LAMBRO: More trouble on an old bubble

Assad drops ‘barrel bombs,’ Al Qaeda opens new chapters and Washington is silent

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If 2013 is remembered for anything, it will be the terrorist civil wars that have inflicted death and destruction in much of the world, especially the Middle East and Africa.

Deadly, often daily, bombings are a common occurrence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and in Syria, where the ruthless dictator Bashar Assad is killing civilians and rebels with impunity to crush the rebellion there.

Meantime, Egypt is being torn apart in the wake of a military coup whose armies are battling Muslim extremists in a fierce religious war with no end in sight.

This week, its military-backed government declared that the Muslim Brotherhood, who rose to power in last year’s national elections, was a terrorist organization. The decree followed a series of car bombings by the Brotherhood’s supporters, most recently in a Nile Delta city north of Cairo on Tuesday, killing 14 people and injuring scores of others.

Islamic terrorists have seized on the regionwide chaos, with renewed attacks on civilian populations in an attempt to topple fledgling democracies and impose Muslim rule throughout the Middle East.

Terrorist recruitment is mushrooming in this caldron of death and destruction where al Qaeda, the Taliban and other extremist groups say that they will bathe the region in blood to achieve their ends.

Nowhere is the situation more lethal than in war-torn Syria, where Mr. Assad, aided and armed by Iran and Russia, has been given a seemingly free hand, after the chemical-weapons deal, to pursue a reign of terror against his own people.

Mr. Assad’s indiscriminate use of deadly chemical weapons against the Syrian people enraged the civilized world and, eventually, the Obama administration, which had been slow to react to its use until Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, turned it into a national issue.

But as the political focus turned to a deal with Syria to disarm and destroy its chemical weapons — with the next phase in the negotiations set for next month — Mr. Assad had a green light to step up his attacks in rebel-held cities and towns.

Hundreds of Syrian civilians — men, women and children — have been killed by Mr. Assad’s brutal and relentless use of “barrel bombs.” The bombs are filled with high explosives, nails and other shrapnel and dropped by helicopters into unsuspecting residential neighborhoods.

An especially heavy bombing barrage rained down on Aleppo and its surrounding suburbs and at least three other towns in the past week. Mr. Assad has used such bombs in the past, but now he’s ordering their use with increased frequency and intensity.

These crude but effective weapons “are far simpler than the chemical weapons that the United States and other Western powers are trying to ferry out of the country,” The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

“But … the fear they provoke is almost as intense [as the use of chemical weapons], activists and rebel fighters say,” The Post added.

With the White House and the international community now focused on the upcoming chemical-verification talks, Mr. Assad’s bombing attacks are clearly not drawing the same attention that followed the widespread use of poison gas on his people.

This is a travesty. “The helicopters haven’t left the skies of Aleppo for the last 10 days,” said Yasser al-Ahmed, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army and a fighter in their cause.

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