Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tragedy in Aleppo

Both when the world powers act, and when they decide not  to do anything, there are consequences. In either case the result can go horribly, terribly wrong. As Burke said,


Thirteen years ago Blair and Bush made the decision to invade Iraq. Most people - and I'm one of them - would now see that decision as a terrible mistake, the harmful consequences of which were greatly exacerbated by dire planning and implementation, though not everything which came out of that decision was evil. (The present elected government of Iraq may be far from perfect but it is nonetheless the product of genuine elections and greatly preferable to that of Saddam Hussein, for instance.)

Three years ago the House of Commons made the opposite decision in respect of Syria, and Congress followed suit. We will never know for certain what would have happened had the West intervened actively after Assad dropped poison gas on civilians. It might have gone equally wrong. But I hope that all the MPs who voted in 2013 against the possiblity of any military action are thinking very carefully about whether they made the right decision.

They certainly did not save the people of Syria from foreign military intervention, massacre and disaster: what happened is that foreign intervention has come instead from the forces of Russia, Iran and massacre from militias supporting the Syrian regime. A four-year stalemate in Aleppo has been broken by Russian air strikes and Iranian militias.

Before Russia intervened President Assad was on the ropes, his military power crumbling.
External actors have propped up his government in large part to secure their own strategic aspirations. Anyone who imagines that the West, or anyone who supports Western ideas such as democracy, freedom and the rule of law, has reason to like what those powers will do with their victory is living in cloud-cuckoo-land.

The United Nations human rights office  says it has reliable evidence that over the past few days Syrian pro-government forces have been entering homes in eastern Aleppo and killing those inside, including women and children.

The UN says that in four areas 82 civilians were summarily shot dead in what was described as a "complete meltdown of humanity in Aleppo".

At a news conference in Geneva, UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville gave details of the atrocities being reported.

He said that of the 82 civilians reportedly shot, 11 were women and 13 were children.

That is, of course, the tip of the iceberg in terms of innocent people killed over the past three years.

"Yesterday evening, we received further deeply disturbing reports that numerous bodies were lying on the streets," Mr Colville added.

The UK and France have asked for a special meeting of the UN security council on the issue: the Russians say that fighting has ended in Aleppo and rebels are being allowed to leave the city. It remains to be seen whether this applies to civilians.

I do not agree that the UK or our western allies are to blame for the tragedy in Aleppo and all the other tragic events in Syria. The people to blame for the slaughter are the people who are doing it, But we need to learn the lesson that just like a decision to intervene, a decision to stand aside can have terrible consequences. And we need to learn it fast.

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