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Syria earthquake

Syria’s dictator will benefit from the earthquakes

President Assad with rescuers in Aleppo. AFP/Getty

Following the massive earthquakes that left more than 40,000 people dead, international aid has been pouring into Turkey, says Raja Abdulrahim in The Daily. But Syria has received only a trickle. After 12 years of civil war, millions of Syrians were already living in cholera-ridden encampments, and the main way aid could be funnelled into rebel-held northern regions was via Turkey. When the quake struck, this “critical gateway” was thrown into chaos. Food and other supplies intended for Syria were siphoned off in southern Turkey, which had itself become a disaster zone, and collapsed buildings made the roads joining the two countries impassable. “For the first three days, nothing went into Syria.”

Two weeks on, things aren’t much better. Fuel shortages have hampered rescue efforts. Many hospitals don’t have blood bags, and survivors are living in schools, mosques and even cemeteries. For Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, this presents an opportunity. After he used chemical weapons against rebels in 2013, many nations imposed sanctions on his government. But now Assad is arguing that those should be lifted to let aid reach quake-hit areas. And it’s working: the US has agreed to ease banking restrictions on Syrian accounts for six months so that people can directly transfer financial aid. After years of stalemate, Assad feels the world is once again “paying attention to him”. And if countries like America keep “engaging with him on some level”, this tragedy may end up strengthening his regime.