Humanitarian crisis looming in Syria

Humanitarian crisis looming in Syria

The Syrian war, which has entered its 10th year, reminds the international community of itself with a new phenomenon every day.

The United States conducted air strikes against facilities used by Iranian-backed militia groups on the Syria-Iraq border region over the weekend upon the instructions of U.S. President Joe Biden. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed the aerial operation targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria, one location in Iraq and the other very close to the border between the countries.

“Several Iran-backed militia groups, including KH, including KSS, use these facilities. We have been very clear, the President has been very clear throughout, that we will act to protect U.S. personnel. And given these ongoing attacks that you referred to by Iran-backed groups targeting our interests in Iraq, he directed further military action – we had taken action previously – to disrupt and deter these attacks.”

This first aerial operation by the Biden administration in the region is a clear and unambiguous message, Blinken said, “This action in self-defense to do what’s necessary to prevent further attacks, I think, sends a very important and strong message. And I hope very much that it is received by those who are intended to receive it.”

The U.S. was accusing the Iranian-backed militia groups of recent attacks against U.S. personnel in the eastern Syrian theater. Likewise, there are also reports about an increased mobilization and deployment of the Iranian-backed militias and the Syrian army in the Idlib province of Syria.

With concerns over a fresh escalation in the region that could lead to a humanitarian tragedy, calls for avoiding any action to break the existing ceasefire are being more loudly issued by the international community lately.

Consisting of 78 nations and five institutions, the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIL was one of these platforms where all Syria-related issues were discussed at a foreign ministerial meeting in Rome on June 28. Led by Italian and American top diplomats, Luigi di Maio and Blinken respectively, the global coalition has a broad evaluation on the continued fight against ISIL, the future priorities and other issues including humanitarian assistance.

ISIL no longer controls territory and nearly eight million people have been freed from its control in Iraq and Syria, but the threat remains, concluded the ministers, urging, “The resumption in ISIL activities and its ability to rebuild its networks and capabilities to target security forces and civilians in areas in Iraq and Syria where the coalition is not active, requires strong vigilance and coordinated action. This includes allocating adequate resources to sustain Coalition and legitimate partner forces’ efforts against ISIL.”

It’s not clear to what “legitimate partner forces” it is being referred to, but Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has reiterated Turkey’s opposition to the use of the YPG as the U.S. local partner in Syria as a big mistake. That continues to be an issue on which Turkey and the U.S. agree to disagree.

Ensuring the effective flow of humanitarian assistance, however, is an issue to the mutual concern. The current approval for the use of Cilvegözü for the delivery of humanitarian aid into Syria will expire on July 10 and there is growing pressure on Russia to extend it. Millions of people in Idlib are heavily dependent on the continued delivery of basic needs, food, and medical equipment. Russia says the Syrian Red Crescent can properly do this job and opposes the idea of extending the approval.

“We stressed the critical importance of meeting humanitarian needs, including life-saving assistance and COVID-19 response for all Syrians in need through all modalities, including through the provision and expansion of the UN cross-border mechanism to which there is no adequate alternative. We also underlined the importance of continued support to Syrian refugees and host countries until Syrians can voluntarily return home with safety and dignity in line with UNHCR standards,” read the statement after the ministers’ meeting on Syria in Rome.

As seen, humanitarian issues on which all the international community should be on the same page are also regarded as a political tool. Millions of people who were displaced in their home countries because of a tyrant regime should not be left to the mercy of those who control the area and to daily political interests. Otherwise, a new humanitarian crisis will only be inevitable.