Regional and Global Implications of Syrian Conflict

A Temple in Syria Destroyed BY ISIS

What is Syrian Conflict or Civil War?

The Syrian Civil War is an ongoing multi-sided armed conflict in Syria fought between the Ba’athist Syrian Arab Republic led by President Bashar al-Assad, along with domestic and foreign allies, and various domestic and foreign forces opposing both the Syrian government and each other in varying combinations.

The unrest in Syria, part of a wider wave of the 2011 Arab Spring protests, grew out of discontent with the Syrian government and escalated to an armed conflict after protests calling for Assad’s removal were violently suppressed.The war is being fought by several factions: The Syrian government and Syrian Armed Forces and its international allies, a loose alliance of majorly Sunni opposition rebel groups (including the Free Syrian Army), the majority-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Salafi jihadist groups (including al-Nusra Front), and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), with a number of countries in the region and beyond being either directly involved or providing support to one or another faction (Iran, Russia, Turkey, the United States, as well as others).

Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah support the Syrian Arab Republic and the Syrian Armed Forces militarily, with Russia conducting military operations since September 2015. The U.S.-led international coalition, established in 2014 with the declared purpose of countering ISIL, has conducted airstrikes primarily against ISIL as well as some against government and pro-government targets. Since 2015, the US has also supported the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria and its armed wing, the SDF. Turkey, on the other hand, has become deeply involved against the Syrian government since 2016, actively supporting the Syrian opposition and occupying large swaths of northwestern Syria. Between 2011 and 2017, fighting from the Syrian Civil War spilled over into Lebanon as opponents and supporters of the Syrian Arab Republic travelled to Lebanon to fight and attack each other on Lebanese soil. Furthermore, while officially neutral, Israel has conducted airstrikes against Hezbollah and Iranian forces, whose presence in southwestern Syria it views as a threat.

International organizations have accused virtually all sides involved, including the Ba’athist Syrian government, ISIL, opposition rebel groups, and the U.S.-led coalition of severe human rights violations and of massacres. The conflict has caused a major refugee crisis. Over the course of the war, a number of peace initiatives have been launched, including the March 2017 Geneva peace talks on Syria led by the United Nations, but fighting continues.

Regional Implications

a) Iran has supported the regime of Assad because the defeat of the Assad regime would mean a weak Iran surrounded by Arab adversaries, the US military basis and a resurgent Turkey.

b) Israel extended support to the anti Assad rebels. Tel Aviv’s ultimate objective was not the immediate removal of Assad but a prolonged civil war that would eventually cut into the vitality of the government as well as the rebel fighters.

c) Likewise Qatar and Saudi Arabia have supported the rebel groups where Qatar’s role lies in promoting its regional and global leadership profile and development of an alliance of Sunni Muslim forces across the Middle East and North Africa. Saudi Arabia views itself as the defender of Sunnis everywhere, supported the Sunni factions to confront Iranian influence in the region.

d) Turkey remained neutral for a long time. However with the recent encroachment into the territories with Kurdish minorities in Turkey it has supported the anti government forces and criticised the Assad regime.

e) While the Western countries supported the demands of the anti government rebel groups excluding the jihadist forces, the Russian government supported the Assad regime.

f) The Syrian civil war has affected the regional politics of the region and has turned the country into a battle ground for terrorism and extremism which has to be countered politically and strategically for peace and stability in the long run.

Global Implications

a) While international security has mostly been defined in terms of direct threat posed by states to each other and direct military warfare has been the norm, these developments in Syria has had a profound impact on the idea of international security itself.

b) For a long time there was a hesitancy to declare the situation in Syria as a condition of civil war.

c) With the presence of non state actors like such different rebel groups and the conflict witnessing rigorous use of violence from the state and the rebel groups the international actors for a long time resorted to simple use of threats. The Responsibility to Protect was vetoed by Russia and China in the United Nations.

d) Syria represents a case in context where the forms and nature of warfare has evolved with the presence of non state actors as strong central actors.

e) The involvement of regional actors fuelling the conflict further complicates the situation and the prospect for international involvement

f) The definition of security and war therefore will have to be redefined to address such problems and the presence of such forces where the solution is not just direct military involvement alone. It is a blend of diplomacy, political and military strategies which will have to be developed to find solutions to such complex problems.

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