US House panel wants to try Assad, Russia, Iran for ‘war crimes’ in Syria

The US House Foreign Affairs Committee has passed a resolution accusing the Syrian government, Russia and Iran of war crimes and calling for an international tribunal on Syria. The move comes amid a breakthrough US-Russia deal on a Syrian ceasefire.

The document passed on Wednesday claims that the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad is guilty of “widespread torture and rape,” and its forces “massacred civilians, including through the use of chemical weapons, cluster munitions, and barrel bombs.”

Moscow is accused of “violations of international law by leading deliberate bombing campaigns on civilian targets including bakeries, hospitals, markets and schools."

The resolution introduced by Republican Chris Smith (R-NJ), and co-sponsored by other two senators, reads that “vast majority of the civilians who have died in the Syrian conflict have been killed by the Government of Syria and its allies, specifically the Russian Federation, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Iran’s terrorist proxies including Hezbollah.”

Committee Chairman Ed Royce supported the bill, saying that Russian air strikes against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) are ineffective, claiming that “Russian attacks have actually done more to help ISIS than hurt it.” He added, without giving any evidence to prove the claim, that Russian forces hit “moderate opposition” targets.

However, not all committee members welcomed the resolution. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), said that adoption of the text will be counter-productive to US and Russian effort to fight IS militants and other extremists in Syria.

“Let’s face reality. I do not believe [in] this hostility towards Assad and towards Russia at this time. In this case we're going to undermine the position of the anti-ISIL forces in that part of the world. And I know this analysis is contrary to the analysis which has prevailed here in Washington,” he said.

“But my common sense tells me that we should not be engaged on focusing on someone who at this time gives safe heaven to Christians and while guilty of certain things we would never condone, is certainly at this point assisting us, as is Russia in defeating radical Islam,” Rohrabacher said.

The congressman also argued that the document may be implying things that could hamper the fragile peace.

“This is not the time in trying to tell [Bashar Assad] that he will, and anyone supporting his regime are going to, be put on trial for crimes against the humanity and this could also be interpreted as we are telling Russia that it will now be the government of Russia will now be put on trial for crimes against humanity. This isn't time to do that. Our enemy now is radical Islam.”

William Jones, from Executive Intelligence Review media outlet, told RT what he believes to be the reason behind the resolution.

“Hardcore right-wing Republicans are very frustrated over the fact that the ceasefire is working. And it’s working at the same time as military operations against ISIS and [Al-]Nusra Front are working effectively,” Jones said.

Last week, US and Russia announced a breakthrough peace deal to end hostilities in Syria. The Syrian Army and numerous armed opposition groups units pledged to abide by the ceasefire, with the truce so far holding.

US State Secretary John Kerry expressed his recognition of Moscow’s help.

“Russia has cooperated with the US in the Syria international support group, in the Vienna process, and now in an effort to fight against Daesh,” Kerry said, using a pejorative Arabic name for IS.