A Strategic Net Assessment of Northwestern Syria


Manage episode 254651672 series 1358247
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Kamran Bokhari sits down with Sasha Ghosh-Siminoff, executive director of People Demand Change about developments in Syria, particularly the Idlib Province. Bokhari describes Idlib as a “multi-player battlespace,” where numerous different forces such as jihadists, Syrian rebels, Russians, and Syrian regime forces are at work. Ghosh-Siminoff notes that it is important for people to grasp the complexities of Idlib, which has been under opposition control for about eight and a half years. Not only are numerous forces present in the area, but the opposition-controlled space known as Idlib actually contains bits and pieces of other provinces, and the space has expanded and retracted repeatedly. Ghosh-Siminoff points out that 3 million people are living in “Greater Idlib,” and between 60 and 80 percent of them are women and children. After the regime regained some territory, the area where these 3 million internally displaced persons are living is half what it once was. Idlib has become something of a depository for defeated rebel fighters and others who remain unreconciled with the Syrian regime. The only choice they were given, Ghosh-Siminoff says, was to go to Idlib – an area that has been bombed repeatedly by Syrian and Russian forces. The years of bombing campaigns have wrecked the infrastructure in Idlib so that there is no healthcare system or educational system to speak of. Moreover, the makeup of the population of Idlib – mostly women and children – shows that the rationale for the continued bombings – that they are targeting terrorists – is spurious, Ghosh-Siminoff says: “This is about emptying a piece of geographic space of people who oppose the Assad regime.” Turkey is in a difficult position; it has already taken in 3 million Syrian refugees, and economic and political factors make taking in another 3 million untenable. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in such a position that he cannot appear weak and cannot let these refugees into his country. Russia’s long game in Syria likely involves using the ongoing conflict as a wedge to separate Turkey and the United States – if not to pry Turkey away from NATO entirely. The United States’ inaction, despite Turkey’s requests for guidance and a proactive solution to the Syria crisis, is a sore point for the Turkish government, as is Europe’s displeasure with taking in 800,000 refugees when Turkey has taken in millions, Ghosh-Siminoff says. He also says that U.S. government officials argue that if the Assad regime falls without an organized opposition to take over or a plan for Syria’s future, the situation in Syria will be worse than it is now. However, Ghosh-Siminoff says, the inaction in Syria has created a crisis that has affected the entire Middle East and created unintended consequences for Europe’s political situation. Moreover, a lack of a solution in Syria has left an opening for Salafist-jihadist ideology to take over. As Syrians assess their situation and wonder why no one has helped them, why they were “trapped in this death camp that Syria has become,” Ghosh-Siminoff says, that ideology offers answers. He concludes by saying that leaving millions of young people at the mercy of that ideology will create a long-term security crisis.

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