Following the exploitation of the Assad regime and its allies of the goodwill of the international community in the wake of the series of devastating earthquakes which struck southern Turkey and northern Syria last month, there has been a growing trend in the region of normalizing with the Assad regime.
In spite of the numerous and ongoing crimes of the regime, not least of which is a booming narcotics trade, some countries are seeking economic or political gains in restoring ties with the dictator, in part, some analysts state due to the seeming ambivalence of the United States.
The days following the February 6th earthquakes saw Egyptian delegations visit Damascus and in this month alone Assad has visited both Oman and the UAE and seen economic and diplomatic overtures from Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
Through it all the US merely “advised” and released statements, warning against normalization with the criminal Assad regime while making their stance on the need to remove Assad and continue sanctions known through various press releases.
While the US-led Caesar Act and sanctions have served to deter open economic and to an extent diplomatic relations with Assad and his regime, an apparent absence of action has led many to think they can “risk” re-engaging with Assad.
Yesterday an open letter was sent to US President Biden from 39 present and former US officials and Syria and foreign policy specialists urging the US to take action regarding Syria and the Assad regime. Among the signatories were a former CIA director, US special envoy to Syria, two Ambassadors and retired US Generals, former members of the Departments of State and Defense, analysts and accountability activists as well as dozens representing the legal, academic, diplomatic, human rights and policy-making fields.
The letter cited the lack of an assertive, active, and clear US policy on Syria and Assad as being, in part, the cause of the failure of the international community and UN to meet their obligations to the Syrian people, especially those in liberated northeastern Syria.
It stressed that the US “needs a policy to address the causes and drivers of the Syria conflict, not simply the symptoms,” Echoing a similar sentiment expressed by Qatar’s Emir in last year’s General Assembly address when he said regarding the Syrian crisis that, “we must pay attention to the roots of the issues.” The letter said that the cause of the issues in Syria, “terrorism and human suffering” were due to “Assad regime atrocities” and that “human suffering, industrial-scale drug trafficking, refugee flows, terrorism, geopolitical conflict, and ethnic and sectarian hostilities” are only worsening due to the regime’s “inability, or refusal to reform.”
It noted that the regime’s inability to govern the areas it controls has exacerbated global security threats such as ISIS by maintaining an environment of corruption, abuse, and oppression in which the terrorist organization thrives. The authors also stated that “more than half of Syrian citizens currently insist on living outside regime control and are unwilling to return to a Syria ruled by Bashar al-Assad.”
Among the solutions it recommended was a restructure of aid and humanitarian mechanisms, especially when supporting and dealing with the liberated northern territories saying, “prioritizing stabilization, early recovery and targeted investment into community capacity building,” are key to aid work in northern Syria, and stressed the need for long-term sustainable aid programs, “that does not depend on regime permissions,” citing the legality of cross border aid sans UN or Assad approval.
It called for a “formalized ceasefire” guaranteed by “external stakeholders,” and said that the US and allies should, “create conditions that encourage interconnectivity between the northwest and northeast, and clarify the untenability of the regime’s refusal to engage in a political process,” as well as a need for a body to monitor and catalogue crimes, and human rights violations and establish a clear path to accountability for the Assad regime and parties that commit crimes in the course of the Syrian conflict.
“Syria’s crisis is complex, but unconditional regime normalization is not inevitable,” opined the authors before declaring, “opposing regime normalization in word only is not enough,” and that “an alternative and actionable vision is required.”