Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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The Killings in Aleppo

by Elliott Abrams
December 23, 2013


The city of Aleppo in Syria is under air attack by Bashar al-Assad’s air force.

As al-Arabiya reported,

The Syrian air force on Sunday bombed a neighborhood in the northern city of Aleppo killing at least 91 people, the Syrian Revolution General Commission reported. Hundreds of people have been killed during the past week in Aleppo as Syrian aircraft have dropped crude barrel bombs on the country’s onetime commercial hub, now largely reduced to rubble.

In nine days these air attacks have killed hundreds. The crude bombs kill indiscriminately and are instruments of terror. The target is the people of Aleppo, and these attacks are war crimes. They help explain why the Assad regime has now killed what is most likely 200,000 people and made millions homeless.

What is the reaction of the Obama administration? Read it in full:



Office of the Press Secretary


December 23, 2013


Statement by Press Secretary Jay Carney on the Ongoing Air Assaults by the Syrian Government


The United States condemns the ongoing air assault by Syrian government forces on civilians, including the indiscriminate use of SCUD missiles and barrel bombs in and around Aleppo over the last week.  The attacks over the weekend killed more than 300 people, many of them children.  The Syrian government must respect its obligations under international humanitarian law to protect the civilian population.  The Syrian government must  fulfill its November commitment to do more to facilitate the safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance, so that millions of Syrian men, women, and children have access to urgently needed services.  To bring the suffering of the Syrian people to an end, it is imperative that Syrians reach a comprehensive and durable political solution to end the crisis in Syria.  The United States remains committed to advancing a political settlement to help end the bloodshed in Syria.


So, the Syrian government “must” do this and do that, it seems. It is “imperative,” you see. And what will President Obama do about this continuing slaughter? Nothing–that is clear. His deal with Russia is about chemical weapons, and has no bearing whatsoever on the war crimes that are killing thousands of unarmed civilians who have the poor judgment to be eliminated by conventional weapons.

What does the world look like when there are no rules, and the United States provides no leadership? Like what we see today: mass killing occurs, and from the White House comes the wringing of hands. We are “committed to advancing a political settlement,” but what if Assad is not? What if he is committed to advancing a military victory, to destroying his enemies? The coming conference on Syria in Geneva seems increasingly obscene against this backdrop of mass killing. And such statements from the White House are worse than silence, for they express impotence and lack of will. Once upon a time President Obama used to say Assad must go. Now it seems Assad may well last longer in office than Obama, whose apparent  indifference to the deaths in Syria will stain his record in office.

Post a Comment 6 Comments

  • Posted by thiago santini

    It is a pure lie. in fact the rebels cowards pigs are using the Syrian population as human listen. I have access to reports there on time and I also know that the Syrian army is winning the battle in the whole territory.

  • Posted by stephen albert

    Thanks for speaking of what is going on in Aleppo in terms of moral outrage and tying that outrage to the need to act to stop these brutal war crimes.

    I agree with you that a world without American leaderships is a world where we will see more wars of all against all.

    Then we will hear the cynics in Western capitals proclaim,”.You see what they are like. We really did well to mind our own business.

    A self fulfilling prophecy. A sign of moral bankruptcy.

  • Posted by ah

    I think it is appropriate to remember that a poorly planned and unnecessary venture in Iraq has led to over 100,000 deaths in the country. And had the US not been there for the 10 years, the US would have had more of an appetite to get militarily involved in Syria.

    If “leadership” is what you and the Bush administration allegedly provided, I’ll stick with Obama’s foreign policy any day.

  • Posted by pnina

    When the US says “We’ve got your back”, it’s means the same as… “leading from behind”.

  • Posted by ah

    Pnina, perhaps you are not aware of the historical use of that phrase, as “leading from behind” was the Obama policy for the overthrow of Gaddhafi, which was a successful military intervention in cooperation with Qatar, France, the UK and others….

  • Posted by Yoda

    Obama’s excuse for action on Libya was that “there is a potential humanitarian crisis about to take place…we can’t simply stand by with empty words; we have to take some sort of action.”

    No one is sure how many people were killed in Libya, somewhere between 2,500 to 25,000 is usually cited.

    The number of deaths in the Syrian civil war is someplace north of 120,000. Isn’t that a bigger humanitarian crisis? Why the inaction by the administration?

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