A Letter to the Editor of The Eye, submitted by SAS Senior Nigel Li in response to Kai Suherwan’s recent article: “In Defense of Assad.”
Every breath you take becomes more difficult every second, your muscles become stiff, and your lungs stop working. Tears roll down your face confused to whether they are tears of sadness at the sight of your child suffering the same fate as you, or is simply an involuntary reaction to sarin gas around you. Over 3,600 Syrian citizens were affected by the Ghouta chemical attack, leaving a disputed number of around 502 civilians dead. This was one of the key events that placed Syria under the international spotlight in 2013 and it seems that the international community has forgotten about the atrocities committed by the Assad regime.
In light of the attack The Human Rights Watch underwent a thorough investigation, concluding that the Syrian Army were responsible for these attacks. Western nations protested against Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians while Russia denounced the plethora of investigations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that these investigations are “completely unconvincing”. With countries condemning Assad, Russia continues to defend Syria to the very end.
In September 2015 Russia began targeting airstrikes against the Islamic State including rebel groups – most notably the Free Syrian Army. Russian interests in Syria are two fold: Stabilize the country in order to gain a foothold in the region and keeping Assad in power. Though Assad may be the most suited individual who can keep the country together, supporting a war criminal sends a signal to the people of the Middle East that their efforts in democratizing their society has failed.
Assad is a war criminal, a brutal dictator, and a pawn in the geopolitical game over Syria. Marwan Bishara from Al Jazeera noted that Putin “changed the balance of power in Assad’s favour and had little or no incentive to get rid of him”. The reality is that Assad and Putin have secured leverage over their western counterparts in the Syrian Civil War; however, this does not mean the coalition against Assad should allow their power to grow. Albeit, attempts from the United States to eliminate Assad forces along with Islamic State fighters without any boots on the ground enabled Russia to seize the opportunity to turn the tide of the conflict.
As The Eye’s Kai Suherwan argued his recent article, “The United States intervention into the conflict… seems to overthrow the Syrian Government”. Truth be told, the United States’ intentions are to remove Assad from power, but does he have the legitimacy to rule? Coming from someone who who is critical of US foreign policy, Assad’s atrocious actions cannot be justified and the west is doing the right thing to oust him from power. Two wrongs do not make a right, just because Assad may not be beheading innocent civilians does not lessen the chemical attacks on Syrian citizens.
The Syrian Civil War has ostensibly become a proxy war, an epicenter of west against east. Ceasefires have been broken by both sides only due to the lack of military cooperation, avoiding further conflict should be the main objective for countries involved. Assad knows that by prolonging the conflict it would give Russia more reason to establish a stronger presence in the region. This is a war of selfishness, a war of power, and above all a war of failed diplomacy. Syrian refugees will return to their homes one day, to a Syria without an Assad.
“Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.” Ernest Hemingway