By Nicholas Noe

Almost one year after anti-government protests began in Syria, a disaster of enormous moral and strategic proportions is fast approaching. Full-scale civil war is now likely. And a multifront, conventional and possibly unconventional war ignited by events in the Levant is also increasingly plausible.

However, many in the West, in some Arab governments and even in the Syrian opposition still think a “controlled collapse” of Bashar al-Assad’s government is possible.

According to this view, increasing pressure from all around will, at some point, fracture the government and its supporters both at home and abroad. Any resulting death and destruction, as well as regional blowback, will be within acceptable limits.

Unfortunately, there are at least three problems that make a controlled collapse unlikely.

First, the Assad government, which still enjoys substantial support from the army, the elite and other segments of the population, may be able to prolong its bloody denouement, with help from outsiders. Russia, which sees Syria as an indispensable strategic asset, joined China on Saturday in vetoing a United Nations resolution against the Assad government.

Iran has staked its own vital interests on Mr. Assad’s regime, which is a crucial conduit for Tehran’s support for the militant Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah in their common struggle against Israel.

Second, the violence from any drawn-out collapse will most likely exceed the limits of moral or strategic acceptability for the West and its allies — not to mention the Syrian people. Sectarian conflicts that divide the Alawites and other minority communities from the majority Sunni population will accelerate, compounding tensions in neighboring Lebanon, where Sunni fighters are now staging attacks into Syria, and also in Iraq, where sectarian violence has sharply increased in recent weeks.

Third, the resulting movement of refugees will add yet another destabilizing element to a humanitarian crisis. After all, Syria already hosts millions of Iraqi and Palestinian refugees who are likely to experience further anguish and loss.

Far from controlled collapse, a likelier scenario is a bloody last-ditch effort by Mr. Assad, Iran and Hezbollah to save the Syrian government, which they have the means to do. Read more…

As published in www.nytimes.com on February 6, 2012.


Anne August 31, 2012 - 7:12 pm

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) defines a Palestine refugee as a person “whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict”.[5] The descendants of the original Palestine refugees in the male line “are also eligible for registration.”[5] UNRWA aids all “those living in its area of operations who meet this definition, who are registered with the Agency and who need assistance”[5] and those who first became refugees as a result of the Six-Day War, regardless whether they reside in areas designated as Palestine refugee camps or in other permanent communities. A Palestine refugee camp is “a plot of land placed at the disposal of UNRWA by the host government to accommodate Palestine refugees and to set up facilities to cater to their needs”.[5] Today, 58 UNRWA recognised refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank habor only “one-third of the registered Palestine refugees, more than 1.4 million.”[5] The UNRWA definition does not cover final status.[5][16] In many cases UNHCR provides support for the children of Palestine refugees too.
Registered descendants of UNRWA Palestine refugees are, like “Nansen passport” and “Certificate of Eligibility” holders (the documents issued those displaced by World War II) and UNHCR refugees [17] are inherited the same UNRWA Palestine refugee status as their male parent.
Based on the UNRWA definition, the number of original Palestine refugees has declined from 711,000 in 1950 to an estimated 30 to 50,000 in 2012. According to Bogumil Terminski from the University of Geneva the original Palestinian diaspora is about 65,000. An estimated 5 million Palestine refugees are registered in total in 2012. In 2012 the number of registered descendants of male parents of the original Palestine refugees, based on the UNRWA registration requirements, are an estimated 4,950,000.

Leave a Comment


We use both our own and third-party cookies to enhance our services and to offer you the content that most suits your preferences by analysing your browsing habits. Your continued use of the site means that you accept these cookies. You may change your settings and obtain more information here. Accept