It seems clear that Russia may be committing war crimes, according to the evidence of its attacks on Syrian rebels in Aleppo, in tandem with that country’s government.
Hawks in the US want their government to take a more direct role in events in Syria, but President Barack Obama has called for calm, pointing out that Russia has been invited to join the conflict by the Syrian government, whereas the US has no legal justification for direct interference.
But Obama will not be president forever.
What if Donald Trump sways the US electorate and takes office in January? I know it’s unlikely at the moment, but it isn’t impossible.
And there’s no telling whether Hillary Clinton will take the same stance as her Democrat colleague.
Concern is rising that events are spiralling towards a much larger conflict – unless cooler heads take a much more active role.
Will anybody step forward?
An unrelenting Russian and Syrian blitz of eastern Aleppo heavily damaged one of the city’s three remaining hospitals on Saturday, as Moscow warned that any American attempts to stop its assault would lead to “frightening tectonic shifts in the Middle East”.
The Russian raids struck at least five areas of the opposition-held half of the city, which is bracing for a ground assault by Shia forces allied to the Syrian regime. Syrian helicopters are believed to be responsible for the strike on the M10 hospital, which has left those who remain in the east with next to no access to essential healthcare.
Earlier in the week two other emergency centres and the only remaining maternity centre were bombed by jets, prompting a bitter response from US diplomats and vague claims that Washington was “reviewing options” about how to defuse a grave and deteriorating humanitarian crisis.
The attacks on Aleppo have worsened since the breakdown of a ceasefire brokered by Russia and the US that had barely lasted a week before Russian jets and Syrian helicopters attacked and destroyed an aid convoy that had been permitted to cross into an opposition-held part of the country. The US and Europe have said Russia is acting in flagrant breach of international law. Three days of phone calls between US secretary of state John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov have failed to slow the carnage.
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