The continuing calamity in Syria
With many competing news stories dominating the headlines, the Syrian cataclysm gets neglected.
The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) announced that the number of Syrians who are registered abroad has now passed 4 million. 1.7 million are registered in Turkey, with the second largest group being in Lebanon. However, that is only the tip of the iceberg, as another 7.6 million people are displaced inside Syria, according to USAID, which means that they are also "refugees," but not registered abroad.
This adds up to a total number of people forced to leave home of 11.6 million, which corresponds to two thirds of the entire population of some 18 million. It has now become one of the biggest refugee crises in history. It has to be noted that these refugees are primarily refugees from the civil war and not necessarily from the Assad regime.
Peace negotiations, which were held in the past to achieve internal peace, failed. This was due to preconditions set by the Assad regime, as well as the different anti Assad groups, but also by the international community. Negotiations based on preconditions are invariably bound to fail. If "values" or "ideological" points of view, whether correct or not, become more important than stopping the suffering of the population, settlements become unachievable.
Western and UN intervention efforts failed from the outset. They neglected the position of minorities, as well as the danger of radical Sunnis in the form of ISIS and others, and primarily focused on government change and the punishment of the Assad regime. The focus on the removal of the regime distracted from concentrating support on the moderate opposition groups. The efforts were lacklustre, as shown by the fact that the Obama administration set red lines, without having any willingness to enforce adherence to them.
Tragically, Syria is left alone. The success of ISIS brings a group on the scene that refuses outright to negotiate and will stop at nothing to achieve its brutal aims.
The internationally supported offensive against ISIS is concentrated on Iraq. In order to succeed, it would be necessary to expand this activity to Syria and find a truce between all other warring groups against the major danger from the Caliphate. Unfortunately, due to matters of misguided principles, this now looks increasingly unrealistic.