Time to end the silence on Syria
04.03.13 @ 09:25
BRUSSELS - Last week, the Syrian government launched at least four ballistic missiles in the direction of the city of Aleppo, the second-largest city in Syria.
The four projectiles, which are likely to have been Scud-type missiles, struck the city and a town in its outskirts. Human Rights Watch, an international human rights watchdog, reported that more than 140 Syrian civilians, including at least 71 children, were killed in the attacks.
No military targets were in the vicinity of the strike locations, which were in residential areas.
Since the Syrian revolution began in March 2011, more than 80,000 civilians have been killed. Of those, some 20,000 were due to indiscriminate aerial bombardment conducted by Syrian fighter jets.
It was not until December 2012, that United States government officials first reported that the Assad regime had begun resorting to the use of ballistic missiles in its attempts to retaliate against gains made by rebel forces in the liberated areas of northern Syria. Since then, Syrian activists have reported more than 30 similar strikes.
The Syrian government is known to have in its possession at least 86 tactical missiles, including multiple variants of Scuds, procured directly from the Soviet Union.
Additionally, it is likely that Iran, one of Syria's staunchest allies, has provided the Assad regime with a large quantity of additional similar weapons, many of which have likely been used in the past few months.
This is not to mention a whole arsenal of internationally banned weapons that continued to be used daily against the Syrian people, ranging from cluster bombs and thermobaric weapons to anti-personnel and marine mines.
How did the conflict Syria escalate to such a level of unprecedented violence and destruction?
Scud missiles are considered vehicles of weapons of mass destruction. In the event of a chemical weapons attack, the Syrian armed forces would use the exact same missiles they rained down on Aleppo last week, fitted with chemical warheads.
How does Bashar al-Assad dare to use these weapons against his own people?
Certainly Assad would not have used virtually his entire arsenal had he not seen such indifference from the international community.
The United States, which called for the removal of Bashar al-Assad in 2011, has thus far utterly failed at following up its words with decisive action.
And, for more than a year, the United Nations Security Council has proven itself incapable of adopting a resolution regarding Syria, not even to condemn the atrocities perpetrated by the Syrian regime, thanks to Russian veto power.
The Friends of Syria group, which was established specifically for the sake of creating a venue outside of the United Nations in which an international coalition could begin considering actions that would protect the lives of Syrian civilians, has offered only words of sympathy and empty promises to the Syrian people.
Syrians have learned not to expect much from the international community after many conferences concluded without adopting any meaningful decisions. They consider these gatherings like Friends of Syrian meetings as nothing more than opportunities for giving sympathetic speeches.
In light of the recent attacks on Aleppo and the new leadership at the US State Department, the United States should work along with EU allies on achieving the main goals for which the Friends of Syria group was initially established: to conduct an international intervention to protect Syrian citizens.
It is time for the international community to make a stand.
It is time to bring an end to the wholesale destruction of Syria.
It is time to stop Bashar al-Assad from using Scuds and similar weapons to murder his own people.
It is time to stop making statements and to start taking action. Maybe then the suffering of the Syrian people will finally be brought to an end.
The writer is a US-based academic and a spokesman for the Syrian National Council, an opposition group