Selective outrage

Members of the Kurdish security forces take part during an intensive security deployment after clashes with militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in Jalawla, Diyala province August 12, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

The international community appears to be stepping up to the developing crisis in northern Iraq, one which the U.N. warned Wednesday had the potential to descend into “genocide.”

The U.S. is launching airstrikes against ISIS militants, as well as, with other countries, dropping much-needed humanitarian aid for the starving Yezidi refugees, and arming the Kurds – currently the last hope to slow down ISIS advances.

More and more governments and international leaders are joining the chorus of calls to combat the situation in Iraq.

These steps are to be commended, and seem necessary at this time, but they also smack of acute hypocrisy. The situation for the stranded Yezidis is certainly desperate, and many innocent lives have been lost.

But as we approach the first anniversary of the chemical attack on Ghouta, it is worth asking why such events in Syria have not prompted similar reactions from the West. At least 170,000 have been killed over the last three years.

And if the international community is hesitant to attack the Assad regime, for whatever reasons, why is it only interested in targeting ISIS in Iraq? Why not in the north or east of Syria, where the group controls vast swaths of land, including oil fields. On Wednesday alone it took two more towns in Aleppo province. But they advance without fear of being targeted either by the U.S. and its allies, or the regime in Damascus.

Whether the relatively small amount of oil in Syria has something to do with this disparity is unknown, but what is clear is that the boundaries of the Middle East are being redrawn, and along sectarian lines. And any global powers who speak of human rights, but apply their standards inconsistently, clearly have their own agendas.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 14, 2014, on page 7.




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