The Syrian Solution: An Introduction

SyriaAccording to a report in January of this year “the number of Syrian refugees stands at 2,386,087.”  It is estimated that 844,000 are in Lebanon; 593,000 in Jordan; 580,000 in Turkey; 217,000 in Iraq; and 133,000 in Egypt. There are also “6.5 million people who have been displaced from their homes but remain within Syria’s borders.”

(In reading these figures I can’t help thinking of the statement: “one death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic” often wrongly attributed to Josef Stalin. I don’t think Stalin even thought one death was a tragedy.

Turkey has spent 2.5 billion dollars on Syrian refugees.   Turkey hosts more than 700 thousand refugees within its borders. More than 200 thousand of them are sheltered in tent cities.”

Here is one report on the U.S. The United States announced on Wednesday it would donate another $380 million towards the Syrian humanitarian crisis, bringing the total American contribution over the last three years up to $1.7 billion even as other wealthy nations’ donations languish and aid remains a distant hope for many Syrians.”

Outside of Germany which offered spaces to 10,000 Syrian refugees, few countries are offering to resettle anything close to that number of them. The United States has settled less than 100.  

In January of this year the UN alleged it had received pledges of 2.4 billion to help with this problem. Some of the pledges listed were: “Qatar and Saudi Arabia pledged $60 million each. The European Union pledged $225 million and Britain $165 million.” The article noted: “But only around 70 percent of $1.5 billion pledged at a similar meeting last year has reached U.N. coffers, hinting at donor fatigue with no end to the bloodshed on the horizon.

There is an interesting article talking about that prior year’s meeting where only 70% of the pledges have been received. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the U.S., and the European Commission pledged over 100 million in aid; the United Kingdom and Japan over 50 million; Bahrain, Norway, Italy, Sweden  and Canada more than 20 million;  Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Iraq, and Australia pledged 10 million or more.  Ireland and Belgium pledged 5 million or more. Luxembourg, Morocco, Spain and Finland 4 million or more.

Russia said it planned to give the World Food Program 3 million and China said it was going to give 1 million to the UNHCR. Both nations also said they planned to give smaller sums to other UN programs.

This gives a good insight to what is going on in the world. The Russians and the Chinese are notoriously stingy when it comes to helping others and have no embarrassment at offering less money to help millions of refugees than such powerful nations as Luxembourg.

Not only are they not offering any money, they are impeding the aid to the Syrian people. On February 6, 2014, Reuters reported:   “As Western and Arab nations prepared to push for a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for better access to aid in war-torn SyriaRussia said on Wednesday that now was not the right time for such a move.

The United Nations says some 9.3 million Syrians, nearly half the population, need help and U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos has repeatedly expressed frustration that violence and red tape have slowed the delivery of humanitarian assistance to a trickle.

“We’re against moving to a resolution now on the Security Council. That’s as clear as I can put it,” Russia’s U.N. Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters. “It’s not a good time to have any resolution discussed in the Security Council.”

The Reuters article went on to note: “Western members of the 15-member Security Council have been considering a resolution on aid for almost a year. After months of talks, the council eventually made a non-binding statement on October 2 urging more access to aid.

But that statement produced only a little administrative progress, such as visas for aid workers and clearance for convoys. No action has been taken on big issues such as the demilitarization of schools and hospitals, and access to besieged and hard-to-reach communities.”

That seems to be par for the course. In February 2012 Russia along with its buddy China vetoed Arab peace plan aimed at stopping the violence in Syria.”   Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague said: “More than 2,000 people have died since Russia and China vetoed the last draft resolution in October 2011,”

Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton angrily asked:“What more do we need to know to act decisively in the security council? To block this resolution is to bear responsibility for the horrors that are occurring on the ground in Syria.”  She responded to Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, who asked “What’s the endgame?” that  “The endgame in the absence of us acting together as the international community, I fear, is civil war.”

Although a civil war already been ongoing at the time.  Hillary’s prediction came true in spades.

Then on February 22 Russian and China let a UN Security Counsel resolution on Syria pass. As for the resolution, it “does not call for any sanctions or punishment and only refers to “further steps” should it not be implemented.” These “further steps” are subject to Russia’s veto.

Russia relented the day after President Obama had his first conversation with Putin over Ukraine. I’ve wondered whether there wasn’t a quid pro quo – “you help us on Syria, we’ll look the other way to your land grab.” I just seemed very strange that Russia’s turnabout came at that time. Then we know Susan Rice on February 23 warned Russia to stay out of Ukraine and by February 26 the Russian had already moved into Crimea.

As for Syria nothing has changed. The war goes on, the refugees suffer, and Russians smile at the world’s incompetence. Putin rests assured that nothing will change in Syria.