Emboldened Assad: Massacre at an IDP camp

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By: Brooklyn Middleton

At least one small child wandered near a badly charred, dismembered body while other people rushed about, lifting the dead or nearly dead from off of the grass that was littered with their possessions; in video footage capturing the aftermath of a Syrian military barrel bombing targeting the Abedin camp for internally displaced Syrians in Idlib province, the carnage – even for war-torn Syria – proves surreal. According to reports, one unidentified man at the scene says, “Let the whole world see this. It’s a massacre of refugees.”

While some sources indicated the death toll in the double barrel bombing reached as high as 75, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) placed the total number of dead at 10. Meanwhile, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) – the Assad regime mouthpiece – failed to report the attack altogether – an omission that is tantamount to confirmation.

The barbarity of the Assad regime has been overshadowed recently by the rise of ISIS and the constant media coverage of the militant group. Yet still, the risk of failing to seriously cover and address continued war crimes by Damascus isn’t limited to contributing to the mounting indifference toward the regime’s relentless brutality; the lack of any international set “red lines,” allows the regime to continue murdering with impunity. This is undoubtedly true but it also allows for the regime to become increasingly emboldened to carry out massive attacks against the most vulnerable.

Why Assad feels no fear

In the most embryonic stages of the U.S.-led coalition’s strategy on ISIS in Syria, plans of dealing with Assad directly were non-existent but any plans of the U.S. supporting rebels to defeat Assad remained nebulous; now, a statement made this week by leader of the U.S. Coalition against ISIS, Marine General John Allen, clarifies DC’s position on this matter and it borders on delusional: “What we would like to see is for the FSA and the forces that we will ultimately generate, train and equip to become the credible force that the Assad government ultimately has to acknowledge and recognize.” The notion the FSA will prioritize helping coalition forces degrade ISIS – a monster the regime helped to create – over defeating Assad is unlikely. The notion that Assad would ever “recognize” the FSA is absurd. To now ask the FSA, alone in its struggle against the brutal regime for over three years, to help sustain the coalition’s gains made against ISIS with no coordination to help them defeat Assad is a particularly confounding development.

As the U.S. continues mulling its best options for dealing with Assad – or not – the benefits for Damascus are two-fold; firstly, the Syrian military will be given a strategic boost resulting from the coalition’s aerial assaults against factions battling them – a fact which the United States has even publicly confirmed. Secondly, the Syrian military is likely highly inclined to capitalize on the world’s collective distraction from their own barbarity – carrying out a massacre at an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp is the latest evidence of that.

After the chemical weapons deal, which saw the destruction of Assad’s declared arsenal, his military continued using chlorine gas “systematically and repeatedly.”

Now, with the international community’s known history of a failure to respond to Assad, the regime continues to have little reason to fear repercussions for virtually any attack it carries out.
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Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst reporting from Israel. Her work has appeared in Turkish and Israeli publications including The Times of Israel and Hürriyet Daily News. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama’s policy in Syria as well as the emerging geopolitical threats Israel faces as it pursues its energy interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. This article was first published in Alarabiya. 

Opinions do not necessarily reflect ARA News’ editorial policy.

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