The lavish dictators in the Middle East would have hardly anticipated an apocalyptic change in their fates when the world was bidding farewell to the year 2010. A region of diverse identities where rifts were personal, sectarian and communal; astonished the world with a revolution so tenacious that Egypt fell after Tunisia and so did Libya in no time. It wasn’t late until the effects of the Egyptian revolution would expose other governments, most notably in reference to Syria. Bashar Al Assad was ruling a nation after his father whose legitimacy were questioned in the west and democratic alliances. As predicted, Syria became the center of global attention where Al Assad’s nature of exit started making headlines and analysts kept convincing audiences on how it was about time that Syria would witness a regime change.
As Al-Assad would keep granting concessions to his people in Syria, the famous leader of Libya, M.Gaddafi’s death was televised to billions of people around the world. A brutal death that international justice bodies would have questioned; but in vain. Rather, it became an example of the consequences of human immorality, misuse of power and miscalculated political moves. Before the violent protests in Syria would escalate, more than thousand lives were already lost. International concerns over the regime in Syria grew and Assad kept promising reforms that did not even convince his own people.
Hence, the Syrian National Council in Turkey resulted as a group that would try to garner all the anti Assad clusters to fight against the Assad regime and force Bashar Al Assad to quit over Syria. If the European Union and Turkey were first to impose sanctions that would hurt Assad’s economy, China and Russia continuously vetoed UN sanctions through the Security Council. Additional sanctions from the Arab League and the US was followed by high ranking officials defecting from Assad’s regime. Frustrated by the Security Council’s inability to get through the Chinese and Russian vetoes, the UNGA(General Assembly) issued a rather weak non-binding resolution to push Assad to resign from his presidency. The United Nations has now appointed two distinguished special envoys to end the crisis in Syria. Six years since then, the Syrian revolution has turned into a Syrian Crisis. A revolution that has killed millions of people and engulfed many nations into a divided playground where the battle is being fought for issues surrounding identities, common history and power. Syria has slipped into one of the worst civil wars that the world has witnessed where Assad’s power is not only contested by opposition forces but also the terrorist network of Islamic State.
In the August of 2013, Damascus witnessed what became one of the two major turning points for the struggle ongoing in Syria. Hundreds of people were killed via chemical weapons of which neither the government nor the rebel forces accepted responsibility. Although the number of people killed elsewhere in the Syrian conflict were higher than the chemical incident; it was enough to raise international concerns over the situation in Syria. Suddenly, major world actors found themselves having no choice but to act; which nations like the United States and the Arab League were desperately avoiding. Until then, Turkey which exercises significant amount of regional influence was expected by world bodies to act and assume responsibility inside Syria. Tactically, Turkey dealt with great international pressure and avoided direct interference inside Syria.
In 2013, Syria’s third year into the crisis, the revolution that was supposed to overthrow the dictatorship of Assad leading to Syria’s better future had turned into a war zone where various elements with differing agendas were entangled. Political rhetoric against Assad softened considerably, in contradiction to his anticipated termination as happened in Libya and Egypt. The year 2013 also saw a change in international approach towards the crisis in Syria. Assad, who fully utilized the divided international response, quickly galvanized into a side that gained momentum and power which the international community had no choice but to deal in order to bring about peace. Syria became a playground for alliance exhibitions that worsened the situation and instead led towards dangerous consequences.
The Syrian playground experienced the worst consequence that all parties were petrified of. The Islamic State found a foothold into the war torn nation. A terrorist network which repeatedly attacked European capitals in the recent time has successfully established a territorial base inside Syria. IS has best exploited the divided interests in Syria and has found itself sheltered between the proxy war.
The conflict in Syria has once again evolved into a sectarian violence with nations siding with each for different interests. Russia and Iran along with the Hezbollah militant group outspokenly support the Assad regime whereas Sunni nations like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan including Turkey, the US and the EU are vouching for rebel forces to topple Assad’s government in Syria. In what appears to be a proxy war, both IS and the Assad regime have managed to survive under the currently divided Syria.
Solving the Syrian Crisis
What started as Syria’s struggle for democracy turned into one of the worst humanitarian crises after the end of the Second World War. Syria has long lost Arab Spring’s momentum and has found itself in a critical stage where neither the revolution is being able to oust Assad nor can it step back and recoil its strategy. The Syrian conflict has generated a disturbing number of refugees fleeing to Turkey and Europe hence creating a huge migration issue for governments. The effects of the Syrian revolution has produced significant problems that the world did not anticipate. Syria has been politically and economically devastated. The people of Syria have paid an enormous price for trying to topple the Assad regime.
The international response, especially from the United States to not repeat its mistake from the past has cost Syria. From a humanitarian perspective, the failure of the United States to act on its “Responsibility to Protect” could be debated to have been more effective in Syria then when the US acted during its war in Iraq. Major powers of the world have lost Syria out of their grip to extremists and “interests guided factions”. Major powers have wasted incredible amount of time reconceptualizing their policies to limit their mistakes inside Syria. Consequently, Syria has languished. Before Syria presents a heart wrenching amount and account of victims as a testimony to one of the greatest failures of our time, world powers including China and Russia need to regroup and act unanimously. Without entertaining political skepticism and interests. For the future of Syria which is getting bleak day after another.
(Mr. Devkota is a Nepali student currently pursuing Masters in Democracy and Global Transformations at the University of Helsinki.)