July 3, 2012
In light of political instability and conflicts occurring in the Arab Spring, Khalid Koser of Brookings-LSE discusses the three matters that are of concern to the MENA regions regarding migration and displacement:
- New and Continuing Displacement
In Syria, 156,000 people have been displaced this past year, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, making the total of internally displaced persons 589,000. The UNHCR has an estimate of more than “88,000 registered Syrian refugees, in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.” The UNHCR issued a regional appeal in March 2012 for $84 million to combat a food shortage and absence of rudimentary household items for many Syrian refugees, was only funded at 36 percent as of May. The properties of many of the IDPs have been looted or damaged according to The International Committee of the Red Cross reports. Buildings that sheltered many IDPs do not have water and electricity access, as well as have been damaged. As the level of violence in Syria increases so does the number of those fleeing for safety- a matter of deep concern since Syria hosts about one million Iraqi refugees, 100,000 of which receive UNHCR aid, and nearly half a million Palestinian refugees. Reports say that some Iraqi refugees have returned back to Iraq. Parts of the Syrian regime have accused the Palestinians of supporting the revolution, worrying analysts that the regime may attack the refugee camps, but widespread violence, displacing some Palestinians is more probable. An estimated 175,000 people have been displaced this year in Yemen and the estimated half million displaced last year in Libya have returned home, yet 70,000 people continue to be internally displaced. Of great worry are the outcome of Qaddafi supporters and the restitution of property.
- Filling the Protection Gap for Foreign Nationals
The violence in Libya displaced half a million foreign nationals that relied on a combined effort by the UNHCR and the International Organization on Migration, as they “fell into a legal grey zone.” Most foreign nationals have returned to their home countries, but many remain internally displaced in Libya. Returnees face employment, financial and housing difficulties upon return to their home countries, however attracting foreign nationals to return to Libya will be a struggle. In response to the large-scale displacement of foreign nationals, the international community has begun to form contingency and evacuation plans, as well as other planned responses to the future displacement of foreign nationals.
“At the level of international institutions, the focus for IOM’s annual International Dialogue on Migration in 2012 was ‘Migration Consequences of Complex Crises.’ Among the chair’s recommendations were: greater coordination between humanitarian, migration and development policies and actors in order to better integrate the different principles and procedures often adopted in these separate realms; and more coherent links between short-, medium- and long-term responses. Another recommendation was for vulnerability mapping, acknowledging that existing categories for crisis-affected populations do not always capture the vulnerabilities experienced by those displaced in crises. A third recommendation was for more innovative partnerships between the various U.N. agencies, international and non-governmental agencies involved in migration crises such as Libya, but also including a role for the private sector. There may, for example, be a role for the private sector in the provision of micro-insurance to migrants to help them cope with emergency situations.”
- Developing Regional Protection Frameworks
Egypt and Tunisia have been applauded for keeping their borders open to Libyan refugees, however, Egypt has been criticized for not protecting the refugees during the Egyptian revolution and Tunisia has been criticized for not inhibiting refugees from trying to reach Europe by boat. The MENA has poor framework for the protection of displaced people as for the most part they “are not signatories of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol… Even in those countries in the region that are signatories, international protection principles have tended to be poorly applied.” The UNHCR is currently working on helping Egypt and Tunisia improve their legislation regarding refugees and asylum seekers. “And direct experience of displacement, combined with regime change based on concerns about dignity, rights, social justice, legitimate governance and representative democracy, should provide an opportunity to strengthen international protection principles, at both the national and regional levels.”
Brookings, Migration, Displacement and the Arab Spring: Prospects for the Next Year, Read more
Reva Bhalla, writing for Stratfor, discusses sanctions on Iran and U.S.-Iranian negotiations as news sanctions are imposed, attempting to ultimately target Tehran’s “resources that otherwise would be allocated to Iran’s nuclear weapons program.” However, there have been ways for Iran to skirt sanctions through front companies. Iran depends on tax haven nations to “switch out flags, names, registered owners and agents, and addresses of owners and agents.” While the U.S. Treasury Department is aware of these tactics, numerous shell companies “operating under different names and flags can be created in the time it takes a single sanctions lawsuit to be drawn up.” Many nations have cut their Iranian oil imports in recent months, however, many nations overlook “shell practices to maintain their crude oil supply at steep discounts.” The Obama administration is aware of the shortfalls of sanctions, but U.S. legislators plan to compose “stricter sanctions legislation in an effort to track down more Iranian shell companies…the U.S. administration is rumoured to be preparing a list of options by which it can selectively repeal the sanctions for when it sits down at a negotiating table with Iran.”
In an editorial appearing in U.S. foreign policy journal The National Interest, two insiders of the Iranian regime, Iranian political analyst Mohammad Ali Shabani and former member of Iranian nuclear negotiating team Seyed Hossein Mousavian, communicated several key points on behalf of Tehran:
-The United States and Iran must continue to negotiate.
-Sanctions hurt Iran economically but by no means paralyze Iranian trade.
– Iran cannot be sure that any bilateral agreement made with the United States will be honoured by a new administration come November.
– The United States must abandon any policy intended to bring about regime change in Tehran.
– Washington has few remaining options other than military intervention, which is an unlikely outcome.
– Iran can significantly increase pressure on the United States by, for example, threatening the security of the Strait of Hormuz, an act that would raise the price of U.S. oil.
The Strait of Hormuz acts as a point of contention as Iran and the U.S. “have an understanding that allows for the free flow of oil through the strait.” Iran can close the strait and use that as a negotiating tool. This act could make “everything from the sanctions campaign to U.S. covert backing of Syrian rebels to the nuclear program,” negotiable.
Stratfor, Negotiations Behind U.S. Sanctions Against Iran, Read more
The Syrian Army is detrimental to the survival of the Assad led Syrian-regime, according to Jeffrey White of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. In the face of an expanding opposition, casualties and defections, the Syrian Army “will break, disintegrate, or withdraw to the Alawite heartland in order to preserve remnants of the regime. Alternatively, some units may move against the regime in order to save themselves.” Fighting between the Syrian Army and the opposition has been growing across key regions and more than eighty locations across Syria experienced combat. In June, more than 250 clashes occurred, the most clashes since the start of the conflict, showcasing the intensifying pace of the conflict. The regime forces face four challenges as the conflict intensifies: “Growing opposition capabilities, Geography, Tempo of operation and Attrition.” The Syrian army is unlikely to emerge triumphant using the tactic of “wearing down the opposition.” Regime forces have been unsuccessful at establishing new uses of its resources and there lies little “prospect for serious analysis of the challenges and implementation of realistic solutions…Although it has routinely employed field artillery against civilian and military targets, it could use such weapons much more widely and intensely. No place in Syria has witnessed the kind of artillery bombardment that the army is capable of inflicting.”
On the other hand, the regime benefits from having Alawite loyal generals and soldiers. Soldier loyalty to the Assad regime continues due to “personal commitment or benefits in the form of position, privileges, or pay. Others fear the consequences of regime change or desertion.” If the Syrian Army cannot address the challenges it faces, “it will likely collapse, though precisely when is difficult to determine.” Steady collapse of the regime forces is most likely to occur, but the Free Syrian Army must improve its “planning, intelligence, combat. And command-and-control capabilities would presumably speed this process even further.” The regime is forecast to fall in the event “the army breaks, and the opposition must have something ready to replace it.”
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Mounting Pressure on the Syrian Army, Read More
Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Emanuele Ottolenghi, discussed the cons to intervention in Syria and what alternatives exist. Support for the fractioned opposition in Syria that may have elements of al-Qaeda “suggest that the toppling of the Assad dynasty may give way to an even worse regime.” The fear that Assad’s stroking of sectarian differences could plunge the nation into “anarchy if the regime were removed” exists as Assad uses sectarian differences to his advantage. “Anarchy would leave the vast stockpile of Syria’s weapons- including, crucially, its WMD arsenal- up for grabs among the warring factions…The danger that sectarianism may engulf ethnic communities across the border – the Kurds first and foremost – is already real.”
Iran and Hezbollah have become involved with support the Assad regime as they have a vested strategic interest in Syria. For economic purposes, such as weapons’ sales, Russia has become active in supporting the Assad regime. “Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are trying to support those they favour to come up on top – chiefly the Muslim Brotherhood – as a way to increase their influence.” A post-Assad regime may see the rise of Islamists that “will not be friendlier to the West. And under the fog of war and a looming defeat, a dying [Assad] regime may seriously contemplate using chemical and biological weapons, transferring them to their Lebanese proxies, or unleashing a war against Israel to tip the regional balance of sympathy in their favor,” making intervention costly and objectionable.
Alternatives to intervention include the assassination of al-Assad, supplying the opposition with “weapons that can countenance the regime’s,” and create “humanitarian corridors and buffer zones along Syria’s border with Turkey could alleviate civilian suffering and chip away at the regime’s confidence.”
Foundation for Defense of Democracies, The Syrian Conundrum, Read More