Trump threatens Turkey with economic devastation

Donald Trump recently announced that the United States would be withdrawing their troops from Syria. This raised questions about the fate of the Kurds who had been supported and used by the US, but are opposed by Turkey.

Trump has answered in his typical bluster and threat style, via Twitter:

“Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds. Create 20 mile safe zone…Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey.”

What if the Kurds attack Turkish forces? Should Turkey not respond for fear of economic devastation?

What if Russia…? What if Iran…?

What would economic devastation mean for Turkey and the Middle East and the Mediterranean?

Reuters: Trump threatens Turkey with economic devastation if it attacks Syrian Kurd militia

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened Turkey with economic devastation if it attacks a U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in Syria, drawing a sharp rebuke from Ankara on Monday and reviving fears of another downturn in ties between the NATO allies.

Relations between the United States and Turkey have long been strained by Washington’s support for the Kurdish YPG, which Turkey views as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that is waging a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.

Speaking in Riyadh, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he did not think the threat would change plans to withdraw troops from Syria. Asked what Trump meant by economic devastation, he said: “You’ll have to ask the president.”

“We have applied economic sanctions in many places, I assume he is speaking about those kinds of things, Pompeo said, adding he had not spoken with Ankara since Trump’s comment.

So it sounds like Trump’s Secretary of State doesn’t know what the hell Trump is playing at. This isn’t an unusual situation for Trump’s administration. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned over Trump’s Syrian withdrawal announcement.

Trump has already impacted significantly on the Turkish economy.

Ankara is well aware of the cost of strained ties with the United States. A diplomatic crisis last year, when Trump imposed sanctions on two of President Tayyip Erdogan’s ministers and raised tariffs on Turkish metal exports, helped push the Turkish lira to a record low in August.

Things are getting crazier, with Trump letting loose on Twitter making seemingly impulsive, destablilising (for his Administration and for the world) and potentially devastating pronouncements.


Reuters Explainer: Where do the Kurds fit into Syria’s war?

The future of Kurdish-led swathes of northern and eastern Syria has been thrown into doubt by President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops who have helped secure the territory.

The region, roughly a quarter of Syria, is the largest chunk of the country still outside the control of President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran.

Syrian Kurdish leaders fear Turkey, which sees them as a threat, will use a U.S. pullout as an opportunity to mount an assault into northern Syria.

This has driven them to talk to Moscow and Damascus in the hope of agreeing a deal to protect the region and safeguarding their political gains.

The Russians will be quietly looking for any advantage they can take over the Us withdrawal from Syria.

HOW DID THE KURDS EMERGE AS A FORCE?

The main Syrian Kurdish faction, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), began to establish a foothold in the north early in the war as government forces withdrew to put down the anti-Assad uprising elsewhere. An affiliated militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), secured the region.

Early in the conflict, their control was concentrated in three predominantly Kurdish regions home to roughly 2 million Kurds. Kurdish-led governing bodies were set up.

The area of YPG influence expanded as the fighters joined forces with the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State (IS), becoming the spearhead of a multi-ethnic militia alliance, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

SDF influence widened to Manbij and Raqqa as IS was defeated in both. It has also reached deep into Deir al-Zor, where the SDF is still fighting IS. The SDF, which also includes Arab and other groups, says it has more than 70,000 fighters.

Kurdish leaders say their aim is regional autonomy within a decentralized Syria, not independence.

The Syrian Government would probably not react well to an bid for full independence.

WHY DOES TURKEY VIEW THEM AS A THREAT?

The PYD is heavily influenced by the ideas of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a 34-year insurgency in Turkey for Kurdish political and cultural rights. Ocalan has been in jail since 1999 in Turkey. He is convicted of treason.

The PKK is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Turkey says the PKK is indistinguishable from the PYD and YPG.

So the US has been supporting an organisation they have designated terrorists?

Turkey has a Kurdish minority equal to 15 to 20 percent of its population, mostly living in eastern and southeastern areas bordering Syria. Wary of separatistism, Turkey views the PYD’s Syrian foothold as a security threat.

Turkey has already mounted two cross-border offensives in northern Syria as part of its efforts to counter the YPG.

Now Trump has threatened Turkey not to do that.

FOR KURDS, IS ASSAD A FRIEND OR FOE?

Syria’s Baathist state systematically oppressed the Kurds before the war. Yet the YPG and Damascus have broadly stayed out of each other’s way during the conflict, despite occasional clashes. They also have been seen to cooperate against shared foes, notably in and around Aleppo.

The YPG has allowed the Syrian state to keep a foothold in some of its areas. The YPG commander told Reuters in 2017 it would have no problem with the Assad government if Kurdish rights are guaranteed in Syria.

But Damascus has long opposed Kurdish autonomy demands and talks between the two sides last year went nowhere.

It’s complicated. And difficult to see a lasting solution.

WHAT WOULD AN ASSAD-KURD DEAL MEAN FOR THE WAR?

The territory held by Damascus and the Kurdish-led authorities accounts for most of Syria. A political settlement – if one could be reached, perhaps with Russian help – could go a long way to stitching the map back together.

Anti-Assad insurgents, though defeated across much of Syria by the government and its allies, still have a foothold in the northwest stretching from Idlib through Afrin to Jarablus. Turkey has troops on the ground in this area.

The rebels include Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army groups and jihadists.

Assad also wants Turkey out as he vows to recover “every inch” of Syria.

It’s very complicated.

I don’t think Trump can deal with complexities, apart from making them more complex with his ad hoc impulsiveness and threats.

Some good may accidentally emerge from his approach, but there is a far greater likelihood he will make things worse.

Russia will be seeing how they can benefit from all of this. I can’t see Trump deliberately aiding Russia here, but that is a highly likely inadvertent outcome.

 

Trump changes Syrian war, Kurds feel betrayed

Donald Trump surprised many people and countries with his sudden decision to withdraw US troops from Syria. In protest US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Brett McGurk, a senior official coordinating the fight against Islamic State, resigned.

Trump’s decision has forced a sudden chaange of approach in the war by Turket, and Syrian Kurds, used by the US in the war but regarded as terrorists by Turkey, feel betrayed.

Reuters – Syrian surprise: How Trump’s phone call changed the war

President Donald Trump’s declaration in a phone call with Tayyip Erdogan that he was pulling U.S. troops from Syria has stunned Turkey and left it scrambling to respond to the changing battlefield on its southern border.

In the phone call two weeks ago, Trump had been expected to deliver a standard warning to the Turkish president over his plan to launch a crossborder attack targeting U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in northeast Syria, U.S. officials say.

Instead, in the course of the conversation Trump reshaped U.S. policy in the Middle East, abandoning a quarter of Syrian territory and handing Ankara the job of finishing off Islamic State in Syria.

“Trump asked: ‘If we withdraw our soldiers, can you clean up ISIS?’”, a Turkish official told Reuters. He said Erdogan replied that Turkish forces were up to the task.

“Then you do it,” Trump told him abruptly. To his national security adviser John Bolton, also on the call, Trump said: “Start work for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.”

“I have to say it was an unexpected decision. The word ‘surprise’ is too weak to describe the situation,” said the official, one of five Turkish sources who spoke to Reuters about the Dec. 14 call between the two leaders.

Trump’s decision was also a shock in Washington, where senior administration officials, including Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, tried for days to change the president’s mind, U.S. officials said. When Trump made clear he would not back down, Mattis and a senior official coordinating the fight against Islamic State, Brett McGurk, both resigned.

For Turkey, Trump’s decision offers opportunity and risk.

Ankara has complained bitterly for years that the United States, a NATO ally, had chosen the Kurdish YPG militia as its main partner on the ground in Syria against Islamic State.

Turkey says the YPG is a terrorist group, inseparable from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has waged an insurgency in southeast Turkey in which 40,000 people have been killed.

The U.S. withdrawal potentially frees Turkey’s military to push the YPG back from 500 km of border without risking a confrontation with American forces. It also removes a main cause of this year’s diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

But it also opens up an area of Syria far larger than anything Turkey had expected to fill, potentially pitting it against not just Kurdish forces but also the Damascus government – which is committed to regaining control of all of Syria – and its Russian and Iranian backers.

The YPG on Friday asked the Syrian government to take over the town of Manbij, which the Kurdish militia currently controls with U.S. support, to protect it from Turkish attack.

And if Turkish forces are to take on Islamic State in its last pocket of Syrian territory near the Iraqi border, they would first have to cross 250 km of territory controlled by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces.

“Erdogan got more than he bargained for,” said Soner Cagaptay, Director of the Turkish Program at the Washington Institute. “He had asked the U.S. to drop the YPG, but not withdraw from Syria”.

Alliances between groups fighting in Syria and countries involved in the war are complicated. Trump’s decision will force other countries to rethink their involvement, and will no doubt change the power struggles within and over Syria.

New York Times:  Syria’s Kurds, Feeling Betrayed by the U.S., Ask Assad Government for Protection

Feeling betrayed by the United States, its Kurdish allies in Syria asked the Syrian government on Friday to protect them from possible attack by Turkey.

The request surprised some American officials and could help open the way for the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, backed by Russia and Iran, to start retaking the Kurdish-held part of the country near Turkey’s border.

That would be a big step toward Mr. Assad’s goal of reclaiming all of Syria, upended by almost eight years of war.

It was also the first sign that President Trump’s abrupt announcement last week that he was withdrawing American troops from Syria was not only shifting alliances in the conflict but directly benefiting Mr. Assad — a brutal autocrat once described by Mr. Trump as an “animal” responsible for chemical attacks and other atrocities.

American-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or Y.P.G., said the Syrian government should send troops to the city of Manbij, near the Turkish border.

The request amounted to a United States ally calling on an enemy of the United States to protect it from another American ally, Turkey.

The Kurdish militias are regarded by Turkey as dangerous, autonomy-minded insurgents. The United States regards them as valuable partners in helping rout Islamic State extremists from Syria — the original purpose of the American military deployment four years ago.

Although the American troops in Syria number only about 2,000, they have been a deterrent to an assault on the Kurdish militias by the Turks. The American presence also discouraged Mr. Assad’s forces from sweeping into the area even as they retook major areas elsewhere from anti-government fighters, often with the support of Russia and Iran.

Mr. Trump’s surprise announcement that he would pull American troops had raised fears of a scramble by competing forces to exploit the resulting vacuum.

It’s hard to know whether trump understands the implications of his sudden decision or not.

Groups controlling land in Syria:

 

The areas run by the Kurds in Syria have long stood apart in the conflict. They had hoped, with their American friends, to pioneer an alternative model for Syria’s future.

While none of the other powers fighting in Syria liked the situation, they mostly avoided attacking the area for fear of provoking the United States. Now, with that deterrent set to end, the future of the northeast is up in the air.

Those most likely to gain, analysts say, are the Syrian government and its allies, who want to bring the northeast back under the control of Damascus, both for the good of Mr. Assad and for their own interests.

It’s anyone’s guess what will happen in Syria now.

Turkish-Kurdish tensions rise in Syria

There has always been tension between Kurds in northern Syria and Turkey in the complex Syrian civil war (albeit with a number of other countries directly involved including Russia and the USA).

Reuters reports that there could be yet another open conflict in the mix, with the ead of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia saying that Turkish military deployments near Kurdish-held areas amounted to a “declaration of war”.

Kurdish YPG militia expects conflict with Turkey in northern Syria

The head of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said on Wednesday that Turkish military deployments near Kurdish-held areas of northwestern Syria amounted to a “declaration of war” which could trigger clashes within days.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus retorted that his country was not declaring war but that its forces would respond to any hostile move by the YPG, which he described as a small-scale army formed by the United States.

The mounting tensions between two U.S. allies in northwestern Syria risk opening yet another front in the multi-sided conflict, in which outside powers are playing ever greater roles.

Asked by Reuters whether he expected a conflict with Turkey in northern Syria, where the two sides have exchanged artillery fire in recent days, YPG Commander Sipan Hemo accused Turkey of preparing for a major military campaign in the Aleppo and Afrin area.

“These (Turkish) preparations have reached level of a declaration of war and could lead to the outbreak of actual clashes in the coming days,” he said in emailed comments. “We will not stand idly by against this potential aggression.”

Turkey’s policy in northern Syria has been focused on containing the growing sway of Kurdish groups that have established autonomous regions since Syria’s war began in 2011.

Ankara says the YPG represents a security threat, seeing it as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been fighting an insurgency against the Turkish state for decades.

The Kurds were left without their own state when the United Kingdom broke a promise and prevented Kurdish autonomy after the Ottoman Empire was broken up and borders imposed by the UK and France, leaving the Kurds as large minorities in both Syria and Iraq as well as in southern Turkey. See  Treaty of Sèvres and Treaty of Lausanne.

The USA has been supporting and arming the Kurds in the current conflict, but Turkey has been unhappy with this.

BBC: Syria war: Turkey will never accept US alliance with Kurds – Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has indicated after talks in Washington that he will never accept a US alliance with Kurdish forces fighting in Syria.

“There is no place for terrorist organisations in the future of our region,” he said at a joint news conference with President Donald Trump.

He was referring to the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, following a US decision earlier this month to arm the group.

“It is absolutely unacceptable to take the YPG-PYD into consideration as partners in the region, and it’s going against a global agreement we reached,” Mr Erdogan said on Tuesday.

Peace in Syria looks a difficult prospect, as does peace in the Middle East.

An escalation of the Kurdish-Turkish tensions won’t help, especially if it results in yet another sub-war.

Syrian ceasefire

A ceasefire agreement has been reached between the Syrian Government and rebel groups and is backed by Russia and Turkey – but it doesn’t include jihadist groups.

RNZ: Syria ceasefire agreed, backed by Russia and Turkey

The Syrian government and rebel groups have agreed a nationwide ceasefire that will begin within hours.

The deal was announced by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and confirmed by Turkey. The two nations, which back opposing sides, will act as guarantors.

The High Negotiations Committee (HNC), regarded by the UN as Syria’s main opposition body, confirmed the deal, which excludes jihadist groups.

If the truce holds, peace talks will be held in Kazakhstan within a month.

‘If the truce holds’ may be a big IF. Government and 13 factions have signed the ceasefire.

On the one side, Syrian government forces, their factional allies and the Russian military.

On the other, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a loose alliance of several moderate rebel factions, plus other groups under the HNC, the umbrella group representing Syria’s political and armed opposition factions.

FSA spokesman Osama Abu Zaid said there were 13 armed opposition factions in all who had signed up.

That’s a lot of factions involved in the civil war.

But there’s others who are not a part of this agreement.

Jihadists. So-called Islamic State (IS) “and the groups affiliated to them” are not part of the agreement, Syria’s army confirmed.

It also said Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly the Nusra Front) was excluded. However, some rebel officials told Reuters it was part of the deal, giving a hint of the complications that lie ahead.

This is because JFS is intrinsically linked in Idlib province to groups that have signed up to the truce.

The FSA also said that the deal did not include the Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG).

The YPG, along with other Kurdish militias, controls a large area of northern Syria up the Turkish border. It is regarded by Turkey as a terrorist organisation and an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

So some of the battles may cease but the war is likely to continue against ISIS and Kurds.

But it’s a promising sign that at least some of the internal factions are willing to stop fighting.

Shearer on Syria and Turkey etc

David Shearer posted on Facebook:

Overnight, Turkey crossed the border into Syria: that’s a major escalation.

New York Times: Turkey, Sending More Tanks Into Syria, Steps Up Pressure on Kurds

BBC: Turkey warns Syrian Kurds to withdraw east of Euphrates

CNN: Why Turkey sending tanks into Syria is significantTurkish authorities have been pressed into taking action against ISIS by the surge of suicide bombings in Turkey, as well as the terror group’s use of safe houses and “informal” financial services on Turkish soil. But Turkey is anxious that ISIS’ vulnerability could provide an opportunity for their “other” enemy in northern Syria — the Kurdish YPG militia — who have taken several villages near Jarablus recently.

Syria, Iraq, Turkey, ISIS, the Kurds, Russia, USA, France – it’s very complicated.

Shearer:

The conflict in Syria is complicated, it’s horrific – almost daily there are serious breaches of humanitarian law including the bombing of hospitals. It’s something NZ is trying to lead on in the UN Security Council, sadly without much success.

Given the conflict has gone on for such a long time it can sometimes be hard to remember how it began. I’d recommend this backgrounder from the BBC:


Syria: The story of the conflict

More than 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives in four-and-a-half years of armed conflict, which began with anti-government protests before escalating into a full-scale civil war. More than 11 million others have been forced from their homes as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule battle each other – as well as jihadist militants from so-called Islamic State. This is the story of the civil war so far, in eight short chapters.

Correcting Obama on Middle East conflicts

In his State of the Union address President Barack Obama stated that conflicts in the Middle East “date back millennia.”

This has been disputed by Arab researcher and Arab Spring activist Iyad El-Baghdadi who also pointsb out that it isn’t rooted in Shiite versus Sunni conflict.

From Obama’s speech:

The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia.

Both al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage. They use the Internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country. Their actions undermine and destabilize our allies. We have to take them out.

But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands.

But they do not threaten our national existence. That is the story ISIL wants to tell. That’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit. We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, and we sure don’t need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is somehow representative of one of the world’s largest religions.

There’s a lot of deliberate propaganda and ignorant inaccuracies in discussions on Middle East and related Muslim issues.

El-Baghdadi (Iyad El-Baghdadi @iyad_elbaghdadi) has tweeted as number of clarifications.

On claims that Sunni versus Shiite conflict has been entrenched for a long time.

In the late 19th century, Shiite scholar Al Afghani was a prominent member of the anti-colonialist, pan-Islamic revival movement.

Al Afghani’s disciple was none other than prominent Sunni scholar Mohammad Abduh, who would later become Egypt’s Grand Mufti.

One of the Sunni Abduh’s lasting works was his commentary on Nahj al Balagha, one of most important Shia references.

In 1931, Iraqi Shia cleric Kashif al Ghita led Sunni clerics in prayers in Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, at an anti-imperialist conference.

In the 1940s, Pakistan, a majority Sunni state, was founded by Jinnah, a Shiite Muslim.

In the early 1950s people answering the Iraq census didn’t know whether to pick “Sunni” or “Shia” coz many were mixed.

In 1958, Egypt’s Grand Mufti declared that Shiism will be taught in Al Azhar as the fifth school alongside Sunni schools of jurisprudence.

In the 1960s Sunni Saudi Arabia supported the Zaydi Shias in Yemen in a civil war against Egypt-supported Republicans.

In the 1980s, the majority of the Iraqi army fighting Iran in the Iraq-Iran war was made up of Arab Shias.

In the 1990s & 2000s, Shiite Iran supported Sunni Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The Sunni versus Shiite claims often ignore the significant Kurd component of the Middle East mix.

As a whole, the Kurdish people are adherents to a large number of different religions and creeds, perhaps constituting the most religiously diverse people of West Asia. Traditionally, Kurds have been known to take great liberties with their practices. This sentiment is reflected in the saying “Compared to the unbeliever, the Kurd is a Muslim”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurds

Catholics versus Protestants was seen as a major factor in the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland but it was only a part of the problems that were more union versus independence, and didn’t mean all Catholics and Protestants had been in conflict forever.

It’s common for religious and ethnic groups to become allied in conflicts and power struggles (which is what most conflicts are) but the religion or the ethnicity is not necessarily the problem.

El-Baghdadi pointed out problems when weapons and power create conflict, often using   “divide and conquer” as a tactic.

The current dynamic isn’t a conflict of sectarianism but a willful and cynical sectarianization of a regional power struggle.

Tyrants are rarely ideologically committed to Sunnism or Shiism; but are happy to exploit either when it’s expedient.

Sectarianization became the pragmatic thing to do. Hatemongering ideologues became useful and hence became stars on TV and media.

Hatemongering ideologues also play a part in social media blogs, often being useful for and used by the enemy.

Fact is, I acknowledge the old theological rift and the communal differences but I emphasize their modern political weaponization.

Has the region been sectarianized? Yes. Are the differences real? Yes. Is the current war posturing an ancient theological dispute? No.

It is exploiting religious differences in a power struggle.

Many theological and communal differences are innocuous, mundane, and not particularly deadly, until they are weaponized for power.

In civil wars and in inter-state wars factions of convenience are often exploited by those seeking power and control of territory.

The country borders of the Middle East hadn’t naturally evolved, they were imposed by colonial powers in the relatively recent past – mostly in the split up of the Ottoman Empire after World War 1. France was mostly responsible for splitting up the ‘Levant’ area (Palestine-Syria) after WW1.

ISIS doesn’t care about the imposed borders  and is operating where it thinks it can establish a power base across Syria and Iraq (ISIL=Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).

They have tried to exploit ongoing problems in Iraq (in part created by the US invasion) plus the civil war in Syria.

President Obama appears to be trying to present the US as a solver of Middle East problems “that date back millennia”.

Our foreign policy hast to be focused on the threat from ISIL and al Qaeda, but it can’t stop there. For even without ISIL, even without al Qaeda, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world — in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, parts of Pakistan, in parts of Central America, in Africa, and Asia. Some of these places may become safe havens for new terrorist networks. Others will just fall victim to ethnic conflict, or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees.

The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet-bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.

“The world” does not look to the US to solve these problems. Quite a bit of the world see the US as a meddler that makes things worse.

Some claim that ISIS arose due to the US invasion of Iraq earlier this century. It has certainly had some negative effects and the problems look a long way from being solved despite the tough talk of Obama and the  bombs dropped by the US and other countries with colonial history in the Middle East.

The current Syrian situation is far from as simple as Sunni versus Shiite.

Syrian civil war.png

And that’s just part of the problem that doesn’t show the Iraqi divisions. Here’s a wider view:

Syrian, Iraqi, and Lebanese insurgencies.png

Military situation as of January 11, 2016, in the Iraqi, Syrian, and Lebaneseconflicts.

ISISMaplegend

Note: Iraq and Syria contain large desert areas with limited populations. These areas are mapped as under the control of forces holding roads and towns within them.

Detailed map of the Syrian Civil War
Detailed map of the Iraqi insurgency
Detailed map of the Lebanese insurgency
Detailed map of the Libyan Civil War
Detailed map of the Nigerian insurgency
Detailed map of the Sinai insurgency
Detailed map of the Yemeni Civil War
Detailed map of the Taliban insurgency

That’s going to take a bit more than some speech writer sound bites from the President of the USA to solve Mr Obama.

Iyad El-Baghdaditweet source: The Conflict in the Middle East Is Not Between Sunnis and Shias and Doesn’t ‘Date Back Millennia’

Lights dim in Syria

A satellite analysis of Syria claims 83 percent of Syria’s lights have gone out since their civil war began in 2011.

These newly released satellite images of Syria at night are staggering: they show that 83 percent of the country’s lights visible at night have gone out, a testament to the appalling human cost of its ongoing civil war.

The widespread devastation wrought by fighting across the country, including by groups like ISIS, and the diversion of resources to the war effort have wreaked havoc on Syrian infrastructure.

As well as infrastructure damage there’s been an estimated 2-3 hundred thousand deaths and more than 2-3 million fleeing to neighbouring countries with over 1 million going to Turkey.

Lebanon (which normally has a population of 4.8 million, a bit more than New Zealand) have had about 667,000 refugees arrive there.

The Syrian population was estimated last year at about 18 million but the source doesn’t state if that accounts for refugees who have left.

March 2011:

SyriaLightsMarch2011

February 2015:
SyriaLightsFebruary2015

Turkey is to the north, Lebanon is lower left with the north of Israel below that.

Syria via Google Earth:

SyriaGoogleEarth

This map from Wikipedia shows how complex the civil war is, with a number of different groups holding territory:

SyriaCivilWar

It’s a huge mess in more ways than one. The relative lack of lights is just one indicator.

How bad are things in New Zealand? For some people life is tough. But relatively, our problems are minor, even with John Key as Prime Minister.