Russia Must Exercise Influence Over Assad

May 16, 2017

The U.S. State Department recently released newly declassified reporting and photos that underscore the brutality of the Syrian regime made possible by the continuing support of its allies Russia and Iran.

According to the United Nations and credible human rights organizations, the Syrian civil war which started in 2011, has claimed more than 400,000 lives, many of which were civilians.

Since 2012, the regime has routinely conducted airstrikes and artillery strikes in dense urban centers, including with barrel bombs, and improvised unguided bombs. The Assad regime systemically targeted eastern Aleppo's hospitals in multiple strikes, killing patients and medical professionals.

In addition to airstrikes, the regime continues to systematically abduct and torture civilian detainees, often beating, electrocuting, and raping these victims. According to numerous NGOs, the regime has abducted and detained between 65,000 and 117,000 people between 2011 and 2016.

Moreover, the regime has also authorized the extrajudicial killings of thousands of detainees using mass hangings at the Saydnaya military prison - one of many detention facilities. “We now believe that the Syrian regime has installed a crematorium in the Saydnaya prison complex which could dispose of detainees' remains with little evidence,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones in a briefing.

These appalling atrocities have been carried out seemingly with the unconditional support from Russia and Iran, said Acting Assistant Secretary Jones.Two weeks ago, at the Astana conference in Kazakhstan - Turkey, Russia, and Iran, the guarantors of the Astana process – agreed to create de-escalation zones that would reduce violence and save lives. In light of the failures of past ceasefire agreements, the United States has reason to be skeptical about this agreement.

The regime must stop all attacks on civilians and opposition forces, and Russia must bear responsibility to ensure regime compliance, said Acting Assistant Secretary Jones. “Russia has either aided in or passively looked away as the regime has conducted an airstrike against a UN convoy, destroyed east Aleppo, and used chemical weapons, including sarin, against civilians in Idlib province on April 4th.”

During his recent visit, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov acknowledged that there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict. Russia must now with great urgency exercise its influence over the Syrian regime to guarantee that horrific violations stop now.