By Diana Moukalled
April 10, 2018
It is impossible for the independent observer not to consider the timing of the latest horrific crime of the Syrian regime — the bombing of Douma with chlorine gas, which claimed the lives of tens of citizens. The victims’ suffocation and death, in particular the children, was followed by the world via terrifying videos.
This crime was committed directly in the aftermath of the trilateral summit between Turkey, Russia and Iran, which was held in Ankara last week and was dedicated to Syrian affairs. That summit looked like a rally of interests of the dominant forces that promote maintaining the regime, which led Bashar Assad to feel there is international cover that would allow him to commit all the massacres he wants. Prior to the Turkish summit, many international leaders recognized the idea of Assad remaining in power, which reinforced his conviction that the world has accepted him as president.
This means the leaders of the international community are partners in the regime’s crime. Turkey, which was the first to condemn the bombing of Douma, is now the ally of Moscow and Tehran, the two key systems sponsoring Assad and his crimes. Last week’s summit was a gathering of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was able to take Afrin, and Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani, whose soldiers invaded Eastern Ghouta. But it looks like everyone has ignored the fact they are bargaining for a regime that has killed half a million Syrians and caused the migration of more than six million.
Chemical attacks have become an ordinary matter in the diary of the Syrian conflict and here one must look at the first chemical attack by the regime in 2013, which was a test the international community, and particularly the administration of then-US President Barack Obama, failed. The red line passed by Assad when he gassed his own citizens that day became a tradition the international community has been unable to control. We should not forget that Russia’s arrival in Syria happened after that date, as Vladimir Putin was reassured that nothing would move the world to action.
Today, after the last Douma massacre, nothing is expected to happen.
US President Donald Trump settled for insulting Assad, describing him as an “animal.” The European Union said it “condemns in the strongest terms the use of chemical weapons and calls for an immediate response by the international community.” These are verbal responses that do not entail an actual desire to act and put an end to the massacre. No one is capable of punishing the Syrian regime today, and Assad would not have sanctioned the attacks if he were not convinced of this truth.
When considering this dilemma, another truth appears. While complaining about the consequences of the Syrian war — particularly the surge of millions of refugees to neighbouring and European countries and an increasing threat of terrorism — the world has not realized that leaving Syrians susceptible to a system like the Ba’ath Party amid the dominance of the three empires, Russia, Iran and Turkey, will only lead to the amplification of the terrorism and refugee issues.
Assad’s only answer to the silence of the world is more chemical attacks. This is a matter that has been repeated many times in the past few years and the world is completely powerless to deal with this tragedy. Continuing to accept this reality represents a huge ethical disorder with repercussions that will not affect Syria alone.
• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media.