An agonised Syrian pleads for Russia to be punished by taking World Cup away


A toddler after a suspected chemical attack in the rebel-held Syrian suburb of Douma, near Damascus. Credit Credit Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, via Associated Press

To no one’s surprise, the so-called “international community” has done neither of the two things that really might matter to the Syrians caught up in the conflict and/or suffering from alleged chemical poisoning by Bashar Al Assad’s regime.

On Sunday, Kassam Eid, who grew up outside Damascus and has managed to leave Syria, suggested that the best response to new reports of a chemical attack on Douma would be to tackle Russia. Moscow is Mr Assad’s main backer and Mr Eid pleaded on the BBC World Service that Britain and the rest lobby FIFA. The West, Mr Eid said, should work as hard as possible to take the World Cup away from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. That will really affect Russia and its attitude to the Syrian regime’s repeated defiance of the norms of war. Mr Eid suggested that a late pull-out from Russia – the FIFA World Cup starts in June – would be a huge financial hit for the Russian government, as also a terrible humiliation for Mr Putin.

On Monday, former British foreign secretary David Miliband suggested that the West stop deluding itself and the world about Syria. Instead of pretending that it cares (and that US strikes against Bashar Al Assad’s regime matter) the West should mount a multi-pronged, all-out effort to help Syria. This, Mr Miliband said, should be humanitarian, diplomatic, economic, and military. Different strands would have to be woven into a strong sympathetic strategy that serves as a safety net for Syria’s suffering people. Stop-and-start manoeuvres and pretence would not affect Syria’s current reality, nor its future, Mr Miliband warned. He knows what he’s talking about because he currently runs the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the global humanitarian aid, relief, and development nongovernmental organization that was founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein. Right now, the IRC is working in more than 40 countries.

Interestingly, Mr Eid’s ‘punish Russia through FIFA’ suggestion has received little attention and certainly no action.

Neither has Mr Miliband’s plea for a more honest, multi-pronged international response to Syria’s plight.