Europe ignores Syria at its peril. The country is burning and we must act

Natalie Nougayrède writes: While Europe is transfixed by the UK referendum, the crisis that has arguably done the most damage to the continent continues unabated: the war in Syria. Right on Europe’s doorstep, Syria still burns. It is high time to acknowledge that the peace efforts of the US and Russia have failed dismally. Whether there is any chance of this changing after a new US president takes office in early 2017 is anyone’s guess. But that’s precisely the question Europeans need to start preparing for. And the time to do so is now.

If anyone thought Syria had gone away, look again. Massive airstrikes carried out by Russia and Syrian government forces, some using barrel bombs, have picked up again over the besieged city of Aleppo. More hospitals have been destroyed and children killed: there are pictures of this online but they’re not receiving much attention. Let’s face it: we have slowly become numb to the suffering of Syrians.

But we ignore Syria at our peril. Future Arab and Muslim generations, if not today’s, will ask Europeans why they did not do more to help a nation butchered by a dictator’s army and his allies. Europe’s destiny is intertwined with events in its Arab neighbourhood in a way that the US’s is not. For each Syrian refugee who made it to Europe and was treated decently, how many rejected or stuck in the war zone will nurture resentment towards those in the west who preferred to erect barbed wire fences or wring their hands?

Preoccupied with terrorism and refugee quotas, we worry about the spillover effects but have stopped thinking about root causes. These causes are not in Raqqa, the capital of Islamic State’s self-styled “caliphate”. They are in the presidential palace in Damascus. [Continue reading…]

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