May 11,2022 – JORDAN TIMES / Michael Jansen
NATO’s proxy war on Ukraine has captivated Western leaders and media and created a fresh division largely but not completely between the First World and the Third World. It is impossible to escape constant news about the battle for Mariupol in the east, rockets striking Odessa in the south, women and children escaping battleground cities, towns and villages, and the destruction wreaked on that country’s residential areas, public buildings, roads, railroads, airports, fuel depots, manufacturing plants and farms.
When the war ends who will pick up the tab for reconstruction? Russia? Sanctions could take such a toll on its economy that reparations could be impossible. Will the West simply confiscate all or part of the $600-plus billion belonging to the Russian Central Bank which held in Western banks? While the US has admitted it seeks to “weaken Russia”, does it really want to wreck Russia and impoverish its people as has been the case in other conflicts involving Western powers?
Hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent by NATO members on a war no one will win, while other wars rage on and UN and international aid agencies beg for humanitarian relief for people caught up in chronic conflicts and economic crises.
Yemen is a prime example among many in this region and elsewhere. While the Saudi and Emirati sponsored presidential council and the rebel Houthis have been observing a Ramadan ceasefire and could eventually begin peace talks, 23.4 million out of 30 million Yemenis are in urgent need of food, medicine and protection. The UN’s aid team resident in Yemen has called or nearly $4.3 billion to reverse the accelerating deterioration of conditions in the country. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that there are 161,000 Yemenis who face “the most extreme hunger” and 2.2 million are acutely malnourished. The March funding conference raised only $1.3 billion, just 30 per cent of the total amount required. Although another $300 million has been pledged since then, leaving agencies strapped for funds at a time major programmes have been forced to reduce services or close down programmes.
Syria is another example. After 11 years of civil and proxy warfare, at least 60 per cent of Syrians are also facing hunger thanks to Western sanctions and blockade. Food and fuel prices are rising rapidly. Drought in northern Syria has prevented farmers from sowing their crops and is creating a shortage of water for residents. While warfare has waned since 2019, there are frequent clashes between the Syrian army and takfiri factions as well as interfactional fighting between government opponents. Daesh has regrouped and resumed attacks on US-backed Kurdish militia based in north eastern Syria and across the border in Iraq.
While the Iraqi economy is set to recover this year from COVID and the fall in oil prices in 2020, recovery remains threatened by drought due to climate change and rising prices of grain and foodstuffs caused by the Ukraine war. Bound by the unworkable sectarian system of governance bequeathed to Iraq by the US occupation, Iraqi politicians have not been able to form a government following the October 2021 parliamentary election. The country is being administered by a hamstrung caretaker cabinet led by Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi while the party of Muqdada Al Sadr, which won the most seats in the assembly, battles pro-Iranian militia leaders for dominance. He seeks to form a “majority government” of reform minded Shia, Sunni and Kurdish parties but has been stymied by Shia opponents who lost seats in the election but insist on a power-sharing Cabinet. Meanwhile, 1.2 million internally displaced Iraqis remain in dire straits. Villages in Nineva, Diyala and Erbil provinces have been prevented by Shia militias to return to villages formerly ruled by Daesh.
Suffering from a French-designed sectarian model of governance, Lebanon continues to sink into poverty while its politicians squabble and international donors withhold financial aid until reforms are implemented. The UN estimates that 80 per cent of Lebanese live below the poverty line while of this number, 36 per cent are affilicted by extreme poverty. Lebanese sources say the May 15 parliamentary election is unlikely to effect change as its political system operates on the basis of patronage which provides citizens with access to a wide range of services, including healthcare, education, welfare, electricity, bank loans and so forth. Consequently, most of the current 128 deputies are likely to be returned to parliament and the downward slide will continue. If this goes on for much longer, however, Lebanese could return to the streets and squares, block highways, and mount strikes as they did in 2019 to demand the overthrow of the sectarian regime.
Confronted with a never-ending Israeli occupation and apartheid, individual young Palestinians, both citizens of Israel and West Bankers, seem to have been inspired to act by Ukraine’s fight against Russia. More than a dozen Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks in recent weeks while Israel has slain more than two dozen Palestinians. Palestinians are no longer prepared to endure Israeli rule and maltreatment and are ready to use guns, knives, and cars as means to protest. They see billions of dollars being spent of weapons for Ukraine while 30 per cent of Palestinian residents in the West Bank and Gaza live in poverty. COVID caused the Paletinian economy to contract and rising grain and fuel prices due to the Ukraine war are creating a hunger crisis which is exacerbated by Israeli army and settler violence, house demolitions and land expropriations.
These are examples from only the Eastern Arab World, people living in North Africa, Sub-Sarahan Africa, Asia and Latin America have long been struggling while the West has done little or nothing for them and the global media largely ignores what has been happening. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a European country, has the West’s full attention for now. Eventually, “Ukraine fatigue” will cause the abandonment of that country as well.