The Syrian Civil War is an ongoing conflict between the authorities, the leadership of Bashar al-Assad’s Baathist regime, and several opposition groups. There is also ongoing fighting between the various opposition groups.Russia and Iran support the Assad regime while the US and allies such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar assists some of the opposition groups.
In the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus have access to food has been very limited during the war. The people standing in the queue to get food from the UN. (Januar 2014). Photo: Zuma Press / UNRWA
Assad family has been in power in Syria since Hafez al Assad carried out a military coup in 1971. Since 2000 it is his son, Bashar al-Assad (second from left in back row), who has been president of the country. Photo: Wikimedia / Creative Commons
Syria has been ruled by the Assad family’s authoritarian regime for over 40 years. First of Hafez al-Assad who took power in a military coup in 1970, and since 2000 by his son Bashar al-Assad. Baath party defines itself as socialist and based on the idea to unite the Arab world in a federation. Syria is a party state and before the war had the regime not encountered any major resistance in decades.
The movement Muslim Brotherhood challenged the state in 1982 but was pressed back quickly. The opposition has for long been completely suppressed, and the Syrian regime has been among the most stable in the region. Many expected democratic reforms since Bashar al-Assad took power, but the increased transparency lasted only a short while. Instead, power was concentrated in fewer, many of whom had close family ties to the president. Meanwhile, the government launched a privatization process which primarily favored the government itself.
The Assad family belongs to one of Syria’s many religious minorities, Alawites, which is a subset of Shiite Islam. The Syrian regime has close ties to the Shiite Muslim country of Iran, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. In Syria there are also many Christians and Kurds. The Christian majority has been strengthened by a more religious freedom under the Assad regime, which has sought a more secular government. The majority of the population are Sunni Muslims, however. There has long been discontent among Sunnis because Alawites, who account for only 10 percent of the Syrian population, sits on the key positions in the regime and therefore has a better economic situation than many other Syrians.
The Arab Spring
The Arab Spring reached Syria in spring 2011 and resulted in several demonstrations around the country. The protests were severely punished by the regime and the brutal response to the hitherto peaceful demonstrations were given the resistance to spread around the country. Assad’s regime decided to drop the extreme jihadists from prison. The Daily Telegraph has, based on various sources such as Western intelligence and Syrian rebels and defectors from al-Qaeda, reported that the extreme jihadists released because they could help reshape the peaceful uprising into a violent rebellion. Assad had accused the demonstrators of being Sunni Islamic terrorists, and therefore had an interest in “proving” that this
was the case. The so-called Arab Spring came to develop into a civil war.
April 2011. People gather in the town of Nawa, near Deraa, in one of the first demonstrations against the regime. The sign reads “No water, no medicine, no food.” Photo: REUTERS / Handout
2011 established part of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) in Turkey.SNC demanded that Assad would resign, and that Syria would become a democratic state. It was supported by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to fight against the regime forces. Both “ordinary” people and those who had dropped out of Assad’s army became part of the rebel forces fighting against the Assad regime.
As the fighting intensified, the situation was on the ground is more complex. New opposition groups were formed, and it was reported that even international fighters linked to al-Qaeda came to the country to fight the regime. Meanwhile, it was reported about the increasingly brutal actions of the Syrian regime.
The conflict shaping up as battles between the army and the opposition about specific cities and neighborhoods. The lack of journalists and international presence has made it difficult for outsiders to get reliable information about what exactly is happening in the country. The conflict in Syria developed into a brutal civil war in 2012.
Men in the town of Azaz, near the border with Tyrika, tried to extinguish the fire after a bomb attack. They suspect that the Assad-loyal forces behind the attack.May 2014 Photo: REUTERS / Mahmoud Hassano
The conflict spreads
Syria’s neighbors, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey have strongly affected by the conflict in Syria. Relations with Syria have long been an important issue in Lebanese politics, and both the bombings and armed clashes have taken place in Lebanon as a result of the Syrian conflict. It has also repeatedly reported about the shootings in the border areas between the two countries. The situation in the country has already been tense, and many fear that the Syrian conflict could lead Lebanon into a new civil war. The civil war in Syria is closely associated with the chaotic developments in Iraq and the emergence of the Islamic State (IS).
The big political game
Syria has an important strategic significance for many countries – both in the Middle East and around the world. Therefore, both the regime and the opposition, the active support of other states. While religious differences between countries that are Sunni and Shia playing into the conflict.
In addition to its close ties with Iran and with Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Assad regime, financial and political support from Russia. Syria is Russia’s only remaining ally in the Middle East, and Syria is Russia’s military base in the Mediterranean. Russia has increasingly supported the Assad regime and the military regime has become increasingly dependent on the support of both Russia and Iran.
Russia has not supported international intervention in the conflict. China, like Russia vetoed the UN resolutions but had a less prominent role.
The opposition is in turn supported by a large part of the international community, led by the USA. Sunni Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar supported the opposition financially and some with guns. Like the United States, these countries have a strained relationship with Iran and later to the terrorist organization Islamic State (IS). IS emerged in connection with the wars in Syria and in part because of the support such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar providing the opposition groups in Syria.
These two US fighters were among the first who bombed IS targets in Syria, September 23, 2014. Photo: US Department of Defense / Flickr
A country in the resolution – the emergence of IS
Syria has become a divided country. The Assad regime controls areas in western Syria, including the capital Damascus. Other areas controlled by opposition groups.
The Islamic State (IS), formerly mainly active in Iraq, controls large areas of eastern Syria. IS maintains a strong position in the Civil War and has been largely due to the war have been able to grow even more. The countries that had previously been occupied with supporting opposition groups, such as the United States and Saudi Arabia, is now putting more focus on combating IS, both in Syria and in Iraq. The United States established an international coalition in the fight against IS, and launched bombing of IS targets in Syria in 2014.
Turkey has played a dual role in fighting IS since Turkey first and foremost have bombed Kurdish targets. Turkey fears Kurdish struggle for autonomy in Turkey and its neighboring countries ( read more about the Kurds’ struggle here ). The Kurds control a small area of Syria and northern Iraq and has fought against IS on the front line. Nevertheless, Turkey is officially a part of the US-led coalition fighting IS.
Read more about the Islamic state here
The BBC has charted the conflict here
Mapping of the conflict. Source: BBC
Great powers fight against IS in Syria
After France was hit by a terrorist attack in Paris November 13, 2015, as IS claimed to be behind, France took the initiative for a joint military escalation to fight the terror group. Both Russia and NATO countries US, UK and Germany have wanted to contribute more in this common struggle. Britain chose to participate in the bombing campaign against IS in Syria, while Germany’s military forces to assist without directly participating in the hostilities.
On the one hand, the Paris-attack opened the possibility of cooperation between Russia and NATO in the fight against IS. On the other hand, became such cooperation more difficult for the NATO country Turkey shot down a Russian fighter aircraft on 24 November. Turkey argued that the act was motivated by the Russian plane had flown in Turkish airspace, something Russia denies. Russia, for its part accuses Turkey of supporting the IS, including by buying oil from them.This denies Turkey and argue on the contrary that it is the Russians who buy oil from ice. Russia suspects that Turkey is preparing to invade Syria.
The conflict between Russia and Turkey has made closer cooperation between Russia and NATO more complicated. After Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, the relationship between NATO and Russia was marked by conflict. Syria conflict must be seen in relation to Ukraine conflict, because the relationship between the great powers is so important for both sites.
Critical humanitarian situation
- A review committee of the United Nations have shown that Syrian security forces had committed crimes against humanity. These crimes include massacres, kidnappings, torture, rape and murder of civilians. Although the opposition has taken people (sympathizers of the regime) to capture and accused by the UN Committee on sporadic executions.
- The war has led to 12 million Syrians are fleeing. That’s over half the country’s population. Most are displaced within the country but many have fled to neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. Many also continuing on to Europe.
- The humanitarian situation of the civilian population is very critical, and the UN estimates that around 10 million people need humanitarian assistance.
- The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR, have identified over 191 000 deaths during the period March 2011 to April 2014. The death toll, however, is uncertain. Activist organization Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has estimated the death toll to nearly 300 000 passengers.
In the refugee camp “Hands of Cooperation” residents have fled the bombs and shootings in urban and rural areas. The children in the camps have little to occupy themselves with. Photo: Andree Kaiser / MCT / Sipa USA
Before the conflict began, Syria one of the largest inventories in the world of chemical weapons that included the mustard gas and sarin. In 2013 it started to get reports that chemical weapons have been used against civilians and 21 August 2013 was fired rockets filled with sarin in several suburbs of Damascus.Between 300 and 1430 people were killed. The opposition and several Western countries believe that it could only have been carried out such an attack by Syrian government forces, while Assad instead claim it was the opposition forces were behind the attack.
After international pressure, however, he went on to join the UN convention on chemical weapons and promised to do away with the country’s chemical weapons. In late April 2014 announcement Organization OPCW to 92.5% of Syria’s chemical weapons had been transported out of the country to be destroyed.
Bashar al-Assad has presented itself as a father of the nation and guarantor of political stability in the country. Photo: Ida Jorgensen Thinn
UN’s role in the conflict
UN Security Council has been paralyzed in the Syrian conflict. Russia and China have three times vetoed the proposal for a resolution demanding that the violence stopped. In May 2014 being, they also vetoed a proposal to ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the situation in Syria. With the intervention in Libya fresh in mind, Russia and China opposed the UN’s willingness to interfere in internal conflicts. Without a resolution of the Security Council, the UN has not been able to influence the conflict much.
It is Russia and the US different views on the Assad regime’s future that is the biggest obstacle to a comprehensive and strong resolution from the Security Council. The United States believes that a solution in Syria requires that the Assad regime is removed. Russia, however, believes that the solution lies in strengthening the Assad regime because of its military equipment is best suited to combat IS.
One of the few things the Security Council agreed on a resolution demanding that the parties to the conflict let in humanitarian aid to the civilian population. The Council also agreed on sanctions against IS and similar terrorist groups operating in Syria. However, they have not agreed to carry out military action against them.A US-led coalition has yet bombed IS targets in Syria but because the coalition has not received a UN mandate authorizing such military actions on Syrian territory is such bombings highly problematic from an international law perspective. Pure Russian military has however been invited by the Assad regime and thus make a better international legal basis for the use of power in Syria.
In April 2012, the UN sent an observation force (UNSMIS) to Syria to monitor the Annan peace plan. Kofi Annan was appointed UN and Arab League special envoy but his peace plan failed. UNSMIS helped to document some of the massacres in the country, but only consisted of 300 soldiers who struggled to cover the whole of Syria. UNSMIS was discontinued when the term expired in August 2012 due to the increased unrest and increasing violence. At the same time replaced Kofi Annan as special envoy of Lakhmi Brahimi. The lack of progress in peace negotiations meant that although he resigned in spring 2014.
A new special envoy of the United Nations, Staffan de Mistura, put forward a new proposal to the Security Council in February 2015, is about to set up security zones, that is, war-free areas that provide protection for civilians in Syria. It is required that the warring parties agree, something that UN Syria Messenger trying to negotiate. The hope is that the zones can reduce violence in the country, increasing the possibility of humanitarian work and to create a basis for negotiations on a more comprehensive peace agreement. Yet has not the parties have agreed.
A weapons expert from the United Nations takes samples in the Ghouta, where the rockets probably have kept the chemical weapons fired in August 2013. Photo: AFP Photo / Ammar Al-Arbini
Source: Uppsala Conflict Database, the International Crisis Group, un.org, UNHCR, NATO, WhatsinBlue.org, The Daily Telegraph, Aftenposten INSIGHT.
This article was taken from Globalis, for more information www.globalis.se