I’m in Beirut at the moment, providing communications for the Syrian Refugee Crisis response. A pretty intimidating task, and one I feel a huge responsibility for.
Feeling the pressure resulted in two key activities in the lead up to my deployment. 1) Taking a new profile pic, with my glasses on AND a map in the background (extra smart, right) and 2) Reading everything I could possibly get my hands on about the crisis.
Below are the most helpful and interesting reads that I’ve found online. The crisis isn’t going to disappear any time soon, and I’m learning that the impact will be more far-reaching than I’d understood. So, you might as well read up.
1. Is it the end of Sykes-Picot? Patrick Cockburn on the war in Syria and the threat to the Middle East This is the longest piece, but fascinating. It’s where I learned what makes the Syrian conflict so complex, as Cockburn identifies five distinct that have become tangled together. “A popular uprising against a dictatorship which is also a sectarian battle between Sunnis and the Allanite sect; a regional struggle between Shia and Sunni which is also a decades-old conflict between an Iranian-led grouping and Iran’s traditional enemies, notably the US and Saudi Arabia. Finally, at another level, there is a reborn Cold War confrontation: Russia and China v. the West.” It’s also where I got the first hint that Assad may not be as close to falling as my news sources so far had suggested.
2. Syria and the Middle East: our greatest miscalculation since the rise of fascism, by Simon Jenkins I must say, I thought he skimmed over the “faults in abundance” of secular dictators like Saddam and Gadaffi. But again, I was interested to read another side to what I’d seen presented as a fairly one-sided conflict.
3. NPR interview with Steve Inskeep: In Syrian City Of Homs, ‘Utter Destruction’ Listening to the description of Homs as it is now, filled in some gaps for me. Many of the refugees I’ve met fled from there, and the description of utter destruction fits with their horror stories. I was also interested to hear this journo’s thoughts on the biggest obstacle to peace negotiations.
4. How the Syria conflict affects its neighbours, BBC A glance at a map of Syria and you can see one obvious reason why it will have a huge impact on the region – compared to most of them Syria is enormous. Adding to that, the divisions in the Syrian conflict are mirrored in some surrounding countries. You’ll also recognise some troubled names, a few of these neighbours face significant challenges of their own.
5. Carnegie Middle East Centre The most helpful place for all things related to the Syrian conflict has been the Carnegie Middle East Centre, which has (among many other resources)
- a good analysis of the different players,
- an explanation of the significance of the recent clashes over Qusair, and
- a really insightful reflection on the refugee crisis I’m seeing in Lebanon.
If anyone has found other good sources, I’d love to read them. Thanks