UN Calling Humanitarian Disaster In Syria A “Situation”


UN: Humanitarian situation in Syria dramatically worsened

daily sabah
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.


Doing To The Entire Islamic World What We Have Done To Iraq

Instability in the Islamic world

The Hindu


Three major developments require careful attention. These are the emergence of the ISIS, the growing Persian-Arab and sectarian Shia-Sunni tensions, and the possibility of a negotiated end to the Iranian nuclear impasse. All this is occurring amidst the fall in global oil and gas prices, which is imposing a strain on the economies of countries in the Persian Gulf.

American subversion

The entire polity of what is known as the ‘Greater Middle East’ (extending from Pakistan to Turkey) has been destabilised by American-led subversion and invasions in Iraq, Syria and Libya, to oust secular but authoritarian governments, without having viable alternatives in sight. In Syria, American-supported destabilisation efforts have led to millions fleeing their homes and the emergence of diverse groups embroiled in a seemingly neverending civil war. The invasion of Iraq has led to Shia-Sunni bloodletting that has spread across the entire region. Libya has been fragmented by similar intervention and has emerged as another centre of Shia-Sunni conflict. More importantly, the intervention in Syria has led to the emergence of the Islamic State of Levant (ISIS). It now controls large parts of Syria and northern Iraq and has made inroads in Libya while establishing links with religious extremists in Nigeria, Somalia and elsewhere.

The world has seldom, if ever, seen a group as fanatical, revivalist and ruthless as the ISIS, which has drawn thousands of armed cadres, not just from Arab and Islamic countries but from across Europe and America. Its practices include arbitrary killing of non-Muslims and Shias. It forcibly takes non-Muslim women as slaves, extorts payment of jiziya tax by non-Muslims, and practises beheading and crucifixion. The only other recent case of similar behaviour was by the Afghan Taliban which persecuted Shias and required Hindus to display their identity by sporting yellow scarves/armbands.

Another barbaric trait the two share is the destruction of ancient shrines, artefacts, statues and art. If the Taliban vandalised and dynamited the historic Bamiyan Buddha statues, the ISIS destroyed or sold the priceless ancient treasures of Nimrud, Tikrit and Mosul.

The Sunni Arab alliance

The escalating tensions in the Greater Middle East have resulted in a Sunni Arab Alliance led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, facing off a Shia, Iranian-led grouping, including Iraq and Syria. We also have the strange situation of Iran and the US making common cause, to assist Iraqi security forces to drive out the ISIS from the Sunni majority Tikrit, Mosul and across the Anbar province. The US provides the air power, while the Iranian Revolutionary Guards train, arm, equip and fight alongside the Iraqi Shia militia.

Yet another strange meeting of minds is that of Israel and the Sunni Arab leadership from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. While the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the US congress in Washington to voice his opposition to an agreement being negotiated between the US, Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany, on the one hand, and Iran on the other, to end sanctions against Iran, the Sunni Arab countries launched a diplomatic offensive to get the US to scuttle the proposed deal.

Quite obviously chary of an Iranian ‘Shia bomb’, Saudi Arabia and its Arab Gulf partners held discussions with the US Secretary of State John Kerry on March 4 and voiced their reservations about a prospective US-led Iranian nuclear deal. The Saudis simultaneously fear not only an American-Iranian rapprochement, but also the prospects of the growing ISIS presence along their borders and in the Arab world. They know that the US is no longer dependent on them for oil supplies. The Americans, in fact, now have oil and gas reserves to meet current levels of demand for 85 years. Saudi Arabian oil is no longer vital for meeting the US’ energy needs.

It is in these circumstances that Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was received at Riyadh airport on March 3 by King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, Crown Prince Mukri and the entire Saudi cabinet. This was a rare honour for a head of government, especially from a bankrupt country that has survived on Saudi and American doles for decades. Interestingly, barely a month earlier, the chairman of Pakistan’s joint chiefs of staff committee Gen Rashad Mahmoud, the seniormost military officer in Pakistan’s Nuclear Command Authority which has operational command and control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, visited Saudi Arabia.

Old ties

Pak-Saudi nuclear links go back to the 1990s when AQ Khan paid visits to Saudi Arabia, following a visit to the Kahuta nuclear and missile facilities by the Saudi defence minister, Prince Salman. Interestingly, Pakistan tested, for the first time, a nuclear capable missile, Shaheen 3, with a range of 2,750 km, capable of striking targets beyond India, just after Sharif’s visit to Riyadh. This missile could be an asset to target Iran from Saudi Arabia. The already complicated situation in the Greater Middle East could become more tense if Pakistan agrees to send troops to guard Saudi Arabia’s frontiers, or provides the desert kingdom a ‘Sunni nuclear shield’ to counter Iran. Given the tensions on its borders with India, Afghanistan and Iran, it remains to be seen how Pakistan responds to Saudi requests for military assistance, conventional and nuclear.

New Delhi has just gone through a significant effort in building viable security architecture with neighbouring Indian Ocean island-states. There is now need for careful consideration of the impact of recent developments across the Islamic world on India’s security, and the welfare of its nationals in the Arab Gulf states.

The author is a former High Commissioner to Pakistan

Qatari Emir Warns Arab Coalition To Stay Away From Africa–Bombing Yemen Is OK

Qatari emir rejects military solution in Libya

ahram online

Speaking at the Arab League summit, Qatar’s emir backs military offensive against Yemen but warns against intervention in Libya

Hana Afifi


Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, right, attends a meeting of Arab heads of state, in Sharm el Sheik, South Sinai, Egypt, Saturday, March 28, 2015 (Photo: AP)

Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani told the Arab League summit on Saturday that his country believes “there is no military solution” in war-torn Libya.

Tamim called for a political solution to the Libyan crisis through the participation of all political forces.

Libya is currently divided between an internationally recognised government in the east and Islamist-oriented rebels that control the capital Tripoli and other parts of the country.

Addressing the ongoing crisis in Yemen, where a Saudi-led military offensive has been targeting Houthi rebel sites with airstrikes since Thursday, the emir called for respect for the country’s legitimate regime.

He called on the rebel militias to stand down in order to allow for the completion of a political solution that would gurantee security and stability for the Yemeni population.

He said that Qatar is ready to offer any needed support to achieve these ends.

The emir said that both the Houthi rebels, who are Shia Muslims, and Houthi ally and former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, violated the process of the search for a political solution and the legitimacy of the regime of President Hadi.

This led, according to the emir, to to the rise of phenomenon that had not been present before in Yemen: “sectarian politics.”

The Qatari head of state stressed the importance of good relations with neighbour Iran, which some critics accuse of arming the Houthi rebels.

Tamim said Iran is part of the Islamic umma, calling on Tehran to respect neighbouring countries’ sovereignty.

“The multiplicity of sects and doctrines is part of our Arab identity, and should not be used as a reason for intervention in our internal affairs,” he said.

No room for Assad in Syria resolution

The Qatari leader also expressed his opposition to allowing the regime of Bashar Al-Assad to be part of the political solution to the Syrian crisis.

“A political solution means that the people make their own choices,” he stated.

He said the Syrian regime had wreaked havoc in the embattled country, accusing it of carrying out “the most brutal forms of savage killings.”

“When will we move, us Arabs, to end this tragedy?” he said.

The Syrian conflict has claimed at least 215,000 lives and displaced half of the country’s population since 2011.

The Qatari emir also said that the Palestinian issue is at the forefront of the challenges in the region.

“Reaching a fair and comprehensive settlement” is a must for peace and security, he said, calling for the implementation of the two-state solution.

“Israel is continuing its aggression against the Palestinian people,” said the emir.

He called on the UN Security Council to “carry out its ethical and legal responsibility to end the Israeli occupation.

He also called on Arab countries and the international community to pressure Israel to achieve that goal.

The Qatari ruler also said that solidarity with Iraq is an Arab responsibility , calling for a comprehensive political solution to resolve the region’s sectarian troubles.

Saudi Arabia Leads Meltdown of Middle East

Middle East prepares for meltdown as Sunni states bomb Yemen

malaysia insider

– Afshin Shahi


Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East and known to have more weapons than citizens, has been a security nightmare for some time – but its recent downturn has finally spurred its neighbours to military action.

An unprecedented coalition of Sunni states has lined up to preserve what they consider as the legitimate Yemeni government. On the night of March 25, the Saudi ambassador in Washington announced the start of Operation Storm of Resolve at a news conference. The following day, the Saudi media confirmed that a coalition of states comprising Qatar, Morocco, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, and Sudan were sending aircraft to target the Shia-led rebels in Yemen.

On top of that, Egypt, Sudan and Pakistan also confirmed that they were ready to send ground forces into the country to save the government of President Hadi.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, also expressed support for the Saudi-led mission. Announcing that he was considering whether to provide “logistical support” to the new coalition, Erdogan warned Iran against trying to achieve dominance in the region.

His words cut to the heart of a very dangerous situation. While most Sunni states in the Middle East have allied themselves with Riyadh against what they consider a Shia takeover of Yemen, Tehran and its allies clearly see this as an open act of aggression – setting up a proxy conflict that could pave the way for a full-on regional meltdown.


Although there is a long history of distrust between Shia Iran and its Sunni neighbours, the conflict in Yemen will seriously inflame the problem. With the coalition explicitly organised on sectarian lines, foreign policy in the Middle East will get more and more sectarian as religious identity becomes an important basis on which it is made.

The Houthi uprising in Yemen and its links to Tehran will pave the way for further securitisation of Shia minorities in the Sunni states, which will pour fuel on some long-smouldering inter-state sectarian rivalries. And worse still, the conflict could well provide a newly hospitable climate for violent sub-state actors, who are already changing the geopolitical landscape of the region beyond recognition.

Over the last year or so Isis has been able to turn itself into the most successful brand in the world of trans-national Jihadism. Its phenomenal success both in Syria and Iraq has created a great challenge for al-Qaeda, which previously enjoyed something like a monopoly.

Accordingly, there have been numerous defections from al-Qaeda to Isis, although al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is still very effective in Yemen – and as the already very weak Yemeni state becomes increasingly ineffective, the group will be able to expand its sphere of influence and reassert itself in the country. That may in turn reinvigorate its wider regional and global operations.

The same vacuum will also provide the Houthis with a new opportunity to redefine themselves. The Saudi-led military operation in Yemen could allow them to portray themselves as a persecuted sectarian minority, and in turn help them to re-mobilise Zaydi Shias, who make up around 40% of Yemen’s population. Many of them could be easily drawn into the conflict to resist both AQAP and the Saudi-led military operation.

In another twist in the situation, Isis is clearly interested in winning its share of the Yemeni spoils. Its raison d’être depends upon controlling territory and expansion, and it now finds itself on the defensive on several fronts in Iraq and Syria. But although the group is losing some battles, the war is far from over.

The security crisis in Yemen provides it with a unique opportunity to expand its territory. This could compensate for territorial losses in Iraq and reinvigorate the organisation – setting up a thorny conflict with AQAP, which of course will not tolerate a takeover of what it sees as its territory by Isis.

New chapter

Of course, the Middle East has been in serious security and political turmoil for decades, and the last 15 years in particular. But the conflict in Yemen could profoundly change the region at large.

Whereas the Syrian civil war unleashed sectarian hostilities in the region, the military escalation in Yemen will sediment sectarianism as a force to redefine regional alliances and rivalries. This could be the start of a new era, where identity politics more than ever determine who holds the Middle East’s balance of power.

And while the direct military involvement of the Sunni states in Yemen is drawing a new battleground for a regional proxy war with Shia states, it also heralds a new era for the rise of sub-state actors. The chaos in Yemen will only provide new opportunities for groups such as Isis and al-Qaeda. In other words, the escalation in Yemen could be the start of a multi-dimensional war, one that comprises conflicts among states, spats between sub-state actors, and combinations of the two.

Rivals such as Iran and Saudi Arabia may or may not realise they are opening yet another Pandora’s box, one just as dangerous as the Syrian civil war – but make no mistake, this could be the start of a whole new chapter in Middle Eastern history. – The Conversation, March 29, 2015.

* Afshin Shahi is the director of the Centre for the Study of Political Islam & Lecturer in International Relations and Middle East Politics at University of Bradford.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.