Tackling foreign intervention and the initiation of proxy wars in the MENA region
Proxy wars have taken place in the Middle East since the existence of the topic, starting with the Egyptian-Ottoman War in 1839. A proxy war is when two opposing nations combat via supporting sides of an ongoing war, opposed to engaging in direct combat themselves. Proxy wars usually occur in poorly funded areas, and weak militias are often taken advantage of. This is especially common in the Arab World due to the post-Arab Spring vulnerability and ongoing effects. There are a number of factors that put the region at risk of destabilization, and foreign intervention in regional conflicts is is one of these factors.
Syrian Civil War The Syrian Civil War began in 2011 when the people of Deraa protested the torturing of school children who were arrested under the charges for graffiti. These protests continued to spread, and became a symbol of the people of Syria reclaiming power in their nation. However, on 18 March 2011 Bashar Al-Assad’s (current President of Syria) army was ordered to open fire on protesters. In July of 2012, the International Red Cross was declared Syria in a state of Civil War. The rebels against the government, or the “Opposition” is composed of over 1,000 different organizations. When Islamic State began to gain followers and territory in Iraq, they began to fight for control of recently decentralized Syria in 2014. Now, demonstrated are Al-Assad’s forces, the Opposition, and IS fighting for control of Syria. Iran has a strong oil trade with Al-Assad’s government, and has kept these political ties providing him with military advisors, subsidized weapons, and billions of dollars per year. Iran has brought more allies to the table, including Russia for air support and Shia dominated Iraq. Support from Lebanon’s Shia Islamist militia Hezbollah is also enjoyed by the Syrian Government. The opposition is mainly composed of Sunni organizations backed by international support. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United States and the United Kingdom were some notable allies. However, there are several notable “allies” of either side who have a secondary agenda and want to instigate a war with nations external of Syria.
The Iran-Saudi agenda is often pushed and either side continues to fund their allies to negatively impact the other as much as possible. Both are seeking political dominance in the Middle East and are backing opposing organizations in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.
The Sunni-Shia conflict is a mainly Saudi-Iran lead conflict that is prominent in many areas in the MENA region. This is further expressed through the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi conflict.
Yemen Conflict The Conflict in Yemen between the recognized government of Yemen under President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and the Houthi Rebels stems back to November 2011 and is a spillover of the Arab Spring. Preceding the Arab Spring The Middle East’s poorest nation is now in an official state of civil war, and the Hadi government only holds a remaining 60% of territory in Yemen, the other held by Houthi rebel militias. In 2015 the Houthis reinforced their takeover of Sana’a, the capital city, a major turning point in the evolution of their movement. President Hadi escaped the city a month later and is now in an undisclosed location. Yemen’s population is 26.92 million, 36% Shia and 35% Sunni Citizens and an extension of the ongoing religious conflict in the Middle East. Yemen’s government functions under Sunni protocol and practice, and the Houthi rebels stand for a Shia dominated nation. Due to support of Sunni traditions, practice, and government, Hadi’s forces have gained support from Saudi Arabia and a coalition in Yemen has been formed overseen by Saudi including Somalia, Turkey, Italy, Eritrea, France, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. However, the Houthis are not without international support. Iran, Iraq, China, North Korea, Russia, and Syria are open supporters of the militia and economically support the group, in addition to providing weaponry. Yemen has become a proxy war between Saudi and Iran, both fighting for religious and political dominance in the region. However, as a result a major humanitarian crisis has occurred. With UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reporting 2 million internally displaced people, 17 million without a sustainable food source, and 14.4 million without access to clean drinking water, this is an issue of relevance to all UN Member States, especially those of the Arab Council.
How is this issue relevant to your country? Directly or indirectly?
Why does decentralization of power allow for foreign intervention?
How does religion play a role in political power and dominance in the Middle East?
What motivates Iran and Saudi to remain opposed to one another?
How is international intervention worsened the situation?
Why is international intervention a common trend in the Middle East? Past and Present?
How can the UN assist in decreasing the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen? Syria?
How is the ongoing humanitarian crisis affecting who holds political power?
What role does religious conflict play in the vulnerability of a nation?
What steps can be taken to remove foreign intervention in the Middle East?
What steps can be taken to prevent foreign intervention without cutting off access and humanitarian aid to the Middle East?