The New U.S. Sanctions on Syria Will Help, Not Harm, Civilians

In 2014, a Syrian photographer known by the pseudonym Caesar escaped to the West, bringing with him some 55,000 images bearing witness to the Assad regime’s brutal and sadistic treatment of its political opponents. Last year, thanks largely to Caesar’s testimony, Congress enacted sanctions on the Syrian government which went into effect this week. Opponents of these sanctions argue that they will inflict as much pain on Syria’s long-suffering civilians as on its rulers. Nonsense, write David Adesnik and Toby Dershowitz:

[E]xtensive U.S. and European efforts to relieve the suffering of Syrian civilians belie such accusations of cruel indifference. For the duration of the war, they have paired their sanctions with billions of dollars of humanitarian aid every year, which is delivered mainly by the United Nations and its partner nongovernmental organizations.

To mitigate the suffering that persists despite historic levels of aid, what Syria needs is not fewer sanctions but a root-and-branch reform of the UN machinery for delivering aid, which Bashar al-Assad has coopted to the point where UN agencies have become de-facto adjuncts to the siege of civilian populations and other war crimes. Lengthy reports from human-rights advocates, along with a disturbing internal review by UN staff, have documented the UN’s departure from the core humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence.

For years, the UN has let the Assad regime give direct aid to supportive populations while systematically blocking deliveries to areas outside of its control. Besieging civilian populations is a war crime, yet convoys en route to deliveries in regime-held areas would pass through besieged neighborhoods without aiding their inhabitants. [Another problem is] the World Health Organization’s deference to the regime, which included parroting the Syrian Ministry of Health’s denials of a polio outbreak despite evidence the disease had begun to spread.

Caesar [himself has argued] that sanctions are not about seeking retribution for the crimes of the past but denying Assad the resources to perpetrate new ones. . . . While sanctions alone are not a strategy, they are an integral element of any plausible approach to putting constant pressure on Assad.

Read more at FDD

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, United Nations

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security