A forgotten war

March 13, 2014 - 4:30:13 am
Syria has decided to close its embassies in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia because they have refused to accept the accreditations of its envoys. The decision of Damascus and the action taken by Kuwait and Riyadh are hardly surprising. The conflict in Syria has been going on for such a long time now that nobody has any doubts about the position taken by each country. The doubts are all about when this conflict will end, or whether it will end at all given the current state of affairs. It’s a sad and scathing indictment of the international community and world powers that Syria’s is fast becoming a forgotten war.

The latest setback to finding a solution in Syria has come from an unexpected quarter – Ukraine. As the crisis in Kiev snowballed, bringing the West and Russia face to face, the world, especially the US, conveniently forgot Syria. And the murderous regime of Bashar Al Assad has been using every distraction provided by an international or regional crisis to take revenge on his own people. The regime launched an almost unnoticed but merciless offensive of ‘barrel-bombing’ in which helicopters dropped explosive containers filled with nails and other deadly shrapnel on apartment buildings, schools and hospitals. The latest target is the town of Yabroud, near the Lebanese border. In other parts of Syria, the regime continued to wage a war of starvation in blatant violation of international laws. According to the latest report by the Amnesty International, at least 194 civilians have died in Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp, since a siege began in July. The leading causes of death are starvation, lack of medical care and shooting by snipers.

The world has never been short of crises, but that should not be an excuse for major powers to walk away when thousands of innocent civilians are killed. As the crisis in Ukraine continues, tensions are rising in the region too. Yesterday, scores of rockets were fired from Gaza to Israel, creating tension in that area where there has been an uneasy peace for a long time. Israel is likely to retaliate with its massive military arsenal, and the forces of Bashar Al Assad are certain to use the distraction arising from that conflict to eliminate more of his people.

It’s time for Washington to take note of what is happening in Syria. Though there have been indications of changes in US policy on the conflict, they haven’t been substantial in a way that can make a change on the ground. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns recently stated that Syria now presents enormous challenges to US interests that require a steady, comprehensive American strategy. But the Obama administration is yet to take serious note of those challenges.