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Syrian Conflict Carries Threat of Regional War

  • Lisa Schlein

A girl gestures as she walks on the rubble of collapsed buildings at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo's district of al-Sukari, June 17, 2014.
U.N. investigators are warning the Syrian conflict is threatening the entire region. The four-member Commission of Inquiry on Syria says a regional war in the Middle East draws ever closer.

The latest report documents the extent and violence of the abuse and suffering being endured by the Syrian people after more than three years of war. It also warns what had been a localized state war can no longer be contained.

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry says the most dangerous aspect of these developments is the rise of the sectarian threat. It considers this a direct consequence of the dominance of extremist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

Commission member Vitit Muntarbhorn saif the Commission predicted a long time ago the dangers of a spillover of the Syrian conflict from its borders into those of its regional neighbors.

“And, that is very sadly being realized in reality today ... we are possibly on the cusp of a regional war ... and it is a regional war where many radical elements are involved, with many backers. And, also the flow of arms coming in from outside, which is sadly aggravating the situation in terms of escalation,” said Muntarbhorn.

Muntarbhorn said the Syrian conflict was not sectarian when it began, but with time sectarian elements have crept in.

The Commission's latest update covers March 15 to June 15. As in previous investigations, the Syrian government has denied the Commission entry into the country. But the Commission has compiled a large and compelling list of violations and atrocities committed by all parties through eyewitness accounts of victims.

The Commission said information gathered from more than 3,000 interviews indicates a massive number of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Commission Chairman Paulo Pinheiro said the group has received thousands of photographs of bodies of people allegedly killed in government military facilities in Syria.

“Many are emaciated, almost all bear marks of horrific abuse including strangulation, mutilation, open wounds, burns and bruising. Such injuries are consistent with torture methods previously documented by the Commission... Victims describe to our investigators and to ourselves the agony of being encircled, shelled and bombarded while slowly starving,” he said.

The report describes targeting of civilians and indiscriminate attacks on civilian and protected objects. It speaks of schools being reduced to rubble, of hospitals coming under attack, and entire residential neighborhoods being destroyed.

The Commissioners said a political solution was the only way to end the war. But they note the warring parties are under the illusion they can win a military victory. This is leading to an escalation of unprecedented violence because the perpetrators have no fear of consequences.