January 16, 2014
To Solve Syria, First Get Assad to Accept UN Aid Workers
By James Rupert
As the international community prepares to gather Syriaâ€™s civil war combatants January 22 for talks aimed at ending the war, the best hope of prompting President Bashar Assad to consider political compromise is in first requiring him to let UN humanitarian agencies work throughout the country, Hof writes this week in an essay for the Council. The UN should postpone next weekâ€™s conference, called Geneva II, until Assad provides that access. This would constrain an Assad military response that, Hof writes, has become â€śan ever-escalating assault on civilian populations.â€ť
Secretary of State John Kerry has spoken on the Syrian conflict and its civilian victims with â€ścoherent and even soaringâ€ť rhetoric, according to Hof, but US policy now is overlooking an â€śunvarnished truthâ€ť that Kerry expressed soon after taking office nearly a year ago. That is, writes Hof, that â€śAssad's calculation would have to be changed before the head of Syria's criminal clan would take negotiated political transition seriously.â€ť
The prospect of US military strikes to change Assadâ€™s calculus was set aside in Washingtonâ€™s agreement in September to abstain from armed action in exchange for the removal of Assadâ€™s chemical weapons.
â€śAssad took this to mean he was free to use his Russian-supplied weaponry as he wished, provided he refrained from using chemical munitions,â€ť Hof says.
â€śIdeally Geneva II would commence on January 22 with a humanitarian truce substantially in place: one characterized by full United Nations access to all parts of Syria,â€ť according to Hof. If Assadâ€™s main backers, Iran and Russia, â€ścannot oblige their client to do the minimally decent thing, why should they be expected to do anything useful in the context of Geneva II's mission: political transition?
â€śThe entirety of the American diplomatic effort needs to be focused on what has become easily the most catastrophic humanitarian disaster of the 21st century,â€ť Hof told National Public Radioâ€™s Morning Edition on January 15. â€śYouâ€™re seeing genocidal effects being produced on the ground: this terrible daily bombing, strafing, shelling by the Assad regime of populated areas -- densely populated areas -- in the hope that they may catch a few rebel fighters. This is whatâ€™s driving this humanitarian catastrophe and the international community just hasnâ€™t come up with an answer to it yet.â€ť