U.S. condemns Russian 'barbarism' in Syria

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power referred to Russia’s support of the Syrian regime as “barbarism” over the weekend. That description came after a surge in the number of Syrian and Russian airstrikes in Aleppo which followed the collapse of a U.S. brokered cease-fire agreement last week. From CNN:

US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said that Russian support of Assad’s deadly offensive was “barbarism.”

“What Russia is sponsoring and doing is not counterterrorism, it is barbarism,” she told the Security Council.

“Instead of pursuing peace, Russia and Assad make war. Instead of helping get life-saving aid to civilians, Russia and Assad are bombing the humanitarian convoys, hospitals and first responders who are trying desperately to keep people alive.”

Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura echoed Ban’s comments, calling the recent days “chilling.” He said the “past week has been one of the worst ones in Syria during the near six years of this devastating conflict.”

On Sunday the representatives for the U.S., France and Britain walked out of an emergency UN session when the Syrian representative began speaking.

All of this comes after the collapse of a cease-fire negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry. The cease-fire collapsed last Monday when a UN relief convoy was bombed. The United States blamed Russia for the attack on a marked UN convoy, an act which could be considered a war crime. Russia has denied responsibility and claimed, pathetically, that the convoy was destroyed by a cargo fire.

So why is Russia suddenly becoming more belligerent in Syria? In a story published Friday, the Washington Post’s Liz Sly suggests an answer. Russia now believes it can win the war in Syria:

The launch of the offensive called into question the entire premise of the agreement painstakingly negotiated by Kerry and Lavrov over the past eight months: that Russia shares the Obama administration’s view that there is no military solution to the conflict. On that basis, U.S. officials have explained, Moscow would be willing to pursue a negotiated settlement in return for a cease-fire and the prestige of eventually conducting joint military operations in Syria alongside the United States against terrorist groups.

At a news conference in New York, Lavrov offered a starkly different point of view. He said it is the United States that needs to come around to the idea that President Bashar al-Assad is the only viable partner in the fight against terrorism, calling his army “the single most efficient force fighting terror in Syria.”

“Little by little, life will make everyone understand that it’s only together that you can fight terrorism,” Lavrov said.

His comments, alongside the events of the past week, suggest that Russia and Syria still believe the war can be won outright, without recourse to negotiations that the United States has said offer the only way out of the Syrian tragedy.

And if Russia believes it can win it’s clearly the United States that is going to lose. President Obama has been saying for years that Syrian President Bashar Assad “must go.” He said it as recently as last November. But since Russia got involved propping up Assad with air power, his military situation has improved. It’s now the U.S. backed rebels who seem to be gradually losing the conflict.

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