Despite escalating rhetoric by the Obama administration on the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons on civilians, Dr. Basel Yanes, who grew up in Damascus and still has family there, said military solutions will not work.
“First, this is a tragic and outrageous action,” said Yanes, 66, an oncologist at Dayton Blood and Cancer Center. “Whoever committed this outrageous crime should be severely punished.”
But Yanes, a native of Palestine who moved to Damascus when he was 1 and studied medicine at the University of Damascus, said only a diplomatic approach can solve the country’s tragic problems.
“This horrible event should really intensify the effort to try to find a middle ground political solution for this terrible conflict,” said Yanes, now a Centerville resident. “I think the superpowers, obviously the United States and Russia, need to put pressure on everybody, on both sides. The only solution is really to get some kind of compromise by getting the moderates on both sides to sit together and have a transitional government that ultimately needs to be a representative government of the people of Syria.”
But is that possible now?
“I hope it’s possible, because … we haven’t seen anything yet if this doesn’t get done,” he said. “I think this will continue to get worse.”
Yanes said members of his family, fortunately, live in a part of Damascus that has not yet been affected by the hostilities. But many are not so fortunate, he said, and he worries that it’s only a matter of time before the country is completely engulfed in the conflict.
While both sides in the conflict blame the other for atrocities, including what Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday called the “moral obscenity” of an Aug. 21 chemical attack in a Damascus neighborhood that reportedly killed at least 350 people, Yanes said he doesn’t know who to blame – or believe.
“I stopped believing both sides a long time ago,” Yanes said of the Assad regime and the fractious rebel forces. “Whoever has intelligence to answer this question, is going to have to look at that.”
Likewise, he said he doesn’t have enough information to judge the Obama administration’s reluctance to arm the rebels.
But he doesn’t think a military strike will achieve anything.
“I don’t believe military is the answer to this conflict,” Yanes said. “I think the answer is diplomacy. It’s the only answer to this conflict.
“Continued fighting will only result in more casualties and more tragedies.”