Threats Against Idlib—And Humanity

The Syrian Civil War is reaching its breaking point in Idlib. That breaking point will determine whether the United States is still the symbol of peace and freedom, or a fraud.

Idlib Governorate. The last remaining rebel stronghold in war-ridden Syria and a continuous target of conflict and attack from the Syrian regime. But also a place that 2.9 million people call home.

The Syrian Civil War, a 6-year long, bloody conflict between the Syrian Arab Republic and the Syrian rebels, has been a fierce fight for political freedom and a new government. In 2011, a peaceful uprising from rebels wishing for increased independence from the Syrian government and a less corrupt government came in the form of a demonstration in Homs. But these minor demonstrations, as they were met with an unchanging regime, rapidly turned into massive protests. And the government was quick to respond with brutal shows of violence.

Soon, these peaceful protests had dissolved into a full-blown war. On June 12, 2012, the United Nations officially declared Syria to be in a state of civil war. A meaningful and nonviolent means of reform had been crushed by water cannons, tear gas, live fire, and the blindness of ignorance and greed.

The main ally of the Assad regime is Russia, who aided them in supply and also in actual conflict against the rebels, as maintaining the regime in Syria was key to their interests in the country. Meanwhile, the United States cautiously backed the rebels, providing them with military training and supplies, but rarely aiding them in conflict. However, the United States did launch occasional air-strikes against the Syrian regime, as part of their campaign against ISIS and the war against terrorism.

And now, it has all boiled down to Idlib, the city housing the last rebel stronghold opposing the oppressive regime.

The United States had warned Syria and its Russian allies—the first warning from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on September 1st, and the second warning from President of the United States Donald Trump, on September 4th—not to “recklessly attack” the city. The concern was the humanitarian issues that come with such a strike. The assault would endanger hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians living in the area and could displace as much as 700,000 Syrians. But only hours after the warning from President Trump, Russian planes struck western Idlib.

Earlier this year in July, the Syrian government and the rebels had come to a reconciliation agreement stating that the refugees would hand over their military hardware at the moment, as well as all their weaponry once ISIS was removed from southern Syria. Those who did not want to participate in this agreement was to be allowed to relocate to Idlib. Idlib was supposed to be a relatively safe haven. Yet the current debris of demolished buildings and civilian casualties say otherwise.

Secretary Pompeo said that the attack on Idlib was something that Syria and Russia had “agreed not to permit,” and that it should be viewed as an “escalation of an already dangerous conflict.” There are concerns that this perilous situation will escalate even further, with the possibility that the Syrian government will use chemical weapons against the rebels in Idlib.

But even after these warnings, Russia is still on the offensive. Sergey Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of Russia, told the Western nations not to “play with fire”, implying that Russia will not back down from this fight anytime soon.

A regime that destroys its own innocent civilians in the pursuit of complete dominance. A government indulged in its own corruption, sacrificing its people for extended power. A civil war that annihilates both buildings and dreams of a freer country alike, spreading authoritarianism under the cover of the word, “republic”. Conflict upon conflict, chaos upon chaos, placing yet another mark of radical violence onto history’s already marred face, and increasing doubt that any room for peace is left.

At this rate, not much will be left at all.  

Amid the rubble and dead bodies, there will still be people whose hearts remain unscarred and whose minds remain untwisted from the violent hatred they have experienced first-hand. There will still be people that will advocate for peace rather than combat. But, as the death rate continues to rise and people continue to lose their homes, these numbers will soon dwindle to an alarming few.

If this conflict continues to displace and harm mass amounts of innocent civilians, it must be stopped. And against the rising opposition, it is the duty of the United States, as a democratic country, to protect the lives and rights of these civilians until the fighting has come to an end.

– Lauren Cho (’22)

Featured Image: Abdurrazzak Sekirdy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

World War III?

The world currently seems to be reliving the Cold War. With tensions rising and military powers being used with devastating effects, World War III may be on the horizon. Only time will tell.

April 9th, 2017 – ISIS has claimed responsibility for the bombing of the two Coptic churches in Egypt. With 43 confirmed deaths, the bombing came at a crucial time for Christians: Palm Sunday, or the first Sunday before Easter.

The first blast ripped through the Palm Sunday service in the city of Tanta at St. George’s Church, which killed 27 people and injured 78 others. The bombing device was planted under a seat in the main hall of the church. A video can be seen where the service was carried out until suddenly, the screen turns mute and screams can be heard in the background.

“Everything is destroyed inside the church,” said Peter Kamel. He described that the pillars of the churches were streaked with blood.

Not long after the first bombing, another suicide bomber outside of the St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria. The police staff outside the church identified a man with explosives strapped to his body. The suicide bomber failed to make it inside the church. Directly near the bomber, several police officers, a couple, and several other civilians were killed. 16 people were confirmed dead and 41 others wounded.

Egyptian blogger, Maged Butter said that she saw blood spatter even 100 meters away from the site of the explosion, describing the horrors of this event. “I came back and the area was covered in smoke. The stores around the church were all destroyed,” she said. “There were bodies and body parts everywhere, outside and inside the gate. I saw a man put together what was left of his son in a bag.”

The Arab Republic of Egypt has since gone into a three-month state of emergency Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said Sunday. Sisi has also declared three days of national mourning. However, in response to the attacks, he has created a supreme council to counter terrorism and extremism.

However, this is not the only act of terrorism we have seen in the past few weeks; in fact, it is absolutely horrifying counting the sheer number of acts of terror that has happened in the span of one week: Sweden truck attack; suicide bomber of Mogadishu, Somalia; the 44 executions of Iraqis; the chemical attack in Syria; the suicide bomber of Kirkuk, Iraq; and the subway bomber of St. Petersburg, Russia.

With all of this frenzy, the world seems to be spiraling down into a ditch. The Trump Organization takes direct military action against the Syrian regime and launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at the airbase that was home to the warplanes that carried out the chemical attacks. Russia openly condemned the attack and saw it as an “act of aggression against a sovereign state in violation of the norms of international law.” Iran and Assad’s office Friday called it “a disgraceful act” that “can only be described as short-sighted.”

To make matters even worse, the US aircraft carrier-led strike group, USS Carl Vinson, heads towards the Korean Peninsula. In recent times, the hype for an outbreak in Korea seems very plausible. U.S. officials assert that “all options are on the table,” which presumably includes a pre-emptive strike. In response, North Korean Vice Minister Han Song Ryol said: “we will go to war if they choose.” It is undeniable that wars are easier said than done, and Trump’s nonchalance towards this issue concerns others.

Currently, the Japanese, Chinese, and French governments have spoken out about the possible events occurring between the Koreas: “Once a war really happens, the result will be nothing but multiple loss. No one can become a winner,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters at a news conference with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. “Therefore, we call upon all the parties, no matter verbally or in action, to stop provoking and threatening each other and not to allow the situation to become irretrievable and out of control.”

Facebook exploded with news about these current events, and there are numerous people, even students at KIS, who are panicking over the possibility of a war. With all of these overly-complex politics, international relations are thinning out, and everybody is feeling uneasy about the current events. War seems just on the horizon. Is World War III a possibility? Only time will tell.

Article Written by Sean Choi