The Chair of the Foreign Policy Committee of the German parliament, Norbert Röttgen, is calling for a renewed tightening of sanctions against Russia and seeks to extend them also to Syria and Iran. The CDU politician is using the battle for East Aleppo as his justification. According to Röttgen, many civilians have been killed there, and Russian, Syrian, and Iranian soldiers and militias have committed serious war crimes. "Aleppo" he says "is a sigma ... on the West, because we stood by and watched," says Röttgen, conceding that the European powers and the United States - which had been setting the agenda in the Middle East for more than two decades - were unable to prevent Aleppo's recapture by Syrian government troops, with Russian support. They were not even able "to punish what had happened with economic sanctions."
"One of the Greatest Dangers"
Röttgen also warned that the loss of transatlantic influence could spread much further. "One of the most dangerous developments" is "a Russian-Turkish arrangement on Syria," the parliamentarian foreign policy-maker was quoted. A possible Ankara-Moscow agreement concerning the future course of action in the Middle East, threatens "another diplomatic disaster for the West." In fact, such an agreement cannot be ruled out. Following the hefty altercations, toward the end of 2015, Ankara and Moscow have been converging, over the past few months. Talks, between the foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey, and Iran, to launch arrangements on the Syrian conflict, have been set for today in Moscow. Until now, the West could always rely on the fact that Ankara would do everything to overthrow Assad's government. Moscow is now searching for a settlement. Even from Berlin's perspective, it is a heavy blow that neither the USA nor any European country will be involved in the Moscow talks. For the western powers, who, for the past two decades, have been accustomed to setting the agenda of Middle East developments, this is a serious setback. Even yesterday's assassination of Moscow's ambassador to Ankara, Andrey Karlov, who had been in charge of the Russian-Turkish convergence attempts on the Syria question, appears not to have stopped today's planned talks. The assassin, reportedly, an Islamist - possibly a jihadi - yelled out "Do not forget Aleppo," after he had committed his crime.
The 9/11 "Rebels"
Since the Russian armed forces intervened in the Syrian war on September 30, 2015, and the hard fought victory over the Jihadi-dominated insurgents in Aleppo, Moscow has increased its power in the Middle East. This is why such a fierce propaganda campaign around the battle over East Aleppo has been waged over the past few weeks and months. A few days ago, Robert Fisk, the British Middle East correspondent, sharply criticized the West's persistent bias in favor of the Syrian insurgents. Fisk, a distinguished Middle East expert, pointed out that the militias in Aleppo, usually referred to as "rebels," are to a large part jihadis, including the al-Qaeda subsidiary Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. It is remarkable, he wrote, that the organization held responsible for the 9/11 attacks is being praised and politically supported in their struggle against the Syrian army in East Aleppo. Fisk also pointed out that the militias in East Aleppo had committed serious crimes, such as executing members of a family, who fled the embattled city. This is not an isolated case. In fact, the UN has reported that insurgents not only had fired on civilians attempting to flee, but that the al-Qaeda subsidiary, Fatah al-Sham along with another militia have abducted and killed an unknown number of civilians, who requested that the armed groups not wage their battles from within their neighborhoods. Fisk expects more revelations on what really happened in East Aleppo in the next few weeks.
Fisk not only criticizes the bias in favor of the insurgent militias, but also the shrill accusations of suspected or actual Russian war crimes. He also recalls the invasion of Iraq and its consequences ("perhaps half a million dead"), as well as abductions and torture of suspects by the CIA and its allied services, who carried out their interrogations under torture also in Syrian prisons. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.) These crimes remained unpunished. The US-led coalition against IS is also responsible for numerous civilian casualties. Officially, the coalition - whose airstrikes are prepared by Bundeswehr reconnaissance flights - admits to 173 civilian casualties, since the beginning of the attacks on September 22, 2014. However the quantity is much higher, according to independent organizations, such as the well-known US NGO, "Airwars," which assesses that at least 2,013 civilians were killed by western airstrikes. Between 122 and 148 civilians are currently assessed to likely have been killed in the attacks on Mosul and Raqqa in October; and between 142 and 186 in November. Airwars assessed that on December 7 and 8 alone, the West's airstrikes were responsible for 98 civilian casualties in the vicinity of Mosul and from 60 to 100, including 21 children in Iraq's Anbar Province.
Expulsion, Torture, Murder
The anti-IS coalition's Iraqi ground troops have also committed numerous crimes. This has been reported by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, who are beyond suspicion of an anti-western bias. According to their reports, the Kurdish Peshmerga - trained and armed by the Bundeswehr - is continuing its "ethnic cleansing" in Kirkuk and the surrounding regions. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.) Iraqi militia torture and kill men and boys in villages recaptured from the IS. In the battle for Mosul, the US-led anti-IS war coalition is also carrying out air raids on hospitals. The bombing of a hospital on October 18 has been documented. House-to-house combat has already begun in Mosul, which most likely will cause numerous civilian casualties, particularly because the IS - just like al Qaeda's subsidiary Fateh al-Sham in East Aleppo - is attempting to prevent civilians from leaving by force.
Berlin and the Suffering
"There is no righteousness in the incredible suffering taking place there," declared Norbert Röttgen, Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Bundestag a few days ago. "Even someone, who himself does wrong, uses violence and who might even be a terrorist, is treated unjustly in such indiscriminate violence and bombing. Fact is, there are so many different people. ... There are ... even children. There are civilians, who are prevented ... from escaping." Röttgen, however, was not referring to the western-led war on IS in Mosul, but to the war, Syrian, Russian and Iranian forces are waging against al-Qaida und Ahrar al-Sham, in Aleppo. While calling for harsh sanctions against Moscow, the German politician had no criticism of western operations against IS, because this is not about preventing suffering, but merely preserving western hegemony.
For more information on this subject see: The Civilian Casualties of the Wars (II).