Aid workers say that trucks carrying desperately needed aid to the rebel-held side of the city were repeatedly bombed, as was a warehouse. At least 20 people were killed.
Pursuant to the “cease fire” arrangement, notification of the convoy was provided to all parties to the conflict and the convoy was clearly marked as humanitarian, according to the U.N emergency relief coordinator. Yet, fighter jets swooped in as the trucks were being unloaded and the killing commenced. The notification provided the Russians with a road map to a massacre.
The attack on the convoy is “a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law,” in the words of Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Both the Red Cross and U.N. officials have demanded an investigation.
What about the Obama administration? The “logical response” — to borrow the Washington Post’s phrase — would have been to ask for an immediate meeting of the U.N. Security Council. This is what Russia did after the mistaken bombing of a Syrian army camp by planes from the U.S.-backed coalition fighting ISIS.
But the Obama administration has made no such request. Instead, John Kerry, the village idiot, declared that the alleged cease fire is “not dead.” He called for more talks with Russia.
The Syrian government, by contrast, has declared the cease fire over, while Russia says the prospects for it are “very weak.” Let’s call this a self-fulfilling prophesy.
The main purpose of the “cease fire,” in the short term at least, was to enable humanitarian agencies to deliver relief to across combat lines. No one will be delivering relief now; all aid shipments have been suspended.
Given this reality, the continued fighting on the ground, and the pronouncements of Syrian and Russia, Kerry’s claim that the cease fire lives on is preposterous.
President Obama’s reaction is almost as criminally lame. In his U.N. speech, where he at least had the good sense to mention Syria only briefly, Obama intoned: “We’re going to have to pursue the hard work of diplomacy that aims to stop the violence and deliver aid to those in need.”
Is negotiating meaningless agreements “hard work”? I don’t think so. At any rate, it comes easily enough to John Kerry who was born to pursue fool’s errands.
Hard work would be to take meaningful action to minimize the killing of civilians in Syria. That work has been made much harder by Obama’s past decisions not to act.
What kind of action should we take at this point? I agree with the Post’s editorial board. At a minimum, we should establish and defend a safe zone for civilians. We should also consider military action to ground the Syrian air force and, if it comes to that, Russia’s as well.
If that’s too “hard,” Obama and Kerry should forget about Syria instead of negotiating agreements that Assad and the Russians use to their advantage.