Aron Lund writes: Winter is coming, and the humanitarian situation in Syria has never been so dire, with more than 3 million refugees abroad and some 6.5 million internally displaced — nearly half of the country’s population.
According to UN figures, more than 10 million Syrians now need outside aid to survive, nearly half of them stuck in areas under siege or otherwise hard to access. The power infrastructure and agricultural sector are breaking down due to the strains of war and a lack of upkeep. Across Syria, the prices of fuel, food, and everyday goods are skyrocketing due to systemic failures in the power supply structure, war, and bombings. Millions of Syrians are left to face the winter cold in appalling conditions, at a time when wealthy Western and Arab nations spend billions on counterterrorism and renewed rebel training missions.
This is not simply callous neglect. Even if the Syrian conflict were to be viewed solely through a security prism, the international community’s tepid response to this humanitarian crisis is clearly counterproductive. The spiralling poverty, social breakdown, and despair is precisely what has paved the way for extremist sectarian militias, not only inside Syria but also among refugees scattered in countries like Lebanon and Jordan, and there is little hope for a solution for as long as the humanitarian crisis persists.
Yet while funds are readily available for military interventions of last resort — such as “Operation Inherent Resolve,” the U.S.-led coalition striking jihadi targets in Syria and Iraq—the international community remains unwilling to summon up a humanitarian coalition to get Syrians through the winter. [Continue reading…]