Kenneth Roth writes: Assad’s barrel bombs play a particularly big part in forcing millions of Syrians from their country. In most wars, civilians can find a modicum of safety by moving away from the front lines. But Assad’s indiscriminate use of barrel bombs deep in opposition-held territory means that many have no place to hide. The international community could probably take no more effective step to curtail the refugee flow than to stop Assad’s barrel bombs.
Yet little effort has been made. The two governments with the greatest potential to influence Assad — his principal backers, Russia and Iran — refuse to get him to stop and supply him with weapons. Western governments have been reluctant to exert strong public pressure, let alone sanctions, because of other priorities — Ukraine, in the case of Russia, and the nuclear deal, in the case of Iran. Even now, as Russia deploys its own military forces in Syria, Washington is pressing Moscow to coordinate with America’s anti-ISIS operation but isn’t mentioning the barrel bombs. As for the European Union, it talks about tackling the “root causes” of migration to Europe but has done little to address the atrocities that lead Syrians to flee. [Continue reading…]