Posts Tagged ‘Syria Allies’

Syria has one million drought refugees

February 3, 2014

syria.drought

If peace ever comes to Syria, and the government of Bashar al-Assad is replaced, that unfortunate country’s troubles will be far from over.  Any future Syrian government will have to cope with 1 million refugees from Iraq, and 1 million of its own citizens displaced from the land by years of drought.

Thomas L.  Friedman of the New York Times recently quoted from an appeal by Abdullah bin Yehia, Syria’s food and agriculture representative to the United Nations, for $20 million in aid for Syria’s drought victims.

Yehia was prophetic. By 2010, roughly one million Syrian farmers, herders and their families were forced off the land into already overpopulated and under-served cities. These climate refugees were crowded together with one million Iraqi war refugees. The Assad regime failed to effectively help any of them, so when the Arab awakenings erupted in Tunisia and Egypt, Syrian democrats followed suit and quickly found many willing recruits from all those dislocated by the drought.

Friedman reported that the population of the Middle East has increased four-fold in the past 60 years, more than any other part of the world.  At the same time, according to the International Journal on Climatology, the region has steadily grown warmer, with many more warm nights and fewer cool days.   He went on to say –

And then consider this: Syria’s government couldn’t respond to a prolonged drought when there was a Syrian government. So imagine what could happen if Syria is faced by another drought after much of its infrastructure has been ravaged by civil war.

And, finally, consider this: “In the future, who will help a country like Syria when it gets devastated by its next drought if we are in a world where everyone is dealing with something like a Superstorm Sandy,” which alone cost the U.S. $60 billion to clean up? asks Joe Romm, founder of ClimateProgress.org.

So to Iran and Saudi Arabia, who are funding the proxy war in Syria between Sunnis and Shiites/Alawites, all I can say is that you’re fighting for control of a potential human/ecological disaster zone.  You need to be working together to rebuild Syria’s resiliency, and its commons, not destroying it. I know that in saying this I am shouting into a dust storm.  But there is nothing else worth saying.

Responsibility doesn’t just lie with the governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia.  It lies with Vladimir Putin’s Russia to an even greater degree.  Syria is Russia’s main remaining ally in the Middle East, and Putin is committed to propping up the Syrian regime.  For Russia to provide effective aid to Syria’s drought victims would do as much to stabilize Syria as sending its government more weapons to put down rebellion.

LINKS

Click on Wikileaks, Drought and Syria for the full article by Thomas L. Friedman in the New York Times.  Hat tip to Joshua Chacon for the link.

The best article I’ve read on the Syrian crisis

September 17, 2013

syria-ethnic-map-400x300

If you’re at all interested in the Syrian situation, you should read the article Syria: What Now? by William R. Polk, which is reproduced on James Fallows‘ web log in The Atlantic.

Here are the highlights of what I got out of the article.

  • Sarin has been only a minor factor in Syria’s civil war, accounting for 1 percent or less of casualties.  The reason Syria is stockpiling poison gas is to deter attack from other nations, especially Israel.  The government of Israel not only possesses nuclear weapons, but is believed to have a “robust” program of chemical and biological warfare manufacturing and training.
  • President Assad would never agree to dismantling of poison gas weapons without a Russian guarantee of protection against attack.  Any dismantling would have be under the supervision of Russian experts.  This would benefit the Syrian government because it would be a deterrent to attack by the United States.
  • Overthrow of the Assad government would lead to the balkanization of Syria into its various ethnic and religious groups and likely result in massacres of Syrian Christians and Alawite Muslims.  Such conflicts could spread to Lebanon and other neighboring countries.
  • The stability of Syria is a vital national interest to Russia, and not just for reasons of prestige.  One in six citizens of the Russian Federation is Muslim, and the Russian government has been fighting for years against rebels in the majority-Muslim province of Chechnya.  Overthrow of Assad could create a base for supplying the Chechen fighters.

I highly recommend reading the whole thing.

Syria, unlike Saddam’s Iraq, has strong allies

September 4, 2013

crisis3

Attacking Syria will not be like intervening in Bosnia or Kosovo, invading Iraq or overthrowing the government of Libya.  In all these cases, the United States attacked countries that were small, weak and isolated.

This is not the case with Syria, whose government is supported by Iran and Russia.  It is more like North Vietnam, which had allies that supplied it with modern weapons.  Attacking Syria also would be like bombing North Vietnam in the sense that it would risk a direct confrontation with Russia.

It would be embarrassing from President Obama to step back after drawing a “red line” against President Assad using poison gas, and then saying he knows for sure that Assad did use poison gas.  But it will be even more embarrassing if Obama has to back down after ordering missile strikes into Syria, and downright humiliating if he has to order U.S. troops withdrawn after failing to achieve his goal.

What President Obama would have to do in order to make me favor a declaration of war against Syria is to show me an objective that is worth the sacrifice and risk, and to convince me that he has a realistic strategy for achieving that objective.

“Punishing Syria” is not an objective.  “Getting rid of Assad” is not a worthwhile objective unless you have some reason to think that what comes after Assad will be better.  And please don’t say that nothing could be worse than Assad.  That’s what many of us thought about Saddam, and how wrong we were!

President Putin’s statements about Syria have been restrained.  He evidently doesn’t want to back President Obama into a corner.  But I don’t think he will stand idly by while Obama orders an attack on a Russian ally.

(more…)