Home     Writers     Op/Ed     Book Reviews     News     Bookstore     Photoshops     Submit     Search     Contact Us     Advertise  
  You are here: 





Refugees Bring In Some Brittle Strength
Thursday, 19 April 2007 11:41
by Dahr Jamail

DAMASCUS (IPS) - Syria's decision to accept Iraqi refugees streaming into the country has brought the government of President Bashar Assad more power within Syria and the region, but at significant cost.

The ministry of interior in Syria estimates the total number of Iraqi refugees to be around 1.5 million.

The Syrian government has maintained an "open door" policy towards Iraqi refugees, unlike neighbouring Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait who have been far less welcoming.

This appears to have earned Assad renewed political power within his country. That position, topping his strong stance against U.S. policy in Iraq, has won him support in the wider Arab world as well.

The new support seems to be holding so far despite the negative aspects of the refugee crisis such as homelessness, inflation, unemployment and a huge shift in the social dynamics in the country.

"The Syrian government is becoming more powerful because they are helping the Iraqis by allowing them refuge here in a way that other countries did not," Hassan Maho, a 33-year- old jeweller told IPS. "Politically, the government of Bashar Assad now has more power than these other countries in the region."

Mazen, a 31-year-old trader in downtown Damascus, believes Syria has gained from a failed U.S. policy in Iraq. "The American policy in Iraq is making Syria more powerful," he told IPS. "Doesn't the whole world see this?"

The Bush administration pressure on Bashar Assad by way of accusations of Syrian support to terrorism in Iraq has in fact only "strengthened Syria's political hand in the region," Mazen said.

In 2003 the Bush administration brought in the Syrian Accountability Act, which was passed by Congress, and has been renewed every year since 2004. The act outlaws commerce between the U.S. and Syria.

The Bush administration has recalled its ambassador to Syria, and marginalised Syria's emissary in Washington. U.S. officials continue to say Damascus is supporting Iraqi insurgents.

Members of the Bush administration also regularly accuse Syria of interference in Lebanese affairs.

But Peter Harling, Damascus representative of the International Crisis Group said the Syrian government is unlikely to be aiding insurgents in Iraq.

"They (the Syrian government) have absolutely no interest in fuelling violence in Iraq because it is now threatening them," he told IPS. - You might still have informal networks facilitating border crossings for militants, but the countries' leaders feel extremely concerned with the situation in Iraq, and do not wish to do anything to increase the violence and chaos there."

Harling believes that any political gains for the Syrian government have likely been outweighed by their negative consequences.

"Politically it (the U.S. occupation of Iraq) could have had a positive effect (for Syria) because one could argue that it is now easier for the Syrian government to justify postponing democratic reform," Harling said. "But simultaneously, the growing civil war in Iraq has become such a threat to Syria, and the costs are so high that it is quite possible they've negated any benefits for the Syrian government."

He added that "Syria is in a precarious situation because of the American occupation of Iraq, and it is probably safe to say that Syrian officials are all too aware of this."

Many Syrians, however, have a different perspective.

"The government here dealt with the refugee crisis in a very good way," Mahmoud Omeri who owns a communication business in the capital city told IPS. "When the government accepted the Iraqis here with an open door policy they increased the pressure on the Americans, because it showed the world the Syrian government cares more about the Iraqis than do the Americans."

Kaldoon Safi, a business owner in downtown Damascus said the Syrian government had made refuge easier for fleeing Iraqis in order to gain support for their own political position in the region. "This way they have become more powerful in the Middle East at this time."
More from this author:
U.S. Troops Raid Hospital Again (7511 Hits)
by Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily FALLUJAH, Dec. 14 (IPS) - Iraqi doctors and medical staff are outraged over yet another U.S. military raid at...
It's Either Occupation or Education (7425 Hits)
by Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily BAGHDAD, Dec 18 (IPS) - Two in three children in Iraq have simply stopped going to school, according to a...
Iraqi Hopes Dim Through Worst Year of Occupation (7303 Hits)
by Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily BAGHDAD, Dec. 22 (IPS) - Despite promises from Iraqi and U.S. leaders that 2006 would bring improvement,...
Children Pick Their Christmas Toys - Iraq (8277 Hits)
by Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily FALLUJAH, Dec 25 (IPS) - Ahmed Ghazi has little reason to stock Christmas toys at his shop in Fallujah. He...
When Iraqis Gave Up on Government (9924 Hits)
by Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily BAGHDAD, Dec 27 (IPS) - The Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki, like earlier...
Related Articles:
Some Things You Need To Know Before The World Ends (18428 Hits)
" Thank you for not putting a bomb in your luggage." "President Bush said the United States is still under the threat of attack ...
The Anti-Empire Report - Some things you need to know before the world ends (13003 Hits)
by William Blum The jingo bells are ringing "Who really poses the greatest danger to world peace: Iraq, North Korea or the United...
Let Things Ripen Some on Impeachment: Patience Will Be Rewarded (6282 Hits)
by Andrew Bard Schmookler In the anti-Bushite movement, there is an ongoing clamor for impeachment. Even when someone as ill-suited to ...
Designer Monsters - The Anti-Empire Report - Some Things You Need To Know Before the World Ends (8412 Hits)
by William Blum Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a man seemingly custom-made for the White House in its endless quest for enemies with whom to scare...
Some thoughts of the Creation of the Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela (5285 Hits)
By Andy Goodall - VSC Coordinator December 23rd 2006 Over the coming weeks much discussion will be had on the new Socialist party...

Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites
Comments (0)add comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger



Top 123