How Climate Change Fueled Syria's Uprising

Drought created refugees who were 'willing recruits' against Assad: Thomas Friedman
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jan 22, 2014 10:41 AM CST
This citizen journalism image shows Syrian rescue workers checking the rubble of a destroyed building which was attacked by Syrian warplanes, in Aleppo, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014.   (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center, AMC)

(Newser) – Before the uprising against Bashar al-Assad, Syria was stuck in a four-year drought the UN reportedly called the country's worst in decades. In 2008, a US embassy cable revealed by WikiLeaks predicted potential mass migration due to the weather—and the cable was right. "By 2010, roughly 1 million Syrian farmers, herders, and their families were forced off the land into already overpopulated and underserved cities," writes Thomas Friedman in the New York Times. They received little help from Assad's government, which, according to a UN rep, said economic and social issues following the drought were "beyond our capacity as a country to deal with."

Many of those refugees became "willing recruits" for the movement against Assad, Friedman explains. Indeed, "today, you can’t understand the Arab awakenings—or their solutions—without considering climate, environment, and population stresses," Friedman notes. The drought ended in 2010, but with the country torn by civil war, a future drought could be even more disastrous. And Syria can't expect help from other countries facing disasters of Superstorm Sandy proportions. Friedman's warning to Saudi Arabia and Iran, who, he notes, are "funding the proxy war": "You’re fighting for control of a potential human/ecological disaster zone." It's not the first time climate change has been blamed in Syria; click for Friedman's full column. (Read more Syria stories.)

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