The Middle East Crisis and the Disregard of the World Leaders
Personally, I am a problem solver. Whenever I encounter a challenge or face an issue I sit down and try to come to its roots, its origin, because I believe that once you narrow it down to the core of the problem you are facing it becomes quite clear what should be done, step by step, and what measures should be taken. Considering what I am going to talk about in the following article, I am not saying that finding an ultimate solution that suits everyone is easy or can be done in a day, but I would like to focus the attention on something that has been bothering me for a long time. I’ll admit that personally I do not see a solution to all the problems I am going to discuss, I would simply like to point out my opinion and try to appeal to the reader to try to be the change that is much needed in today’s world. Like the title of the article has already revealed, I would like to focus on the Middle east, which has been one big crisis since the oil shocks of the previous century. I will briefly go over the current issues that certain countries are facing and then point out the things I find irritating and, in my opinion, unacceptable and try to explain why I think this way.
Let’s begin with Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have staved off the collapse of his government, convincing a key ally to stay in his coalition despite disagreements over how to handle threats from Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Tensions arose last week when a failure of an Israeli covert operation triggered the worst Israel-Hamas violence in years. Next on my list is Lebanon for which Syria continues to be a burden on its economy, adding to a host of problems stifling its growth. The seven-year Syrian war has disrupted cross-border trade, pushed more than one million refugees into Lebanon, and deterred foreign tourists. Let us now move to Syria, where the bloodiest conflict in modern history is still raging and could soon again dominate political agendas. It looks like the battle for Idlib, the last rebel stronghold (with about three million civilians and around 50.000 rebel fighters) in Syria’s more than seven-year-long civil war, is about to start. The war is all but over. Salvaged by Russia and Iran, the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime has won and an initially broad-based rebellion against tyranny that was hijacked by jihadi extremists has lost. With Idlib it looks like this conflict — already a catalogue of horror — has saved the worst for last. Where, at this point, are the western powers that willed the downfall of the Assads without providing Syria’s rebels with the means to achieve it, muttering it was just all too complicated? Iran is also in no good position itself. US sanctions hit 700 Iranian targets, most importantly the Islamic republic’s ability to export oil, its economic lifeline. The economy has been reeling since Mr. Trump defied his European allies and withdrew from the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran in May. The rial, Iranian currency, has collapsed, prices have soared, and western companies rushed to pull out of the country.
If the US now carries through on the threat of “severe” punishment for Saudi Arabia, following the killing of a prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on 2nd of October this year, it will also alienate the Gulf states, and could leave it without any close allies in the region — apart from Israel. For that reason, it is obvious that the Trump administration is doing its best to limit the diplomatic fallout from the Khashoggi affair — and that even Congress treads carefully. Given the grim realities of realpolitik, that is understandable, but the idea that the US can build a grand strategy around the maniacal figure of Mohammed Bin Salman will now have to be abandoned. Additionally, The Trump administration has added to mounting international pressure on Saudi Arabia by calling for peace talks to end the fighting in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is locked in a devastating conflict with Houthi rebels. The UN said this month that half of Yemen’s 28 million population face “pre-famine conditions”.
The summary above is just the tip of an iceberg concerning all the problems in the Middle east right now, but it had led us to the main topic of the article and to the questions I ask myself whenever I read the news and that I wanted to share with you. How? Why? How is it possible that people in Gaza are forced to live in fear and oppression every single day, with youngsters without a future being shot by soldiers during peaceful protests. Why are several million people being forced to starve in Yemen, and the best response from the world’s largest super power is an urge for peace talks while it continuously supplies arms to the Saudi. The aggressor responsible for the starvation, even murdering critics of its system so carelessly that it couldn’t even come up with a good cover up story. The next antagonist I would like to expose is the European Union. Should a huge military offensive on Idlib happen in the coming months, millions of people would again be forced to move and a very likely scenario that could happen is the one we have already seen in the years 2015-2016. Are we more prepared to handle it than we were two years ago and to prevent another humanitarian disaster? The Italian populist government is turning away ships with migrants and should more of them come who knows which other countries might do the same. Greek islands are already overcrowded, we have no common European policy on how to handle mass migration and on top of that we have elections to the European parliament coming early next year which could cause populists and nationalist take control over the EU. Their counterpart in the United States is known for building a wall to tackle migration, but every wall can be taken down, so Europe still has a long way to go in implementing long-term migration policies and to achieving a goal of being an institution of unity, prosperity, and human rights which we all like to think it is. For now, our leaders’ best response to tackle migration has been to pay Turkey to do it for us. In addition to that, the EU leaders have backed the launch of formal talks with Egypt on how Cairo can help curb illegal trans-Mediterranean migration in exchange for economic benefits.
Do not get the wrong idea of me perhaps backing Iran or Bashar al-Assad, I am outraged by their wrongdoing too. Russia has been telling Germany and France it can facilitate the return of some 6m Syrian refugees, if only the EU and the US reconcile with Assad rule in the interests of stability and cough up the funds to resurrect Syria from the rubble, but this is nothing but a delusion. The Assads will never allow the re-creation of a demographic balance — a pre-war population with a 70 per cent Sunni majority — that almost brought their minority Shia regime down. The regime is preventing the return of Sunni Arab men and boys of fighting age. It has also passed decrees — notably the infamous Law 10 or Absentee Property Law — to expropriate the homes and assets of refugees, giving them no incentive to return to Syria. Then there is the Iranian government, obsessing itself with having a nuclear bomb and being the dominant force in the region, while its economy crumbles and the people grow sick and tired of living in isolation and uncertainty.
The goal of this article was to share what I think about the war, the refugee crisis, and the powerlessness of an ordinary man when it comes to big decisions and important events, be it real wars or trade wars, or the humanitarian crises in Europe or Burma, at the end of the day most of us just read the news and accept what we are being told, with no actual power to do anything about it. I am not saying that the decision making should not be left to experts and the people who have been democratically chosen to be in charge, but it is my opinion that the world’s super powers are still exploiting the weak to achieve their goals and fight for dominance without us knowing about it and that is something I decided to fight against by critically addressing the issues of today and trying to do something about it. Nowadays we see politicians on television using racism and nationalism to gain support, we are listening to news about world’s largest economies plotting against one another trying to be the best instead of working together, and the number of refugees and people escaping from their homes in search of a better life who have died trying is now just another statistics we read about. I ask myself, how is all this possible, don’t we remember what happened in the past one hundred years when nationalists came to power, don’t we know that helping each other and working together for a better tomorrow yields much better results than fighting wars, and how can we neglect millions of people who live in inhumane conditions when all of us could prosper. I wanted to focus mostly on the Middle east, since the conditions there are so severe and so deeply connected with every mayor economy on the planet, and to point out the hypocrisy, the money-over-human-lives mentality of the world leaders and their disregard towards the suffering of people, be it the war-torn Arabs or anyone else.
In conclusion, Do I think war, poverty, greed, and protectionism are all serious problems of today’s world? I do. Do I have a step by step plan worked out to solve them all? I do not. I know that I will never be able to solve all the problems, especially not alone, but I truly believe that changes can be made for a better tomorrow. An example could be shifting to renewable energy sources; therefore, we would eliminate the need for oil which has been the apple of discord in the Middle east and perhaps the wars there would stop because of that, leading to diminishing arms sales and shifting the world’s economy to other, more peaceful alternatives. This is just one of the many possibilities what a better future could look like, if only we will all strive to achieve it.
WRITTEN BY MARTIN ZAVRL FOR BESA
PLEASE DIRECT ANY INQUIRY TO AS.BESA @UNIBOCCONI.IT