Syria’s Deadly Food Fight

Colum Lynch looks at how Assad is winning it, with the support of the West and the United Nations:

The distribution of humanitarian aid has emerged as a central front of the Syrian government’s Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 5.50.57 PMmilitary campaign to starve out pockets of potential support for the armed resistance. By restricting deliveries to pro-government areas, the Syrian government has gained a political advantage by ensuring that food and assistance is channeled disproportionately to those who support it.

“Both sides want to be the food-giver, but Assad has made it very clear he’s not going to let anybody else but him feed Syrians,” said Joshua Landis, an expert on Syria at the University of Oklahoma. Assad’s hope: that “people will crawl back to him” for bread, salaries, and other subsidies. “And that’s what’s happening.”

While the United States and European powers have publicly denounced the Syrian government’s curtailing of assistance to opposition territory, one of their chief objectives in Syria — saving lives and stopping the wholesale flight of refugees — has perversely aligned with Assad’s aims, according to Landis. “If you want to stop refugee flow and cauterize Syria, which is [the West’s] major objective, the way to do it is to pump more calories into Syria, and the best way to pump calories into Syria is to work through Assad,” Landis said. “He owns the Syrians, and he will facilitate that food distribution if it relegitimizes him.

(Photo from Assad’s propagandist Instagram account, covered by the Dish here and here. Caption: “The First Lady joins a Damascus-based youth volunteer group in preparing food to be distributed to needy families during the Holy month of Ramadan, 4 August 2013 #Syria #Asma #Assad #سورية #الأسد #الاسد #أسماء)