A new account from the Syrian Civil Defense (Google “the White Helmets”), if accurate, helps to partially explain the discrepancies between the “Russia bombed the aid convoy” and “Syria bombed the aid convoy” stories: they both bombed the aid convoy:
The following is the text of a statement issued late Monday Eastern European Summer Time (Syrian Time), which is seven hours ahead of United States Eastern Daylight Time, by the White Helmets, as quoted by The Interpreter.
“Today, at 7:12 PM, regime helicopters targeted a Syrian Red Crescent warehouse in the town of Urem in the western countryside of Aleppo
“A total of four regime helicopters targeted it with 8 barrel bombs.
“Russian aircraft then stuck the location with cluster bombs, preventing the civil defense from reaching the location of the attack, giving first aid to those requiring it and removing the dead bodies.
“Over 25 vehicles have been burnt and the fire has not yet been put out.
“The head of the Syrian Red Crescent, Omar Barakat, was killed along with eight of his staff.
“More than ten drivers have been burned to death.”
This version of events at least has the virtue of answering slightly more questions than it raises. It’s not clear to me how the SCD, on the ground, would have been able to distinguish between Russian and Syrian jets flying well overhead, but I wasn’t there and I’m certainly no expert in identifying military hardware.
Moscow, meanwhile, has offered a new alternative theory (it’s offered three, by most counts, since the convoy was destroyed, from “the convoy just caught fire” to “there were rebel guns near the convoy so maybe those were the real target” and now to this)–the US did it:
A Russian defense official said Wednesday a U.S. Predator attack drone showed up nearby just minutes before the Syrian civil war.while en route to deliver humanitarian relief to rebels in
Russia has also accused Washington of using this incident to deflect from its apparent strike on Syrian government troops in the Deir ez-Zor region over the weekend, and, hey, they’re probably not wrong about that. But this speculation about the US drone would have more heft to it if it weren’t story #3 in Russia’s attempt to react to the convoy’s destruction, and if it didn’t carry such a strong whiff of “I know you are but what am I”-ism. The US already beat them to the “we saw something suspicious on our radar” story, so this just seems like a lame clapback.
I’m about to go on a rant that will probably go off the rails at some point, and later I’ll regret writing it, but I’m doing it anyway. Stop here if you prefer.
In a UN Security Council session on Wednesday, John Kerry said he feels like the US and Russia are in “parallel universes” when it comes to describing what’s happening in Syria. I’d like to postulate a third parallel universe, the one occupied by most Syrians. This is a parallel universe where nobody gives a shit about whether John Kerry or Sergey Lavrov scored the sickest burn on the other at today’s UNSC meeting. Where a “ceasefire” in the Syrian civil war that’s been negotiated by Russia and the United States, without any Syrian input, isn’t worth the space it’s taking up on some UN bureaucrat’s thumb drive. Where deconflicting air strike zones, and separating the Good Rebels from the Evil Rebels, and assigning blame for past atrocities and negotiating exactly how much longer Bashar al-Assad gets to spend in his presidential mansion before he has to high-tail it to Tehran or wherever, and every other bureaucratic detail surrounding the forever doomed negotiations to try to end this war, doesn’t fucking matter. It’s a world where people–regular people, most of whom never so much as picked up a rifle to participate in this war–are starving to death and/or dying of preventable diseases, and the only thing that matters in that world is getting food and medicine to them.
This, then, is a world in which the wanton destruction of an aid convoy matters a great deal. But it’s also a world in which assigning blame for the destruction of that aid convoy doesn’t really matter at all. So John Kerry and Samantha Power and Sergey Lavrov and Vitaly Churkin can feel free to insult each other until they’re blue in the face, but if they aren’t also working on how to get basic needs to Syrians who need them, then they might as well lock themselves in a closet and shout at each other in there, and spare the rest of the world the embarrassment of having to watch it. Figuring out what happened to the aid convoy (which could involve war crimes) does matter, as does everything I listed in the last paragraph (well, most of it, anyway), but it’s not nearly as urgent as saving the lives of Syrians–in Aleppo, in Deir ez-Zor, along the Jordanian border, and elsewhere–who are dying needlessly, right now, for lack of food and medicine.
Now, when it’s all said and done I’m not sure this is a problem that can be solved. For all of Russia’s rhetoric and all the presumed leverage they should have over Assad, he’s ultimately the person who needs to allow aid to reach the parts of Syria where it’s needed, and he hasn’t shown the slightest interest in doing so. The rebels also have to stand down, and even if you could get the FSA to comply it’s hard to see a way to entice Ahrar al-Sham or Jabhat Fatah al-Sham to do likewise. But if you try to solve this problem and can’t, then at least you’ve tried, and you can point the whole world’s collective finger at whomever is ultimately responsible for blocking the aid. But what seems to be happening in the UN right now isn’t helping anybody, and to the extent that all this new vitriol makes it harder to address the real problem, it’s actually contributing to the loss of life.