MNA Feature Desk: A series of guided air strikes conducted by a coalition of US, UK and French forces on Syria added a new dimension to the ongoing civil war after tensions boiled over between the US and Russia over the Syria crisis in recent weeks. As both the powers are not intending to back off from their plans, several new developments are in the headlines every day.
For the last few years, it has become a common matter of the world citizens to start their day with few depressing pictures of war victims of Syria. Once a rich country in culture and heritage now stand as a witness of devastation, which has been contributed by several countries around the world including Syria itself. Moreover, the recent missile attacks by the US led alliance and the alleged gas attack by the Syrian government is for sure to take this war to a higher zone of conflicts.
The war in Syria is ongoing for the last seven years. It started as a simple peaceful uprising against the regime of the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who succeeded his father Hafez al-Assad in 2000. But within few years of his regime, the Syrian citizens were suffering from high unemployment due to the inefficient economic performance of the government, immense corruption and also from constrained political freedom.
This dissatisfaction led to the pro-democracy demonstration and protests in March 2011, which started at Deraa — a southern city of Syria. This anti-government movement was influenced and inspired by the frequent changes in political power of the neighbouring countries and the Syrian people also demanded a change which was brutally tackled by the Assad regime as deadly force was used to offset the outrageous rebels resulting in nationwide protests demanding Assad’s resignation.
As the turbulence got speed and the attacks of the government forces intensified, rebels armed themselves up in defence and also to clear their areas and cities from security forces. The government also took unmoving stature as President Assad sworn to mash the acts of the rebels as he labelled the demonstration as ‘foreign-backed terrorism’.
The violence rapidly escalated and the country descended into civil war. But this simple war soon became very complex and a sever civil war as several superpowers of the world started taking interest in the outcome of this war. This war got US, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, UK, France and many other countries involved and interested.
Involvement of the Kurds and the IS made this war more sensitive as other countries started interrupting in the inside matters of Syria due to their presence and activities. Except for nuclear weapons, almost all large scale weapons available in the global warfare have been used in this war which is still labelled as civil war.
The humanity has suffered the most in this war as several cities of Syria were demolished and levelled to the ground. Thousands of people are losing their lives every week. Children have been the greatest victims of this war. No sensible person of this world can stay unmoved after watching the pictures of war-affected children of Syria. A UK-based monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, had reported the deaths of 353,900 people by March 2018 which includes 106,000 civilians.
This estimation does not include 56,900 people the group said were missing and presumed dead. They also estimated 100,000 deaths which were not documented. All human rights related international laws have been broken as the suffering of the Syrians knows no end. Sadly, this devastation of humanity is still far away from stopping as everyday new incidents are being reported and different countries are expressing their plans to stay in favour of Bashar or against him which will cause further ill fate of the Syrian people.
This war has become something of highly critical in nature during the past few years as this has gone past the sphere of a battle between the supporters and the opposing parties of Assad. Different groups and countries intervened with their own agendas. The enmity between the Sunni and Shia Muslims came out as an important factor and has become a great threat for communal peace. Jihadist groups like Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda is also playing a part driving this war to become prone to terrorist acts. The Kurds of Syria, who are in demand of self-government, yet not fought the government forces but definitely very critical to this war.
As we already mentioned that different countries are getting involved in this war for different reasons, Russia and Iran remains the greatest supporters of Assad regime while US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are the major backers of the rebels. UK and France also expressed their anti-Assad position on April 14, 2018 with a joint missile attack with US though they mentioned this attack to be fully concentrated on destroying chemical weapons production and storage facility in Syria but it assures their standing with the US on the same ground. Vladimir Putin, the Russian premier, immediately criticized this attack and demanded for special meeting of the UN Security Council. It shows that Russia considers this alliance as a move against Bashar al-Assad.
Russia, already having an air base in Syria, launched an air campaign in support of Assad earlier in 2015 which actually turned the war in government’s favour. Though Russian military demands to target only terrorists but according to report, rebels and civilians also were not spared. Iran also allegedly deployed hundreds of troops and spent billions of dollars in aid of Assad’s force. Thousands of Shia Muslims along with armed, trained and financed by Iran militia mostly from Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement as well as from Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen have also fought alongside the Syrian army.
The US, UK, France and few other Western countries have continuously provided support to the rebels. Alongside a global coalition they lead has also carried out air strikes on IS militants in Syria since 2014 and also helped an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in capturing territories from the jihadists.
Turkey supported the rebels for a long time though its prime focus was to contain the Kurdish militia that dominates the SDF as they anticipated it to be an extension of a banned Kurdish rebel group in Turkey. Saudi Arabia actually intervened to offset Iranian influence and in that process they supported the rebels with arms and finance. On the other hand, Israel being concerned by shipment of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Syria conducted several air strikes in an attempt to thwart them.
From analyzing the involvement of these countries, it becomes apparent that, each country has its own agenda and though sometimes their goals are different, they are serving a particular side. Like in Turkey’s case, though they want to contain SDF, they are actually on the same side as the US led alliance which is funding SDF. This gives a glimpse of the complex scenario of the multi-party interest in this war resulting in prolonging human sufferings. Among the 22.1 million pre-war populations, 6.1 million are displaced internally due to the destruction in their locality and 5.6 million have fled abroad. UN estimated that around 13.1 million Syrian people will require humanitarian help in 2018.
The government already regained control of Syria’s biggest cities but a large portion of the country including Idlib and Eastern Ghouta, is still under the control of rebel groups and the Kurdish-led SDF alliance. This is putting the lives of almost 3 million people under threats of government attack. The situation got intense with alleged chemical gas attack by the government in Douma on April 7, 2018 killing at least 70 people from exposure to chlorine gas and sarin nerve agent.
In response, US, UK and France alliance launched 105 missiles targeting three said chemical weapons facilities in Syria. Russian President and Assad’s ally Putin already predicted global chaos if the western world hits Syria again. Observing these incidents, it does not seem like the war in Syria is going to end any time soon in spite of everyone’s agreement that a political solution is mandatory.
Another cold war is approaching over the control of the global politics and economy which was in the hands of the US during the post-cold war era. But Russia is getting stronger both strategically and politically and the world is currently experiencing somewhat a bi-polar power distribution. Efforts of UN have failed in reaching any consensus in spite of nine rounds of UN-mediated peace talks. The intensifying international politics is more eminent to influence the war in Syria and that will devastate the human lives, culture, heritage and economy of Syria in the upcoming years.
The next generation of Syria has to bear the extreme trauma of this war and many will float around without any identity. We hope the global leaders understand the sufferings of the people and restrain themselves from sacrificing human lives for their interests. We can just hope peace soon regains its charm in war-torn Syria.
The writer is Associate Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA)