Syria is not a simple case

Robert Johnson writes: Re. “All of us must step forward to help Syria’s refugees” (yesterday). The Syrian conflict may be complex, but understanding it is not assisted by statements such as the Syrian government being “hell-bent on murdering its own population”. It is certainly hell-bent on preventing largely externally shaped/fomented/supported regime change, which is carrying unbearably high levels of civilian deaths, largely at that government’s hands. But this is a situation sustained as much by the decisions of external actors to eschew a political solution while escalating military actions that are fragmented and out of control and inevitably range across a dysfunctional spectrum that includes IS. This has been a key driver of the mass exodus that now overwhelms Europe while the Gulf States intent on exploiting civil war in Syria as a proxy war against Iran and Shia Islam have — as the editorial observes (citing the Lowy Institute) — a closed-door policy to displaced Syrians.

My notes from working in Yemen in 2013 show that there were an estimated 15,000 Syrians, primarily families with children, who arrived in Yemen in the first half of that year. Even then, Yemen was hardly the most desirable of destinations, but it was at least one Gulf State striving to be broad-based and tolerant. (Yemen has also been a destination for large numbers of people crossing the Red Sea from Somalia and Ethiopia.). The colleagues with whom I shared an office in 2013 were both Sunni and Shia, keen to talk with me collectively about issues such as the Syrian situation.

It seems almost certain that rich US-allied Gulf States continue to channel support to IS. There is no “political solution” to IS. Stopping the military actions against IS would almost certainly result in an increase in civilian casualties (although it might make it more difficult for IS to “acquire” military, especially US, hardware and weapons). Stopping the military actions against the Syrian government would almost certainly cause a decrease in civilian casualties.

Crikey’s editorial is at least correct in arguing that measures toward a political solution must be pursued in tandem with a globally shared humanitarian response. Australia’s eager engagement in Syria surely carries particular obligations for it in that latter regard unless, I suppose, the former is merely about the PM’s domestic political survival and nothing to do with the Syrian people.

The reason we went to war

Edward Zakrzewski writes: Re. “This is Abbott’s Dubya moment” (yesterday). With regard to the invasion of Iraq, in the second paragraph of the story Helen Razer writes  “even the most clearheaded, realist thinkers … are unable to determine its strategic basis”.

There has to be a reason for such a huge undertaking and like they say, to solve a crime, follow the money.

This goes to three items in the first paragraph — “blood for oil”, “Cheney’s personal fortune” and “euros instead of dollars”, the first two of which she confirms in the second paragraph.

I think the economics argument far outweighs the “ideology” and “beliefs” angle later in the article.

Alex Joseph writes: Re. “How we got into this mess” (Wednesday). I am no fan of Julie Bishop, especially because of the way she and Abbott are sucking up to Iran so that we can deport the poor Iranian refugees who will certainly face imprisonment, if not execution, on return.  BUT, the most sensible thing about the ISIS/Syria crisis I have ever heard ANYONE utter was Julie’s comments during the 2013 campaign that we should keep out of the conflict because the “baddies are fighting the baddies”.  Simple, succinct, and true.  We have no business to be there.  Let the crazies fight it out!

Re. “What about thorium?” (Wednesday). You ought to do a piece on this very interesting point.  India has spent quite some time and money in developing thorium technology, as it has the world’s biggest (or second biggest?) deposits of thorium ore.  But, for some reason they abandoned the project (or put it into cold storage?). Ailsa is right, thorium has several advantages. Why aren’t people using it?