Flood Of Syrian Refugees Threatens Regional Stability And Underlines Price Of Inaction – OpEd


The situation in Syria is deteriorating rapidly as the fighting has intensified in urban areas, which are key to the regime’s survival and to the opposition’s progress. The death rate has spiraled upward as has the flow of refugees out of Syria. Neighboring states are beginning to become overwhelmed by the torrent of human misery that is coming their way. There is no end in sight and the outside world is providing little humanitarian aid. The Assad regime is determined and lethal. It seems ready to pursue a scorched earth policy. Its foreign supporters – Iran and Russia – seem prepared to stick by its side.


Moral among the Syrian opposition remains high despite the pounding it’s fighters have taken in the face of offensives in both Aleppo and Damascus. It has met with renewed support in the international community. France’s President is talking about recognizing a government in exile. Turkey is insisting on a no-fly zone over Syria. And the US has moved an aircraft carrier to the coast, opened a center in Istanbul to help coordinate opposition activities, and allowed a Syrian opposition lobby group to operate in Washington DC. But none of this can make up for the continuing fragmentation and bickering of the opposition. The Economist quoted one Syrian activist to say that perhaps more than 2,000 armed groups were operating on Syrian soil. From the viewpoint of foreign governments that hope to support the opposition, this is an impossible situation. It is also an impossible situation for the Assad military. Although the fragmentation of the opposition troops may make it impossible to destroy the Syrian Army, it also makes it impossible for the Syrian Army to destroy the opposition, which is constantly multiplying.

Foreign powers continue to resist getting directly involved in taking on Assad’s forces, but they are being faced with a much larger humanitarian crises than earlier. Both Turkey and Jordan have been making noises about shutting their borders to every greater waves of refugees. This is a warning to the international community that it must begin planning for greater help and that its inaction may have profound effects on the stability of the region.

Foreign Policy

Turkey is calling for the establishment of humanitarian “safe zones” as refugee flows from Syria escalate, and the United Nations has warned about increased refugee movement into Jordan and Turkey. About 80,000 people from Syria have settled in Turkey since the start of the uprising in 2011, and the United Nations said it could reach 200,000. As fighting has recently increased, Turkey has started to see larger flows, with an estimated 5,000 refugees a day, a drastic jump from the average 500 per day earlier in the month. Turkey warned it only has space for around 100,000 people, however has built new camps which could bring the number up to 120,000. Western diplomats have expressed interest in establishing a safe zone in Syria, however said it would need to backed by a “no-fly zone,” concerning those who hesitate to participate in a military intervention. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a rare appearance on a television interview on the pro-government Dunya TV. He denounced the premise of establishing humanitarian safe zones in Syria, calling it an “unrealistic idea by hostile countries and the enemies of Syria.” He maintained his soldiers are “doing a heroic job” but said they need more time to end the conflict. Fierce fighting has been reported in Damascus, Aleppo, and in Idlib province.

Assad Draws Shock Troops from Elite Sect in Syria
By Bill Spindle, 28 August 2012, The Wall Street Journal Online

LATAKIA, Syria—Flag-draped coffins depart from the drab military hospital here each morning these days, carrying the dead soldiers of the Syrian regime along winding rural roads to ancestral villages in the surrounding hill country.

All along the way, women come out to the roadside to throw rice and rose petals at the passing caravan. Cheering men shoot machine guns in the air. Children shout, “God! Bashar! Syria!” in homage of President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian nation. They believe their native sons have sacrificed their lives to become “martyrs.”

These are Syria’s Alawites, one of the more peculiar and least-known sects in the Middle East. Here in a country ravaged by civil war, they make up only about 12% of the country’s population of 22.5 million. And yet, as that war intensifies, they are taking on a potentially critical—and controversial—role defending the Assad regime.

Many Alawites characterize themselves as the first and last line of defense for their nation. And they may be right, now that other sectarian groups, including many Sunnis and Kurds, have turned into opposition or pulled from the government orbit.

“The Syrian army is being transformed into an Alawite militia,” said Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma. “As the Sunnis defect, more and more Alawites are being brought in, which is bringing in more of these villagers.”…

“They’re afraid,” said an Alawite activist and government opponent as he looked on. “They don’t know what will happen.”

Bassma Kodmani, spokesperson for the Sryian National Council has resigned. In the resignation letter I received, she wrote: … “The project did not achieve its objectives and did not earn the required credibility and did not maintain the confidence of the people…”

Bloomberg writes: Bassma Kodmani, a prominent voice of the Syrian National Council, resigned from the main political opposition body to President Bashar al-Assad, citing disappointment in the group’s failure to work together more than 17 months after the uprising began.

“I decided to leave the council because of a difference of views over how to move forward and because thought I could be more productive working on the outside,” Kodmani, a Paris-based academic turned revolutionary, said today in a telephone interview.

Without going into details, the former chief spokeswoman for the SNC said that in “general terms, I’ve been disappointed with how the council has worked on several levels.” She said she will work with other groups, mainly in humanitarian relief.

Kodmani said her resignation was unrelated to France’s signal yesterday that it was prepared to confer legitimacy on the SNC, a political umbrella for anti-government factions that includes the Muslim Brotherhood.

Syria Comment - Joshua Landis

Joshua Landis maintains Syria Comment and teaches modern Middle Eastern history and politics and writes on Syria and its surrounding countries. He writes “Syria Comment,” a daily newsletter on Syrian politics that attracts some 3,000 readers a day. It is widely read by officials in Washington, Europe and Syria. Dr. Landis regularly travels to Washington DC to consult with the State Department and other government agencies. He is a frequent analyst on TV and radio.

3 thoughts on “Flood Of Syrian Refugees Threatens Regional Stability And Underlines Price Of Inaction – OpEd

  • August 31, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Is the west going to have the SNC set up as an government in exile, a Constitution, law and order a criminal code by late 2013. They have not done it in 18 months, what hope is there in another 12 months. It is just another excuse to delay the chaos when Assad falls and caveat like making sure the Syrian Army stays intact.

    We will just use the Quran everyone has got one and Sharia law in the interim. The Quran 2.0 Constitution in box. Then the excuse will be extremism.

    You can do what you want but the FSA cannot wait forever. The Saddam solution a weaken dictator that the US can bash later on to show supremacy. We are going up that hill one way or another.

    I see this strategy the same as early on sending unarmed civilians to be sent on Friday to be slaughtered by Assad. Just in a different guise, the principle is the same. Maybe they should have used the Fast and the Furious option straw buying, that seems to work so well.

    Assad has been given a lot of time 18 months, more time is not going help him with the Saddam option, nor are the restrictions on the FSA ROE, and supply of logistics.

    If they are man enough to go out every Friday unarmed and be shot and to take on a superior fighting force with limited resources. I say they have earned their freedom another 12 months then enough is enough.

    If an government, Constitution, criminal code is ready good, if not 2.0.

  • August 31, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    I am not stupid what holds today re-intervention and the need for the US will not be the case in 12 months that is part of the strategy re: the gas.

    At that point it can be dealt with regionally and by nations that condemn such actions internationally, that is the objective.

    Tell Dempsey not to fall over his skirt.

  • August 31, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    This is the point the rest of the world is weak, the US is strong, that is the construct, nations like and US like it, it served everyone well, countries spend less cash, US has control. Dempsey can say what he says, you can talk about red lines with WMD’s.

    Obama uses threats to prevent gas being used, Dempsey give Assad a greenlight to use WMD’s. So if Obama was going to act and is not bluffing on red lines, Dempsey just conflict closer. Obama is try to project deterrent so he does not have to act, Dempsey erodes that deterrent, which could force Obama’s hand.

    But the point is and the strategy is that the regime has to be severely weakened if there is going to be any intervention without the US involved.

    That is the point the US could have bomb Syria on day dot. No point arguing over it. The US had no reason to wait, where regionally and other international nations need that time to shape the environment for a successful mission independent of the US.

    It is self-doubt and self-fulfilling prophecy, no one can do anything about Syria, Israel can’t do anything about Iran.

    One thing I have learned fighting peasants with sandals and AK’s over the last 11 years against the greatest military force the world has ever known. It is just not true that narrative.

    Bear in mind I have always believed the impossible was possible, what normal men say is not a possible objective is indeed possible if you do your homework. But the last 11 years gave me a enlighten expanded perspective to that analogy.

    After all the Syrian unarmed uprising was meant to be crushed and the FSA are meant to be dead by now.


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