Human Rights

NYT: Death Toll in Syria Increased More Than 10,000 in Two Months

The death toll in Syrian conflict has risen to roughly 162,000 people, amid hints from White House officials and from President Barack Obama himself that Washington may be contemplating taking firmer action to influence the direction of the over three-year conflict:

The death toll in the three-year Syrian conflict has risen to about 162,000, an increase of more than 10,000 in less than two months, according to an antigovernment monitoring group that is one of the few organizations still attempting to keep an exact count.

The group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in Britain and operates through a network of about 200 contacts across Syria, put the death toll at slightly more than 150,000 at the beginning of April. It says the current figure includes 53,978 civilians, among them 8,607 children.

Exact casualty figures are difficult to come by, and the United Nations many months ago formally gave up trying to tally victims of the carnage. SOHR’s calculations are nonetheless broadly treated as credible, and come against the backdrop of what is widely being taken as a systematic campaign being conducted by the Bashar al-Assad regime to deploy chlorine-based chemical weapons against rebel-heavy areas.

TIME Magazine’s chief foreign affairs correspondent Michael Crowley last Friday assessed that the situation is shaping up into a test of the administration’s – and, more broadly, the United States’s – credibility.

President Obama on Wednesday promised to supply more robust aid to Syrian opposition groups, after literally years of often withering criticism from administration opponents – as well as from veteran journalists – over what they described as a rudderless policy in the region.

The Washington Post‘s editorial board found the speech less than satisfying, criticizing it for having “marshaled a virtual corps of straw men” in discussing the president’s foreign policy vision, and casting doubt on his Syria-specific commitments:

Mr. Obama also pledged to “ramp up support” for the Syrian opposition. But he made the same promise last year and failed to follow through. Those U.S. allies who worry about Mr. Obama’s foreign policy retreat — and those who have exploited it — will be impressed by a change in U.S. behavior, not the president’s rhetoric.

[Photo: Freedom House / Flickr]