After being ravaged by war for over a decade, Syria was hit by a devastating earthquake in February 2023.
by Ghaith Alsayed is licensed under AP
/ June 9, 2023
By John J. Metzler
The world seems to have forgotten about Syria. You could excuse this after a dozen years of bloody conflict, humanitarian catastrophes and a jarring earthquake in February. Equally there’s a global crisis overload from the Middle East to Eastern Europe and looming in East Asia.
Syria’s place in the constellation of conflicts seems to have dimmed and clearly been overshadowed. We have become numb to the pain.
“Syrians need the support of the international community now more than at any time in the past 12 years,” implored Ms. Ghada Eltahir Mudawi, a UN Deputy-Director for humanitarian affairs. Addressing the Security Council she stated, “After twelve years of conflict, the vast majority of the Syrian population continues to face daily challenges to meet the most basic food, health, and shelter needs.”
She added, “A staggering 15.3 million people require humanitarian assistance throughout the country, representing nearly 70 per cent of Syria’s population.” And humanitarian aid is in short supply and often blocked at northern border crossing points.
French diplomat Isis Jaraud Darnault stated unequivocally, “Bashar Al-Assad’s regime and its allies are responsible for a war with unprecedented consequences: More than 500,000 deaths; more than 130,000 people missing; the displacement of 12 million Syrians; the use of chemical weapons by the regime against the population.”
But let’s not forget that a gaggle of jihadi terrorist organizations facing the Russian-backed Assad regime have kept this witches brew boiling for over a decade. There are few winners.
Now there seems to be some diplomatic movement in the political logjam; Assad is being curiously courted and brought back into the Arab League. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who a decade ago supported anti-Assad militants, has welcomed the Ruler of Damascus back at a Saudi Summit. Not long before, Moscow hosted a meeting of the foreign ministers of Iran, Russia, Syria, and Turkey.
Geir Pedersen, the UN’s Special Envoy for Syria stated, “It is vital that the recent diplomatic moves are matched with real action. Because let us remember that the Syrian people continue to suffer on a massive scale … the economy continues to reach new lows.”
Amb. Pedersen added, “The cumulative effects of a decade of war and conflict, corruption, the Lebanese financial crisis, COVID, sanctions, illicit drug trafficking, and the war in Ukraine means that the economic morass of the Syrians has never been more acute. Changing this must be a key priority of any confidence-building process too.”
There are at least 6 million Syrian refugees. One million Syrians are in neighboring Lebanon; The small country now hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world. At least three million more have fled into Turkey. And let’s not forget during the Summer of 2015 when more than a million Syrians fled to Germany and Sweden.
But the conflict’s instability goes well beyond Syria’s borders; The country has emerged as a nexus for international Islamic jidahi terrorist groups not only opposing Assad’s rule, but destabilizing the region, especially Lebanon’s sensitive border with Israel.
But reaching a long-awaited political solution is not as easy as we assume despite the war weariness. “For France, there can be no lasting return to stability in Syria and the region without a political solution that meets the legitimate aspirations of all Syrians and enables them to live in peace in their country. The parameters of the political process are known,” Jaraud Darnault stressed.
Before the conflict exploded during the “Arab Spring” of 2011, approximately 10 percent of Syria’s 22 million people were Christians. Syria’s majority population remains Sunni Muslim. Today Christian numbers have fallen drastically from 2.2 million inhabitants prior to the war, to approximately 638,000 still remaining. Christians were particular targets of jihadi forces opposing the government.
U.S. Amb. Linda Thomas-Greenfield informed the Council, “Until there is political progress toward a durable resolution of the conflict, U.S. sanctions will remain in place … The United States will continue to hold the regime accountable for its abuses, including torture and killing.” Credible reports cite at least 130,000 people held in regime-run detention centers.
“It is time to see the Syrians engaged in dialogue and return to discussing their own future together in the Constitutional Committee,” cautioned Geir Pedersen, “to facilitate a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political resolution that restores Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity.”
That’s a tall order for a beleaguered land bathed in blood, religious sectarianism and political division. Syria’s ongoing trauma must not continue; The hate and devastation have exhausted everyone.
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 (2014).
Free Press International
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