Wednesday, 9 September 2015

The Spillover of Conflict Westwards from the Syrian War

What is disturbing, in the context of the 'migrant' or refugee crisis, is the way the Western Powers Britain and France, but also Germany, are using it, along with humanitarian advocates, to claim the 'West must do more to help' Syria. France and Britain stress drone strikes against ISIS; Germany taking more migrants.

Typical was this claim, in the Guardian, from one humanitarian working in Lebanon that 'People fleeing death at the hands of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and Islamic State are dying needlessly because of the west’s indifference and inertia'. Yet the Western states have not been indifferent.

The assertion would appear to suggest people are dying in Syria because 'the West' is not doing enough to 'stop the war'. Either that or there are many refugees dying in Lebanon because the West is not taking enough. If the West is to be criticised it should be for what it has actually done not what it has not.

The idea that the West must 'do something' was one of the main reasons Britain and France went into Libya in 2011 and the demanded 'Assad must go'. The role of France and Britain has been very shabby over Syria because they aligned so firmly with the Gulf powers instead of trying to rein in their funding of jihadists.

The danger is now the Western Powers will take more migrants and refugees from Syria and Iraq while also taking steps to ratchet up the war without stressing the primacy of political solutions that do not make Assad's departure the precondition for negotiations. The consequences of that could be lethal.

The problem is that no attempt at good deeds might ever be forgiven while the Western Powers drone on in Syria and Iraq. Syrian emigres will surely demand in the West 'something is done' but they might not like it if the war intensifies and drags in the Western Powers further using further air power.

The assumed cowardice of trying to win wars using remote control drones and closely aligning with Saudi Arabia and Qatar could well breed politico-religious discontent among certain sections of 'the Muslim community in the West'. The conflict shows every possibility of spilling over into Lebanon and Turkey.

With a burgeoning population swelled by refugees, Lebanon's own social system is set to be put under greater strain. As in the 1970s and with the Palestinian diaspora being kept in refugee camps, there is potential for militants jihadists to indoctrinate and recruit in Lebanon and Turkey and elsewhere.

The spectre of Lebanon's delicate peace since 1990s fracturing along sectarian lines is quite possible, not least as the series of heatwaves, in the years running up to the Syrian uprising and civil war in 2011, saw record temperatures, drought and water shortages. Food insecurity and power black outs are growing.

While Turkey and Lebanon control their water, the PKK under Ocalan was aligned in the 1980s with Assad as a way of counter balancing and threatening Turkey's control of the Taurus mountain region from which water flows down into the Euphrates river. Conflicts over water are raising tensions.

The PKK has affirmed it could attack dam construction sites in the region in revenge for Erdogan's decision to use the 'war on terror' against ISIS as a pretext to degrade the PKK in Syria fighting ISIS through air strikes. A full scale civil war in south-east Turkey is yet another spillover effect of the Syria War.

In turn this makes the job of the Western states over Syria ever more fraught with danger. With large Kurdish and Turkish diaspora communities already demanding the German government takes a stand on or with Turkey on terms they regard as right, ready to condemn Berlin for not doing so, violence is in the air.

There is one certainty: if the Western states seek to make all the world's problems their own through mass migration in the context of wars they hold a responsibility for having made worse, or, in the case of Iraq in 2003, having started, a new epoch of intensified violence and terrorism could become very real.

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