middle east

Syria is on the brink of partition – here’s how it got there

By Scott Lucas
Professor of International Politics, University of Birmingham

After nearly six years of uprising, conflict and chaos, the partition of Syria is imminent. President Bashar al-Assad will of course rail against it; his crucial ally Iran will probably resist too, and the marginalised US won’t even acknowledge the prospect. But the lines are nonetheless being drawn.

With pro-Assad forces back in control of Aleppo city, a newly co-operative Turkey and Russia are ready to pursue partition as a short-term resolution. The Syrian opposition and many rebels will embrace it as their best immediate option, and the leading Kurdish political and military groups will settle for whatever autonomy they can get. If things continue shaping up this way, by the end of 2017, Syria will quite probably become a country of four parts.

The Russia- and Iran-backed Assad regime is set to hold much of the south and west, and most of Syria’s cities. There’ll most likely be a Turkish/rebel area, effectively a “safe zone”, in parts of northern Syria; the Syrian opposition will probably control Idlib province and possibly other pockets of territory in the northwest; while the Kurds will have some form of autonomy in the northeast.

A settlement like this has been a long time coming. Neither the Assad regime nor its enemies will settle for just a part of Syria, and both have survived years of intense conflict. The opposition and rebels still control territory from the north to the south; Assad clings on with the help of Russian aerial bombardments and Iranian-led ground forces. All the while, the Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD) and its YPG militia are still defending territory against both IS and the Assad regime.

If the lines of a potential partition were clear some time ago, what stood in the way of recognising them was the challenge of Aleppo city. Without recapturing it, the Assad regime had no hope of claiming an economic recovery (however disingenousouly) in the areas it controlled, let alone in the entire country. But the city was surrounded by opposition-controlled territory; Assad’s military was far too depleted to change the game, and even with outside support, its campaign would be protracted.


The deal

The turning point came in August 2016 when Turkey and Russia began to reconcile. The two countries had always been on opposite sides of the conflict, Turkey supporting the opposition and rebels and Russia Assad. Their relations had been tense since November 2015, when Ankara’s jets shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian-Turkish border. But within a year, both saw the advantages not only of reconcilation, but of agreeing on what their respective spheres of influence in Syria should be.

A deal was quickly established: Turkey would accept the reoccupation of all of Aleppo city by pro-Assad forces, supported by Russian-Syrian siege and bombing tactics, while Moscow would accept a Turkish military intervention alongside rebels in northern Syria, including much of Aleppo province.

Bashar al-Assad visits his soldiers. SANA/EPA

Bashar al-Assad visits his soldiers. SANA/EPA

Which is where we are now. Civilians and rebels have been evacuated from or allowed to leave the last opposition holdouts in eastern Aleppo city. The Turkish-rebel offensive continues to push back IS, although it is facing difficulties in its assault on al-Bab, the group’s last major position in Aleppo province.

A national ceasefire, brokered by Turkey and Russia in the last days of 2016, but pro-Assad forces are breaking it in offensives near Damascus. The two countries are trying to arrange political talks between the regime and the Syrian opposition later this month in Kazakhstan.

As Andrey Kortunov, director of a think tank close to the Russian Foreign Ministry, summarised it to Reuters: “There has been a move toward a compromise … a final deal will be hard, but stances have shifted.” The same story quotes a “senior Turkish government official” explaining that the convergence “doesn’t mean we approve of Assad. But we have come to an understanding. When Islamic State is wiped out, Russia may support Turkey in Syria finishing off the PKK.”

So can the Turkish-Russian initiative win over (or put down) everyone else who has a stake in the outcome?

The obstacles

The biggest immediate challenge is in the opposition-controlled areas near Damascus. The Assad regime has already taken back many of the suburbs, but two key areas are still beyond its control: Wadi Barada to the northwest, and East Ghouta and Douma to the northeast.

Wadi Barada is home to the al-Fijah springs, which provide more than 60% of Damascus’s water. Since mid-December 2016, the Assad regime’s forces and Hezbollah have been trying to overwhelm it with bombing, shelling, and ground assaults. In the process, the pumping station for the springs has been damaged, cutting off or limiting water to about 5.5m people.

Damascus faces a water crisis. EPA/Youssef Badawi

Damascus faces a water crisis. EPA/Youssef Badawi

At the same time, the Syrian Army and its allied militias are trying to take more territory near Douma, which is the centre for the leading rebel faction Jaish al-Islam. Turkey is critical of the offensive, Russia is staying silent, and the Iranian government and possibly its military are backing it.

Then there’s the Syrian Kurdish movement. The PYD would like to unite its area in the northeast with a Kurdish canton in the northwest, while Turkey would like to push back any Kurdish zone of influence and elevate other Kurdish groups over the PYD. With the Assad regime opposed to Kurdish autonomy of any sort, the only agreeable option may be containment: Turkey will probably accept a Kurdish area east of the Euphrates River, limiting any zone of control or potential military advance. The PYD, knowing it has no powerful backing, will accept the offer, even if it isolates the Kurdish area in and near Aleppo city.

A Kurdish YPG fighter in northeastern Syria. EPA/Mauricio Morales

A Kurdish YPG fighter in northeastern Syria. EPA/Mauricio Morales

As for Assad himself, the Syrian opposition continues to demand that he step down – but few others are bothering any more. The US effectively gave up the cause in 2012, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states have gone quiet, and Turkey seems not to care much. He may one day be offered the chance to step down peacefully when elections are arranged, but in the meantime he will stay where he is.

Confronted with the increasingly effective Turkish-Russian axis, a US official opted for condescencion: “So this country that essentially has an economy the size of Spain, that’s Russia, is strutting around and acting like they know what they are doing. I don’t think the Turks and the Russians can [negotiate] without us.”

This is pure bluster. For three years now, Russia has been feigning co-operation with the US, and in the process has deftly manoeuvred its Western rival onto the sidelines. If Washington pushes back too hard, it could wreck its relationship with Turkey – which grants it access to key airbases – and end up framed as the main obstacle to a major breakthrough.

The events of the last seven months have only reconfirmed what’s been clear for some time: there is no optimal solution to the Syrian crisis. Partition is far from ideal, and it may only be short-term — but at this point, it’s the only viable alternative to endless slaughter, displacement, and destruction.

Article from: http://theconversation.com/syria-is-on-the-brink-of-partition-heres-how-it-got-there-70825

Its Syrian Genocide not Syrian Civil War by Assad Regime

Dear Politicians around the world, if you are not too busy, please watch this video!

Stop the bloodshed in Syria, save the rest!

Yazidi Teen Who Escaped from ISIS Captivity

Yazidi Teen Who Escaped from ISIS Captivity Recounts Her Harrowing Experiences


Published on Mar 24, 2016

Interviewed on the German Deutsche Welle TV, a Yazidi teenager recounted how she and her family had been captured when ISIS attacked her village near Sinjar, Iraq. Pervin – not her real name – who was 15 years old at the time, said that the men, including her father, had been killed by ISIS and that over 5,000 Yazidi girls had been housed together in Mosul, where they had been beaten and sold into slavery. Girls as young as nine years old were raped, she said. Pervin, who tried to kill herself four times, eventually escaped, with the help of other Yazidis. The interview aired on March 22.

Four Years Harvest- The Use of Cluster Ammunition


Published on Mar 31, 2015
Syrian Network for Human Rights
http://www.facebook.com/snhr
http://www.sn4hr.org

Syrian Refugees Exodus

Published on Oct 24, 2015

Hundreds of thousands of refugees are making their way to Europe.

Although this number is smaller than the millions pouring into Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, it is a crisis dividing Europe.

Many Europeans are uneasy and concerned about what they feel is a lack of control and wonder who is coming and whether their societies can cope.

So what are the refugees seeking in Europe? And what do they have to say to Europeans who do not want them to come to their countries?

Safe Passage for Syrian Refugees

Safe Passage: An Open Letter to U.S. President Barack Obama & Congressional Leaders
October 01, 2015

life_jacket_final_1_0

The lifejacket pictured here belonged to one of more than 16,000 people rescued on the Mediterranean Sea by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams since May. This lifejacket, and the person who wore it, are symbols not only of a chaotic and dangerous world, but also of the failure of United Nations member states to meet their obligations to care for, extend safe passage to, and consider the asylum claims of those who fear for their safety from violence and oppression.

People don’t abandon their homes because they want to, and they know the risks they will face on their journeys. It is out of desperation that they flee war and torture, misery, poverty, and persecution. While delivering emergency medical care across a wide range of countries and continents, Doctors Without Borders sees firsthand the horrific conditions and suffering that drive people to risk their lives for the chance of a better and safer future. In northern Jordan, for example, which only a lucky few of the Syrians wounded daily in besieged areas in and around Damascus (and elsewhere) can reach to access medical care; in northern Afghanistan, where hundreds of people injured in current fighting are pouring into our trauma center in Kunduz; in the Domeez refugee camp in northern Iraq, where food vouchers were recently cut by two-thirds; and in Kenya, where Somali refugees face the threat of violence and forcible return.

We have also established projects providing health care to refugees in several European Union countries, and we have been running search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. Our staff therefore has a unique perspective of what happens—physically, psychologically, morally—to people in need when safer countries slam their doors shut, while public policy and debate focus on economic fears, deterrence, and dehumanizing discourse about “the other.”

This crisis has rightly shocked the world. But the harrowing scenes we have all seen are not confined to Europe and the Middle East. More than 60 million people have been uprooted by conflict and chaos around the world today. From stateless Rohingyas fleeing persecution in Myanmar and adrift on the Andaman Sea, to families driven from their homes by wars in South Sudan and Central African Republic, to people escaping violence and extortion in Central America—we are witnessing a global crisis that is fundamentally challenging the willingness of the international community to uphold its moral responsibilities to other human beings.

The United States has a proud tradition of welcoming refugees, and it has apportioned billions of dollars in aid and assistance to lands around the world affected by armed conflicts. But the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, has urged the US and other attendees of the UN General Assembly in New York to do more, to play a greater, more active, and more compassionate role in the ongoing refugee and migrant crises in Europe, Africa, Asia, and North and Central America. What better backdrop than the world’s largest gathering of international leaders for the United States to once more offer additional humanitarian support for people struggling to find safety, increase the number of asylum claims it approves (including for civilians wounded or tortured in conflict), and further ease cumbersome refugee application processes so the most vulnerable can easily apply?

President Obama: You took steps in this direction when you addressed the UN General Assembly this past Monday. But announcing an intent to accept a certain number of refugees falls far short of truly addressing the suffering faced by millions fleeing violence and oppression.

More than simply living up to obligations as a signatory to the 1967 protocol on refugees—and its own proud history of providing shelter to millions of foreign-born men, women, and children—the United States should take additional actions to ensure hope, dignity, and humanitarian assistance for those uprooted by war and strife. A courageous, committed United States can once again rise to the occasion by making its voice heard, showing resolve, and joining the European states that have opened their borders to large numbers of people in need of refuge.

By taking action and showing solidarity, the United States can reaffirm its commitment to refugees the world over and can set an example to other governments that have been unable to come to terms with the challenge at hand. This could be a step towards dismantling recently erected barriers to safe passage, which only drive those forced from their homes to take ever more dangerous routes in search of sanctuary.

The United States should encourage UN member states to ensure that lifesaving and basic needs are met and that humanitarian appeals are fully funded, reversing the shortfalls and cutbacks that have sadly become the norm in humanitarian crises. Beyond this week’s meeting in New York, we hope America’s political leaders will commit themselves to once again placing the country at the heart of efforts to find solutions to this global crisis, as it was when past generations of immigrants and refugees found shelter and opportunity in this land. The United States can make an essential difference by ensuring safe passage for people driven from their homes and by working to make the need for their harrowing journeys obsolete.

Doctors Without Borders has also encouraged European leaders to do more, and we readily admit that we do not have all the answers. But we see the medical and psychological consequences of the current situation, and we must bear witness to the tragic human impact of a global system that shuts out people seeking to escape violence, poverty, and misery—people who, like many Americans, past, present, and future, seek only a safe place for themselves and their families.
—Jason Cone, Executive Director, MSF-USA

Article from: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/article/safe-passage-open-letter-us-president-barack-obama-congressional-leaders?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=social

Syria Refugees Crisis – Help is Coming

Published on Sep 10, 2015

A short film by director Mat Whitecross, in support of Save The Children’s Refugee Crisis Appeal
http://helpiscoming.org
Download the single: http://po.st/9GDAYa
Pre-order the vinyl: http://www.vfeditions.com/product/vie…

Text GIVE to 61144 to donate £5 (UK only)*
For international donations, go to http://www.helpiscoming.org

Interview footage
Director/Filmed by: Simon Rawles
Producers: Mustafa Khalili, Richard Sprenger, Angela Robson
Assistant producers: Karl Schembri

*For full terms and conditions visit the website http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/t-a…