- Pages: 7
- Word count: 1725
- Category: Isis
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The conflict in Syria that began with peaceful protests has turned into a bloody 7-year civil war. It has become a very complex problem with complicated alliances, agendas, and an unclear solution. It is smeared with war crimes from both sides and worsened by the entrance of extremist groups such as ISIS. It is a problem that will require thought and cooperation in order to restore peace to the region.
To understand the fight, we must start at the beginning. Bashar al-Assad, the current President of Syria, was thrown into the political scene when his older brother, their father’s chosen successor, was killed. When his father died in 2000, Bashar was guaranteed the Presidency of Syria due to support from the Baath political party he participated in as a youth, and from the ruling Alawite minority. At first, many thought he would be a different leader than his father and make the needed changes for the nation to progress. Almost immediately he allowed the printing of independent newspapers and began instituting changes toward a more democratic government. However, this did not last long; the positive changes were soon reversed, and political, ethnic, and religious enemies were unfairly arrested and imprisoned. Assad had proved to be just as corrupt and ruthless as his father.
The civil war currently taking place was sparked by Arab Spring uprisings in other middle eastern countries. In 2011, peaceful protests began in Syria against Assad’s corrupt regime. This quickly led to demonstrators being slaughtered by government forces. Civilians and defectors from the Syrian military formed the Free Syrian Army to fight against Assad alongside other rebel groups. Kurds in the north unofficially seceded from Syria and joined the fight against the government. Assad used the formation of rebel groups as an opportunity to release extremist prisoners to join the rebel forces and cause discord to slow their progress. The entrance of terrorists, especially members of ISIS, has been a devastating blow to all who stand in their way. Committing horrendous war crimes and human rights violations on their way to creating a large Islamic state, they have become a major player in the Syrian conflict.
The rise of ISIS began during battles between the Soviet Union and rebel groups in Afghanistan in 1979. Two young men who developed extremist sentiments during that time were Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Both would go on to form their own terrorist groups; bin Laden emerging as the leader of al-Qaeda, and Zarqawi at the head of smaller and less successful groups. At one time Zarqawi was allied with al-Qaeda, but he was killed in an airstrike in 2006. Five years later, a new leader emerged from one of Zarqawi’s groups and claimed leadership of every al-Qaeda-allied group. This enlarged terrorist cell became ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and became the enemy of al-Qaeda. Their goal is to form an Islamic State reaching from Iraq to the Levant, and they will do anything to accomplish it. They target several groups: the Yezidi, an ethnic/religious minority in northern Iraq who they consider devil-worshipers and apostates; the Kurds in Syria, Iraq, and Turkey; Iraqi Christians; and Shiites. ISIS’s reign of terror has included atrocities such as chemical weapon attacks, violent murders and mass murders, and brutal torture. This has worked to Assad’s advantage as ISIS has proved to be a more considerable threat, shifting the focus from Assad to them.
ISIS’s involvement has been a complicating factor in forming alliances and agendas of other nations and groups participating in the conflict.
- Russia (long-standing alliance)
- Iran (long-standing alliance)
- Hezbollah (Lebanese militant group)
- Gulf states (to get at Iran)
- Saudi Arabia
- United States
Turkey is an ally of the United States and wants Assad removed from power. However, their government is afraid of the Kurds advancing northward and seeking autonomy in Turkey in the future, so they fight against Kurdish forces backed by the United States. The United States’ priority is to destroy ISIS; the group is wreaking havoc in the middle east and poses a threat to our national security. America also seeks a ceasefire between the rebels and government forces, and to rebuild Syria as a democratic nation. The Syrian rebel groups are only united in their fight against Assad, and some are even allied with terrorist groups like al-Qaeda. Iran wants to keep Assad in power to maintain their strong alliance and to keep routes open to fund Hezbollah militants in the Levant. Russia’s goal is to retain their military bases in Syria and to sustain their strongest middle eastern alliance.
Complex alliances and individual agendas do not facilitate a quick resolution. Airstrikes, recent atrocities in Eastern Ghouta, and a huge refugee crisis have grabbed the world’s attention and solutions are being demanded. Many suggestions have been made, including: decentralization of power and the creation of a new federal government; a coalition government with various religious and ethnic groups represented; the unattractive option to divide the country along ethnic/religious boundaries; and the big question of whether or not peace can be achieved if Assad is left in power. Seyed Hossein Mousavian, the former Head of Foreign Relations Committee of Iran’s National Security Council has proposed 9 steps to help regain stability in Syria and end the war:
- Syria’s unity, independence, territorial integrity, and secular character are fundamental.
- State institutions will remain intact.
- The rights of all Syrians, regardless of ethnicity or religious denomination, must be protected.
- It is imperative to accelerate all diplomatic efforts to end the war.
- Humanitarian access will be ensured throughout the territory of Syria, and the participants will increase support for internally displaced persons, refugees, and their host countries.
- Da’esh (Islamic State), and other terrorist groups, as designated by the U.N. Security Council, and further, as agreed by the participants, must be defeated.
- …the participants invited the U.N. to convene representatives of the Government of Syria and the Syrian opposition for a political process leading to credible, inclusive, non-sectarian governance, followed by a new constitution and elections. These elections must be administered under U.N. supervision to the satisfaction of the governance and to the highest international standards of transparency and accountability, free and fair, with all Syrians, including the diaspora, eligible to participate.
- This political process will be Syrian led and Syrian owned, and the Syrian people will decide the future of Syria.
- The participants together with the United Nations will explore modalities for, and implementation of, a nationwide ceasefire to be initiated on a date certain and in parallel with this renewed political process.
A consistent theme between different theories seems to be getting rid of Assad, moving toward a more democratic government, and assisting refugees and internally displaced people.
Mr. Mousavian’s plan seems logical and fair to me. Whichever solution is decided upon should preserve as much of the structure, unity, and territory of Syria as possible while respecting the rights of EACH Syrian citizen. It should move towards democracy and allow the people to have a legitimate voice in the running of their nation.
It has been very interesting for me to learn about what is going on in Syria and to know more about what is happening in the world. Before researching for and writing this report, I knew nothing about the war in Syria. I have been able to research the conflict through many different sources and I feel I have a much better understanding of what is going on. It seems to me that Bashar al-Assad is a corrupt dictator that should be removed from power to promote peace in Syria. However, due to the instability and disunity of rebel forces, I don’t think any of them should be granted control of the country. I like the idea of a coalition government made up of representatives from different ethnic and minority groups, and the promotion of a more democratic government. A type of congress or parliament could be formed and the people could vote for their representatives, giving minorities and discriminated groups a voice and a piece of the power. I don’t know enough about politics or government to know if that would work, but I’m an advocate of fair representation and treatment for all those who accept and keep reasonable and ethical laws.
However, before a new government can be formed, the conflict has to end. I believe that destroying ISIS has to be the first step, then everyone can work together more efficiently to bring about a ceasefire. An Aljazeera article states: “We must work with the 100,000 Syrian rebels who are fighting both ISIL and the regime. Neighbouring countries like Turkey and Jordan must eventually send ground troops to assist the rebels.” Thanks to Kurdish forces, ISIS has been driven almost completely from Syria, but the rebels will need more help to permanently eliminate ISIS. It might even require UN or US-led coalition forces. I don’t encourage violence, but this conflict is affecting much more of the world than just the middle east and it needs to end quickly. I believe a solution for the government can be found if everyone works together, but first, an environment must exist for the founding of a new government. ISIS must be defeated, and then the world can focus on cleaning up and repairing Syria.
The middle east has long been a region of consistent unrest, and this extensive war in Syria has been just as brutal as previous conflicts. Thousands of lives destroyed, families torn apart, horrific human rights violations, and a huge refugee crisis have all contributed to a traumatized and divided Syrian people. The war on terror must continue with the goal to eradicate ISIS and make way for a new Syria that can and will protect its population as a free people. It will require sacrifice, cooperation, and more lives, but with perseverance and a spirit of unity and compassion, I believe that the nations involved can find a way to resolve this bloody struggle for power.