Syria and radicalisation: stopping the massacre is not only a moral necessity, it is a vital security interest

By Rashad Ali

Over the last few days hundreds of Syrian men, women and children have been killed by indiscriminate bombing by the Assad regime and it’s allies – the Khomeinist regime and the Kremlin. In Eastern Ghouta. 1,000 people have been killed, of which 178 were children.  This is a part of the ongoing extermination in Syria by the regime, which has taken place since the Syrian revolution began in 2011.

A recent aid convoy postponed delivering vital supplies due to fears of chemical attacks. This is following evidence of chemical attacks having taken place in the last few days. Yesterday there were reports of chlorine, phosphorous, napalm as well as continued barrel and cluster bombs all being dropped in the Eastern part of the city.

The UN is describing the situation as apocalyptic and are pleading for an to end this ‘hell on Earth’. Within minutes of when the recent humanitarian pause was declared, Syrians reported bombs and deaths within Eastern Ghouta coming from regime held areas. Up to 475,000 people have been killed, more than 2 million permanently injured – more than 10% of the population in Syria.

If the humanitarian factor doesn’t concern us, the security issues that have arisen from millions of people displaced should. To date, more than 5 million Syrians have been displaced in neighbouring countries and 6 million in Syria. This amounts to the destruction of an entire nation and is a major radicalisation factor.

Events in Syria and the international response have undermined any idea of international laws and norms. Hospitals have been bombed with impunity, aid convoys have been targeted, chemical weapons have been used.

After Obama infamously walked back from his “red line” on chemical warfare, people are already questioning other commitments laid down by Macron, Boris Johnson and the Trump administrations to uphold basic humanitarian norms, international law, international order, or any notional idea of human rights in Syria. The West’s silence is seen even by some Western commentators as complicit.

This situation is arguably the strongest driver of extremist recruitment both in the region and beyond. The idea that there is no such thing, as human rights or the basic right to life if you are a Syrian, a Muslim – a sunni Muslim in fact – presents the perception of the genocide of sunni Muslims by the “Shia crescent” and their allies.

The sectarianization of this conflict and its impact on radicalisation globally, is tangible.  On the reactionary Far-right side, the incoming of a million plus refugees into Europe has been a unifying and vocal cry, seen most recently with the rise of the Far-right in Italy.

If our humanitarian inclinations; our duty to protect; saying ‘never again’ after World War II, are not going to move us to stop this genocide by the Assad regime, maybe our self-interest and selfish security concerns should. The results of Syria pose a very real threat to our freedom – the rise of the Far-right, disregard of international norms, murdering people in our countries, as well as terrorism and radicalisation – and should motivate us to do more to stop this ‘hell on Earth’, now.

Upholding the demands of the UN for a ceasefire, stopping the regime’s war on its own citizens, is not just a moral, legal and political necessity, it is a vital security interest.


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