Syrian American Council President's
Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry
December 15, 2015
Secretary of State John Kerry
Department of State
Dear Secretary Kerry,
I write you on behalf of the Syrian American community to express our grave concern with Russian behavior in the run-up to the upcoming Syria transition talks. As was the case before previous diplomatic conferences, the regime side, this time through Russia, has dramatically escalated its attacks on civilians and caused massive civilian casualties. The death toll and destruction risk jeopardizing the viability of upcoming talks before they begin. Such casualties also undermine the rebels who attended talks and strengthen Jabhat al-Nusra, which has already rejected the talks as a "plot" that "must be foiled."
On Sunday, Russian air forces deliberately targeted a school district in the Douma neighborhood east of Damascus, resulting in the death of at least 35 people, including two children and a school principal. Residents believe that the bombers were Russian because the attacks occurred on a cloudy day, and regime warplanes can not bomb in overcast weather. The day before that, Russian warplanes also bombed the market town of Maskana in Aleppo's eastern suburbs, killing 25 civilians, including multiple women and children. The escalated pace of attacks has continued today; Russian warplanes conducted 3 air raids on Maarat al-Nauman outside Idlib with a new type of cluster bomb, and through an attack on a school in the town of Marea northeast of Aleppo. The raids on Marea are particularly galling because that town is also a rebel nerve center right on the front lines against ISIS.
Russia appears to be systematically targeting the civilian infrastructure of opposition areas through attacks on schools, hospitals, mosques, and markets. Since the start of Russia's intervention, the Syrian Network for Human Rights estimates over 500 civilian deaths, and Russia has used increasingly destructive and indiscriminate weapons such as white phosphorous, cluster munitions, and thermobaric bombs. Vladimir Putin even raised the possibility of nuclear attacks when, while announcing the deployment of new cruise missiles in Syria, he noted that these missiles could be fitted with new nuclear warheads for "fighting terrorists" and expressed his "hope we will never need" to do so.
Secretary Kerry, the recent Russian escalation risks jeopardizing all your hard work to create real political transition talks for Syria and risks empowering the most hardline elements within the Syrian opposition. I have written this note regarding Russia's increased aggressions in the hopes that, during your upcoming trip to Moscow, you will raise this issue with Russian officials and demand an immediate cessation of the Russian escalation. Thank you for your urgent attention to this matter.
President, Syrian American Council