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Tuesday 13 December 2016

Today’s emergency debate on Aleppo: What we haven’t done

By Kellie Strom

Tobias Ellwood, UK Government Minister for Middle East, tweeted today to the Russian Ambassador: ‘Emergency Commons debate on Syria today. Please say what you are doing to help those trapped in Aleppo.’

The Russian government, in partnership with the Assad regime, the Iranian regime, the Hezbollah terrorist organisation, and their associated militias, are jointly committing crimes against humanity in Syria. The ferocity of those crimes is escalating in these days, but they have been ongoing for years. As crimes against humanity, they are attacks not just on Syrians but on the common security of us all.

A UK minister should not be pleading with a representative of a joint criminal enterprise for mercy. Our Government should not be pleading with these criminals for mercy. We should be defending our common humanity, our shared security, robustly and relentlessly.

There are still people alive to be saved: on the run in Aleppo, under siege in Madaya and the suburbs of Damascus, in prisons across Syria. There are many possible actions that we and others have proposed that haven’t been attempted by our Government.

We haven’t seen UK airdrops, even to areas away from the Russian focus of operations such as Madaya which is only minutes from Syria’s border.

We haven’t seen RAF surveillance drones make their presence felt over hospitals and other civilian targets to deter war crimes.

We haven’t seen the UK track and publicly identify aircraft committing war crimes and publicly identify officers and officials with command responsibility.

We haven’t seen any sanctions against Russian individuals implicated in war crimes.

We haven’t seen any sanctions against Iranian airlines resupplying Assad.

We haven’t allowed our much discussed prospective allies against ISIS, the Free Syrian Army, to have the means to defend themselves and their fellow Syrians against Assad’s and Putin’s air attacks.

We haven’t dared do anything to constrain or deter Assad’s ongoing chemical attacks, at the same time as Israel has regularly enforced its own red lines by carrying out air strikes against Assad and Hezbollah forces.

Assad and Putin’s mode of operation is to attack the weakest: to attack hospitals, schools, and aid workers. They are free to attack the weak because we are afraid to be strong.

This is a war against humanity, a war against every law and convention that keeps us secure. We must defend ourselves now and end Assad’s and Putin’s slaughter.