Aleppo sinks further into humanitarian disaster

Russia has stationed long-range bombers at an air base in Iran and is attacking rebel positions in the north of Aleppo from the site. Moscow and Tehran are united by common strategic goals in the region, commentators observe, and criticise the international community's increasing indifference in the face of the Syrian civilian population's unbearable suffering.

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Avvenire (IT) / 18 August 2016

Strategic alliance between Russia and Iran

Avvenire explains why Tehran and Moscow are cooperating closely in the Syrian war:

“Assad's downfall and a victory for the radical Sunni militia supported by Turkey and the Gulf states would be a disaster for Iran. To put it bluntly, while Tehran is brandishing its sword in defence of the cruel dictator of Damascus because its geostrategic security depends on Assad, Moscow doesn't seem to have completely lost sight of the diplomatic process. … But anyone who believes this difference could lead to a rift between Moscow and Tehran is entertaining false illusions. After years of costly military support Putin will hardly give up Syria now that the Syrian regime has been strengthened and its opponents weakened. Unless it came to talks with the West that include Ukraine and an end to the economic sanctions. But such talks are inconceivable at present.”

Aamulehti (FI) / 18 August 2016

We have become indifferent

The fate of the war refugees has left Europeans cold, Aamulehti criticises:

“The flood of news that repeats itself week in, week out has dulled people's minds. ... As the conflict drags on, indifference to human suffering has spread from the theatre of war across to Finland and become anchored in our way of thinking. We too have become brutalised. ... Almost half of the Syrian population has had to flee in the course of the war. Most of the refugees have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. 2.7 million Syrians have fled to Turkey. 1.1 million live in tiny Lebanon - just as many as have come to Europe. In Finland and Western Europe the war has taken the form of a refugee crisis. We are less concerned with the suffering of the Syrians than with the question of how our society will cope with the immigrants. In Europe the arrival of the refugees has resulted in moral bankruptcy with political repercussions.”

Die Presse (AT) / 16 August 2016

Russia and Iran want to settle war now

The airstrikes in Aleppo carried out by Russian aircraft launched from an Iranian airbase are a clear sign that both states are determined to put a violent end to the war in Syria, Die Presse warns:

“Russia's air force is not just using Iran to fly missions against IS-controlled areas, it is also aiming at targets in Idlib and Aleppo. At least as far as Russia is concerned there can be no talk of a ceasefire for Aleppo. Apparently Moscow and Tehran are determined to crack down and wrench the eastern part of the north Syrian city definitively from rebel hands. That would be a huge setback for the fighters who have been resisting Assad for the past five years. ... It is Syria's civilians who suffer the brunt of the attacks. In cities like Aleppo they face artillery fire and bombs - now also from planes that launch from bases in Iran.”

Der Standard (AT) / 15 August 2016

People's situation doesn't play a role

The well-being of the civilian population is playing no role whatsoever in the negotiations for peace in Aleppo, Der Standard criticises:

“It stands to reason that humanitarianism should be the prevailing aspect of the battle for Aleppo. It is unbearable to think that hundreds of thousands of people are confined in the disputed city and will perhaps remain there for a long time to come - long enough for the media attention to wane. Added to that, the fighting has an asymmetrical effect on the rebels and the supporters of the Assad regime. Common sense dictates that a solution must be found for the civilians. Yet such thinking is playing no part whatsoever in the events. The warring parties use any and every interruption in the fighting to regroup. And as the rebels are worse off than Assad and his supporters, the former benefit more from long ceasefires, while the latter oppose such truces.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) / 16 August 2016

US and EU have left the field to Russia

Europe and the US are simply looking on as Syria turns into a living hell, El Periódico de Catalunya criticises:

“Syria is now the most dangerous country in the world for health professionals. The UN registered 44 attacks on health facilities in July. Each of Aleppo's hospitals has been bombed two to three times in recent weeks, and those worst affected are in the zones controlled by the rebels, where there are only 35 doctors to take care of 250,000 people. … Syria's government wants to demoralise the population and force the civilians and rebels to leave the area. All this is happening with the help of Russia and Iran, who back Assad, and the tacit support of the US. … With their inaction and permissiveness Europe and the US have left the field to Russia, which is now dictating the agenda not just in Syria but also in the UN Security Council.”

De Standaard (BE) / 10 August 2016

Don't tolerate alliance between rebels and al-Qaeda

The strategic alliance between the rebels and al-Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, in the battle for Aleppo poses a threat to the West, columnist Dyab Abou Jahjah warns in De Standaard:

“What happens if al-Qaeda successfully demands control of a certain area and manages to expand it? Sooner or later this will be used as the basis for a conflict with the neighbouring countries and the rest of the world. Unlike the megalomaniac IS, al-Qaeda possesses the strategic strength to exploit this situation to the max. The only solution is for the US and Russia to cooperate and to force all parties to reach a compromise. Then the rebels and the regime can share power and also concentrate on the fight against the IS and al-Qaeda, who will refuse to join in such a compromise. A victory for the rebels in Aleppo could accelerate this process. A victory for the regime would make it impossible. The rebels think they can use al-Qaeda to achieve this end but only time will tell exactly who uses whom.”

Keskisuomalainen (FI) / 10 August 2016

Suffering of the civilian population doesn't count

The inhabitants of Aleppo are being sacrificed for the strategic interests of the opposing sides in the civil war, Keskisuomalainen complains:

“Protecting the civilian population has always been a key legal principle in war. But in the civil war that has been raging in Syria for six years this principle has constantly been violated. … Any attack on a hospital is a war crime. For thousands of people trapped in Aleppo the destruction of hospitals is effectively a death sentence. … Aleppo is such an important city in Syria that winning the battle to control it is vital for all the warring parties and will perhaps even decide the future course of the war. With such calculations in mind the fate of its civilian population doesn’t seem to count for much.”

Asharq Al-Awsat (SA) / 08 August 2016

The page has turned

The battle for Aleppo is going well for the rebels and will mark a turning point in the Syrian war, the Saudi Arabian daily Asharq Al-Awsat argues with conviction:

“The reason why the rebels in Aleppo will win is that different groups have formed a military alliance. They are all fighting under one flag. Moreover their morale is high because in this battle there is no alternative to victory. … The Syrian revolution has grown stronger again. It has stopped defending itself and gone on the offensive. The most recent developments in Aleppo are not just good news for the rebels and the Syrian people but for every Arab. Because the armed opposition is standing up to a regional religious alliance consisting of Russia, Iran and the Shiite militia which wants to spread beyond Syria's borders. The Syrian revolution is also an Arab revolution.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) / 04 August 2016

Help those defending Aleppo

In Aleppo we see the consequences of the asymmetrical war in Syria, Der Tagesspiegel comments, and calls on the West to support the moderate opposition:

“The war in Syria can't be decided militarily? Assad and Russia are proving the contrary. Delivering weapons to a war zone is always wrong? As long as the opposition could defend itself effectively Russia and Assad were willing to negotiate. But since they have gained the upper hand they aren't. The US and Europe face an unpleasant choice. There are no 'goodies' to whom they can offer their unconditional support. … But the West should at least help the defenders in Aleppo and other centres of moderate opposition to an extent that forces Assad and Russia to engage in serious negotiations once more because otherwise their losses would be too great. If it doesn't, all it can do is sit back and watch Syria's cities die: yesterday Homs, today Aleppo.”

Le Temps (CH) / 03 August 2016

Peace talks only escalating the war

The Geneva peace talks have only worsened the situation in Syria and will do nothing to end the war, Le Temps believes:

“The siege of Aleppo is certainly due to many factors: the dynamic of the war, the unpredictable developments of the struggle. But above all it is due to the false deadlines set by the 'Geneva process' to give the impression that things were advancing. What could be more banal than trying to make as many territorial gains as possible before one's enemies manage to gather around a negotiating table? As far as the possibilities of resolving the conflict go, this logic is as simple as it is perverse. But in Syria it has become a catalyst of war. Everything else is just a facade and empty words. The only reality is the situation on the ground, and weapons are the only argument.”

The Times (GB) / 02 August 2016

West will pay dearly for looking away

The fall of Aleppo will trigger a new wave of refugees, The Times warns:

“This grisly siege is the Sarajevo of the 21st century, and we are ignoring it. Wrapped up in the terror attacks on our own continent, by the paralysis of leadership in the United States, we are missing Aleppo. By the time we wake up it will be too late: the city, once Syria’s commercial hub, its workshop and marketplace, will be empty or flattened. ... By linking arms with Putin, the West told the world that it was abandoning Syria as being too difficult to solve. It will spur westward migration - the fall of Aleppo will send hundreds of thousands towards the Turkish border - and it will do nothing to stamp out terrorism.”

Die Welt (DE) / 03 August 2016

Far worse than Srebrenica

The establishment of an aid corridor is nothing less than a war crime, Die Welt believes, and enjoins the West to act:

“A good 20 years ago the global community and the West looked on as Serbian forces massacred 8,000 inhabitants of the Bosnian city Srebrenica. Only once the shock set in after this atrocity did they decide to intervene. Today a humanitarian disaster that far exceeds Srebrenica is taking place in the Syrian city of Aleppo. ... The civil population is faced with the choice of fleeing the city or being ruthlessly bombed. In truth this is a forced expulsion and consequently yet another war crime committed under the supervision of a permanent member of the UN Security Council. ... The West must no longer tolerate this situation. ... Otherwise this time no one will believe a show of contrition like the one it made after Srebrenica.”

De Volkskrant (NL) / 02 August 2016

Apparently no way around Assad

The West has no choice but to change its Syria strategy, De Volkskrant comments:

“A victory for Assad with the support of Russia and Iran is far more likely than a defeat. Assad has - to follow his logic - far less reason to make concessions to his opponents than he did six months ago. ... And equally sobering is the question of whether the US and Europe won't have to establish contact with Assad if they want to exert any influence on Syria. ... It is to be feared that there is no alternative to talking with the despot. ... On the one hand because the strategy used so far has failed to prevent a bloody civil war. But also because there's no reason to believe that Assad would be replaced by an upstanding democrat.”

De Morgen (BE) / 02 August 2016

Don't go easy on dictator out of fear for IS

If the West wants to weaken the IS it must take action to prevent the Syrian troops from carrying out genocide in Aleppo, De Morgen demands:

“There is an important reason behind the West's restrained stance in Syria: our fear of IS. People are under the impression that if Syrian President Assad is removed this will free the way for the diabolical caliphate of the Islamic State. … But this is a mistake. It is the pictures of the mass murders ordered by the state in Syrian cities and our weak reaction that are driving hundreds to choose the terrible path of jihad terrorism. The longer Assad is allowed to hurt his people, the more excuses the jihadists have for taking bloody revenge on innocent people. Stopping Assad and the genocide and forcing Syria towards peace is therefore in our own interest. This won't stop international terrorism, but it is the only way to reduce the appeal of IS.”

More opinions

Huffington Post Italia (IT) / 17 August 2016
  Assad's survival would be total defeat for US (in Italian)
Berliner Zeitung (DE) / 09 August 2016
  Turning point in Aleppo shows Moscow war can't be won militarily (in German)
Deutschlandfunk (DE) / 02 August 2016
  If Aleppo falls to Assad rebels' cause will be lost (in German)

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