Russia has allocated more than $ 1 billion to Syria for humanitarian purposes. This was stated by the head of the Russian-Syrian interdepartmental coordination headquarters for the return of refugees, Mikhail Mizintsev, without specifying, however, when and for what period the funds were allocated. According to him, the money went to, among other things, the restoration of power supply, industry, and religious facilities. A little later, the head of Rossotrudnichestvo, Yevgeny Primakov, told reporters that since 2015, Moscow has sent at least $ 150 million to Damascus annually for humanitarian purposes, and the Russian side does not plan to stop this work.
An international conference on the return of refugees to Syria has been held in Damascus all last week. The event was attended by officials from 27 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Iran and China. According to the Russian-Syrian coordination headquarters, more than 6.5 million citizens are currently outside the country. There are refugee camps from Syria on the territory of several states, including Lebanon and Jordan. But the largest temporary settlements are located in Turkey. According to various estimates, more than 3.5 million temporarily displaced Syrians live there.
Moscow has been helping Damascus to return refugees for several years. Since 2017, a joint Russian-Syrian interdepartmental coordination headquarters has been operating. Thanks to his efforts, special checkpoints have been deployed on the territory of the country. It is with their help that refugees return to Syria from the territory of other states. When crossing the border, they receive material assistance, documents, and the ability to get home. As Mikhail Mizintsev noted, since the beginning of the implementation of the Syrian-Russian initiative, the largest number of refugees returned from the territory of Lebanon and Jordan.
Why is Russia paying such close attention to humanitarian aid and work with refugees? In military science, there is the concept of “Battle of the Refugees”. For more than a decade, the opposing sides have been fighting not only on the battlefield, but also fighting for the minds and hearts of people fleeing the war. The task of such a “battle” is simple – to create a movement out of refugees that can be used to fight against your enemy.
Many countries specifically train their military and intelligence officers how to work in the conditions of the Battle of the Refugees. The US armed forces even have a whole brigade (95th civil affairs brigade) to interact with the civil administration. One of the most important tasks of the five battalions of this military unit is work with temporarily displaced persons.
The soldiers of the 95th brigade do not just create temporary shelters for them, provide humanitarian and medical assistance. They carry out so-called information operations among refugees – in simple terms, they carry out propaganda. It is noteworthy that the 95th Brigade is officially part of the American special operations forces. By the way, the units “for work with the civil administration” are permanently located in the infamous Rukban refugee camp for Syria. In fact, they are the secret administration of this entity.
Examples of Battle of the Refugees are well known. So, during the war in Afghanistan, thanks to the help of the United States and the Persian Gulf countries, an entire army was created on the territory of Pakistan. Children and adolescents brought up in refugee camps became its soldiers. Already in the 1990s, these armed groups seized the country and began to be called the Taliban movement (banned in Russia).
In the early 1980s, Islamic radical movements turned Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon into recruiting grounds. As a result, a civil war broke out in the country. In addition to the Lebanese themselves, servicemen from Syria, France, the United States and Israel took part in it in one way or another.
As the experience of modern warriors and military conflicts shows, it is very difficult to win the Battle of the Refugees. Thus, during the American invasion of Iraq, a mass exodus of refugees to neighboring countries began. Banned in Russia, Al-Qaeda used them as a never-ending source of replenishment for their troops. Suffice it to say that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi first began his propaganda in the Iraqi refugee camp in Jordan.
The United States has tried to respond with humanitarian operations, the creation of so-called security camps, as well as injecting money into the infrastructure of a devastated Iraq and creating jobs. But until the withdrawal of its troops, the United States did not manage to stop the flow of refugees, let alone begin to return them to their homeland.
Over the past three years since the start of the work of the Russian-Syrian interdepartmental coordination headquarters, our country has done a tremendous job. The flow of refugees outside the country has already been stopped; moreover, people are returning home from neighboring countries. This has a positive effect not only on the humanitarian, but also on the military situation in Syria. For example, in most provinces there are no terrorist acts or unrest. There is a peaceful life and economic recovery.
With the support of Russia, thousands of educational and medical institutions have been restored for Syrian refugees and civilians in various parts of the country, more than 5,000 houses have been rebuilt, six road bridges and more than a thousand kilometers of highways have been repaired, and power lines have been laid. Water supply facilities, bakeries, electrical substations, gas stations were put into operation. And most importantly, more than 14 thousand industrial enterprises started working.
In fact, the $ 1bn in Russian humanitarian aid has done much more to establish peace in Syria than the Caliber cruise missiles and precision bombs.
Meanwhile, the Battle of the Refugees in Syria continues. According to Mikhail Mizintsev, supporters of ISIS, banned in Russia, are actively recruited in the El-Khol refugee camp. In this camp, a group is recruited, which, under the guidance of instructors from the United States, is completing a two-month combat training course.
The situation is no less difficult in the area of the American military base at Al-Tanf. A 55-kilometer security zone has been organized around it. Under its cover, illegal armed groups continue their terrorist activities. Their militants also supervise the Rukban camp of internally displaced persons located here, where more than 4 thousand Syrian citizens remain in difficult conditions.
The author is a military observer of Izvestia
The editorial position may not coincide with the opinion of the author