Source: The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board (Syria’s Peace of the Grave)
Assad and Russia expand their assault on Aleppo as Kerry prattles on.
President Obama and John Kerry are lucky the presidential primaries are occupying Washington’s attention, because otherwise more people might notice the human and strategic catastrophe unfolding in Syria. Even as the Secretary of State was touting his Syrian peace talks in Geneva last week, Bashar Assad, Russia and Iran were expanding their bloody siege against the opposition around Aleppo.
The peace talks in Geneva “adjourned” last week not long after they began, and no wonder. There was no peace to talk about. Mr. Kerry had graciously not insisted on an immediate cease fire as a condition of the talks, so Mr. Assad used the diplomatic cover to ramp up his assault on the moderate Sunni opposition to his Alawite regime. Backed by Russian air power, Hezbollah and elite Iranian troops, Mr. Assad’s forces are trying to wipe out what’s left of the opposition that isn’t allied with Islamic State or the jihadist Nusra Front.
Their strategic goal is to retake what was once Syria’s commercial capital while carving out a safe area in Syria’s west for Alawite control. Mr. Assad also wants to deny opposition access to the Mediterranean coast as well to the border areas with Turkey. The Free Syrian Army has used those areas for periodic resupply and refuge.
With Mr. Assad’s position fortified, he and his backers will be only too happy to return to the talks later this month in a much stronger position. Mr. Kerry, who has never met a concession he wouldn’t make, has already conceded to allow an interim government to form with Mr. Assad still in power. So much for Mr. Obama’s 2011 pledge that Mr. Assad must “step aside.” Syria may then concede to elections down the road that the regime can control.
The Assad assault is also escalating Syria’s human tragedy. As many as 70,000 refugees are massed along the Turkish border as they flee the regime’s indiscriminate bombing against fighters and civilians. Ankara has periodically provided refuge to Syrians during the five-year civil war, but it is under increasing pressure from domestic public opinion and Europe to stop the human flow.
The Syrian disaster is becoming so painfully obvious that even members of the pro-Obama national security establishment are calling for the President to drop his let-it-burn policy. Veteran diplomats Nicholas Burns and James Jeffrey wrote last week in the Washington Post that the Syrian war “has metastasized into neighboring countries and the heart of Europe. It could destabilize the Middle East for a generation.” No kidding.
The duo called for more U.S. help for “the moderate Sunni and Kurdish forces” as well as “the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria to protect civilians, along with a no-fly zone to enforce it.” We wonder where these fellows were five years ago when we and Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham were calling for precisely these steps, but maybe they can shame Mr. Kerry at the next Council on Foreign Relations meeting.
In other Syria news, Mr. Kerry trumpeted U.S. contributions at a United Nations conference in London last week to drum up financial support for the refugees, who total an estimated 11 million during the civil war in addition to more than 250,000 dead. The U.S. has pledged nearly $1 billion, and if nothing else perhaps the money can buy more coffins.