By Mohammad Kawsar Ahammed
Syria has today turned into the world’s greatest arena of destructive humanitarian crisis and the planet’s geopolitical centre point. Hundreds of thousands of people have died and around ten million Syrians have been displaced. The Middle East has been shaken by the ISIS intimidation and the political fallout of refugees.
The conflict in Syria has emerged from the Arab Spring uprisings. After the death of Hafez al Assad in June 2000, his son Bashar al Assad was elected President of Syria. Bashar al Assad promised democratic reforms in Syria but failed to deliver on his promises. Moreover, 74 per cent of Syria is Sunni, but the Assad family is part of a Shia denomination known as the Alawites. Besides this, high rate of unemployment, little democratic practice within the country, and discontent with the authoritarianism are also among the causes of the current crisis in Syria.
From a closer insight, the main actors in the Syrian Civil War are the Assad government, Syrian rebels and the ISIS. International allies of the Assad government are chiefly Russia and Iran. Hezbollah is also with the government. The capital city of the Assad government is Damascus.
On the other hand, the capital of the rebels was Aleppo, which was recently captured by the government. The Syrian rebels have numerous factions and among them the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Kurdish Forces and Al -Nusra Front are the leading forces. The Southern Front Forces and Army of Islam are also noteworthy.
The role of ISIS is also important as they control a large area of Syria and Iraq. Raqqa is the capital of ISIS and they control mainly the eastern part of Syria.
At the very beginning of the Syria crisis, the protestors peacefully protested against the Assad regime. They also demanded an end to the authoritarianism of Assad. But the Assad government failed to satisfy the demand of democratic reforms of the opposition which is formally organised as the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Gradually the FSA was able to emerge throughout the country. The Assad government then used ferocity to muzzle the opposition, using police, military and other forces. As a result of this domination, soon prominent political officials and military commanders of Syria followed the path of the Free Syrian Army.
The situation became more complicated when active foreign involvement gave the war a new dimension which related to political, military and operational maintenance to parties involved in the ongoing conflict. The evolving conflict in Syria is a series of overspreading proxy wars between the territorial and the world forces which is generally between the US and Russia along with Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Assad government is politically and militarily guided and supported by both Russia and Iran, as also by the Lebanese Hezbollah.
On the other side, the opposition Free Syrian Army, affiliated with other rebels under Syrian National Coalition, receives political, monetary and military support from major Sunni-dominated countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar. The opposition also receives political, military and operational support from the UK, France and the US.
Now the question is why are the world powers so much interested in Syria? Is it due to geopolitics or for other factors?
If we focus on Russia we will be able to find that Russia is trying to get into the Middle East by using its military action in Syria to rescue Assad or fighting against ISIS and other rebel groups. It is also a bold challenge to the United States because of the presence of Russia in the region.
Iran views the civil war from a geopolitical security angle. Besides this, if Assad falls, the relations between Iran and Hezbollah will become threatened and as Iran is a Shia-dominated state, the fall of Assad in Syria will be Sunni-blocked which will also be a geopolitical threat by gulf Arab states to Iran.
On the other side, Sunni Arab states have tense relations with Shia-majority Iran, and that’s why they are concerned. Syria is a traditional adversary to the United States, but now the US has severely weakened Syria which is a massive success for US. The conflict between the Sunnis and Shias is also a great success for Washington.
Another thing is that the US still wants to control the Middle East and, therefore, cannot tolerate the presence of Russia in Syria. In a word, by evacuating the Assad regime, Washington believes they would be able to undermine Iran, debilitate Hezbollah and lessen Russia’s geopolitical interventions.
If the civil war continues, it will be impossible to control in the future. To stop the massive humanitarian destruction, necessary steps need to be taken immediately.
The following recommendations could be the possible solution to the Syria crisis.
First of all, we should focus on what the Syrians want. After a long period of bitter experience of authoritarian regime, they want democratic reforms in Syria.
Besides this, according to the UN Charter, the US is not allowed to build up an alliance, fund monetary supply and pirate heavy weapons to vanquish the government of another country. So, the US should refrain from both disguised and undisguised movements to vanquish the Syrian government.
Here the UN can play an important role through the UN Security Council by implementing the ceasefire -- now under discussion -- including the countries involved in the civil war and stop arming and financing military and other forces in Syria. Not only military but also paramilitary activities should be terminated immediately.
Punitive action should be taken against the Assad government by the UN for their actions against the opposition. Political stabilisation should take place sequentially and proper understanding among all significant parties needs to be brought as far as possible.
In conclusion, relations among Iran, Turkey, Syria and the gulf Arab states need to be pressed to arbitrate face to face on territorial structure that can establish ultimate peace. All these countries are not outside forces, and have lived with each other for a long time -- they must exercise the lead to a balanced order in the region.
(The author is undergraduate student of department of development studies at University of Dhaka. Comments and suggestions on this article can be sent to email@example.com)