The Assad regime last weekend launched an offensive into southwest Syria aimed at dividing opposition forces in Daraa province and reasserting government control over the region.
Why it matters: The regime campaign, backed by Russian airpower, has already displaced at least 45,000 civilians — many seeking shelter along Jordan's closed border — and that number could soon reach 200,000. The UN has warned that a full-scale offensive could put as many as 750,000 lives at risk and prove as bloody as the sieges of “eastern Aleppo and eastern Ghouta combined" (which included the use of chemical weapons).
The details: Syria’s southwest is a strategically sensitive area that borders Jordan, Lebanon and Israel. The new regime offensive is taking place in a “de-escalation zone” negotiated last year by the U.S., Jordan and Russia — an agreement that decreased violence and lowered tensions between Israel and Iran over the latter’s presence in the area. This could all now change, and an Iranian role in the regime offensive could drag Israel deeper into the fight.
What’s next: There is a small window to prevent a worst-case scenario. The parties to the de-escalation agreement could try to resuscitate it, but no such effort appears underway. Although Moscow has reportedly reached out to Washington to broker a deal under which opposition fighters would turn over positions to regime forces, it is unclear if Washington could compel that outcome even if it wanted to.
If diplomacy cannot slow the fighting, the humanitarian situation will deteriorate. Most assistance to Syrians in the southwest is delivered via UN cross-border relief operations from Jordan. But if violence escalates, those operations could cease. If Jordan continues to keep its doors closed, displaced Syrians will be left to languish in informal settlements along the border or try their luck in areas controlled by the regime.
Hardin Lang is vice president for programs and policy at Refugees International.
This piece originally appeared here.
The Assad regime continues to flout the UN Security Council’s resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria. Meanwhile, a Russian plan for a humanitarian corridor into Eastern Ghouta has collapsed amid renewed fighting, a sign that Moscow is not yet serious about reigning in their client in Damascus.
Why it matters: The 400,000 civilians trapped in Eastern Ghouta and over a quarter million Syrians in other remote and besieged areas are in acute need of humanitarian assistance. That aid will remain out of reach.
What's next: In the coming days, supporters of the UN resolution will ratchet up the pressure for the Assad regime and Russia to comply with the ceasefire. Russia will counter by seeking to revive its plan for a limited corridor, which does not comply with the terms of the UN resolution. In any event, humanitarian officials insist that a five-hour pause does not allow enough time to deliver the needed relief and organize the medical evacuations to and from Eastern Ghouta.
The bottom line: Russia has an advantage as the dominant external military player in Syria, but the U.S. has a seat at the table too, with some 2,000 troops in the northeast of the country. Any diplomatic effort to salvage a ceasefire must be led by the U.S. at the most senior level — a long shot, yes, but also an issue of great moral urgency.
Hardin Lang is vice president of programs and policy at Refugees International.
Donald Trump’s UN Migration nominee uses social-media to give his true feelings about Muslims.
Ken Isaacs, the vice president of the Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, has made many controversial statements through twitter, radio appearances, and various other media outlets. Not only has he denied climate change, which is a lead factor in migration, he has made many Islamophobic statements.
After a terrorist attack in London, a Catholic bishop said, “This isn’t in the name of God, this isn’t what the Muslim faith asks people to do,” in an attempt to defend the Islamic faith from blanket statements of “radicalism.”
Isaacs disagreed with the bishop and retorted, “Bishop if you read the Quran you will know ‘this’ is exactly what the Muslim faith instructs the faithful to do.”
Isaacs’ nomination was announced on Thursday. His official position would be director general of the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM). The budget of IOM is nearly one billion dollars. This organization has commonly had a United States leader for many years because the United States gives very high contributions to IOM.
After Obama said he wanted to accept more Syrian refugees, Isaacs said that this was a “foolish and delusional [attempt to] show cultural enlightenment.” According to Isaacs, after a measly two hours in a refugee camp, he saw people that he assumed to be “real security risks” because he “knows what a fighter looks like.”
Isaacs also said that Christian Syrian refugees “must be 1st priority” because “Christians can never return” to Syria.
After the State Department was sent evidence of Isaacs social media, his Twitter was made private and Isaacs issued an apology, saying he regrets that the comments “have caused hurt and have undermined my professional record.”
Noticeably, Isaacs did not say in the statement that he did not mean what he said. Based on his inability to condemn his past claims and a look at his previous posts, one can assume that Isaacs holds a serious prejudice against Muslims.
Eric Schwartz, the president of Refugees International (who used to be an assistant secretary of state for President Obama), spoke of the nomination saying, “I don’t know the nominee, but I’ve seen some of his statements and they reflect a troubling prejudice that is really incompatible with a position of leadership for the world’s most important international migration agency.”
Schwartz went further, adding, “The person who leads this needs to be a symbol of the international community’s support for humanity. And that means that dark-skin people and Muslim people have the same inherent worth as any other people.”
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RI President spoke with Voz de América about Syrian refugee resettlement. View the video below.