The Syrian civil war has dominated news headlines since 2011. It initially started with pro-democracy protests, but over time it has evolved from into the most complex conflict of the 21st century. While Assad has committed mass slaughter without interruption for years now, there has been a recent surge in war crimes due to the assault on Eastern Ghouta, in Southwestern Syria. This marks one of the most barbaric phases of the war so far, with hundreds dead and hundreds more destined to die. The U.N. and the Western powers are the only ones who can stop this campaign of extermination, yet they do nothing.

Assad and Putin spit on international law through their conduct in Eastern Ghouta. Napalm, chlorine gas and barrel bombs have all been used extensively on 400,000 innocent civilians who have no means of escape from the hell they live in. Markets, hospitals and schools have been deliberately targeted by Syrian and Russian forces to maximise the destruction of civil society. On top of this, the only convoy that has been allowed into the besieged enclave had 70% of its supplies confiscated by the regime and was forced to leave early due to constant aerial bombardment. War crimes are being committed on a scale not seen since WW2 but there is little chance of any prosecutions being brought forward any time soon.

The U.N. has proved to be utterly ineffective at dealing with the Syrian crisis. Countless resolutions have been defied with impunity and all attempts to investigate Assad or Putin’s human rights abuses have been blocked at every turn. An example of the impotence of the Security Council was the short-lived ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta, which lasted a grand total of 30 minutes rather than the planned 30 days. The West has become used to images of screaming bloodied children being broadcasted from Syria, the sympathy and outrage which was in surplus in 2011 has nearly run out. Parallels can be seen with the Bosnian crisis in the 1990s, when the U.N. stood by and watched as Serb militias brought death camps back to Europe.

While there isn’t much left of Syria, there is still time to preserve what remains and stop Assad’s campaign of extermination. The U.S. has proven that it is willing to act against the regime. For example, it carried out airstrikes against Assad when he used sarin gas in 2017. Moreover, the Syrian air force could be easily crippled if there was the political willpower in the international community to do so, especially with the ample evidence available as to why this would be the best course of action to take. It may be that by the time this article goes online there has been some form of humanitarian intervention, or equally Assad could have conquered Eastern Ghouta leaving thousands of innocent civilians dead. Either way, something drastic needs to be done soon or else the Syrian Civil War will be seen as another textbook example of how the international community failed to uphold international law.

Cameron Forbes

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