Sept 16, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 143

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.


Topics: How to redirect hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies for the wealthy toward low-income programs; the low-wage service economy recovery; should the US accept more Syrian refugees? People: Bill, Kelley, Nate. Produced: September 13th, 2015.

Episode 143 (55 min):
AFD 143

Discussion Points:

– “Redeploying $540 Billion in Federal Spending to Help All Families Save, Invest, and Build Wealth”
– Why it doesn’t feel like a recovery: So many new jobs in retail services get paid less now than before the recession’s peak.
– Should the U.S. accept more than just 10,000 Syrian refugees in the coming year?

Related Links

Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED): “Redeploying $540 Billion in Federal Spending to Help All Families Save, Invest, and Build Wealth”
NYT: “Low-Income Workers See Biggest Drop in Paychecks”
AFD by Kelley: “United States to accept (a few) more Syrian refugees”


RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video game blog of our announcer, Justin.

United States to accept (a few) more Syrian refugees

On Thursday, September 10th, President Obama announced that his administration was preparing to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States in Fiscal Year 2016 (October 1, 2016 – September 31, 2016). This number represents a five-fold increase from the fewer than 2,000 refugees accepted into the United States in the past year.

While these numbers sound impressive, the truth is that they do not go far enough in aiding the 4 million refugees who have fled the Syrian Civil War. Countries closest to Syria have absorbed the most refugees; Turkey has accepted over 2 million alone and Lebanon has accepted well over 1 million.

Of course, accepting millions of refugees has taken a toll on these countries, themselves developing nations, and as resources diminish, refugees have begun to look for what’s next. Many refugees have set their sights on Europe, where many empathetic citizens have welcomed them but where leaders have remained startlingly silent on the emerging humanitarian crisis. More than 2,400 refugees have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe.

In the face of such an alarming need, this is no time for small actions. Yet, the 10,000 immigrants President Obama is prepared to accept represents way less than what America can and should do to help alleviate the suffering of Syrian refugees.

In May of 2015, a group of fourteen Democratic Senators asked President Obama to allow 65,000 Syrians to settle within the United States in each of the next two years, following a recommendation from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). However, of the 16,000 refugees that have recommended for resettlement in the US by UNHCR, the US has only taken about 10%.

The Republican party also finds itself divided between their moral responsibility to aid refugees and their concerns over national security, a divide sure to make itself known at next week’s GOP primary debate.

While accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees into the US is significant, and especially significant to those individuals and families who build a life in here under this initiative, it is also insufficient and should not be the end of our country’s discussion on how to provide aid to Syrians amidst this unspeakable humanitarian crisis.

Remembering an earlier refugees crisis

In light of recent events in Europe, The New York Times tweeted out a public scan of two articles from late March 1939, about 5 months before World War II officially began in Europe. The (long and descriptive) headlines read:

REFUGEE TIDE RISES AS HITLER EXPANDS; Increasing Problem Presented to Other European States– Relief Groups Are Active MANY RECEIVED BY BRITAIN But Her Rules for Admittance Are Severe–Hundreds Enter Belgium Weekly in Secret

You can read the full articles easily online and read the opening right here:

Click to continue reading. (New York Times)

Click image to continue reading 1939 article. (New York Times)

The short version? For six years, by then, Europe had grappled with hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees secretly crossing their borders to escape Nazi Germany and its pre-war annexed territories. Many countries (such as Belgium) responded by turning people away or sending them back. Britain had very tight rules, usually requiring entrants to a have a job lined up or proof of plans to move on to a different country from there.

It’s worth remembering these stories and how bad they look in hindsight, as countries today consider turning people away — as they flee Syria, Afghanistan, and Eritrea — and suggest these refugees are dangerous outsiders or only migrants trying to take jobs from citizens.

Fortunately, as the article above also demonstrates, sometimes civil society actually does step up when the government balks. We saw that again this week in Iceland when 11,000 citizens volunteered to open their homes to refugees of the Syrian Civil War after the Icelandic government claimed there was only room for 50 people. But much more than that will be needed all across Europe.

Is Iran sending refugees to Syria as cannon fodder?

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.


The Daily Star (Lebanon) — “Iran enlists Afghan refugees as fighters”

But interviews with Afghan fighters and relatives of combatants killed in Syria point to a vigorous – and sometimes coerced – recruitment drive of Shiite Hazara refugees by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps propping up Assad’s floundering regime. […]
Haider, she said, was lured by the monthly salary of $700 – a tidy sum for a laborer with no combat experience – and the promise of an Iranian residency permit, an attractive inducement for refugees who otherwise live in constant fear of deportation. […]
Haider’s premonition came true – a few days after he left, an Iranian official informed his relatives, also refugees in Tehran, that he had been killed in battle.


US proudly announces re-killing same ISIS guy again, August 21, 2015:

Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, also known as Hajji Mutazz, the second in command of the terrorist group ISIL, was killed in a U.S. military air strike on August 18 while traveling in a vehicle near Mosul, Iraq, along with an ISIL media operative known as Abu Abdullah.

Wall Street Journal, December 18, 2014:

Defense officials said the operations to kill senior and midlevel Islamic State commanders are beginning to weaken the group’s leadership structure in Iraq.
U.S. military strikes between Dec. 3 and Dec. 9 killed Abd al Basit, the head of Islamic State’s military operations in Iraq, and Haji Mutazz, a key deputy to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group’s top leader, officials said.

If he “dies” in a U.S. airstrike one more time, he’ll hold the same honor recently taken in Syria by Muhsin Al-Fadhli (similarly named but from a rival group), who has now “died” in U.S. airstrikes three times to much fanfare. Unlike the ISIS fellow killed in Iraq, the other guy is the leader of the probably fictional terrorist organization the US has labeled the “Khorasan Group” (see previous link for more on that).

It’s almost like we’re not being presented with accurate information to be able to assess the progress of our various interminable and boundless wars!

h/t @DavidKenner

August 12, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 138

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.


Topics: Key news stories from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Iran (and how it all relates to or affects U.S. policy in the region). People: Bill, Kelley, Nate. Produced: August 10th, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– Syria: The U.S. bombs fictional terror groups and Turkey bombs the Kurds.
– Iraq: On air conditioners and nation-building.
– Yemen: Saudi Arabia’s war and a horrific humanitarian crisis.
– Iran: Will the Iran Deal survive Congress? Will it change US-Israeli relations?

Episode 138 (56 min):
AFD 138

Related Links

AFD: Syria Archives
AFD: Iraq’s air conditioner uprising
AFD: Yemen War Archives
AFD: Iran Archives


RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

A new Syria “red line”: No Kurds in the Turkish-backed zone?

Regional View: July 24, 2015 map estimation of the perimeter of a potential Turkish occupation zone and U.S. no-fly zone in northern Syria. Enlarge Image. [See also our close-up detail map of the potential Turkish occupation zone perimeter.]

Regional View: July 24, 2015 map estimation of the perimeter of a potential Turkish occupation zone and U.S. no-fly zone in northern Syria. Enlarge Image.
[See also our close-up detail map of the potential Turkish occupation zone perimeter.]

The Wall Street Journal last week reported that the “U.S., Turkey Agree to Keep Syrian Kurds Out of Proposed Border Zone”:

The U.S. and Turkey have reached an understanding meant to assure the Ankara government that plans to drive Islamic State militants from a proposed safe zone in northern Syria won’t clear the way for Kurdish fighters to move in.
However, [YPG leaders] said they had made no commitment not to cross the Euphrates.

“The initial plan is to move to liberate the western side of the Euphrates once the areas to the east have been cleared of ISIS,” said Idres Nassan, a senior Kurdish official in Kobani. “But the YPG is acting in coordination with the local groups, such as the FSA and other groups fighting ISIS, as well as the coalition members.”

Preventing Kurdish forces from taking advantage of U.S. and Turkish airstrikes in the area is “red line” for Turkey as it steps up to play a greater role in battling Islamic State, a Turkish official said Monday.
Keeping Kurdish fighters from moving farther west restricts America’s ability to work in northwestern Syria with a Kurdish militia that has proved an effective fighting force. And it puts more pressure on the U.S. and Turkey to find an alternative capable of filling the void.

The United States promptly denied this report. However, the New York Times is still backing up the Wall Street Journal’s version as late as today.

The Turkish deal with the United States sets up an “ISIS-free” bombardment zone along a 60-mile strip of the border region that features another exclusion: At Turkey’s request, it is also explicitly a zone free of the Kurdish militia, even though the Kurds had begun advancing toward the area to start battling the Islamic State there.

Despite cooperating with American forces for months, the Syrian Kurds are now starting to worry that their success might not outweigh Turkey’s importance to the United States.

I’m sorry, but if these reports of a rule excluding Kurdish fighters are actually true, this is bad policymaking. Pure impulse and incoherent nonsense. It has little strategic foresight or unifying logic, and it’s probably tactically unenforceable at best.

As we argued in our recent op-ed in The Globalist, to recruit Turkey against ISIS, the United States lost sight of its true friends (the actually effective anti-ISIS — and non-salafist — Kurdish militant groups). This scattershot obsession with the crises of the moment has destroyed any U.S. attempts to form a coherent policy for Syria (or Iraq). We just flail aimlessly from one thing to the next — reacting, reacting, reacting.

Previously from AFD on this topic:

U.S. agrees to clear a “safe zone” in northern Syria
Mapping the projected Turkish occupation zone in Syria