Royal Saudi Press Calls For Yemen Coalition To “Liberate” Khuzestan, Iran

[The fact that this editorial appears at all in the Royal Saudi Al-Arabiya, is an indicator that Saudi adverturism under the new king Salmon is set to go far beyond the Yemen battlefield. 

king salmonThe royal coalition will never hold together for an attack upon Iran, when it cannot even agree upon doing the same thing for Libya that the Arabs are now trying to do in Yemen (SEE: Arab Coalition Divides On Syria and Libya).]

Arab Ahwaz must be liberated from Iran

al arabiya

Whenever the Arab world is discussed, forgotten are the five million Arabs struggling to survive under the Persian yoke in an Arab region bordering Iraq and the Arabian Gulf, rich with oil and gas. Once an autonomous area, separated from Persia by the Zagros mountain range, under the governance of Sheikh Khazaal bin Jabber – whose family had ruled for over a century – it was grabbed by Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1925 with a nod and a wink from Britain eager to preserve its relationship with Iran due to its oil interests.

Formerly known as Arabistan, the Iranian occupiers wasted no time in changing the name of this new Iranian province to Khuzestan, rejected by its Arab residents even today. Arabs and Persians have little in common and as Sir Arnold Wilson, a British colonial administrator, once said: Arabistan is “a country as different from Persia as is Spain from Germany.”

Although Arabistan provides Iran with 80 percent of its oil requirements as well as half of its gas, its sons are exploited and oppressed; their human rights tramped upon, their very identity in danger of being obliterated. Iran’s policy of ethnic discrimination combined with its Persian resettlement endeavors has resulted in turning the Ahwazi Arabs into an economic and social underclass.

Numerous Arab villages are without schools and those ‘lucky’ enough to attend school are educated in Farsi. Some 80 percent of Ahwazi Arab women are illiterate as opposed to 50 percent of Ahwazi men. Over thirty percent of the under-30s are unemployed in this heavily industrialized region, primarily because Persians receive priority and jobs often advertised outside the governorate.

Thousands are without access to drinking water, because rivers have been diverted to arid Persian provinces. Their streets open sewers; many are deprived of electricity and gas. In 2013, Arabistan’s capital, Ahwaz, was classed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the most polluted city on earth partly due to desertification and industrial smog. Arab farmers are regularly stripped of agricultural land and although there has been loud international condemnation of Israel’s separation walls, there have been no media headlines about the segregation walls hiding squalid Arab ghettos from wealthier Persian settlements and glossy new towns.

Driven to protest

It’s no wonder that Ahwazi Arabs are now driven to protest against such blatant discrimination. According to the Ahwaz Studies Center, “increasing joblessness and rising poverty is creating a humanitarian crisis among Ahwazi Arabs that threatens to lead to widespread unrest…” The authorities use a heavy hand against demonstrators and rights activists.

Although Arabistan provides Iran with 80 percent of its oil requirements as well as half of its gas, its sons are exploited and oppressed; their human rights tramped upon, their very identity in danger of being obliterated

Khalaf Ahmed Al Habtoor

However, one of the central reasons behind the Ahwazis’ discontent is their evaporating sense of who they are; the erosion of their roots, their language, their Arab identity. That was brought home to me a few days ago as I watched a video of Iranian security forces attacking Ahwazi football fans for wearing traditional Arab dress while celebrating the triumph of the visiting Saudi al-Hilal team against the local Foolad Khuzestan side. In truth, the video touched an emotional chord in me.

The authorities were alerted when Ahwazis referred to the Saudi players as “their Arab Brothers” and welcomed them to “Arab lands.” The forces attempted to move the Arabs away from the cameras, provoking resistance. The crowd responded by destroying posters of Iran’s Supreme Guide, Ali Khamenei, in the face of Iranian Revolutionary Guards and threw stones at police. This resulted in arbitrary arrests when peaceful protestors were also swept-up. “Iran will never be able to smother our voice and our Arab identity,” say the demonstrators.

For me, this was emotional because despite all Iran’s measures to choke the Ahwazi’s inner being and stifle all dissent over the past 90 years – even to the extent of forcing them to give their babies Persian names – they remain proud to be Arab.

It also saddens me when I remember that those Arabs, our own people, have been abandoned to fend for themselves. Why isn’t the United Nations taking up their cause? Why are those western countries, endlessly trumpeting human rights to the Middle East, not only turning a blind eye but actively wooing Iran’s ayatollahs? Most importantly, we can no longer stay silent when five million Ahwazi Arabs equates to a population three times bigger than that of Gaza?

Standing tall

Here I would call on Arab countries – especially GCC states and their allies – to stand tall with our Ahwazi brothers so as to empower them on their journey to freedom. Apart from the fact that this is our moral duty, it could also off strategic benefits at a time when Iranian officials boast of a new Persian empire that includes four Arab capitals.

Help Arabistan gain its independence and Tehran can kiss goodbye to its oil exports and the revenue it uses to fund its terror proxies.

Iran’s meddling in Arab countries is rife and unrestrained. Yemen is just one example and I’m gratified that Saudi partnered with GCC states, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan and Pakistan, has launched a military intervention to free this historic Arab heartland from Iranian-backed Shiite militias; this action is one that I’ve long called-for. Iran deserves to be treated in kind.

The first step towards freeing the people of Ahwaz is a vigorous and determined campaign by GCC leaderships to undermine the Iranian fist on this dear Arab land involving billions of dollars in direct financial aid to support the development of al-Ahwaz.

Secondly, the Arab League and/or the GCC should bring the forgotten truth that al-Ahwaz is, indeed, Arab territory to the international spotlight so as to raise awareness.

Thirdly, the file should be lodged with the United Nations Security Council for investigation with the aim of procuring a resolution to the effect that Ahwaz has been and is under illegal occupation and, thus, has a right to self-determination. Such applications have been lodged by Ahwazis previously but haven’t been taken with the seriousness they deserve. The GCC should use its power to ensure the Ahwazi cause can no longer be swept under the carpet.

Just a year ago, I would have had little hope that this appeal would be heard. But, thankfully, GCC states and its Arab friends have at last resolved to be proactive in defending Arab peoples and lands. Operation “Decisive Storm” in Yemen is just the beginning, signaling Iran’s hitherto clear path towards regional domination is now strewn with roadblocks.

I still bristle when I recall a conversation I had, many years ago, with former U.S. Ambassador Richard W. Murphy, who informed me that America was now responsible for Gulf security. When I asked him on what authority, he answered without flinching, saying, that the Brits handed the region to us. In response, I remember thinking: What are we, sheep? Today, we are emerging as lions. We are standing with our Yemeni brothers in distress and proving to the Islamic Republic of Iran, its militias and proxies that we will never be parceled-off to any country’s hegemonic ambitions ever again.

Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group – one of the most successful conglomerates in the Gulf.

Arab Coalition Divides On Syria and Libya

Saudi Arabia, Egypt show discord over Syria

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(AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell). Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi chairs an Arab foreign ministers meeting during an Arab summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, South Sinai, Egypt, Sunday, March 29, 2015. Arab League member states have agreed in principle to for...
(AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell). Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi chairs an Arab foreign ministers meeting during an Arab summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, South Sinai, Egypt, Sunday, March 29, 2015. Arab League member states have agreed in principle to for… (AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell).
(AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell). Saudi Foreign Minister Saud bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud reviews a document during an Arab foreign ministers meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, South Sinai, Egypt, Sunday, March 29, 2015. Arab League member states at a summit i...
(AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell). Saudi Foreign Minister Saud bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud reviews a document during an Arab foreign ministers meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, South Sinai, Egypt, Sunday, March 29, 2015. Arab League member states at a summit i… (AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell).

 

By SARAH EL DEEB
Associated Press

CAIRO (AP) – Egypt and Saudi Arabia are cooperating militarily to thwart a power grab in Yemen by Shiite rebels, but the agreement on how to deal with the region’s complex and intertwined conflicts may stop there. The two countries’ diverging interests were evident at the Arab summit over the weekend, particularly over the crises in Syria and Libya.

In Syria’s civil war, Saudi Arabia has staunchly stuck by its demands for President Bashar Assad’s removal. In a speech to the summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Saudi King Salman railed against “those with blood on their hands” and said he cannot be any part of a resolution to the war, now in its fifth year.

In contrast, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in his speech urged a political solution, pointing to the need to “confront terrorist organizations” and prevent the collapse of Syrian state institutions. He said Egypt would host a conference of Syria’s opposition aimed at unifying its position for political talks.

The speech reflected what el-Sissi has made his top priority since rising to office last year – fighting Islamic militants. Egypt’s rhetoric has emphasized the need to preserve Syria as a bulwark against terrorists over the need to remove Assad, though the government has avoided saying that outright. On Friday, a government official told The Associated Press that the Egyptian stance is that Assad’s regime “must be part of the negotiations and the transitional period.”

“It is not about personalities,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the diplomatic efforts.

The differences led to an embarrassing moment after el-Sissi proudly had a letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin read out loud at the summit’s closing session Sunday. Russia is a key supporter of Assad and has strong ties to el-Sissi, who gave Putin a lavish welcome in Egypt last month.

In his letter, Putin urged a political solution to the Syria war. After it was read, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal took the microphone and lashed out at Russia in a speech aired live on TV.

“They (Russians) speak about the misery the situation in Syria while they are a main part of the miseries that affects the Syrian people,” al-Faisal said, pointing to Moscow’s arms sales to Damascus.

El-Sissi thanked al-Faisal for his remarks and, in an apparent attempt to put the best spin on the awkward situation, commented that all Arab leaders emphasize that they seek solutions to regional crises in their contacts with international players. El-Sissi then gave a closing speech praising the new hopes for future joint action sparked by the summit, where the leaders agreed to create a new joint Arab military force. Egypt has been the strongest advocate for the force.

In Libya, el-Sissi wants regional action against the growing power of Islamic militants, whom Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have already hit with airstrikes several times the past year. In his opening speech to the summit, el-Sissi repeatedly spoke of the need for action in Libya. In contrast, the Saudi king hardly mentioned it – a sign of their differing priorities.

Egyptian columnist Abdullah el-Sinnawi, who is close to the military and el-Sissi, said the lack of agreement is likely to paralyze any future communal action, including through the joint military force.

The two sides don’t agree on who the “enemy is, how to hit and what is the priority,” el-Sinnawi told AP.

Notably, Assad – who did not attend the summit – told Russian reporters ahead of the gathering that Egypt understands the crisis in Syria and that there is limited security cooperation between the two countries. “We hope to see closer Syrian-Egyptian relations,” he said.

After al-Faisal’s speech, a prominent Egyptian TV political show host lay into Saudi Arabia, saying it was equally to blame for Syria’s bloodshed with its support of anti-Assad rebels.

“Will you keep lying to us and yourself and the world?” Eissa barked. “Yes, the repressive dictator is killing his people. And this Gulf Arab oil money from Saudi Arabia and Qatar is also killing the Syrian people.”

That prompted an angry response from prominent Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who said in a tweet that Eissa’s “excesses” required action.

“If the media there (in Egypt) was free, I wouldn’t have said that. But it is the regime’s media,” Khashoggi wrote.

__________

Associated Press Zeina Karam contributed to this report from Beirut.

Houthi Militants Reject Yemen Talks In Doha–Qataris and Saudis The Same

Militants to boycott Yemen Doha talks

yemen-post

The Houthi militant group announced on Tuesday it will not participate talks between Yemeni factions which are expected to take place in Doha later this month.
Spokesperson for the group Mohammed Abdulsalam said they don’t accept to go to Doha because there is no difference between its position and Saudi position toward their status or rather revolution.
GCC states described the Houthi takeover as a coup and reiterated their full support to the legitimate president and government.
He accused Qatar and Saudi Arabia of backing Al-Qaeda financially and logistically along with their support to the legitimacy of president Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The remarks came a few days after the UN special envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar said all factions had agreed to change the venue of the talks into Doha.
Hadi suggested to change the talks venue from the capital Sanaa into Riyadh after he escaped house arrest by Houthi militants.
The Houthi group and the General People’s Congress, which is led by ex-president Saleh, rejected that talks be held in Riyadh.
Meanwhile, Hadi is appealing for military support as Houthi militants and dissident forces loyal to Saleh are fighting the army in a bid to invade the south.
The president fled to Aden last month and he declared Aden as a temporary capital and Sanaa as an occupied capital.
After Houthis and Saleh tightened grip on power and placed Hadi and government under house arrest, Benomar announced all transition accomplishments had vanished.
The UN continued to affirm only political solutions can resolve the crisis.


YEMEN POST STAFF

New Era of American Financial Warfare

New Era of Financial Warfare

bodhita

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, in Thursday’s Daily Telegraph, reports on new ways the U.S. is carrying out financial warfare against Russia by stealth. He writes that the U.S. has created a financial “neutron bomb” that can target any country and is now targeting Russia. He claims that for the past 12 years an “elite cell” at the U.S. Treasury has been designing ways to bring almost any country to its knees without firing a shot.

“It is a new kind of war, like a creeping financial insurgency, intended to constrict our enemies’ financial lifeblood, unprecedented in its reach and effectiveness,” says Juan Zarate, the Treasury and White House official who led the policy after 9/11. “The new geo-economic game may be more efficient and subtle than past geopolitical competitions, but it is no less ruthless and destructive,” he writes in his book Treasury’s War: The Unleashing of a New Era of Financial Warfare.

This includes shutting off market access for Russian banks, companies, and state bodies with $714 billion of debt. He calls it the “scarlet letter,” created under Section 311 of the U.S. Patriot Act, which was devised to be used against terrorist financiers. Once a bank is named, it will be caught in a “boa constrictor’s lethal embrace,” as Zarate puts it. Even if the bank has no operations in the U.S., European banks will not violate it.

Evans-Pritchard continues, “The U.S. Treasury faces a more formidable prey with Russia, the world’s biggest producer of energy with a $2 trillion economy, superb scientists, and a first-strike nuclear arsenal. It is also tightly linked to the German and East European economies,” and therefore the U.S. risks destabilizing its own alliance system. Furthermore, President Vladimir Putin knows this as well and no doubt is prepared to take counter-moves.

Zarate now advises HSBC on how to stop in-house money laundering, which is a laugh in itself.

Evans-Pritchard’s column cites Princeton Professor Harold James, who compares such actions to the pre-First World War attempts by Britain and France to use financial warfare against Germany. Warning of the dangers of such action, James said, in a piece for Project Syndicate, “Lehman was a small institution compared with the Austrian, French, and German banks that have become highly exposed to Russia’s financial system. A Russian asset freeze could be catastrophic for European — indeed, global — financial markets.”

Evans-Pritchard seems to be familiarizing himself with the Classics, as he cites how the sanction imposed by Pericles turned out badly. “So are the salutary lessons. Pericles tried to cow the city state of Megara in 432 B.C. by cutting off trade access to markets of the Athenian Empire. He set off the Peloponnesian Wars, bringing Sparta’s Hoplite infantry crashing down on Athens. Greece’s economic system was left in ruins, at the mercy of Persia. That was a taste of asymmetry.”

Bodhita | News & Analysis

China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Putting Real Heat On World Bank

All of the countries joining China’s alternative to the World Bank

QUARTZ

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Russia, the Netherlands, and Australia announced over the weekend that they will be joining the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), whose membership has become something of a test of diplomatic clout between China and the United States. The development bank is seen as a challenger to existing institutions like the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank.

Unable to increase its voice in the current institutions—China commands just 6.47% of the vote in the Asian Development Bank, 5.17% in the World Bank, and 3.81% in the International Monetary Fund—China is building its own alternative. The bank is intended to make up for the gap in funding the region needs—about $800 billion a year in infrastructure investment, according to the Asian Development Bank. It is expected to launch later this year.

So far, just over 40 countries have joined AIIB, with one day left before the deadline to join as a founding member expires. The United States and only one of its main allies, Japan, remain absent from that list. The US and other critics question whether the Beijing-led institution will uphold international standards of transparency, debt sustainability, and environmental and social protections, or just turn into an arm of Chinese foreign policy. Last week, Japan’s finance minister said, “Unless [China] clarifies these matters, which are not clear at all, Japan remains cautious.”

But as more countries join the bank, the more likely AIIB will have to follow international standards, observers have noted, and the less likely China will be able to use a multilateral institution to wield influence in the region. Here are all the countries that have joined or applied to join the AIIB aside from Spain, which said late last week that it would also apply to be a member (link in Spanish).

US Policy Is Driving Force Behind the Call To Jihad

[A very strong case is made that it is US foreign policy which fuels Islamist anger and drives the call to “jihad.”  American policy has been humiliating to every Muslim since 2001, in particular, the policies of torture, secret renditions and drone assassinations, all of which have been designed to destroy the collective psyche of all Muslim males.  

Murder by drone and rendition have demonstrated to every Muslim family that none of them are safe in their beds, or in their homes anymore.  What more reason would a sensible young man need than this, to drive him to take-up arms against the American aggressors?   Yemen hosted a US drone/counter-insurgency base, allegedly used to “hunt al-Qaeda,” which was probably the driving force in Yemen’s destabilization.  The more the US and the Saudis bombed Yemen, the greater grew the unrest of all sectarian derivations. 

The ease of recruitment for ISIS (and the Middle Eastern radicals in general) is a pretty direct measure of the effectiveness of US psychological warfare.  The more we humiliate Muslims, the more jihadis answer the call to battle. 

But, I would argue that that has been the objective of the entire war on terror since its inception…find those who would be jihadis and kill them all.  It doesn’t matter to the Pentagon/CIA that they are feeding the cycle that they have been fighting to stop?  Instead of trying to kill the Muslim world to get all the survivors to “LIKE” us, we should try to disengage long enough for the Arabs to fight among themselves and settle their tribal/religious feuds which we had no right to interfere with, at all.]

Smith College religion professor, historian says US should stay out of Middle East battles

MASS live

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By Diane Lederman | dlederman@repub.com

 

Smith College religion professor Suleiman A. Mourad believes the United States should not be involved in the Middle East. (Diane Lederman/The Republican)

 

NORTHAMPTON – This week, Saudi Arabia took on rebels in Yemen, the latest action in the escalating conflict in the Middle East. It’s a confusing muddle of alliances.

As the New York Times reports the United States is supporting the Saudi campaign to dislodge Iranian-backed Houthi rebels but in Iraq and Syria, the United States is on the same side as Iran in the fight against the Islamic State.

And while some Congress debate whether to send in ground troops, Smith College religion professor Suleiman A. Mourad believes the United States should not be involved.

In fact anger against the United States is fueling the antagonism and serves as a recruiting tool for Isis and other extremists.

Mourad, who also studies jihad, explained some of the roots of the conflict and the reasons he believes that it needs to play out there without United States intervention.

He doesn’t think the warring parties are ready or able to talk to each other nor does he see any diplomat in the United States able to bring the parties to the table.

In fact, he said the United States is hated abroad. A native of Lebanon he returned recently and said the level of animosity between Sunnis and Shia towards the United States was extreme.

Middle Eastern leaders don’t trust or respect the United States.

The wars between Sunnis and the Shia – different sects within the Muslim community with different customs – have both modern and historical roots.
According to the BBC, most of the Muslims are Sunnis – estimates suggest the figure is somewhere between 85 to 90 percent.

Historically, Sunnis consider themselves as the orthodox or traditional form of Islam where the Shia the political faction, according to the BBC.

“There are historical grievances historical reasons that speak to the current grievances,” Mourad said, much in the way slavery here is linked to issue of race in America.

He said at the same time, some Shia are aligned with some Sunnis and vice versa. Also he said Shias in Yemen are different than the Shias of Iran. “They don’t have a common history. There’s much animosity.”

Each political leader has his own agenda and uses the rebel groups to support that just as long they don’t topple their own regime. “Every dictator has interests.”

While the Middle East was under the control of such leaders as Saddam Hussein, the militant factions were squelched but as those leaders were toppled the militant groups were able to emerge.
And what makes the modern conflict unprecedented is how widespread the uprisings are. The battle “across the Muslim world is unprecedented.”

He said the modern day Sunni militant movements began in the 1960s-1970s with the ideas of Sayyid Qutb of Egypt and Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi of Pakistan being put into practice.

They believed that Muslims rulers “were in the pockets of the West.:” And he said those militant ideologues were in “pursuit of a great Islam” and urged Muslims to jihad and unity.

Later there was a split where one group wanted a less militant approach and instead advocated for activism. The idea was “to just do activism to take control of the Sunnis. Teach ideas to ultimately unify Islam.”

But with such things as the overthrow of the Shah in Iran and Ayatollah Khomeini becoming the supreme leader and the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, these militants groups realized they had power and could demonstrate that militarism could achieve their goals.

Isis too feels like it has power with the attention it garners with the beheadings of Americans or its connection to attacks in France at Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine in January.

“(In their minds) It puts them on equal footing with the west,” Mourad said. And if “we are equal to the West, we can defeat the West.”

Each regime, meanwhile, in the Middle East has its own agenda but leaders are not able or willing right now to talk about what that is and how to meet their needs. Some take advantage of groups like Isis to push for their respective interests and agendas.

So the wars have to play out until they are willing to talk. Meanwhile he said, “We have no business being (there.)”

He said the Iranians during the overthrow of the Shah said, “America is Satan” and wanted to destroy the country. That hatred has only worsened as the United States has gotten more involved in the battles of the countries in the Middle East.

UN Calling Humanitarian Disaster In Syria A “Situation”

 

UN: Humanitarian situation in Syria dramatically worsened

daily sabah
Istanbul
UN: Humanitarian situation in Syria dramatically worsened

The United Nations has more than doubled its estimate of Syrians who are living in besieged areas, who risk death by starvation, dehydration and a lack of medical care, to roughly 440,000. The U.N.’s top humanitarian official said that the life expectancy of a Syrian is expected to be 20 years lower than when the conflict started. The U.N. also said that the war, which has recently entered its fifth year, has killed more than 220,000 people. It was also claimed that at least $8.5 billion is needed this year to meet the needs of Syrians.

The Arab uprisings, which euphorically swept across the Middle East and North Africa, attracted Syrians who had lived under the dictatorship of the Assad family since 1970, when Bashar’s father Hafiz Assad seized power. Since then the majority Sunnis were forced to live in a police state that tried to control every movement, organization or business through the use a wide-ranging intelligence service. In March of 2011, Syrians were emboldened enough to raise their voices against the dictatorship. However, the regime’s response was not as peaceful as the protests. And the country was subsequently dragged into a deadly civil war after opposition groups took up arms against the government. The opposition groups have also been divided internally. While moderate opposition groups like the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) were struggling for a democratic Syria where all religious and political groups would be free to exist, radical elements like al-Qaida’s Syrian branch Nusra Front or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) aimed to establish a new Syria, ruled by an extremist religious jurisprudence.

The fate of the country was changed since the war started. United Nations’ top humanitarian official said that the inability of the international community to stop the war means millions of Syrians will continue to suffer. Valerie Amos said the situation has “dramatically worsened.” In just the past month, she noted that the number of Syrians living in what are considered “besieged” areas has doubled, from 212,000 to 440,000. Nearly 5 million Syrians live in hard-to-reach areas. “The inability of this Council, and countries with influence over the different parties at war in Syria, to agree on the elements for a political solution in the country means that the humanitarian consequences will continue to be dire for millions of Syrians,” said Amos. As the world has taken stock this month of Syria on the anniversary of the conflict, Amos pointed out some of the more grim findings: “Today, a Syrian’s life expectancy is estimated to be 20 years less than when the conflict started,” she said. “Unemployment is around 58 percent, up from around 10 percent in 2010; nearly two-thirds of all Syrians are now estimated to be living in extreme poverty.” Amos later told reporters that $8.5 billion is needed this year to address the crisis both in and outside Syria, whose neighbors say they are overwhelmed by millions of refugees. Many aid groups and others in the international community say the divided council has failed the Syrian people on this and other issues. Russia, Syria’s ally, has blocked actions such as an attempted referral of the country’s situation to the International Criminal Court, though some diplomats say they’d like to try again for a referral.