by John J. Metzler
Weirs Times Contributing Writer
UNITED NATIONS – Syria’s bloody conflict has entered its seventh year with unrelenting killings, displacements and bombardments being “one of the largest man-made humanitarian and protection crises in the world.” As the UN Humanitarian Chief Stephen O’Brien told the Security Council, “Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and million more injured.” He stressed, “Over five million people have fled and are now living as refugees.”
In yet another impassioned address begging for humanitarian access to besieged towns, O’Brien lamented, “Crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed by all parties time and time again.” He added, “Syrians have watched huge parts of their historic and proud country reduced to rubble.”
As American UN Ambassador Nikki Haley advised, “Half of all Syrians are displaced from their homes, some living in the ruins of bombed out buildings and others fleeing as refugees to neighboring countries. At this point, two-thirds of Syria’s remaining population, those who have not crossed international borders, require some form of aid.”
Think for a moment of the dire images of shattered lives and battered buildings in historic cities such as Aleppo, Homs and even the ancient capital Damascus. The pulverized towns and the tragic refugee streams. The lost hopes of toppling the Assad regime replaced not by a dream of democracy but a living nightmare of violent jihadi terrorist organizations such as Al-Nusra or the Islamic State/Daesh.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has been visiting the Mid-East and touring the swelling refugee camps in places like Jordan. As the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Guterres visited this camp far too many times. Yet the numbers of refugees from neighboring Syria have only grown.
Secretary-General Guterres stated firmly that this is not a tragedy “only for the Syrian people but it became a threat to the stability of the region and a global security threat to the world as terrorism is benefiting from the crisis in Syria, and several other crises around the world.”
He warned, “This is the moment for all countries that are involved, directly or indirectly in the conflict, to put aside their differences and understand that now there is a common interest and the common interest from the fact that they are all threatened by the new risk of global terrorism.”
Peace talks among many parties to the conflict have droned on in Geneva but have failed to reach a serious political breakthrough to stop the fighting.
Addressing the Arab League in Amman, Jordan the Secretary General warned, “Divisions in the Arab world have opened the door to foreign intervention and manipulation, breeding instability, sectarian strife and terrorism.”
Guterres cautioned, “Too many people have fallen into the trap of presenting the despicable acts of Da’esh or Al-Qaida as driven by Islam, when, in fact, they utterly defy the faith. Indeed Muslims themselves are the primacy victims.”
As this column has often opined, the Syrian civil war mirrors the Spanish Civil war of 1936-1939. The conflict has become a “cause celebre” for radical Islamists the world over who view Syria as a rallying point. Indeed much like the International Brigades of Spain almost 80 years ago, today radicals from Europe, North Africa, Afghanistan and even the USA have flocked to Syria to join thousands of foreign fighters keeping the conflict’s cauldron boiling.
Equally as with the Spanish civil war which attracted the intervention and political interference of Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, and Fascist Italy, here too in Syria we see the powers and their proxies such as Russia, Islamic Iran and the U.S. and Britain. And tragically the UN Security Council is dangerously deadlocked with both Moscow and Beijing blocking significant resolutions.
So what is to be done? First; Offer extra humanitarian support both to UN operations inside Syria and to the countries hosting huge numbers of refugees such as Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey.
Second, Saudi Arabia and the rich Gulf states can and should do more to help their brother Arabs from Syria by resettlement plans. These are people of the same language, culture and religion.
Third; U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has stressed “Stabilization zones,” or Safe Zones so Syrians do not have to flee far from their country but will be safe. Implement these soon.
The scourge of Syria’s civil war has continued for far too long. We must solve Syria now.
John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China.