RIYADH – No issue in the world today is of greater immediate importance than the need to end the civil war in Syria. The past two and a half years have been a disaster for peace, stability, and our sense of common humanity. Gut-wrenching images of unspeakable, indiscriminate violence against civilians have shocked the world. According to the latest United Nations estimates, more than 100,000 Syrians, including many children, have lost their lives as a result of the criminal behavior of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
There are now more than two million Syrian refugees in bordering countries and more than four million displaced persons inside Syria. With the murder of peaceful protesters, the shelling of residential quarters, the execution of soldiers who refuse to fire on their countrymen, and the use of chemical weapons, a picture has emerged of a regime that is systematically defying the most basic international moral and legal standards.
Unless the world is content to watch the carnage continue, the Syrian regime and its instruments of oppression must be removed. The international community’s shameful acceptance of impunity for Assad and his henchmen is a blot on the conscience of the world. Western leaders’ dithering, and the callous, cynical, and cavalier support of Russia and China for Assad, is a stigma that they will bear forever. Iran’s support for the regime is nothing less than a war crime.
The current charade of international control over Assad’s chemical arsenal would be amusing if it were not so blatantly perfidious. While it has allowed US President Barack Obama to back down from his threat of military intervention in response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons, it has also allowed Assad to continue to butcher his people. It is ludicrous to believe that US Secretary of State John Kerry’s “offhand” comment about destroying Syria’s chemical-weapons stockpile was anything but a well-choreographed opening for Russia to make its diplomatic play, thereby letting the US off the hook.