How did we get here, and where can we go?
By Animesh Roul.
The Syrian civil war has so far witnessed genocide, ethnic cleansing, sectarian schisms, and crimes against humanity. According to data available in March 2017, an estimated 400,000 Syrians have been killed and more than 10 million people have either fled the country or been displaced. What started in the city of Daara in March 2011—a popular demonstration against the incumbent Bashar al-Assad regime, a subsequent government crackdown, and the military siege of the city—has snowballed into a protracted civil war that has overwhelmed the country with large-scale divisions and destruction. There is no end in sight to this complicated conflict, which has surreptitiously engulfed neighbouring Gulf nations and engaged the great powers of the world. Trump and Putin may be cozying up, but their guns are aimed at each other in Syria.
The civil war has been fought primarily between the Syrian government forces, along with allies, and forces opposing the Assad regime, but there exists a plethora of players whose military allegiances are often more opportunistic than ideological. They include the Assad regime, Kurdish forces, Daesh (Islamic State or ISIS), Jaish al Fateh (a jihadi alliance affiliated with Al-Qaeda), and a conglomeration of moderate rebel groups such as the Free Syrian Army, along with regional and global players such as the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran.
From the beginning, the United States has remained steadfast in its efforts to counter the Assad regime’s atrocities against civilians and other humanitarian emergencies in the country, especially the use of banned chemical weapons in Ghouta and Khan Sheikhoun. Against this, the Assad regime’s request for military and economic support to hold on to power materialised with help from its international allies, Russia and Iran. Russia’s September 2015 intervention in the guise of helping the Syrian regime against ISIS and other militant factions initiated a new dimension to the conflict, which many have seen as part of a new cold war. Indeed, the Syrian crisis witnessed a …
To read complete articles from the Autumn 2017 issue, subscribe to our eReader edition.