Fiamma Nirenstein
Fiamma Nirenstein

In Damascus, there’s a Hitler to depose

The very foundations of inhumane suffering against children who were choked to death yesterday by Sarin gas, at the mercy of a nerve gas that causes an agony of indescribable suffering, has a precise date.

The Hitler like highhandedness that Assad used by deciding to bomb the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province in the early morning hours on Tuesday and then to pursue the wounded with other bombs at hospitals where doctors were trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to treat the gas that is an invincible enemy for the body’s immune system.

Yet for Assad, who has caused 70 percent of deaths in the Syrian conflict, this is routine. And it’s becoming so for all of us; that immense shame has a specific date for determining its present stage.

That date was in September 2013 when Obama announced with his usual assertive tone and principles that the close agreement with Syria’s Assad would have allowed us to “remove the threat without using weapons,” it was then that the Syrian dictator would sit down in his armchair in Damascus with the assurance that he could do what he wanted with the support of the Great Putin and the Iranians, who emblematically represent the U.S.’s outstretched hand to Islam; and of Hezbollah, whose ferocity departs from Lebanon in order to strike throughout the world.

With that speech, Obama renounced the promise he made to intervene militarily if the Syrian dictator again passed the “red line” by opting to use chemical weapons that had killed 1,000 people in Damascus. Kerry explained how he knew with certainty that the use of Sarin gas and other chemical agents had been used by Assad’s army and that those civilians had been atrociously murdered solely because they were considered to be part of the plot against the regime.

It was then, in 2013, that the Syrian affair reached ever more biblical proportions. At that time, the massacres increased, along with Obama’s abandonment that prompted Putin to pursue a determined Middle-East policy, which in turn has not only brought a wave of terrified refugees to Europe, but has also made Iran a military power in five countries with Hezbollah as its terrorist proxy. Assad took full advantage of the truce: he took the entire time available and then some to hand over part of the chemical weapons. It’s estimated, however, that by August 2013, Assad managed to undertake another forty attacks with its Sukhoi Su-22.

From the time the truce began, it must be said that yesterday was a heavier day than usual: the dead are close to a hundred. While Assad has largely maintained his average of 35 deaths per day, he is always looking for targets like yesterday from within that he identifies as enemy organizations like Hay at Tahrir al-Sham, which is based in Idlib, but always extending his scope to more and more civilians and even children. Yesterday’s attack is a very serious sign of how Assad, since Obama decided not to stop him, feels sure of himself.

He’s not worried about filling the world with disgust and anger. He doesn’t care. Even Trump, having condemned the attack, has not yet announced any change of political course. The inane attitude of the UN is understood. The most likely scenario is that especially after the terrorist attack on Monday to Putin’s Russia, perhaps an Islamist reaction to his military commitment against ISIS in Syria, Assad has acted, if not with the permission, at least certainly without receiving any veto from his Russian allies. He feels so secure with the geopolitics at present that he was not even afraid to get close to the border with Turkey.

But this is horrible, how do we do not become finally aware that this epochal guilt will fall on our generation all over the future to come, how we do not express a decisive desire for a reaction? How can that poor child not move us at least as it happened with the child who drowned and was thrown by the waves on the beach in his short pants? What’s happening to the world? Now we don’t even care for the little creatures killed by gas? Idlib’s children are alone in front of the world and no one will mark a red line because of them. So, when they don’t die in a chemical attack or a bombing, they will drown in stormy seas as they attempt to escape to Europe.

Translation by Amy K. Rosenthal

This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale (April 5, 2017)

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.