Friday, October 21, 2016

Enter the Resolute, Powerful New Russia

"The ancient city of Aleppo, a place of millennial civility and beauty, is today a slaughterhouse - a gruesome locus of pain and fear, where the lifeless bodies of small children are trapped under streets of rubble and pregnant women deliberately bombed."
"[The siege and bombardment of Aleppo's rebel-held east are among the] crimes of historic proportions [being committed in Syria]."
"[The Human Rights staff has] documented violations of international humanitarian law by all parties in Aleppo."
"Armed opposition groups continue to fire mortars and other projectiles into civilian neighbourhoods of western Aleppo, but indiscriminate air strikes across the eastern part of the city by government forces and their allies are responsible for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties."
"These violations constitute war crimes. And if knowingly committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against civilians, they constitute crimes against humanity."
"[The failure of the international community - particularly the UN Security Council - to protect civilians and halt the bloodshed] should haunt every one of us."
UN human rights chief Zeid Raad Al Hussein
People listen to a speech by UN human rights chief Zeid Raad Al Hussein at the Human Rights Council in Geneva (21 October 2016)


EPA -- Zeid Raad Al Hussein said the failure to protect civilians in Syria "should haunt everyone of us"
"Crimes of historic proportions" were being perpetrated in eastern Aleppo and elsewhere within the country, an impassioned accusation that an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva heard from its head, Mr. Zeid, causing Syria's permanent representative to the United Nations, Hussam al-Din Ala, to respond with his own livid and dismissive statement as he insisted that the Syrian government was entirely within its rights under international law to defend itself against terrorism.

A self-exculpatory explanation that obviously failed to impress those present, including the charity Save the Children which issued its own warning, that aid workers and medical professionals stationed in eastern Aleppo engaged in life-saving humanitarian efforts were sending reports of widespread use of cluster bombs, banned under international law. A statement surprising no one who can use their mental faculties to interpret what they see, hear and read.

How refreshing: the Human Rights Council actually exercising its franchise to pinpoint and illuminate with all the horrified dismay it deserves, the medieval criminality of a modern-day, supposedly civil-advanced nation in the Middle East, pitilessly targeting its own civilian population for annihilation with the use of both technologically advanced and internationally forbidden weapons, from chemical attacks to barrel bombs to bunker-busters. Ably assisted by an emerging world power; Russia.

And because of missing security guarantees, and given that humanitarian groups associated with the United Nations have previously suffered the misfortune of coming under fire from Russian and Syrian warplanes and bombs, the UN stated it had no option but to delay plans to proceed with medical evacuations from Aleppo, hoping to take advantage of the second eleven-hour "humanitarian pause" unilaterally declared on generous impulse by Syria and Russia. Who that pause has benefited has been a puzzle, other than to symbolically demonstrate the humanitarianism compelling the two allies.
One of the roads in Bustan al-Qasr that people would have to use to access one of the safe exit points opened for people wishing to leave rebel-held areas of Aleppo (20 October 2016)
Russia has told civilians to leave rebel-held Aleppo through several corridors-- Reuters
Russia plans, it has announced, to suspend air strikes between 08:00 and 19:00 local time on Saturday to enable both civilians and rebels to leave the city through what they describe as safe corridors. Both civilians and rebels can be forgiven for construing that invitation as a possible forfeiture of life and limb, given their experiences to date of Russian humanitarian offers. The result being that, unsurprisingly, very few people have reportedly taken advantage of the offer. As for the rebel factions, their lack of gratitude can be assessed in their assertion that to do so would result in forced displacement and surrender.


Meanwhile, passing through the English Channel in international waters, a Russian naval convoy of war ships from the Norwegian Sea is en route to Syria through the eastern Mediterranean. Among them is the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, the only carrier in the Russian navy. The aircraft carrier is capable of carrying over 50 aircraft. Its weapons systems include granit anti-ship cruise missiles, a formidable combination. One can be forgiven for speculating further on the need to dispatch such a convoy, and to that particular geographic point.

Map showing route of Russian task force
According to Friday's Komsomolskaya Pravda: "This is no tourist trip to the Med. It will strengthen Russia's current naval presence off the Syrian coast and provide air cover. The aircraft carrier planes and on-board weapons may also be used for strikes against terrorists." Strikes against terrorists? What terrorists? The besieged Sunni Syrians in Aleppo and elsewhere who have already paid the price of protesting their unequal status in a Shiite-led government that describes its civilian opponents as terrorists?

The venerable British Broadcasting Corporation reads the ominous signs somewhat differently, as a symbolic message to the West, that Russia, powerful Russia, is back in the game, and equal in its resolute military manifestations wherever Mother Russia's interests lie geographically, to any significant presence the West is capable of cobbling together. Russia means business, it is a re-emerging power capable of rising above and beyond the criticism levelled at it by a jealous and paranoid NATO, and the rest of world had better recognize that fact.







Russian aircraft carrier travelling through the Channel

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