United Nations army could carve out refugee safe zone in Iraq

Why couldn’t the United Nations move refugees from war torn areas of Syria into areas of Iraq protected by the United Nations forces. It would make it easier for them to return to their homeland and rebuild after the war instead of dispersing them all over foreign nations.

The near-impossibility of getting the permanent members of the Security Council onboard is probably the biggest stumbling stone.

The UN doesn’t have an army.

http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/issues/military/index.shtmlSo who are these folks?

Members of their home countries’ military who are deployed by said militaries to engage in joint projects authorized by the Security Council.

As I said above, for the UN to do what you propose would require the Security Council to be onboard, which requires the approval of all five of the permanent members (US, UK, France, Russia, and PRC) plus at least four of the other members (currently Angola, Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Spain, and Venezuela), and it’d be the largest-scale military operation the UN has launched since the Korean War.

Russia might be easier to win over at this point, but China is going to be a hard sell, and most of the non-permanent nations (excepting Jordan and possibly Spain) don’t really have a dog in this fight, so I don’t see it happening.

There are currently about 220,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq, 620,000 in Jordan, about 1 million in Turkey and about 1.1 million in the Lebanon. So what you suggest is in practice what is happening to a large degree anyway, except (a) the refugees are not concentrated in in Iraq (and why should they be? What would be the advantage? Plus, it’s a very unstable country) and (b) there is no “UN army” to protect them.

Most refugees do in fact aspire to return to their country of origin as their first choice, but the Syrian civil war has been ongoing now for four-and-a-half years. How long are people expected to wait before they try to make the best of their situation, and set about building a life for themselves and their families in some safe place?

They’re are United Nations military personnel

Strictly speaking, they’re not. They continue to be military personnel in the forces of their respective countries. To quote the page to which you yourself linked earlier, they are “first and foremost members of their own national armies . . . seconded to work with the UN” on a mission authorised by a Security Council resolution. Often the secondment involves entire units - e.g. a battalion, in which case the soldiers not only continue to be members of their own national armies, but remain in their usual command structures, reporting to the same officers, etc. In some cases individual soldiers with special skills may be seconded, and work with colleagues from the forces of other states. .


Iraq might mind being invaded again.

Are you planning on plopping them down into the middle of a desert, or do you propose forcing the Iraqis currently living in the area out of their homes? That worked well with the Palestinians, didn’t it?

The basic idea of a peace keeping force is that there exists a peace to be kept. That doesn’t exist in the Middle East at present. ISIS has declared its intent to take over Syria and Iraq - it’s right there in their name.

So if a UN force was sent to cordon off some area of Iraq, ISIS would undoubtedly attack it. And would keep attacking it. Just stand off a ways and fire artillery and rockets at the UN force.

That’s obviously not a situation that will continue. The UN force would have to either withdraw and allow ISIS to advance and take over the sanctuary area or would have to advance and attack the ISIS force in order to defend itself.

Russia, a patron of the Syrian government, has veto power over such a move. I think any nation that feels overburdened by Syrian refugees should kick in money and troops to a safe zone effort.

Iraq is an unstable country itself, it would be a strange idea to choose it as a refuge. Now there have been proposals for safe havens in Syria.

I lived in the Congo during the UN presence there in 1961-62, and since my father was there for the UN I got to hang around a lot of “UN” soldiers. They were UN soldiers only in the sense that they wore a UN badge along with their regular uniform and their top officers took direction from the top UN military person there. But they were clearly Canadian, Indian, Nigerian and other troops, and they stayed with their countrymen.

The Korean War was a UN war - do you consider American troops there UN troops in any meaningful way?

The comments about the SC veto are correct, but even if that wasn’t an issue, good luck in getting countries to volunteer troops for this mess, especially if the US won’t.

I actually think UNSC approval for this wouldn’t be very hard. Russia and China are extremely opposed to any military action designed to cause regime change based on humanitarian issues, or anything seen as “meddling” in a tin pot dictator’s affairs.

But in theory, if Iraq was okay with a “refugee safe zone” being carved out of say, territory it doesn’t control anyway, with an understanding it’d be temporary, this wouldn’t quite be that. Again, that’s a stipulation just to continue discussion, I’m not sure it’s fruitful to go too far down the rabbit hole speculating if Iraq would be okay with it or not.

The biggest issue is that this undertaking would require a large scale, and essentially permanent (in the way that governments think of permanence, anyway) deployment by a UN Expeditionary Force/Peacekeeping force to maintain this area. This area would be the target of immense focus by ISIS and other terrorist groups in the region and it’s not unlikely they’d find ways to infiltrate it and make it a pretty bad place even in spite of our best efforts.

Finally, voting to approve this in the UNSC doesn’t actually require UN member states to commit the troops, some States would have to voluntarily step up. This would be the United States, no one else in the West has, since WWII, made a significant contribution to any long term overseas coalition activity such as this. The very best we’ve seen from the West has been some forces of UN Peacekeepers in the Former Yugoslavia during the wars there and a few missions to Africa, both of those would pale in comparison to this venture. So we’d be talking probably 150,000-225,000 or so American troops permanently involved in maintaining and policing this “safe zone.” All told we’d probably be looking at very paltry commitments from the rest of the UN countries, a few hundred here, a few hundred there. Maybe a couple thousand from large NATO allies.

The real problem with this plan is it’d cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars a year and would be unlikely to end for a generation.

Besides the issue of the UN lacking an army of their own which has been pointed out, they also lack logistics capabilities, and this would be a logistical nightmare with so many people presumably being plopped down somewhere in the more desolate parts of Iraq (unless, as mentioned, you plan on displacing Iraqi’s, who inhabit the more habitable parts already).

All in all, it’s just a bad plan to do by fiat. That said, I’m sure that some sort of large refugee camps could be worked out by the UN in cooperation with the UNSC and other member states. You wouldn’t want them all in the same camp, regardless, but you could (and I think there already are) put camps in many different regional countries that could be temporary until the civil war is over. Trouble being the time table on that…when, exactly WILL this nightmare be over? Gods know. :frowning:

If the US wanted to do it we could do it without SC approval. There isn’t a lot of political desire for the kind of effort it would take. While the UN troops in the Congo were in a shooting war, these days countries mostly don’t want to commit troops that will maybe get shot at. Especially by someone like ISIS. So, not too likely.
Unless we can find where Ben Carson’s Chinese troops got to.

Were you planning on asking Iraq about this, or just going to do it by force?

I think the last time this was tried was Rawanda.