Recent videos showing Syrian rebels beating, and then executing captured soldiers have grabbed the attention of human rights organizations world-wide. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the execution of the captured soldiers took place on Thursday in the northern town of Saraqeb during a rebel assault on the village. The soldiers estimated to number roughly ten were seemingly forced to lie on the ground in a cluster, and some were wearing Syrian military uniforms. The soldiers have not yet been identified and the location and date of the video are yet to be confirmed.
The video has surfaced at a time when the U.S. has called for a change in leadership for the Syrian opposition due to the ineffective and fractured organization of the Free Syrian Army. Many rebel groups fall under the blanket term of “The Free Syrian Army” and efforts to improve coordination through military councils has been attempted, however most rebel groups operate autonomously. The Free Syrian Army commanders claimed no knowledge of the latest video and have since urged their fighters to follow the code of conduct based upon international rules of war.
However, the international community is finally beginning to view the 19-month long conflict for what it is, a destructive and brutal civil war. Indiscriminate attacks on civilians and residential neighborhoods at the hands of rebel groups have left a path of destruction and death that has only been steadily increasing. The latest video has come to light right before the opposition conference which is to take place Sunday and will be vital because the Syrian national Council plans to elect new leaders.
The video has not only caused human rights organization to make noise, the Obama administration condemned the act as well. Even the U.S. secretary of state has called for a better representative and united opposition and made the offer for the U.S. to handpick from some candidates. However, the U.S. is also being condemned for not setting a direct agenda to remove Assad from power. The U.S. has spent the last two years in attempt to pull Damascus towards a peace deal with Israel and away from Iran. Their efforts have been largely unsuccessful and have brought more criticism upon the Obama administration. Engaging in peace negotiations with Assad has resulted in frustration because Assad has strengthened relations with Iran and Hezbollah, undermined Saad Hariri in Lebanon, pursed a nuclear programme, and failed to follow through on political reform.
The United States now fears that the furthering chaos in Syria will lead to destabilizing an already shaky region of the world and bring down specifically neighboring countries Lebanon and Israel. Comprehensive peace is unobtainable in the Middle East without Syria, and another major fear is that the unrest in this key country will awaken a key ally of Iran. On another hand, some analysts argue the unrest could have a positive side effect by depriving Iran of an ally in Syria and prevent the influence of Iran from reaching Lebanon, Hezbollah and Palestinians.
The release of this video has moved up the time frame in which the U.S. will have to make decisions concerning their role and interest in the conflict in Syria. Although it is unclear as to how the U.S. will proceed, it is very evident that stakes are high for many people of the region. Going beyond borders, cultures, and political views this conflict could have life-changing consequences for Israelis, Lebanese and Syrians alike.