SYRIA – Conflict in Syria

Latest on Syria:

Sudha Rajput
June 12, 2013:
Syria: latest IDP toll (4.25 million)
per U.S. Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Elizabeth Hopkins

–Ms. Hopkins remarks that “the global number of Internally Displaced Persons is larger than ever before, and that 6.5 million persons became newly displaced in their home countries last year. This underscores the point that UNHCR’s responsibilities continue to grow”. She notes the UNHCR’s commitments to IDPs, and remarks that these commitments should not be a lower priority for the agency relative to its other populations of concern – refugees, returnees, and stateless persons.
“We need to continue to strengthen the system of response. The well-being of millions of Internal Displaced Persons depends in part on United Nations’ High Commission of Refugees living up to these responsibilities.”

What is happening in Syria?
Sudha Rajput, June 6, 2013, 10:00 am
Extracted from reference cited below
Syria: Damascus (capital)
Background: Events leading to country’s tumultuous uprising against Syrian President, Bashar-al-Assad’s regime began in March 2011. Assad’s regime is Shiite-affiliated Alawite sect. The conflict is between the Syrian government (pro-Assad) and the opposition rebel Free Syrian Army.
Role of other conflict parties: (1) US – condemns Syrian President (2) Lebanese Hezbollah supports Syrian President – Hezbollah is helping the Syrian army to regain control of more and more areas of Syria lost to the rebels. (3) Iran supports Syrian President.
Current situation: Syrian gov captures Qusair from the opposition rebels, a strategic Syrian town, giving Syrian President’s forces the upper hand in the two-year-old conflict and dimming the prospect of peace talks. Pro-Assad forces launched a surprise attack (June 4, 2013) opening up an escape route across the Lebanese border, to force the rebels to leave.
Refugee influx: people fleeing Syria are ending up in Lebanon (putting Lebanese citizens at risk)
Aside: As reported by Loveday Morris Hezbollah, Russia and Iran are providing help to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, changing the momentum of the civil war. In general Syrian army has been assisted by Hezbollah (Lebanse Shiite movement). Hezbollah militants, known for their prowess in street fighting.
Implications: (1) boosts Assad’s confidence, win for the Syrian government, makes it easier to further push for central Syria (2) Loss of the border town will cut into the supply lines from the rebel supporters in Lebanon, six miles to the west. (3) changes the momentum of the civil war (4) dims prospect of peace talks (4) conflict could explode into a regional sectarian war (5) Control of Qusair gives the Syrian government a crucial link between the capital, Damascus, and the port cities of Tartus and Latakia, the heartland of Assad’s Shiite-affiliated Alawite sect. (6) It secures a supply conduit from the Lebanese border, important for Hezbollah as it plans for a long-term fight in Syria. (7) win in Qusair boosted Hezbollah’s reputation after its leader, Hasan Nasrallah, promised his men victory in a May 25 speech. Celebratory gunfire erupted Wednesday in the southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital, Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold. (8) Exacerbate Sunni-Shiite divisions in the region (9) inflamed sectarian strife in Lebanon (10) Iraq recorded its highest monthly death toll in five years in May — a spike likely attributed to heightened sectarian tensions partly linked to Syria’s war (11) regional Sunni-Shiite war (per Peter Harling, of International Crisis Group).

Ahmed Ramadan contributed to the original article (June 6, 2013)

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