The United States presidential election has come and gone. A winner that defied polls; a highly critical media and a never-say-die populist has emerged. On the other hand, the loser has left most world leaders in deep shock and surprise. And of course, leaving most world leaders with the realities of demographics, immigration and multiculturalism, especially in Europe. The threats of migrants to host communities in Europe have been accentuated by either their terror-related activities or economic cost to taxpayers in Germany, France, Belgium and the United States. The threat of dilution of Western culture and values is another factor that has opened space and acceptance of populist candidates around Europe. This factor has also lent credence and vitality to far-right movements in Europe and in the United States. Certainly, multiculturalism has been dealt a near-death blow.
Interestingly, the bulk of migrants flooding the shores of Europe are mostly from Syria and Afghanistan. One is wont to ask the distance, for example, between Syria and Turkey or Syria and Saudi Arabia – all Muslim nations by population. None of these countries is farther than France – the wish and dream destination of these migrants. By way of proximity and shared similarities in cultures and histories, Saudi Arabia and Turkey should be the first port of call for these migrants. But the opposite is true. Saudi Arabia does not want militant and recalcitrant Syrians or Afghans populating its land. The Kingdom has successfully determined the pace and content of radicalism and freedoms of its people. If Saudi Arabia and Turkey would not take these migrants for whatever reason, why should it be the responsibility of the West? Have they lost their humanity? The burden of responsibility should first be placed on peaceful neighbours as excellently demonstrated by Jordan-a country relatively poor. In trying to reach a lasting solution to the plights of migrants and illegal migrations, the West, unfortunately, has always been blackmailed. Similar migrant resentment was brazenly displayed between Nigeria and Ghana when the two countries at different times accused the other of taking away limited job opportunities from their citizens. A survey has shown how the map of the entire Europe has changed because of massive migrations into Europe. It is only fair for the West to feel threatened under such climate of distrust even among peoples with similar cultures and common values showing such disdain for migrants. It is difficult for European politicians to talk from a rational point of view amidst this madness.
The emergence of Donald Trump may escalate the situation in Syria, and most certainly make Iran even more boastful and dogged. There is the likelihood of adversaries switching to be effective blackmailers. The president-elect’s new-found love and admiration in Russia’s Vladimir Putin has the corollary effect of emboldening Bashar Al-Assad and Iran. According to Al-Assad, the United States under a Donald Trump presidency can be a “natural ally”. And Iran has threatened that nothing must happen to the “Nuclear Deal”. Turkey has always effectively whipped the European Union and the United States into submission because of its geostrategic location. It is supposed to keep vigil on the Mediterranean Sea and serve as a cork on the Caucasus around the Black Sea. No one has exploited the migrant crisis like Recep Tayyip Erdogan. His exploitation of the situation finds expression in the way he blackmailed the European Union into agreeing to a deal to raise $3 billion for him to tame the surge of migrants into Europe.
The recalcitrance of Syria now is without a doubt with the support of Russia’s aerial blanket bombardment, and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. The world wants a peaceful Syria beyond raison d’etre. If not for anything to control the outflow of refugees, and the activities of terrorist groups like Jabhat Al-Nusra, Al Qaeda, ISIS etc. that have so far greatly but negatively impacted on world peace and politics. This feat doesn’t seem achievable under the headship of Bashar Al-Assad or a proverbial Russia that pays the piper. Russia of today seems to be in a haste to take its pound of flesh over its disintegration. In the views of many Russians, the Soviet Union did not disintegrate under the weight of the United States’ pressure, but that the United States and the West took advantage of its political fault lines at a time when it was changing its political and economic models-perestroika and glasnost. The more reason why Russia annexed the Crimea, and is looking farther afield to annex more Russian speaking territories.
Also behind the shadow of Russia is Iran. Iran has strategically used the Strait of Hormuz to its advantage. One-third of world traded oil supplies pass through the Strait. However, with calls for cleaner sources of energy, oil has become an element in the energy mix component just like other sources of energy. Though shale fracking is associated with high capital expenditure. This could make shale fracking as a stop-gap measure. Even with the success of shale fracking and other environmentally unfriendly sources of energy such as coal , the Strait of Hormuz’s strategic viability cannot be underestimated. Iran has opened a new frontier proxy war with its arch adversary- Saudi Arabia-in Yemen by arming the Houthi rebels. The activities of Iran are also visible in the small-sized country of Bahrain-a country that is host to United States fifth Navy’s fleet. Of serious concern is the uranium enrichment that Iran has stopped under the “Nuclear Deal”. What is not certain is whether the uranium enrichment process is mothballed.
As it is, the template on Syria is exhausted. It remains to be seen what new effective pressure points the Trump presidency will exert. Until then, Bashar Al-Assad continues to pounce on innocent civilians.
Nuhu Othman is a Senior Consultant at Atta Zubairu & Associates, Abuja, Nigeria