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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

The Middle East Migrant Crisis

Thousands of migrants–some refugees, some not–are making their way from Islamic countries in the Middle East and Asia to Turkey, then to Greece, Macedonia, Austria and finally, for many, Germany. The largest number come from Syria, but other Islamic countries are represented from as far away as Afghanistan.

The Atlantic reported on the numbers: The number of migrants who have crossed the EU’s borders this year: 340,000. The European Union’s population: 508.2 million. Thus, currently, incoming migrants are 0.067% of the total population. Syria—which is in the midst of a civil war—is the largest source for these migrants. That conflict has created 4 million refugees.

• Of these, 1.9 million are in Turkey (population 75 million),
• 1.1 million are in Lebanon (population 4.4 million),
• 629,245 in Jordan (population 6.459 million).

The US has about 1,500—though that number could increase. There are zero in the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia.

Today’s Afghans and Pakistani refugees are economic refugees. But the Syrians are not economic refugees, they are refugees from war and chaos. They are seeking refuge from a civil war which has been exacerbated by ISIS. That the US, Turkey and the Gulf Countries are actively waging war on Syrian soil vs. ISIS adds to the plight of the Syrians.

And it is about to get worse for the Syrians. From the NYT:

Russia has sent a military advance team to Syria and is taking other steps the United States fears may signal that President Vladimir V. Putin is planning to vastly expand his military support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, administration officials said Friday.

The Russian moves include transport of prefabricated housing units to Latakia, Syria’s principal port city, and the delivery of a portable air traffic control station there.

All this occurs on top of the US, Turkey and Arab forces implementing new plans to enter Syria in order to fight ISIS, primarily using more air attacks. That may explain Russia’s actions, since, from the start of the civil war in Syria, Russia has made it clear that they would not tolerate a “no fly zone” over Syria. In 2013, Russian officials, including a strongly worded statement by Putin,  formally objected to a Syrian “no fly zone”, which may now be precisely a goal of the US.

So, Syrians should expect more instability in the name of creating stability. More will leave town.

This means that the situation is utterly intractable. An intractable situation is not a “problem” that can be “solved”: It is a fact which must be reckoned with.

Over time, it is likely that there will be a huge internal backlash against European politicians, like Germany’s Ms. Merkel, if more migrants are allowed into the EU. Wages are stagnant or falling in Europe and unemployment is still high. The last thing people in Europe want right now is more competition in the labor market. Parties on the extreme right will profit from this while the center right will lose support.

Why are Ms. Merkel and other leaders in the EU willing to pay this price? Theories abound regarding what to do about this tsunami of refugees/migrants. Here is Jim Kunstler: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

So, the idea that the nations currently [believing] themselves “rich” can take in, shelter, and employ the masses fleeing MENA (and elsewhere) is absurd. Somehow the people in charge, plus the intellectual classes who shape opinion and consensus, are going to have to arrive at some clear notion of limits and boundaries.

There have been irresistible human migrations throughout time, and Western nations are witnessing the beginning of another one. But in this case, the current migratory problem is a self-inflicted wound brought about by the Assad regime, and America’s and its allies’ policies of regime change.

The desire to help is human, and universal. Many global organizations embrace the concept of “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P), which says states forfeit aspects of their sovereignty when they fail to protect their populations from mass atrocities or human rights violations. In that case, it falls on all countries to enforce the R2P. Yet, in this situation, the R2P concept has already failed the Syrian people.

And it shows no sign of improving.

The only solution is to end the perpetual ME war. Western intervention in the region has been a disaster, as far back as the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the 1920s. That started this mess with the drawing of arbitrary borders in the ME.

It is now time for locals to take up the R2P.

This means Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt − all ME economic powerhouses with huge armies, have to ally to stamp out the ME hostilities. And to create enforceable ME borders, so that eventually, it will be possible to return today’s refugees to safe areas within their homelands.

Otherwise, the big ME powers will be the ultimate losers in the current ME debacle.

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  • Terry McKenna says:

    While I agree that Turkey et al have big armies, etc. I can also see that they too do not want to get in as deep as they would need to in order to stop ISIS and Assad. Nor do they want to stop ISIS without stopping Assad. I think we are in a zone of change, and so we won’t know what was right, or even what works until maybe a few decades pass.
    As far as refugees, I believe the US has some responsibility for creating the mess over there, but has good reason to fear that the refugees are a risk. We have seen how some of the children of Muslim immigrants (small numbers but disturbing) become disaffected and are a threat to whatever nation takes them in. While problems occur less in the US than in Europe, we still see some of this here. In any case there is no will to let refugee in to the US. So for the moment, I just hope the fighting eventually ends.

    September 9, 2015 at 9:02 am

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