By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
The mass migration of refugees streaming from the Middle East, Afghanistan and North Africa have put a wedge into the European Union as what to do with this mass influx of migrants seeking a better a life.
The vast majority of these asylum seekers are coming from Syria and Iraq, with around seven million coming from both countries, fleeing the ongoing civil war and attacks by ISIS.
This influx of migrants has strained the European Union as Eastern European countries such as Hungary struggle to deal with a mass influx of refugees straining the resources of these countries, as many strive to reach Germany with its more relaxed immigration policy.
The hundreds of thousands migrating through Europe have split the European Union, as the wealthy countries such as Germany call for a quota system regarding migrants throughout Europe.
Bloomberg News reported that those calling for a quota system to settle refugees across the EU are committing a “terrible” mistake by sending out a message that everyone is “invited,” Orban said. German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced plans on Monday to spend an extra 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) on refugees next year.
The real issue which has never been articulated is what to do with the source of the instability…the ongoing civil war in Syria, and the instability in Iraq.
The Brookings Institute reported that five years into the Syrian civil war, displacement has become protracted and solutions to the conflict seem further away than ever. While large swaths of Syria are under Islamic State (or ISIS) control, and there is no credible opposition capable of bringing an end to the chaos, the international community—whether in the Middle East or elsewhere—seems incapable of containing the violence and destruction in Syria, let alone bring it to an end. In the meantime, 7.6 million Syrians are internally displaced, while 4.2 million have sought refuge in neighboring countries, principally in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey.
Countries bordering Syria are facing the ongoing humanitarian crisis spilling over into Lebanon, which has its own crisis in governing. Jordan is facilitating over 600,000 Syrian refugees, straining its own resources.
Many may believe this is strictly a European problem, but after a full year of air strikes against ISIS, the situation has been made worse without a clear strategy by the U.S.
Since the “Arab Spring” revolution began in 2011, the U.S. has pursued a conflicting and often confusing strategy toward Syria.
President Obama stated back in August of 2011 that “The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way,” The president continued, “For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.”
Since then the president issued a “redline” in 2013, over Syrian use of chemical weapons, then backed down when Assad called his bluff. This lack of a coherent action further strengthened Assad’s position, especially with strong backing from his patrons, Russia and Iran.
In February of this year President Obama sent to Congress his war authorization to fight ISIS, in a letter which accompanied the draft Obama wrote, “I have directed a comprehensive and sustained strategy to degrade and defeat ISIS.”
Since then Congress has not authorized or debated his war resolution, and this past June the president commented that he has not received a strategy for defeating ISIS from the Pentagon.
From the Pentagon perspective they haven’t received a coherent strategy of what the administration wants to achieve in both Iraq, but especially in Syria.
As the refugee crisis continued to grow unabated, the questions which have never been addressed are – what is U.S. strategy toward Syria? And to follow up, what is the U.S. strategy in Iraq?
The situation has grown more complicated with Russia and Iran deeply involved and propping up the Assad government.
On Monday, CNN reported that In a telephone call over the weekend where Kerry warned the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, that — if the reports are true — the Russian military presence “could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent lives, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation” with an (anti-ISIS) coalition operating in Syria, according to a statement from the U.S. State Department.
The administration seems bent on doing enough just to contain ISIS, but never fully addressing all the complex issues which go beyond defeating the Islamic State.
Leadership will be required by the U.S., but I am not sure the administration is up to the task beyond what it’s doing currently. Unfortunately this problem will not go away, and will only get worse in the months ahead.