The horrors of the Las Vegas shooting, the North Korean nuclear situation and BREXIT, is the perfect cover to allow Assad and Putin to try to exterminate the opposition in Syria. In the Safe Zones in Idlib Province, policed by Russian military, five UOSSM hospitals have been all but destroyed by Russian and Syrian air strikes in the last 10 days. We hope that the arrival of the Turkish military supporting the Free Syrian Army will make the Russians and Syrians decease from attacking civilians and create a credible Safe Zone. The level of carnage of the Las Vegas shooting is being played out one hundred fold every day, over this Summer and Autumn in all opposition areas of Syria.
The plan appears to be either physically kill all opposition or force them out of Syria to become yet more refugees. This is being successful, as the other P5 members of the UNSC, UK, US, France and China appear completely focused on North Korea, BREXIT and their own domestic politics. What they appear to be missing, is that their ambivalence to peace in Syria is the best ‘recruiting sergeant’ for ISIL, especially when we have split so much of our own blood and capital destroying them [ISIL] in Iraq and Syria over the last 4 years. It is the Jihadist terror which is the greatest threat now, and for the foreseeable future on the streets of London, Paris, New York etc and by ignoring it in Syria we are fuelling its development for the future.
The world was outraged last Christmas when thousands were slaughtered in Aleppo by air strikes and eventually UOSSM and Doctors Under Fire managed to help get the few thousand left to the then relative safety of Idlib Province. Not before most hospitals had been destroyed and most doctors killed. It was this more than anything, which broke the will of the people to resist the Russian and Syrian onslaught. Global outrage at the time seemed to reduce the direct targeting of hospitals after that, but it was clear to Assad and Putin the effectiveness of raising the medical fraternity to the ground.
Instead of attacking hospitals the Regime looked to their other favoured terror capability, chemical weapons, and conducted two major Sarin attacks on 30 Mar and 04 Apr this year, killing and injuring many and terrifying thousands. President Trump’s strike on 06 Apr put an end to the chemical terror for now, but turned the Regime and Russia back on to attacking hospitals; this they have done completely unchallenged for the last 6 months.
The only apparent hope left is the UN Geneva Process which is directed to find a diplomatic and political solution in the next 18 months. Hitherto, this has had no hope of success as Western governments have directed that Assad must go before negotiations can begin. It is clear with Putin propping up Assad that this is not going to happen. However, it is also clear that Putin has achieved his strategic objects in Syria, and for a whole host of reasons would like to get out soon. President’s Trump and Macron have stated that Assad can be part of the transition process, which is the pragmatic approach in our opinion. If the Syrian people do get free and fair elections, as the UN hope, they [Syrian people] should for the first time have the opportunity to vote for who they want to lead them. It is clear that the British Government is thinking the same way, and Boris Johnson appears to have confirmed this, but his subtlety is not always unambiguous. Many of the Syrian diaspora, who we support and lobby on behalf of, are also now of this opinion, which at last gives us, some realistic hope that peace is achievable. This is not appeasement of Assad; he should face his many victims and accusers in the International Criminal Court in due course, but is the only way to break the political stalemate and the continually and apparently inevitable cycle of killing.
We seem to have been in the end game for Syria for years now. However, this forgotten war over the last six months is at a final tipping point, and our collective political inactions are nothing short of an international and United Nations disgrace. We allow a P5 country, Russia, to be complicit in war crime, destroying hospitals and killing civilians which is against every rule of law and decency. Our brave men and women of our military destroy ISIL in Syria and Iraq for our political and diplomatic ineptitude and indifference allowing it to regrown in Idlib, Ghouta and the refugee camps of Europe.
But if Britain and most especially Europe put half as much effort into Syrian peace than BREXIT war, if Trump holds Putin to account, if Assad stays during the transition process there is just a chance that the UN Geneva Process will provide a decent solution for millions of civilians who have been gassed, bombarded and starved for the last 5 years.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon OBE
Dr David Nott OBE
Directors Doctors Under Fire