As the Syrian Civil War Comes to a Close, the Refugee Crisis Is Apt to Get Worse, Not Better

Sept. 13 2017

Now that Islamic State is being driven from its stronghold in Deir Ezzor, and Bashar al-Assad and his allies seem poised to defeat the opposition forces, there is hope that the civil war may be nearing its end. But, writes Morderchai Kedar, this does not mean that those displaced by the violence will start returning to their homes:

About half the citizens of Syria—approximately ten million people—have become refugees. Approximately half of them are inside Syria and half elsewhere. Those abroad are in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, other Arab countries, Europe, North and South America, Australia, and even Israel.

Generally speaking, all Syrian refugees who have reached countries outside the Arab world will stay there for good, because life in those countries is orderly and safe. The refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, however—altogether about 3.5 million Syrians—are waiting for the war to end so they can return home.

Yet the reality in Syria is changing completely, and it is difficult to foresee a massive return of Syrian refugees from those countries. There are two main reasons for this. First, during the six years of the savage and blood-drenched war, large parts of the Syrian cities have been reduced to rubble by aerial bombing, barrel bombing from helicopters, artillery and tank shells, and explosive devices and mines. . . . Refugees will not agree to exchange their tent in Jordan for a ruin with no infrastructure in devastated Syria.

But there is another reason the refugees will not return: the Sunni refugees’ fear of the country’s new landlords, the Shiites. For a considerable time, Iran has been transferring Shiite citizens from Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan to Syria. Its clear intention is to change decisively the country’s demographic composition so it will have a Shiite majority instead of the Sunni majority it had until the civil war erupted in 2011. This is undoubtedly the case because the Alawite rulers of Syria know the Sunni majority regard them as heretics and idol worshippers who have no right to live in, let alone rule, the country. . . .

The new demographic situation in Syria will convince the Sunni refugees that they no longer have anything to return to. They will therefore do all they can to move . . . to any country in the world that will agree to accept them, preferably in Europe or North America. This may well lead to a process opposite to that expected to result from the Syrian “peace”: instead of a return of refugees, there will likely be a mass flight of more refugees and Sunni citizens.

The consequence, writes Kedar, is likely to be greater instability in Europe.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Iran, Jordan, Politics & Current Affairs, Refugees, Syrian civil war

In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Can Learn from Ronald Reagan

When Ronald Reagan arrived at the White House in 1981, the consensus was that, with regard to the Soviet Union, two responsible policy choices presented themselves: détente, or a return to the Truman-era policy of containment. Reagan, however, insisted that the USSR’s influence could not just be checked but rolled back, and without massive bloodshed. A decade later, the Soviet empire collapsed entirely. In crafting a policy toward the Islamic Republic today, David Ignatius urges the current president to draw on Reagan’s success:

A serious strategy to roll back Iran would begin with Syria. The U.S. would maintain the strong military position it has established east of the Euphrates and enhance its garrison at Tanf and other points in southern Syria. Trump’s public comments suggest, however, that he wants to pull these troops out, the sooner the better. This would all but assure continued Iranian power in Syria.

Iraq is another key pressure point. The victory of militant Iraqi nationalist Moqtada al-Sadr in [last week’s] elections should worry Tehran as much as Washington. Sadr has quietly developed good relations with Saudi Arabia, and his movement may offer the best chance of maintaining an Arab Iraq as opposed to a Persian-dominated one. But again, that’s assuming that Washington is serious about backing the Saudis in checking Iran’s regional ambitions. . . .

The Arabs, [however], want the U.S. (or Israel) to do the fighting this time. That’s a bad idea for America, for many reasons, but the biggest is that there’s no U.S. political support for a war against Iran. . . .

Rolling back an aggressive rival seems impossible, until someone dares to try it.

Read more at RealClear Politics

More about: Cold War, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Foreign policy