Saturday, January 2, 2016

The "New Normal" in the Mideast | James Zogby

James Zogby is a leading Arab American commentator.  Our dialog is so uninformed that it greatly constrains rational leaders like President Obama.  And it leaves those who would presumably like to be rational Republicans sputtering militaristic rhetoric, and doing little to distance themselves from Trumpian hysterics. - gwc
The "New Normal" | James Zogby (Arab American Institute)

The twin conflicts raging in Iraq and Syria have unleashed an unsettling dynamic that is transforming both the Middle East and the world beyond this deeply troubled region. What is clear is that there is no end in sight to either of these conflicts and that the consequences of the continuing fighting are so profound that is no simple solution that will, any time soon, restore normalcy to either country or to the broader region. As difficult as it may be to ingest, it is imperative to recognize that a "new normal" has been created which policy makers must recognize and to which they must respond accordingly.

Even before the advent of ISIS, Iraq had already experienced massive population transfers that occurred during the civil war that followed America's foolish invasion and occupation of the country. A Shia-led sectarian government had been ushered in by the US, giving Iran new influence over Iraqi affairs. Sunni and Shia neighborhoods had been largely "ethnically cleansed". Minority communities had been removed from ancestral homes. And the Kurdish controlled region had been given all but formal independence over its internal and external affairs. Meanwhile the disenfranchised Sunni Arab population had become so marginalized and embittered by the behavior of the Shia-led government that many fell prey to the lure of the extremist militias.

At the peak of the conflict, one-fifth of Iraq's population had become either refugees or internally displaced persons (IPD). Since then, some Iraqis have returned to their country though not to their homes, but recent fighting has created a new wave of both refugees and IDP's. At present, about one half million Iraqis are registered as refugees, while almost four million are IDP's.

It was a massive and prolonged drought that first displaced large segments of Syria's population. It was this displacement and the mishandling of it by the corrupt and brutal regime in Damascus that precipitated that country's now four-year long war. Like Iraq, Syria's war has become a sectarian conflict.

At last count, one-half of Syria's population have become refugees or IDP's, with over four million having left the country and nearly eight million displaced within Syria. More than two million have fled to Turkey, more than one million are in Lebanon, and about three-quarters of a million are in Jordan....
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