As of now, there is a fragile truce but no durable peace in Syria, Iraq and along the southern border of Turkey. Syria was heavily shelled by Turkey foiling many Syrian /ISIS attacks. Russia equally shelled inside Syria and yet complained to the UN about Turkey using force in Syria, which Turkey has been denying.
The conflict in West Asia is very fragile and complex. While Russia and China support Assad to fight against the world’s best terrorist outfit, ISIS and the Iraqi invasion, the US and NATO want to oust the autocratic and despotic Assad regime.
Lately, to improve its national security, Turkey is relentlessly trying to capture a 10 km wide corridor along its Syrian border to improve its security posture by gaining launching pads to hit across Syria, creating a buffer zone as depth, facilitating logistics support for military and relief work, containing terrorist attacks, curtailing Kurdish demands for autonomy and monitoring the flow of refugees.
Reports indicate that over one million Syrian refugees have fled their homes and have crossed over the Mediterranean seeking asylum in the EU and beyond 100,000 have lost their lives. On an average, over 300 people are fleeing their homes every hour and over 6.5 million Syrians have been displaced within their country, many losing limbs and family members permanently. According to the BBC news on March 1, 131,724 refugees have crossed over to EU this year alone. There are large numbers of refugees waiting to enter Greece, Macedonia, France and the UK. Many countries, while initially were liberal in giving shelter to the refugees, have now become stringent as that upsets their security, demography, economy and social equilibrium. The psychological and emotional trauma is unimaginable with some members of the family landing in one country and the rest in the other(s). Endless children have been orphaned, while countless parents have lost their siblings, shattering families. There is a sizeable population that has lost everything- their houses, agriculture, animals, jobs, relatives and limbs in deadly explosions and saturated ground and aerial attacks. There is, therefore, an urgent need to assist devastated people both as immediate, short and long term measures to get over this worst humanitarian trauma of the 21st century.
The spillover of the West Asian crisis got escalated after the ‘Arab Spring’, often dubbed as the ’Arab Winter’, escalating into the wider regional war as a threshold to the next possible world war, involving Russia with China on the one side, while on the other, it is the US and NATO. Turkey is specially concerned due to its long southern borders with Syria and Iraq and the presence of ISIS. The Arab and Muslim world would be divided joining either side over sectarian influences of Shias and Sunnis and some Kurds and Christian minorities. In fact , in this complex quagmire, the oldest and most genuine issue of the Kurdish autonomy has almost been lost in the wilderness.
There is serious and glaring misuse of the words ‘migrants’ and ‘refugees’ by the media and political commentators around the world that have grave repercussions in providing humanitarian aid and rehabilitation to the affected population. According to the SSI news, and I quote:
‘Migrants make conscious choices to leave their country to seek a better life elsewhere. Their decision is deliberate and often before deciding to leave their country, they seek information about their impending new home, study the language and explore employment opportunities. They can plan their travel, carry their belongings, dispose of assets before bidding farewell to friends and relatives. They are free to return back at any time if the new chosen country is contrary to their hopes and aspirations or if homesick, they can visit folks and friends left behind.
Refugees are forced to leave their country because they are at risk of, or have experienced persecution. The concerns of refugees are human rights and safety, not economic advantage. They leave behind their homes, most or all of their belongings, family members and friends. Some are forced to flee with no warning and many have experienced significant trauma or been tortured or otherwise ill-treated. The journey to safety is fraught with hazard and many refugees risk their lives in search of protection. They cannot return unless the situation that forced them to leave improves. Many perish as their entry to fleeing countries is mostly illicit with no legitimate travel documents. ‘
From the above analysis, the hordes of people fleeing Syria and Iraq are the refugees unbalancing economies, security, demography and living and health standards of the countries they are fleeing and NOT the migrants. Many terrorists and Jihadis in the garb of refugees can enter their newer destinations. As of now, there is a fragile truce agreed by the US and Russia, which is often violated by these countries and Saudi Arabia. But, it gives a chance to the UN agencies, Red Cross and the Arab Red Crescent in stepping up deliveries of tents, food, water, basic medicines and hygiene stores to 150,000 worst effected and uprooted people in the next 5 days, hoping to reach 1.7 million by the end of March. Though difficult but NOT impossible, let us visualise what truce turning to permanent ceasefire/armistice and termination of hostilities would involve.
Security in Syria and Iraq would need to be reinforced as permanent ceasefire entails withdrawal of all foreign troops and disarming of the ISIS and other Jihadi outfits which indeed would be the most difficult proposition. The observers of the UN International Peace Task Force from impartial neutral nations like India would fill the power vacuum and man international borders/sensitive and vulnerable areas and points in the entire war zone.
The international community will have enormous 4 million Syrian refugee rehabilitation tasks in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, with the assurance and prospect of returning home in the near future as they have little opportunity to restart their lives in exiled countries. The refugees in EU may not return as these countries offer better opportunities to rebuild and re-start lives.
The UN and its refugee handling Super Powers, NATO, EU, OIC, SAARC and NGOs like Action Against Hunger (AAH), CARE,Caritas Internationalis, Doctors Without Borders , Emergency Nutrition Network (ENN), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Food For The Hungry International (FHI), Interaction, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), The Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and like-minded organisations and agencies globally, forgetting their differences, need to pool the needed resources.
In Syria, the situation is deteriorating rapidly and extremely dire humanitarian situations exist in besieged areas. With distressing reports of 4 million people likely to die of starvation, international aid is urgently needed for life saving purposes.
There is a need to rush life saving drugs, glucose, blood, plasma, x-ray machines, diagnostic laboratories, hospital equipment, doctors, nurses, paramedics and mobile hospitals at an enormous scale.
Provision of temporary shelters, blankets, clothes, basic toiletries for hygiene and sanitation, food, stoves and fuel for heating, insulation for tents, thermal blankets and winter clothing are urgently needed.
Creating jobs and working for refugees and uprooted families in nation building by giving basic vocational training is needed. Otherwise, these refugees can turn to anti-social activities like drug peddling, arms and explosives smuggling, human trafficking, smuggling and prostitution. Without jobs and vocations, young men are easily lured to join Jihadi outfits.
While aid is given, the psychological trauma suffered by the victims is often ignored. This sensitive issue also needs immediate addressing.
Infrastructure destroyed in the war-houses, roads, airports, schools, colleges, hospitals, banks, hotels, governmental institutions and public offices need to be recreated by the fastest means.
There is need to ‘seize the chaos’ by the horns in both countries to remodel the Baathist government in Iraq and Assad government in Syria to meet peoples’ aspirations by independent and free referendums under the aegis of the UN and its peace keeping force. Both countries, rather than being stickmen of West Asia, deep rooted in insurgencies, ISIS and proxy wars, need to emulate herculean efforts to be a part of the new civilised, secular pro- democratic, liberal, secular Jordanian-Israeli-Iraqi-Syrian and Turkish bloc. The majority of Kurds staying in this region can thus dream of autonomy and join the rebuilding of their devastated lives, dreams and lands.
The International Court of Justice would need to try all those involved in war crimes expeditiously and most impartially and punish them and set this as an example.
The EU and other countries where refugees have taken shelter need to discreetly weed out terrorist elements infiltrated amongst refugees. All those willing to return to their homelands need to be expeditiously encouraged and helped to return.
According to The Telegraph dated March 4, 2016, the Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski has suggested a novel idea of raising an army of the Syrian refugees and migrants in the EU and sending them to their homeland to fight for their freedom. According to him, it is ridiculous that the US, EU, NATO and others fight in West Asia and die while millions of Syrian refugees sip coffee in their countries.
Massive international investment, support and concern would be needed to re-build besieged people, shattered economies, institutions and good governance BUT that can only flow if there is durable peace. Is this NOT a Rip Van Winkle dream with Trump winning primaries at a greater pace!