Posts Tagged ‘Lebanon’

The Syrian Refugee Crisis: Saving the Lost Generation and the Communities that Serve Them

October 23, 2015

Edward M. Gabriel (Ambassador to Morocco, 1997-2001)

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The Syrian refugee crisis is nearing a tipping point, beyond which no near-term solutions are possible. On this website, many of us have discussed policy options to stem the Syrian crisis and get to the negotiating table. In the meantime, we have a crisis that can’t wait for diplomacy or military action: the lost generation of uneducated young refugees, and the host communities struggling to bear their weight.

More than four million Syrians have fled the country, mostly to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. Though in absolute numbers Turkey hosts the largest community, about 30% of Lebanon’s population and 20% of Jordan’s population are now Syrian nationals. To the 4 million refugees, add the 6.5 million Syrians internally displaced and you end up with about half of Syria’s population as either displaced or refugees. One-third – and as much as half – of the housing stock and a large percentage of economic infrastructure have been destroyed or damaged in Syria, and mistrust of the current Syrian security forces abounds. Without homes and jobs and fearful of the government, refugees will not return any time soon and host countries will have to cope with refugees for years to come.

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Defeating ISIL Requires US Leadership Now!

June 30, 2015

Edward M. Gabriel (Ambassador to Morocco, 1997-2001)

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I have written here before on Syria and radicalism in the Levant—once in September of 2013, and again in September of 2014. Nearly a year later, I am disheartened to see that US leadership continues to be timid in its struggle with ISIL and Syria, in spite of our warnings and prediction that if the US didn’t define and lead the effort in this fight, radical elements would take over against our interests. This didn’t have to be the case and doesn’t have to be in the future. However, the problem cannot be simply wished away and we can’t wait two long years for a new Administration to take action.

When the popular uprising in Syria began in 2011, the US had to confront just one threat: President Assad. Today, we have at least three others: ISIL threatening not only Syria, but Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey with terrorist activities; a refugee problem that could overwhelm our friends in those countries; and finally, the Iranian arc of resistance which, stretching from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, and to Lebanon, is gaining ground as it firms up support in its fight against ISIL and its support for Syria.

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Beirut to Benghazi: We Didn’t Learn a Lesson

January 24, 2014

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s January 22, 2014 blog post.

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We could have learned a lesson from the thirty-six terrorist attacks against Americans in Lebanon in the early 1980’s. The U.S. Embassy in Beirut was bombed in April 1983, killing 63 people. In October truck bombs struck two barracks housing a U.S.-led peacekeeping force in which over 200 American soldiers were killed. In December a truck filled with explosives rammed into the three-story wing of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait City, killing five people.

As a result of these attacks an Advisory Panel on Overseas Security was formed. The resulting Inman Commission Report (Admiral Bobby Inman) in 1985 recommended a number of security measures at our overseas posts including proper setbacks, structural upgrades, and new construction of at-risk missions. The study further called for the formation of the Diplomatic Security Service (DS) to oversee security protection aspects at all overseas operations.

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Assad Is the Least Worst Option

December 23, 2013

Ryan Crocker, Ambassador to Afghanistan (2011-2012), Iraq (2007-2009), Pakistan (2004-2007), Syria (1998-2001), Kuwait (1994-1997) and Lebanon (1990-1993)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Crocker’s December 21, 2013 op-ed in  the New York Times.

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It is time to consider a future for Syria without Assad’s ouster, because it is overwhelmingly likely that is what the future will be.

President Obama’s bold declaration in 2011 that Assad must go violated a fundamental principle of foreign affairs: if you articulate a policy, you had better be sure you have the means to carry it out. In Syria, we clearly did not.

We assumed that Syria was like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya with a hated dictator ripe for toppling by his people. History demonstrates why toppling would not be easy: Hama, 1982. Bashar’s father Hafez cornered the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in the country’s fourth largest city. Ringed by armor and artillery, the city center was destroyed. The Brothers were neutralized, but some 15,000 Sunni civilians also perished. The exact number will never be known.

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A Field Guide to Assad’s Threatened ‘Shock and Awe’

September 11, 2013

Marc C. Ginsberg (Ambassador to Morocco, 1994-1998)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Ginsberg’s September 10, 2013 special to The Huffington Post.

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During his interview with CBS’ Charlie Rose this morning, Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad ominously warned of unspecified retaliation in the event the U.S. strikes at his military assets. Bluff and bluster, or the equivalent of an Assad version of “shock and awe (shucks)”?

Memo to the nation: It’s bluff and bluster (at least from Assad’s military).

Just to set the stage here. For the western mind it must be extraordinarily difficult to imagine how Assad can deny and deny again that his forces never used chemical weapons in the conflict in the face of such compelling evidence to the contrary. But there he was, in a crucial “big lie” moment, mild-mannered, and ever so meekly presenting his counter-arguments in anticipation of President Obama’s speech tomorrow evening, all the while feigning innocence from the brutality that is the Assad family motto that every Syrian life is expendable to retain ruthless power. The interview compellingly validated how absolute power corrupts absolutely.

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The Morning After a Syrian Strike — What’s Next?

August 29, 2013

Marc C. Ginsberg (Ambassador to Morocco, 1994-1998)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Ginsberg’s August 29, 2013 special to The Huffington Post.

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Damascus is eerily calm tonight while Damascenes nervously hunker down for what Washington is billing as a short duration Mediterranean-based cruise missile assault on Syrian military installations. The limited objective: “punish” Syria for deploying chemical weapons “on a large scale” (Obama’s words) against innocent men, women and children, and deter Assad from doing it again.

Washington has done just about everything but take out ads in Syrian newspapers: The target is not Assad, nor is the attack directed at shifting any balance of power toward the “secular” Syrian opposition.

Although the war drums are beating, the exact timing of the attack, should it come, remains a mystery.

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