Syria: four million refugees

Submitted by Matthew on 14 January, 2015 - 11:03 Author: Simon Nelson

Lebanon has now revoked the six month residency that it granted Syrians and is enforcing new visa restrictions.

Since 2011 four million Syrians have been forced to leave Syria. Almost half Syria’s population of 11 million people have been displaced.

Lebanon alone has taken in 1.5 million refugees. Many refugees are now living in only slightly worse conditions than the local population and competition for work, aid and resources is now provoking a backlash among Lebanese; a further 220,000 became unemployed in the last quarter of 2014. In comparison, the UK has taken just 1,500 asylum seekers, with 90 granted refugee status.

Sectarian tensions inside Lebanon are now spilling across the border. Shia, Sunni and Christian towns are increasingly isolated from each other as supporters of Hezbollah and the Syrian Assad Government clash with Sunni militias and sections of the army. Car bombs have been set off in the Shia suburbs of Beirut.

US airstrike on Syria have continued but they have not made any decisive blow against Daesh (ISIS) infrastructure. As the bombs pick off groups of fighters, more and more come across the borders or are recruited within the territory Daesh has claimed.

The airstrikes have halted Daesh advances. In Kobane, where there has been the fiercest resistance by the Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, 80% of the city has been reclaimed.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that since November IS had repeatedly tried to advance within Kobane — at one time controlling up to 60% — but were repeatedly forced to defend what they had control of. Since January they have been driven out of the centre of the city.

Within Iraq, Shia militias and the Iraqi army are working directly with, and at times under the guidance of Iran, as they attempt to drive out Daesh. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards are the main source of weapons and logistical support for the militias. Iran wants to maintain its influence in a Shia-majority country.

The US insists it does not coordinate military support with Iran, but...

Iran supplies the majority of its weapons as well as its political patronage through the Shia militias. Such influence is causing tension within the Iraqi “Unity Government” and increases distrust within the Sunni and Kurdish minorities who have been excluded and targeted by sectarian Government policy.

A former leading Taliban commander, Abdul Rauf, is said to have pledged allegiance to Daesh and is now recruiting disenchanted Taliban members to the group. They have clashed with Taliban forces in Helmand province. The change in allegiance seems to have been generated by disagreements amongst the Taliban leadership.

This is the first time Daesh has recruited in Afghanistan. It is not yet clear what level of support they will get or what the consequences might be.

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