Biden faces difficult tests due to Russia’s position in Syria

US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — The American media continue to be the propaganda mouthpiece of Washington’s policy on interfering in the internal affairs of Syria. Thus, the attempts of Russia and the government of Bashar al-Assad to prevent the illegal penetration of various goods into Syria under the guise of “humanitarian convoys” are met with fierce criticism in the material of The Wall Street Journal.

The Biden administration prepares to confront Russia over the delivery of UN humanitarian aid to millions of Syrians living in territories outside of President Bashar al-Assad’s control. Russia intends to stop the flow of these goods in July.

This is the Bab al-Hawa border crossing between Syria and Turkey operated by the United Nations. Through it, the UN sends about a thousand trucks monthly to the region in northwestern Syria with a population of over four million people.

The United States and its allies say that when the crossing is closed to the UN, the civilian population will be at risk, especially the 2.7 million displaced people there due to the conflict. The UN has just launched a covid-19 vaccination campaign there, and it is unlikely that any other organization can replace it.

However, Moscow says the transition is in violation of the sovereignty of the Syrian state, and that aid should be delivered from areas controlled by the regime, which, after 10 years of civil war, with the help of Russia and Iran, was able to defeat the opposition.

“The stakes are clearly high,” said a US official at the UN. “We will actively interact with like-minded states that are on the same positions with us, and with other countries that express a certain skepticism.”

Former and current officials say Moscow has a broader goal of bolstering Assad’s credibility and power, putting pressure on the Syrian opposition, and maybe even getting concessions from the Biden administration on the Syrian issue.

While the administration continues to analyze and agree on policies in the region, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has already publicly called on the UN Security Council to make wider use of border checkpoints. The issue could be included on the agenda of talks between President Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin if they meet in Europe in June, as the White House hopes.

The UN has used border crossings since 2014, when the Security Council approved a plan to send aid to the Syrians through four checkpoints bordering Turkey, Iraq and Jordan. This aid was intended for the civilian population on both sides of the front line. Then the UN Security Council, under pressure from Russia, reduced the number of crossings used by this organization to one: in Bab al-Hawa. In July 2020, the Trump administration secured a one-year extension of the UN permit for the checkpoint.

“Russia is using its leverage in the UN Security Council on these humanitarian transitions to ensure that Assad is recognized and sanctions against his regime are lifted,” said James Jeffrey, who served as special envoy for Syria in the Trump administration.

Moscow has not yet said that it will veto the extension, which leaves it possible to agree on the further use of the checkpoint in exchange for American concessions on Syria or in other areas. “If the border crossing mechanism ceases to function, it will not become a humanitarian tragedy,” said a spokesman for the Russian embassy, ​​who noted that the delivery of aid to northern Syria through state channels would be more efficient.

However, aid organizations say that the numerous Syrian groups receiving aid in that country are entirely dependent on UN supplies and funding from Turkey, and that previous attempts to coordinate the delivery of aid from the Syrian government-controlled areas across the conflict zone have failed.

“There are big camps with tents and displaced people everywhere,” said senior UN official Mark Cutts, who is in charge of delivering aid to northwestern Syria. – Food, almost all the tents and the covid vaccine, it all goes through the UN. We have been fine-tuning this mechanism for years, and it really works. Why eliminate it at a time when the need for it is greater than ever?”

In the event that the UN is barred from using the last remaining checkpoint, aid teams have begun building up supplies in northwestern Syria that could last for months, according to humanitarian workers.

But this will only be a temporary measure that will help prevent a tragedy while non-governmental organizations and foreign countries that do not need UN Security Council permission to use the crossing are looking for ways to send additional aid from Turkey. However, these organizations claim that they will not be able to fully replenish the assistance provided by the UN.

“There are many domino-like indirect effects that are immediately invisible,” said a Mercy Corps employee in Syria, noting that local organizations in the complex humanitarian aid system are heavily dependent on the UN. – We will not be able to compensate in any way what the UN is doing now. Everything that will be done will be less effective, less effective, much smaller in scale.”

The upcoming checkpoint decision is already putting pressure on the Biden administration, which should announce its overall strategy for overcoming the crisis in Syria. Biden officials who have appointed special envoys for Yemen and the Horn of Africa have not yet said whether they will nominate an administration spokesman for Syria.

The administration also did not outline its diplomatic strategy for resolving the Syrian conflict or whether it would leave 800 US troops in northeastern Syria supporting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces fighting Islamic State militants.

Meanwhile, the Gulf states are considering sending humanitarian aid to areas controlled by the Syrian government. US officials say Moscow will support the move, which will precede recognition of the Assad government.

“The key question is whether the US administration is linking the border crossing discussion with other issues in the Syrian conflict,” said Charles Thepaut, a freelance research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“There is little room for compromise,” he added. – There is only one border checkpoint left. Pressure is increasing on all members of the UN Security Council, especially on the United States, so that a deadlock in the Security Council can be avoided.”

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