The worst place on Earth right now?

A shot of pre-war Aleppo at night (Wikimedia | Charles Hajj)

Obviously I have no way of knowing the exact worst place to be on the entire planet at this very moment. Being at the bottom of the Mariana Trench would probably suck, for example. But I can’t imagine anyplace being consistently more terrifying an abode for most of the past ~5 years than the city of Aleppo. Between trying to figure out which half of the city is under siege today and dodging rebel artillery and/or government airstrikes, it must be absolutely petrifying. The latest news has rebels insisting that, despite an apparently major government counterattack, they’ve been able to hold on to the territory they won over the weekend, when they broke the government’s siege of eastern Aleppo and maybe/sort of invested a siege around western Aleppo instead.

But the back-and-forth over who controls which part of the city obscures the larger and more important point, which is that the hundreds of thousands of civilians still living there are living in conditions that would be unimaginable to most of the rest of us. The cause of their suffering, the war, isn’t ending any time soon, and it seems clear that expending any international time or effort on trying to end the war is wasting time and effort that could be better spent on trying to alleviate their suffering while the war continues to rage. The UN seems to have realized this, and so it has stopped pushing for peace talks and has instead focused its efforts on securing a plan for regular humanitarian ceasefires in Aleppo:

Alexis Lamek, deputy French representative to the UN, said: “I don’t see how we can have meaningful talks if there is not a minimum conducive environment.”

That would have to include regular 48-hour ceasefires to allow humanitarian aid into the city and to take injured children out under UN supervision, Lamek said. Russia has proposed humanitarian corridors only for people to leave the city, a proposal that is not trusted by many in Aleppo, and has been condemned by British diplomats as colluding in the destruction of the city.

Moscow, despite the image it tries to display, is not immune to international pressure, and so it’s trying to negotiate with the UN. Its offer is for daily three hour-long ceasefires to allow humanitarian aid into the city, but the catch seems to be that these ceasefires, and the aid convoys, would be overseen by Russia and the Syrian government. As actual belligerents in the civil war, it seems obviously unacceptable that they should control the humanitarian aid going to people who only need it because of their actions. I can’t imagine you’d get Damascus or Moscow to agree to Ahrar al-Sham-controlled humanitarian corridors into government-held parts of Aleppo, and you could understand why they’d find that unacceptable. There’s also the problem that three hours a day just isn’t a big enough window to meet the accumulated needs of the people inside Aleppo. Maybe three hours a day could work after a longer ceasefire that alleviated Aleppans’ most acute needs, but that’s pretty much the only way it could work–and even then it would be tough to get enough aid into and out of the city in a three hour window to make it worth the trouble.

Still, the fact that Russia made this offer at all could be a positive step; to paraphrase the apocryphal Churchill Shaw Twain whoever, now everybody’s just haggling over the price. Then again, nothing whatsoever could come of this. Nobody’s yet lost money betting that things in Aleppo will just keep getting worse.


Author: DWD

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