Syria’s War Woes

While the world is horridly fascinated by Donald Trump?s antics in the race to the White House, a multi-sided armed conflict incurs grave human rights violations in Syria. The massacre of about half a million people from 2011 onwards has not deterred the main parties- the Syrian government, the Syrian Democratic Forces, Syrian Arab rebel groups, Salafi Jihadist Groups and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, to declare a ceasefire. Most foreign powers are involved in this operation, converting Syria into a proxy battlefield in the Post-Cold War period. While Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are the primary external powers supporting the cause of the Bashar al-Assad government; USA, Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, France and Qatar have provided military and economic aid to the opposition composed of the rebel Free Syrian Army .

The war began in 2011 after the Arab Spring, when protesters demanding democratic reforms in the areas of free expression, association and assembly along with release of political prisoners were brutally repressed by the Assad government. Assad blamed ?foreign conspirators? for promoting Israeli propaganda during the protests. Soon, military bombardment escalated to give rise to rebel groups demanding an overthrow of the government in power. By December 2011, unmarked NATO warplanes arrived at Turkish military bases close to the Syrian border to assist the rebel army. Former counter-terrorism specialist Philip Giraldi stated that ?Americans should be concerned about what is happening in Syria…It threatens to become another undeclared war like Libya but much, much worse,? to defend America?s decision to join the war.

After Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria Kofi Annan?s peace plan for the war-torn country failed, the UN officially proclaimed Syria to be in a state of Civil War on 12 June 2012. Since then, many other countries have entered the fray to secure their interests in the Middle East by supporting either the government or the FSA (Free Syrian Army), apart from the emergence of terrorist organisations like the ISIL and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. Recently, the two main foreign powers with a long history of tension, i.e the US and Russia, attempted to reach a ceasefire after months of diplomatic discussions. While fighting abated in some areas, the Syrian government prevented aid deliveries to be made to rebel controlled territories.

On 19th September 2016, the Syrian govt. refused to extend the seven day ceasefire agreement, blaming an airstrike by American and coalition forces that killed 62 Syrian soldiers. For the first time in the history of the warfare, a UN aid convoy was bombed. The US claims that Russian fighter planes were responsible for the act while the latter completely refutes the suggestion, saying that the trucks caught fire. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called it a ?sickening, savage and apparently deliberate attack.?  Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov emphasized that Russia would continue to support the Syrian armed forces in regaining control of Eastern Aleppo from the rebel forces because of its strategic importance. About 250,000 people are currently trapped in the siege of the Russian backed Syrian army.

UN aid Chief Stephen O?Brien has drawn attention to the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo saying that it has degraded to a, ?”merciless abyss of humanitarian catastrophe unlike any we have witnessed in Syria.? While, both USA and Russia have been throwing accusations of committing war crimes back and forth, thousands of people anxiously wait for medical aid and rescue. The breakdown of diplomatic negotiations has only served to prolong destruction and loss of life of innocent civilians. While aid workers and Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers have become the target of ?callous? attacks (O?Brien) on one hand, about 906 children have been sacrificed at the altar of international power politics, according to the estimates of a Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

This bloodshed stands in sharp contrast to the justification of attacks by world leaders, with Russian President Vladimir Putin commenting, ?The best way to fight international terrorists ? is to act pre-emptively, to fight and eliminate militants in the areas they have already occupied without waiting for them to enter our home?. An important distinction needs to be made by the participating forces between terrorist groups like the ISIL and JFS and the moderate rebels. This chaotic situation has allowed terrorist organisations to capitalize on the conflict by laying claims on territories and recruiting members.

Salman Shaikh, former UN official and expert on the Middle East portends a dismal future, ?One consequence is likely to be the further radicalisation of the mainstream opposition…a five-year conflict could easily become a 10-year conflict.?

– Contributed by Tript, a Student of Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in English

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