Russia under the microscope in Syria

Image By: Courtesy of Wiki-Commons

Russian warplanes in Western Syria have carried out several airstrikes that are believed to have killed dozens of civilians. According to a Human Rights Watch report, these bombings appear to be war crimes committed by the Russians. These aerial attacks took place in the northern part of Homs governorate Oct. 15th as Russian and Syrian planes were supporting a ground offensive against rebel troops.

Russian forces have faced numerous allegations of targeting civilian areas since they began their bombing campaign in Syria last month. Russia has strongly denied these allegations, stating that its airstrikes are not targeting civilians. It should be noted that none of these allegations have been confirmed, and the Russian Foreign Ministry has called the Human Rights Watch report “another piece of disinformation.”

The most lethal of these airstrikes in Homs was reported to hit a house in the village of Ghantou. It has been reported that a family celebration was occurring, and 46 members of an extended family were killed. Another airstrike hit in the town of Ter Maaleh, reportedly killing 13 civilians, and a local commander of the rebel group: the Free Syrian Army. In its report, the Human Rights Watch said that residents of these towns believed “the strikes were by Russian forces because the sound of the planes were different from the sound made by Syrian air force planes, and the Russians fly much higher.” However, the Russian Foreign Ministry once again stated there was nothing to the report.

There were also accusations against the U.S.-led coalition that has been carrying out a bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq in the Human Rights Watch report. In 2014, the Human Rights Watch called for an investigation into U.S. missile strikes in northwestern Syria. These strikes were ones that reportedly killed seven civilians. The Pentagon said at the time that the military would look into such claims, but since have not found any evidence to support them.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition group based in London, reported in May that the coalition airstrikes had killed more than 50 civilians near the city of Aleppo alone. The U.S. military vowed to investigate the report, and the U.S. Central Command stated that at the time there were no coalition forces in the area. However, they are said to still be looking into the report.

With the accusations of over 100 civilian casualties being reported around airstrikes from the Russians and an absence of any sincere complaints against the U.S.-led coalition in recent months, I am left wondering once again if it is time for the United Nations to stand up to the Russians. In the last month, they have become exponentially more militarily active within Syria and have faced little resistance against such acts. It is time for the other leaders on the world stage to hold Vladimir Putin accountable for these actions, and force the Russians to loosen their holds in Syria.

To begin, the Russian ground troops that have become abundant around cities such as Latakia should be recalled home. There is no reason for a nation that is supporting their ally through airstrikes to have ground troops in one of the most prominent cities in Syria. The other ground forces that the Russians have deployed in Syria should also be recalled. Once again, there is no need for tanks, war jeeps and short-range helicopters to be present in a nation that the Russians are supporting from the air.

Another curious point of information is that when the Russian arms buildup first occurred in Syria in late September, the Russians claimed they were only going to use these weapons to defend Syrian cities. Nearly a month later, the Russians have been viewed supporting several Syrian offensives against rebel groups. It should also be noted the Russians first claimed they were in Syria to fight back against the terrorist group ISIS, not against the rebels.

With these points in mind, I believe it is time for third party intervention in Syria. The United Nations needs to step in and force the Russians to remove all troops from Syria. There is no need for there to be a physical Russian presence in Syria when they could send air support from afar. If they refuse, I believe that sanctions, whether economic or alternative, should be enforced against the Russians. I fear this may be another Russian ploy at a land grab if its ally, President al-Assad, falls to the Free Syrian Army. Such an event could be catastrophic in the world of global politics, and could lead to greater conflict than a civil war.

Jack Kelly is a freshman planning on majoring in journalism and strategic communications. Please send all comments to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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