Analyzing the War Crisis in Syria Using Past History and Events
The 21st century appears to be the epoch of Middle Eastern political uprisings, a prime example of which is be the ongoing conflict in Syria and worldwide terror attacks as a global “side effect” of the aforementioned process. Just as significant are the several other countries of the Middle East that are also in a state of war. To analyze the situation in each of these countries would be very time-consuming and nearly impossible for one person in the format of one report.
Hence, this article will focus on the ongoing Syrian Civil war. Syria is known as being one of the earliest and continuous civilizations throughout history. Situated on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, and bordering Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. The country’s location serves as a convenient gateway to Middle Eastern affairs. In spite of the relatively small territorial size, 85,180 km2, Syria’s cultural heritage is diverse, and is recognized by UNESCO as having “outstanding universal values”. The prewar population consisted of 22 million people.
“The United Nations says at least 250,000 people have been killed. U.N. aid chief Stephen O’Brien told the Security Council on Tuesday, October 27 2015 that 4.2 million people had fled Syria, some 13.5 million people needed protection and help inside Syria, of which more than six million are children.
” – Michelle Nichols, Oct 27, 2015 Case of Syria From a Historic Perspective: Today, Syria is already in its’ fifth year of continuous war. This begs the question: Was Syria always in such a conflicted situation? Is Syria an aggressive country? Up until the 11th century Syria was under the control of Islamic peoples such as: the Abbasids, Tulunids, Ikhshidids, and Hamdaninds. All of them left religious and cultural marks on the country. Historically, Syria has never actually been truly free. After the domineering reign of the Ottoman Empire, Syria was under French control until the Second World War.
Afterwards, in 1941 Syria was given opportunities to achieve independence over the course of the ensuing seven years. Eventually as an independent Arab state, the country, Syria became a founding member of the Arab League in 1945, and a chartered member of the United Nations. These historical facts show Syria blossoming into a nation of worldwide importance. With the start of uprisings however, this relative independence didn’t last either. This time the threat was not external but internal, in the form of movements such as Islamic military coups in 1949, formed by Al-Za’im. The starts of uprisings and independence didn’t last either.
This time the threat was not external but internal, in the form of movements such as Islamic military coups in 1949, formed by Al-Za’im. ” Al-Za’im pioneered the militarization of the Syrian national identity, by merging the leadership of the army with that of the Syrian political system, fostering the concept that Syrian people and the army were one and gradually Syria acquired a military culture… By 1970, Syria was exhausted by political unrest and the continuous chain of military coups which erupted almost every two years. Hafez al-Assad had the cold-blooded ruthlessness of a military man and the intelligence of a sharp politician and started a new decade of nationalist socialism. Syria, meanwhile, lay waiting to be controlled.” – Dr.
Halla Diyab, for “Al-Arabiya” 26, Nov. 2014 In the year 2000, Hafez al-Assad’s son, Bashar al-Assad came to power after his father’s death, and without any other opposition running against him in position. Bashar al-Assad basically inherits his father’s authoritarian “throne”. Situation in Syria under Bashar al-Assad’s presidency was a Republic with unicameral legislature, and a People’s Assembly. The President was directly elected to a seven-year term.
There were 14 administrative provinces. Major Ethnic divisions included: the Arabs, Kurds and Armenians. Religion: Sunni, Alawite and Druze Muslim, Christian.In general, Syria appeared to have a civilized, pluralistic system of government, with a pretty democratic structure. The most significant reforms under Bashar al-Assad’s ruling included liberalizing Syria’s trade regime, bringing agriculture into a modern level, re-introducing private banking into the financial sector, and cutting government subsidies on refined petroleum products.
Syria’s economy still is slowed by large numbers of poorly performing public sector firms, low investment levels, and relatively low industrial and agricultural productivity plus rapidly growing population, rise of inflation and being under US economic sanctions from 2004. These sanctions restricted Syria from accepting all imports from the US except food and medicinal goods. According to the US, these sanctions were formed due to allegations that Syria supported dictator Saddam Hussein militarily. These imposed sanctions greatly slowed Syria’s economical development. (Marquis, Christopher, “Bush Imposes Sanctions on Syria, Citing Ties to Terrorism,” May 12, 2004) During his ten-year presidency, Assad managed to achieve progress in the Syrian economy, at the same time maintaining an internally authoritarian regime. His first mistake was his habit of centralizing government and military choices around himself, by mostly deciding for the collective authoritatively.
Assad’s external politics consisted of trying to establish stable relations with Western powers. Course of events and The Crisis How did it all start? In 2011, the people increasingly held protests across cities in Syria, but this only strengthened Assad’s reign. Thus, the Syrian people were divided into two parts a result of president Bashar al-Assad’s undemocratic rule. Officially, the conflict was triggered by peaceful demonstrations (28 January 2011), as the people were demanding a more democratic system of government. Over the course of three months, the government did not once respond to the people’s requests.
Protests spread and continued until the 22nd of April, and on the 25th the Syrian army was sent out to attack the civilians. On the 29th of July 2011, seven military officers formed the Free Syrian Army (FSA) composed of militarily experienced soldiers.In August, several smaller military, anti-government groups were formed in support of the FSA, most of which were based in Turkey. These groups were called the “Syrian National Council” which unsuccessfully attempted to unite with the FSA, due to their large range of incompatible religious, political, and national views. While the opposition started to receive support from Turkey, the conflict escalated.
It was around this time the opposition rebels managed to overtake Northern cities in Syria. At the beginning of 2012, Assad escalated the conflict, using heavy artillery, against the opposition causing injury and death to 10,000 civilians. Thus, in March the conflict was officially declared a “Civil War”. Almost all basic human rights are currently being denied to the citizens of Syria. Adding to the crisis, many refuges are being refused shelter in European countries, exacerbating the discrimination.
It is our responsibility as humans to be concerned when there is a seeming disregard exhibited by the government towards people’s rights. It is worth noting that Syrian citizens had very limited options in choosing their presidential candidates, most of their decisions were expressed by a referendum vote. President Bashar Al-Assad promised a more democratic future for Syria, but in reality failed to achieve any real democratic progress. President Bashar Al-Assad was well received by his people, but due to his father’s past mistakes of an over authoritative position, not all the people of Syria were open to a second Assad-centered government. The civil war resulted in a split of the people into two sides: those who support president Assad, and those known as the rebels, resisting president Assad’s authority. As the conflict progressed, external powers stepped in and used the situation to their advantage, to play the game by their own rules and benefit from Syria’s weakness.
In an attempt to capture the two main Syrian cities, both sides were involved in legal and illegal methods of combat. There was no control of the situation, with attempts of control incuding: assassination, hostages and even suicide bombings. At the peak of the conflict, the many sides/factions included were: Pro-Assad Forces: • Syrian Armed Forces and National Defense Forces (with support from Iran) (250,000 troops) • Lebanese Hezbollah (8,000 military troops) • Iraqi and Shia Militias Anti-Assad Forces and Extremist Groups: • Southern Front Forces (FSA, and the aforementioned smaller armed groups) • Islamic Movement of the Free Men of the Levant (linked to Al-Qaeda, fight against Assad and the terrorist Islamic State, 200,000 troops) • Army of Islam (Damascus-based, fight against Assad’s government and the IS) • Nusra Front (linked to Al-Qaeda, a terrorist organization) • Islamic State (IS ,ISIS or Daesh) – based in Raqqa, Syria. 200,000 troops, is infamous for its extreme terrorist attacks internally and abroad. Select Kurdish Forces and Political Groups: • Kurdish Democratic Unity Party (fight ISIS, and are anti-Assad) • Popular Protection Units (50,000 Kurdish fighters, Assyrian, Armenian and other ethnicities) • National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces a.
k.a SOC • National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCB) (Christopher M. Blanchard, Carla E. Humud, and Mary Beth D. Nikitin. “Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.
S. Response,” 1-28) ISIS formally joined the war in 2014. ISIS Majorly largely controls Northern Syria and lands with oil reserves. This gives them the ability to control oil trade and gain profit. Major supporters of ISIS are Turkey (which share political ambitions with IS), which indirectly fund ISIS by buying their oil. ISIS’ incentive for joining the war is to gain total control of Syrian territory and build a caliphate.
Russia, which has been supportive of the Assad regime since the very beginning of the conflict, entered the hostilities, with missile strikes and air force bombings, in September 2015. The military involvement of Russia had first stabilized and subsequently has changed the balance of power in favor of the Assad government, something which has been contested by the US and the EU, and, of course, Turkey who are insisting that the Russian strikes are targeting mostly the insurgents and the opponents of the Assad regime but not ISIS. (BBC News, “Syria conflict: Putin defends Russia’s air strikes,” 12 Oct. 2015) Controversy surrounding Russia: Certain Russian roles in the conflict been perceived as controversial since it has been claimed that Russia has not only been striking ISIS but has also been making a concerted effort to carry out attacks against anti-Assad rebel forces in order to ensure is able to remain in office and his eventual military triumph. Could this be called cheating? Turkish controversy: As well as shooting down a Russian warplane, Turkey has been accused of multiple transgressions. It is entirely plausible that Turkey has been funding ISIS and controlling them.
By empowering ISIS, Turkey gains the ability of controlling most of the Middle Eastern world as well as preventing the Kurds from gaining independence. Turkey is hosting 2 million refugees. Turkey has always been a supporter of the Syrian army opposition (FSA and other groups). The goal of the Turks and the US is to create a buffer zone or “safe zone”, ranging from the border of Turkey almost until Aleppo. The question is does Turkey intend on taking over that neutral zone once the conflict is over? Will the conflict be ending soon when Syria’s aggressive neighbors uphold such burning interests? Saudi Arabia – opposes Bashar al- Assad, and funds rebel groups even those with jihadist ideologies. Nowadays, Saudi Arabia is willing to fight terrorism alongside the US in order to prevent ISIS from gaining control over Saudi minorities.
Iran – huge supporters of Assad, spent billions for the support of the Syrian government. (BBC News, “Syria crisis: Where key countries stand,” 30, Oct. 2015) Humanitarian Aid: Source:(UN, “How Humanitarian Funds for the Syria Crisis Were Spent,” January/December 2013, (7)) The EU and other member states, have contributed the most to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, which is currently the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II. The EU has given about 5 billion euros for humanitarian causes in Syria. “The humanitarian situation has continued to deteriorate in Syria with intensified fighting, high levels of violence, widespread disregard for the rules of international law and the obligation to protect civilians Syria, and gross human rights abuses committed by all parties.
The active conflict is increasingly hindering the delivery of humanitarian aid especially in Northern Syria: supply roads are often disrupted or closed and humanitarian organisations have been forced to downscale or suspend operations in several areas due to insecurity. Because of the dire winter conditions, the population’s vulnerability has increased and 13.5 million of people are in great need of humanitarian assistance: 6.5 million are displaced, 4.6 million people in hard-to-reach areas, including over 480 000 besieged.
Civilians continue to be the primary victims of the conflict. Rape and sexual violence, enforced disappearances, forcible displacement, recruitment of child soldiers, summary executions and deliberate shelling of civilian targets have become commonplace.” – The ECHO factsheet on the Syrian Humanitarian Crisis. (European Commission, “Syria Crisis,” 1-3) Proposals and Conclusions ” It’s also a war no one is really winning or can win.” -Anthony Sharwood on the Syrian Crisis, September 9, 2015 On Thursday, 11th of February 2016, US and Russia called for a ceasefire. This has been the third attempt in 5 years to stop the war.
Currently, more than 6 countries together with the UN and Arab League formed the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), aiming to resolve the current crisis. There have been three attempts at a ceasefire and three meetings between the ISSG and the Syrian anti-government opposition. As this piece is being written the ceasefire decree is in action and is yet to be made official. The outcome will only be known 5 days after the declared statement of a ceasefire. “What we have here, are words on paper, what we need to see in the next few days are actions on the ground” – John Carrey, US Secretary of State, February 11, 2016 According to a BBC report: “the International system has failed Syria,” it seems that what is the UN’s duty to protect and fight for human rights, had been ignored until the very last minute, when the crisis started to affect the UN and EU itself.
Western powers did not express concern or hold conferences to discuss the situation until very recently. For this they deserve to be called hypocrites. They let the Syrians kill themselves and lose their dignity. The UN only stepped in when the Syrian refugees started entering Europe and terrorist attacks were carried out in European countries. Where were they before? (Keane, Fergal, BBC News, 21 Dec. 2015) The problem with ISIS: ISIS is a major problem and should be treated as a priority.
Before, there was only a civil war, now with the addition of ISIS there is a great need for its elimination. To this I propose, temporarily uniting the powers of Assad’s government and the rebel forces to eliminate ISIS. Everything possible needs to be done, the world needs to focus on ISIS first, since they are a threat to everyone. In conclusion, it is evident that this war has no predictable end any time soon. There will be no clear winners and no outright losers at the moment, or in the foreseeable future.
When there are so many foreign powers invested in one geopolitical cause it is unlikely that the crisis will result in peace or justice. The most likely future for Syria would be a state where corruption is endemic.. Although, there is one last plan for Syria that does not seem so bad after all. The most complete proposal for peace is as follows: As proposed by Russia, president Al Assad is to be exiled to Russia as a political refugee/prisoner. There he is to be given asylum, while at the same time losing his place in Syrian politics and possibly judged in court.
Assad’s government continues its past regime but now without Assad. This is a temporary situation and is only done to stabilize the country. Meanwhile, the two most involved powers in the crisis: Russia and the USA, fight ISIS and in the best-case scenario: overpower the jihadist groups in Syria. Thus, the main dangers are eliminated. After the war ceases, the Syrian people are allowed to safely return with humanitarian aid being provided from the UN.
The Kurds, other minority groups and Turkey, are silenced and returned to their previous state/land. The Turkish corridor is closed. The Syrian government is given a period of directorial government until new worthy political parties are formed. These political parties will then be given a chance to be voted in to a newly formed democratic system. (Haass, Richard N.
, Nov. 18, 2015) To some, this solution seems idealistic, but it is the best reality we can strive for. As soon as more countries realize there are no winners in this war they will give up or pick sides. Thus the conflict must end with a planned solution for Syria and its people. It has been quoted many times that the situation in Syria today, greatly resembles many countries’ situations after the Second World War.
This is just a comparison to show how greatly demolished the economy has become. According to “Syria Deeply,” Syria could take 40 to 50 years to recover and that’s just after the war stops. The total sum lost by Syria is about 237 billion USD, which is still less than the total debt of Greece (340 billion USD). About 200 billion will be spent on rebuilding the country. (Montgomery, Katarina, Jun.
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