High explosives dropped on Aleppo, Syria

Syrian refugees are living in concrete homes built adjacent to a mosque in the border town of Aarsal, Lebanon. Tens of thousands of refugees and rebel fighters in the border area anticipate the Syrian government to launch an offensive to sweep them from the region that links a refugee haven in Lebanon to Syria. (Mitchell Prothero/MCT)

On Sunday, the Syrian government dropped barrels of high explosives from helicopters in Aleppo, killing dozens, 16 of which were children.

Political Science professor Judith Kullberg said the international community has not been able to intervene due to the U.N. Security Council members, Russia and China, vetoing resolutions calling for international intervention in the conflict. However, she said that all members of the Security Council agree that the Syrian civil war is a threat to international security and negotiations are necessary.

“As a result, the U.N. will host a peace conference on Syria in Switzerland in January,” Kullberg said. “The entire international community, including the permanent members of the Security Council, will participate in an effort to persuade the Syrian government and opposition to implement a cease-fire, and, hopefully, to reach a permanent settlement to the conflict.”

Kullberg mentioned that the Western media tends to describe Russia’s behavior in the Security Council “as a direct reflection of its geopolitical interests,” saying the Assad regime has been allied with Moscow and the Russian and Syrian militaries are interconnected. She feels this ignores the Russian standpoint on Syria, however.

“In Russia, the Assad regime is seen as strong and responsible, protecting itself and its citizens from violent subversives and terrorists,” she said. “Furthermore, Moscow argues that the terrorists are financed and armed largely by the West. The Russian protection of the Assad regime is thus rooted in worldview that sees U.S. dominance as contributing to instability, rather than peace and democracy, in the world.”

Kullberg explained that Russia has doubted the “responsibility to protect” (R2P) principle, which involves the international community to step into domestic conflicts and putting an end to genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. She said Russia has been critical of the R2P since the Arab Spring because it has been used by the U.S. and its allies as a ploy to overthrow regimes or destabilize countries.

“The positions it takes on Syria in the next few months will be intended not only to protect the position of the Assad regime, but more fundamentally to limit the power of the U.S. and place constraints on the ability of international institutions to intervene in the domestic politics of states,” she said.
Omar Tibi, a Syrian-American and EMU alumnus said the international community cannot control the crisis right now unless there was military involvement.

“The only way this could be prevented is the loss of complete Syrian air superiority, whether via a no-fly zone, or by arming the rebels with anti-air equipment,” Tibi said.

In regards to Russian support, Tibi said Russia would likely dismiss the claims as it has in the past.

“Russia’s foreign policy in regards to Syria has barely changed even with the chemical attacks in Ghouta, which it enacted minor damage control and is why Syria still has at least two known chemical weapons storage and manufacturing facilities operational,” he said.

Tibi also said that he does not see this being anything more than a footnote in the world affairs. Junior and international affairs major Sayem Khan shares some of Tibi’s thoughts.

“It’s my opinion that without that superiority, the FSA could possibly win the war,” Khan said after sharing that an ideal response would be of the NATO imposing a no-fly zone.

With the escalation of the war, Syria’s refugee problem increased drastically. Tibi said the amount of refugees is putting a strain on local economies and creating more vulnerability among people. However, he said there are organizations helping refugees.

“Syrian Sunrise Foundation is a reputable one that is actually locally funded that are working to help them,” he said. “But the main problem right now is funding and supplies.”

Khan said non-governmental organizations or other aid agencies should involve themselves in creating safe passages for civilians and refugees from all over Syria that would lead toward temporary tent cities existing near the Turkish-Syrian border.

“Syria was a relatively stable alternative to many Palestinian and Iraqi refugees,” Khan said. “Today, those people along with internally displaced Syrians have been forgotten and become even more vulnerable.”

He also said the U.S. is capable of solving this issue and that it needs to be vocal in pushing for an imposition of a no-fly zone. He said the barrel bombings are an example of why there needs to be one.

“The reason the U.S. is so hesitant is due to the possible outcomes and unfavorable regime change that can result if Bashar Al-Assad lost power,” Khan said. “There are many different factions and coalitions of ‘rebels’ in Syria together they make up a resistance against the Syrian Government. Many of these ‘rebels’ are extremist or radicalized groups that the U.S. considers terrorist organizations, if they were to come to power the region would only suffer from greater instability.”

Tibi said he believes it’s too late for a no-fly zone at this point for it to be effective.

“Now the [U.S.] government has all of its shiny new Russian toys designed to quite literally kill American ships, planes and missiles all ready to fire at a moment’s notice,” he said. “The best thing it can do at this moment is to supply the rebels with heavier arms, particularly MANPADS [which are] portable anti-air missiles, as some nations and private sponsors have been doing.”

He also said politics cares not for the little man, and referenced the conflict to the quote “the death of one man is a tragedy; the death of millions is a statistic”

“It’s just a continuation of the Cold War,” Tibi said. “Russia and America are getting at each other’s throats whenever they can, and right now, Syria is their playground.”

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