Secret information obtained by SPIEGEL indicates that the world is once again being misled by Assad. Syria’s dictator has not given up his dream of an atomic weapon and has apparently built a new nuclear facility at a secret location. It is an extremely unsettling piece of news.
Recently, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported it had overwhelming evidence proving Assad is still working to create a nuclear facility with assistance from Tehran and Pyongyang. This evidence included satellite imagery of the location and sources from western intelligence agencies. Western experts who evaluated the documents Spiegel obtained believed a reactor or enrichment plant was could be the aim of the project currently codenamed, “Zamzam.” There have also been reports that this facility is actually being built for the government in Tehran. Should this be true and the Assad regime can create a nuclear facility capable of creating weapons, things begin to look much worse for the Syrian people.
For almost four years now the Assad regime has been decimating its own people for the sake of holding onto power. When the Syrian Civil War began it was not due to extremism or a power hungry group trying to take control, it was the cry of a peoples to live in a truly democratic, civil state and for the release of political prisoners. The regime responded to these cries with the arrests and murder of hundreds of individuals over several months, eventually blockading an entire neighborhood of Daraa with automatic rifles and missiles, pushing the inhabitants to famine. After this peaceful resistance was continually met with violence, the people of Syria understood their dream of a truly democratic, free state would not be realized unless other paths were taken.
Since the beginning of the revolution hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and according to USAID 7.6 million Syrians are internally displaced, over 3 million have been displaced to neighboring countries, and 5.5 million children have been affected. For a time, the fourth largest city in the nation of Jordan was a Syrian refugee camp, Camp Zaatari. Assad continues to decimate civilian neighborhoods with barrel bombs, leaving cities like Aleppo (believed to be the oldest continually inhabited city in the world) in shambles. These barrel bombs are rudimentary, barbaric and cheap ways to destroy whole buildings with a single swoop.
Barrel bombs come in many sizes, shapes and forms. They are usually large drums or similar containers that have been filled with TNT and anything from nails to chemicals. When they land, the TNT explodes, causing instant destruction, and send the random items shoved in flying in every direction, killing without discrepancy. These bombs have been dropped on bread factories, civilian hospitals and marketplaces. These are the acts of a brutal man who cares not for his own people but only for the retention of his seat of power. He cares so much for maintaining his stranglehold over the region he allowed for the expansion of the Islamic State in his own nation.
When rebel groups took the city of Raqqa it was bombed continuously day in and day out (according to the group Revolution Syria, Assad has used over 6,000 barrel bombs since August of 2012 or 7 barrel bombs per day over approximately 882 days). When Islamic State fighters took Raqqa from rebel groups, the bombing ceased immediately. The regime did not enter into open combat or attack the Islamic State militants in any fashion until late 2014, though the group had been involved in Syria for some years prior (previously as al-Qaida in Iraq until 2006 when Abu Ayyub al-Masri took over leadership and joined with other militant groups to form the Islamic State of Iraq).
This has benefitted the regime greatly, as the Islamic State’s flamboyancy with its crimes has taken the eyes of the international community off of his own crimes and focused them on the Islamic State. Not only that, but many military strategists have actually suggested working with Assad to attack the Islamic State. To put that in perspective, they are suggesting the international community work with a man responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people to attack a group responsible for approximately a little more than 25,000.
Should the allegations and information obtained by Der Spiegel be true, the international community should stop Assad from building a nuclear facility at all costs. A man who has torn apart his own lands and murdered his own people at horrific rates does not need, and should not have, nuclear capabilities. It is shocking how there has been a lack of coverage in Western media about the acts of the Assad regime, yet daily inundated with stories about the Islamic State, a horrible group indeed but one that has committed 1% of the tragedies in Syria.
International powers do not need to commit to a full scale ground invasion to turn the tides in Syria. A no fly zone, taking away the regime’s ability to drop barrel bombs, would benefit the people greatly. International sanctions to cripple the regime economically would be wonderful. Some support of the local rebel groups like the Free Syrian Army or the Kurds with income or weaponry could turn the tides of battle.
There are many ways the world could help Syrians achieve a goal they have been fighting for since early 2011: a peaceful, true democratic state where individuals can live freely and pursue happiness. After all the Syrian people have been through, I think they deserve it.
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