Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., is calling for immediate aid to the displaced Syrian people at risk of being butchered by the Syrian government forces, and he warns the incoming Trump administration that Russia has designs on calling the shots throughout much of the Middle East.
Reacting to Tuesday’s news that Syrian rebels have effectively lost their stronghold on Aleppo, Pascrell told WND and Radio America that leaves a massive humanitarian crisis.
“There’s a huge humanitarian problem there for the people who remain in Aleppo and the surrounding areas,” he said. “Aid has not been able to get to them. Food has not been able to get to them because of the cabal between the Russians and the Syrian government.
“Right now, the immediate problem is to bring aid to those people who need it. There’s no water. There’s no food. And, obviously, if you watch the pictures, there’s very little shelter,” Pascrell said.
He said the blame for the humanitarian nightmare belongs at the feet of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“Assad has butchered his own people,” Pascrell said. “He chooses to continue to do this. He wants to bring the people and anybody that joins them, such as the rebels, to their knees. While that’s happening, innocent people are dying.”
Pascrell admits the crisis in Syria has no simple solutions, since trying to find and train moderate rebels has proved elusive and the U.S. is simultaneously fighting radical forces like ISIS and the Al Nusra Front.
“That’s a very difficult enterprise. Four years ago, we did know there were a certain amount of rebels who had the exact same agenda as we had, and that is is to overthrow the Assad government. We put that aside and allowed Assad to get stronger,” Pascrell said.
Russia is one of the key reasons for Assad’s ability to beat back the rebels, particularly in providing the air power that eroded the rebel grip in Aleppo. Pascrell said it’s long past time to impose economic sanctions on Moscow.
“We don’t want to risk outright war with the Russians,” Pascrell said. “That’s not what we seek, and I’m sure that’s not what they seek with us. But I think if we put economic sanctions on the Russians, it’s worked before. It could work again.”
He said Americans should have no illusions about Russia.
“We cannot trust the Russians. We can’t trust the Russians now and we’re not going to be able to trust them after January 20,” Pascrell said. “Anybody that’s foolish enough to think that we can do this is simply going to bring more misery upon the Syrian people.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.:
But the wariness toward Russia extends far beyond Syria. To begin, Pascrell said Americans just have to look at how Vladimir Putin handles criticism from his own people.
“We’re dealing with a Russian government here that has suffocated any dissent in its own country,” he said. “How many journalists have been thrown in prison? How many journalists have been thrown the heck out that are now in the United States?”
He said the Russian involvement in Syria along with the crackdown on rights in Turkey are combining toward the creation of a troubling and growing alliance throughout the region.
“Pretty soon, you’re going to have an alliance between the Russians, the Turks, the Iranians and the Syrians. I see that developing there right now,” Pascrell said. “The Turks have their own problems internally and [Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan] is going to take it out on American foreign policy. There’s no two ways about it.
“[The Russians] don’t want these countries to turn to the West. They want these countries to turn to Russia. So we’re between that rock and the rock of not getting involved where American lives are going to be lost. Not an easy question to resolve whether it’s Obama or Trump,” Pascrell said.
In fact, the congressman would not be surprised if Russia makes the fight to eradicate ISIS more difficult than it needs to be.
“While we’re fighting ISIS and giving all we can in order to fight the extreme jihadists, we need to recognize at the same time that Russia will simply go with the flow in whatever suits their purpose,” Pascrell said.
While he encourages President-elect Trump to study up on all the ways Russian aggression is evident today, Pascrell said he has no idea what to expect from the incoming administration.
“I don’t know what to expect. Does anybody know what to expect?” he asked. “Whether it was the campaign or whether it was after the campaign, you never know what he’s going to say or what direction he’s going to go in. I don’t think it’s healthy for the region. I’ll tell you that.”