The Levant War: 2011 – ?

The Syrian revolution now has to be seen as part of a wider conflict in the region. There is no use just talking about the revolution and the subsequent outbreak of civil war, and then viewing the Turkish-Kurdish war as a separate event, as well as the international effort against ISIS as something different again. All of them are interlinked and overlap.

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Without A No Fly Zone, The Syrian Refugee Crisis Will Only Get Worse

This past week Europe, its media, and its people have finally awoken to the refugee crisis. I am pleased to see that everyone has had their peaceful lives interrupted, but I am disappointed that it has taken so long for this to be so.

The heartbreaking images of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Kurdish refugee who drowned whilst trying to reach Turkey, have rocked the world and seemingly shattered public apathy towards refugees and migrants. UK Prime Minister David Cameron has been forced to U-turn on his disgusting attitude to deny helping those trying to reach the shores of the UK, and it seems that in every city and every community ordinary people are mobilising to do what they can to help those fleeing countries in the Middle East and north Africa.

The grassroots response has been phenomenal. It is a beacon of hope for humanity in what may well be its darkest hour since World War Two. Taking matters into their own hands, people have gathered, organised, and mobilised, often in direct conflict with the policies of their government, in order to help the desperate people in need of our support.

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Be The Change You Want To See In The World

The title of this piece is a quote often wrongly attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, and though Gandhi never said such words, the message remains true enough.

I am a firm believer in the idea that if you are not an activist, you are an inactivist. If you do not actively pursue a life that attempts to change the system, then you are ultimately a part of the system itself. Complaining is not enough to redeem yourself, neither is voicing dissatisfaction online, and neither is voting once every five years. It is your actions, not your thoughts or opinions, who define who you are. And actions are conducted every hour of every day.

It is the widely held belief that we are unable to change anything that prevents many of us from trying. This belief provides a shield to those we would hope to usurp and a reassuring comfort to those of us who have thought the thought, but then shied away from acting. By telling ourselves that it would have made no difference anyway, we let ourselves off the hook. The guilt and perhaps even shame is removed and we can continue our day-to-day lives.

Continue reading “Be The Change You Want To See In The World”

Hezbollah, Assad and Syria’s Uncertain Future

The recent decision from The White House to remove Hezbollah from the terror list, coupled with statements from John Kerry regarding possible future negotiations with Bashar al-Assad, should worry and enrage us all.

In the world of geopolitics everything is connected, and nothing occurs in a vacuum. Israel’s recent presidential election, and US negotiations with Iran over nuclear energy, show that actions taken in the Middle East can have far-reaching impacts. In our globalised world even a phone call taken privately in one country can be heard on the other side of the globe.

With this complex web of connected activity ever shifting and changing, and with the US intent on being at the centre of everything, it is their actions which we should take most notice of. Though recent developments with Cuba are cause for optimism, their actions on the topics of Venezuela, and in the case of this article, Hezbollah and Syria are cause for concern.

At face value it seems these issues are not connected and they are separate policies with no relation to one another, but for those of us that have a better understanding of the events in Syria, the dots begin to connect themselves.

On the 15th of March, as the Syrian conflict entered its fifth year, John Kerry gave an interview expressing the thoughts of the US and the Obama administration. Kerry spoke frankly, declaring that the US hopes to “re-ignite a diplomatic outcome”. He continued by saying that “everybody agrees there is no military solution; there’s only a political solution.”

When asked whether the US would be willing to negotiate with Assad, Kerry responded by saying: “well, we have to negotiate in the end.”

Assad, for those that have been hiding under a rock for the last five years, is the man responsible for the ongoing war in Syria. A war that has caused the deaths of roughly 250,000 people, has seen almost four million refugees flee the country whilst seven million more are displaced internally, and has been the reason why 1.5 million civilians have been seriously wounded.

It is a war whereby Assad and his regime have been guilty of indiscriminate targeting of civilians through their use of barrel bombs, torture, and the multiple uses of chemical weapons. All of which are human rights violations and constitute war crimes. The most recent example of Assad’s fondness for brutality came just a few days ago when chlorine gas was used in the town of Sarmin killing six people and injuring many more.

Regardless of these facts it seems that the US is softening in its approach to Assad, with Kerry’s recent declarations proving to be more in line with diplomacy and appeasement, than the non-negotiable opposition that tyrants deserve and indeed require.

Just days after Kerry’s statements on the possibility of future negotiations with the Assad regime in Syria, a report was published by the Senate Armed Services Committeewhich failed to include either Hezbollah or Iran under its “terrorism” section, something the report had done in previous years.

Iran is one of Assad’s major supporters, and Hezbollah soldiers are frequently active in fighting inside Syria itself. As recently as February The Guardian reported that “Hezbollah, backed by fighters from Iran and the Assad regime, took control of the hills of al-Sarja and al-Arous in the south-western countryside of Damascus.”

Hezbollah are a political and militant movement who are based in Lebanon, though as their excursions into Syria show, they are not opposed to getting involved in conflicts in other nations. Ever since its formation in 1982, the organisation has had close ties to both Syria and Iran, and represent a long-time enemy of Israel who they fight on a regular basis. As well as participating in conflicts across the Middle East they are also responsible for a number of terrorist attacks against Western and Israeli targets.

With Iran and Hezbollah being removed from the terror list, and with Obama administration personnel expressing the view that an end to the fighting in Syria can only be achieved through negotiations with Assad, those opposed to the regime may well feel betrayed.

They have every right to be. As if the world’s silence and inaction were not enough, now it seems their demands for a free Syria, without Assad, are being ignored as well.

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This article was originally published here, at Cultured Vultures on 25/3/15

Dambisa Moyo On Why The Fight Against Poverty Is Also The Fight Against Terrorism

Before Boko Haram were making global headlines for their criminal activities, murderous rampages, and pension for kidnap, there was little news of them in the West.

The potential for such organisations to be formed, and such activities to be performed, has always existed though. Where weak infrastructure and institutions are present, where corruption is rampant, and where far too many people are living in poverty, radical extremist organisations have the fertile ground needed to flourish.

Writing in Dead Aid in 2009, Dambisa Moyo warned of the dangers that faced the region, and indeed the world, if the situation in Africa was ignored.

Though the book focuses primarily on the aid given to poverty-stricken African states, and how it has failed to deliver on its promises, Moyo also gives a stark warning to the world. With hindsight we see that this warning has not been heeded, and that Boko Haram have made Moyo’s prophecy a terrible reality.

“Leaving the question of morality aside, there are good reasons based on national interest for the West to help. In the fractured world of Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, Africa’s fragile and impoverished states are a natural haven for global terrorists. Porous borders, weak law enforcement and security institutions, plentiful and portable natural resources, disaffected populations, and conflict zones make perfect breeding grounds for all sorts of global terrorist organisations.”

If for no other reason than the self-interests of nations national security, the fight against poverty is one that everybody should do their utmost to succeed in. And the sooner it occurs, the better.

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