Friday, August 08, 2008

A Vicious Cycle: Violence and Displacement in Iraq

Last week, we attended an panel discussion with Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group (ICG) and Michel Gabaudan of UNHCR: the UN Refugee Agency at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. They discussed the findings of ICG's new report, "Failed Responsibility: Iraqi Refugees in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon", which underscores the deepening crisis and failure of the Iraqi government and wider international community to meet the needs of vulnerable Iraqis.

Hilterman and Gabaudan strongly agree that Iraq’s stability can be improved by addressing the displacement crisis. The ICG Report describes how the forced exodus of millions of Iraqis profoundly impacts the security situation, an interaction generally overlooked by the American public.
Triggered by the violence in Iraq, the refugee crisis indirectly helps sustain and finance it [insurgency]. Armed groups whose actions led Iraqis to flee eagerly seized the properties they abandoned, either allocating them to supporters and co-religionists or selling them to generate funds. Such large-scale expropriation likely will fuel future strife if and when refugees return and try to reclaim their homes. As refugees fled, they often were robbed by armed militias and criminal gangs or charged levies at unofficial checkpoints manned by armed groups. Moreover, the exodus contributed to the sectarian homogenization of formerly mixed neighborhoods; this enabled armed groups to consolidate their control, recruit new fighters and levy taxes and fees to bankroll their violent activities. All in all, militias and armed groups exploited the refugee crisis for self-enrichment and war racketeering.
As the ICG Report demonstrates, the humanitarian crisis and security situation are directly connected and both must be addressed to create stability. Furthermore, the panelists discussed how, at play in Iraq right now is a destabilizing and vicious cycle with violence causing displacement, which incites further violence. The report examines other ways in which the cycle manifests itself:
The mass exodus jeopardized Iraq's stability in yet another way. Many who left are professionals and administrators from the middle class. A shortage of such skilled laborers and managers inevitably hinders reconstruction. The reverse also is true: among those who remained are many who benefited from patronage or political protection. Having taken de facto control of the state's mid-management levels, they will not readily relinquish their gains. In other words, the refugee crisis further politicized the bureaucracy. Overall, these dynamics have given rise to a vicious economic cycle: violence triggers flight, flight hampers reconstruction, and faltering reconstruction in turn fuels violence.
Hiltermann and Gabaudan stressed that the humanitarian crisis in Iraq is directly linked to security conditions, and therefore national stability. During the forum, Hiltermann noted that this serves as the perfect example of a "crossover issue where humanitarian issues have a great impact on the issue of stability and peace."

To create a more peaceful and secure Iraq, this destabilizing cycle of violence and displacement must be halted. Actively confronting the humanitarian crisis and addressing the needs of vulnerable Iraqis will help bring about stability and security to the nation and facilitate a safe environment for all Iraqis.

Photo Caption: Dr. Joost Hiltermann on the NewsHour on PBS


Anonymous said...

Great blog! Thanks for bring attention to the ICG report. Hope more folks in Congress and the administration are paying attention to your noble efforts.

Anonymous said...

My fear is that people who have read this blog and support EPIC are aware of the refugee crisis, but that the public at large is unaware because the media continues to ignore the core issues at stake in this conflict. The media serves as the mouthpiece for the Bush Administration and continues to lead the US public to believe that the current Iraqi government can control the situation once (if) our troops are withdrawn. Send this Blog to everyone you know!

Anonymous said...

great work!

Clicky Web Analytics