between two and four missiles on a fish market and primary school for girls in Jisr Al-Shughur,” killing at least 8 civilians, it said.
“Such attacks may amount to the war crime of deliberately attacking protected objects and intentionally attacking medical personnel,” it said.
The Syrian army denies its strikes target civilians and says its forces only bomb militants associated with hard-line Sunni fundamentalist groups linked to Al-Qaeda.
The report covers the year to July and is based on nearly 300 interviews and analysis of satellite imagery, photographs and videos.


Reza Pahlavi, son of Iran’s last shah, says regime is cracking from within

Updated 26 January 2020

Reza Pahlavi, son of Iran’s last shah, says regime is cracking from within

  • ahlavi strongly backed the US drone strike that killed the powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani
  • "How long can it possibly be sustained?”

LONDON: The former crown prince of Iran says the regime is cracking from within under the pressure of a wave of fresh protests.

Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last shah, was just 17 when he fled into exile with his family during the 1979 Islamic revolution that overthrew the monarchy.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, he said the demonstrations, which have included chants for the royal family to return, show that the current regime may be coming to an end.

“The cracking from within of the system is getting more and more obvious,” he said. “When you look at the circumstances in Iran today, put yourselves in the shoes of the worst-off — how long can it possibly be sustained?”

The protests intensified in November after an increase in fuel prices. Vast crowds demonstrated in cities across the country before the regime cut the internet and killed hundreds of people in a brutal crackdown.

Large numbers returned to the streets this month, angered by the shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet by the Iranian military, and Tehran’s initial insistence that it was an accident.

“The protests are very pervasive, in many sectors of society,” Pahlavi, 59, said in Washington where he lives. “They are all over the country. And a new development we haven’t seen before: the so-called silent middle class, which until now were not taking positions, are beginning to speak out.

“I’m not saying this is a guaranteed collapse. But the ingredients that get us closer to that point seem to be more prevailing these days than ever before.”

Pahlavi said he no longer has any desire to return to the throne, despite once being a rallying point for opposition groups after his father died in 1980.

However, he said he believed there could be a new Iran after the fall of the clerical regime and that his role could be as a go-between for the Iranian diaspora, foreign governments and opposition groups inside Iran.

“To the extent that there is a name recognition, I can utilise that,” he said. “I have no ambition of any kind of role or function or title. I’d like to be an advocate for the people. I don’t let any of this go to my head, I’ve been around too long for that.”

Pahlavi strongly backed the US drone strike that killed the powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani “as a breakthrough that is positive for the region.”

He also backs the punishing US sanctions introduced when Washington withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.

He said he hopes one day to be able to return to his homeland.

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