By Trevor Law
The middle east … such a fun and inspiring place to talk about. There is a lot going on right now, and so I thought it would be helpful to have a brief rundown of some of the biggest events happening right now.
Since peaceful protests began in 2011 this country has gone from bad, to worse, to the largest humanitarian crisis in the 21st century. Recently 100’s of Iranian troops entered the country and were accompanied by air strikes from Russia to boost the Assad regime. President Bashir Al-Assad has led a brutal campaign against any and all rivals and has caused the deaths of thousands, and the displacement of millions. He is believed to have killed thousands more than even ISIS and has used chemical weapons and barrel bombs to destroy whole neighborhoods. There are also persistent rumors that he is working with ISIS and wants the civil war to turn into a choice between him and ISIS and destroy the more moderate rebel groups in the country.
The Syrian civil war has involved the Kurdish people of Northern Iraq and Syria. They have been among the most effective groups battling ISIS and the Assad Regime, but recently reports have started surfacing of Kurdish groups destroying whole Arab settlements so they can’t return home. The believed goal is for the Kurds to clear out a region free of Arabs so they can either declare a new state, or not have to worry about ISIS infiltration. Either way it is a matter of great concern since the United States has been arming them, and if they are engaged in war crimes it could jeopardize American aid.
This leads us to Turkey. The Kurds and the Turks are old enemies and Turkey isn’t happy the U.S. is backing them. They have been launching air strikes into Syria, but are more concerned with making sure the Kurds don’t control the border with Syria than going after ISIS. The Kurds have a large minority in southeast Turkey and have a history of uprisings against Turkey. While a lot of strides have been made in recent years in bringing peace to the two groups, the Syrian civil war is undoing all of that very quickly. To make the situation even more dangerous, a peace protest was bombed and Turkey has banned all reporting of the event. They claim Kurdish and ISIS fighters where behind it, but many think it is being used as an excuse to clamp down on the Kurds, and some people in Turkey believe it might have been what they call the “Deep State.” Turkey has a poor track record with journalists and in recent years is drifting dangerous close to a police state. Russia has also repeatedly violated Turkish airspace, increasing tensions.
Honestly there is zero good news on this front. Despite a massive bombing campaign, the Syrian rebels, and Iraqi security forces have made little progress against ISIS. The only good news is Kurdish advances and you have seen howeven that is tainted, but to add an even more disturbing element, ISIS has become the new center of the world for enslaving and raping women and children. They have a massive pipeline of foreign fighters, it is estimated to be 31,000. The BBC has a great breakdown of this and I recommend you check it out.
Israel and Palestine
Assuming you are still with me, this will most likely break your spirit. The peace process has totally broken down, and while the U.S. vainly tries to restart talks there is very little point. Not only do the leadership of these two groups not trust each other, but the people themselves don’t either. Right now a wave of disorganized violence is sweeping Jerusalem. It appears to be average citizens killing each other, the rage of the entire situation bubbling over into seemingly random acts of violence. While the numbers are low, less than 40 dead in a week, this is increasingly becoming the new normal and is leading many people to believe that Jerusalem is about to be divided into an Israeli and Palestinian section. It is rumored this is the beginning of a major uprising against Israel, only instead of this one being organized it would be one punctuated by acts of civilian on civilian violence.
A war has been raging here for months now, with Al-Qaeda, Iranian back Houthis (a powerful local tribe), and the government backed by Saudi Arabia. In many ways the conflict mirrors Syria, only here the Saudi’s lead a coalition and a massive bombing effort to wipe out the Houthis. The conflict has cost thousands of lives and is making one of the worst humanitarian crises in the region. All sides seem to show no effort to protect civilians and neither side is anywhere close to a victory. ISIS also seems to have taken control of parts of the country and is rumored to be pulling together various Sunni factions. Here is a timeline of events in the country.
I could keep going but honestly this could be a freaking series. The entire region is a powder keg with different forces pulling it apart. If you are a student of history you may even see echoes of Europe in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The problem is many of the worst factions are either backed by larger outside powers, such as Assad, or everyone sees something else as a bigger threat to their interests, such as ISIS. Make no mistake, these events will have a major impact on the world, and could easily spiral into something far far worse.