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Syria: a testament to international moral bankruptcy

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Friday, 18 August 2017


Much has been written about Syria's civil war which has engulfed the country for the past six years, but sadly the mounting death and destruction in Syria has long since become mere statistics. The international community grew comfortably numb to the horror, the likes of which we haven't seen since World War II. Both internal and external players have been nurturing their vested interests by prolonging the deadly conflict, hoping to improve their position to serve their long-term objectives. The irony is that none of the external main players-Russia, Iran, US, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia-and the domestic actors (the Assad regime, Sunnis, and Kurds) will end up with such lasting gains that outweigh the horrifying losses that have been inflicted on the country and its citizens.

What happened to the sentiment of "never again" that was universally embraced in the wake of World War II to prevent calamities such as this from occurring? How low will the moral bar of the international community sink before we awake to the unfolding catastrophe?

How many more men, women, and children must die, and how much ruin can the country further sustain before we act to stop this madness that seems to infect every party involved, when nothing else matters but their criminal self-interest?

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'Crimes against humanity' became a mere slogan, shaming every domestic and foreign party that could have stopped the slaughter but did nothing. They immunized themselves, assumed no responsibility, and discharged their moral culpability while the blood of innocent Syrian people continues to stream, marring what's left of their conscience.

While Syrian men and women suffered untold losses, pain, agony, and deprivation, the children-yes, millions of children-have suffered beyond the pale of wrenching ache and anguish, quietly despairing for they remain helpless and destitute.

According to World Vision International, "millions of children under five are now more vulnerable than ever to physical trauma, injuries, communicable diseases, and malnutrition." At least 8.2 million children inside Syria and across the region are now experiencing displacement, shattered health systems, and food insecurity, while over 2 million are growing up as refugees.

Nearly three million under the age of five have grown up knowing only war. One in four children is at risk of severe mental health disorders, with potentially lifelong consequences. Attacks on hospitals have left 43 percent of Syrian hospitals functional, while half of Syria's doctors have fled the country.

As many as 80,000 children in Syria are believed to be infected with polio, which was eradicated in Syria in 1995. The ongoing bombing and shelling is the main cause behind the children's psychological trauma that will leave indelible emotional scars from which they will suffer throughout their adult lives. During the five-year span of the conflict, life expectancy at birth has dropped by 15 years, and to top it all, tens of thousands of children were killed.

And if this is not enough, just think about the damage that has been inflicted on these children, who have been deprived of basic education with one in every four schools damaged, destroyed, or used for displaced people. There were 400,000 more children out of school in 2015 than 2014, as more than 4,000 attacks against schools have made these educational institutions financially insolvent.

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These are not mere numbers. We are talking about a catastrophe in the making for all to see. Just imagine, two generations have been lost; never again will they know normalcy but only anguish and uncertainty, while the world watches with complacency.

No one is talking about a solution that could bring this calamitous war to a conclusion. The UNSC has been inept at best. Russia's veto-wielding power has and continues to prevent the passage of any solution that does not meet its total requirements. President Putin will continue to support Assad and spare no effort to maintain Russia's presence in Syria as a springboard to enhance its regional influence.

Iran, who is fighting for regional hegemony, will continue to support Assad's regime until the last Syrian soldier. The mullahs do so in the 'name of the almighty,' which gives them the 'moral authority' to ravage the country for as long as it takes to secure their hegemonic ambitions from the Mediterranean to the Gulf.

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About the Author

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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