Syrian Crisis – UPSC/IAS/SSB/NDA/CDS

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Introduction

  • Syria is a west Asian country. It is surrounded by Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordon and Iraq.
  • The civil war in Syria was started in 2011 and still going on.
  • This war is regarded as most brutal conflict in the world.
  • Syria gained its independence from France in 1946.
  • After getting independence, Syria first emerged with Egypt to form the “United Arab Republic”.
  • But later in 1961, Syria separated from United Arab Republic and formed the “Syrian Arab Republic”.
  • Demographics : – 76% Sunni Population, 10 % Alawi(a sect sometimes considered as Shia) and 10% Christian
  • Bashar al Assad succeeded his father as president in 2000.
  • The government in Syria is dominated by Alawi Muslims, but majority of people in Syria is Sunni Muslims. This has led to communal tensions.

Reasons behind Syrian Crisis

  • The root of the conflict can be traced to sectarian conflicts in the region existing there for centuries.
  • Shia and Sunni Islam are the two major sects or denominations of Islam religion.
  • Saudi Arab is regarding itself as the leader of Sunni Muslims.
  • On the other hand, Iran claims itself to the protector of Shia Muslims.
  • The whole west Asia is divided into these two leader.
  • The second reason for this conflict is the absence of an accountable and democratic government.
  • Authoritarian government has created discontent among its citizens.
  • So, a democratic movement against authoritarian government started in Tunisia in 2011 popularly known as “Arab Spring” or “Jasmine Revolution”.
  • This movement inspired other countries in this region to raise their voice against their government.
  • Uneven economy in Syria also seeded anger in common people. Privatization has favored families with personal links to Assad only. This seeded anger among people as jobs remained scare for them.
  • To make matter more worsened, a persistent drought has devastated farming communities in north – eastern Syria in 2008 and this drought affected more than a million people. Tens of thousands of impoverished farmer families flocked into urban areas which rapidly expanded urban slums. But the government did not provided any suitable measures to help them. This acts of government seeded fuel in people’s mind.
  • Syria is a majority Sunni Muslim country but the top positions of security apparatus are in the hands of Alawis, a Shia religious minority to which Assad families belongs. Most Syrian pride themselves in their tradition of religious tolerance, but many Sunnis resent the fact that so much power is monopolized by a handful of Alawi families. This created a feeling of hatred in Sunni population against the Assad’s regimes.

How this conflict started?

  • This brutal conflict started when 15 school going children were arrested and tortured for writing anti – government on a wall.
  • Against this step of government, people started a peaceful protest, but Assad’s regimes responded angrily and ordered to open fire which killed 4 persons.
  • After this act, demonstration took the form of rebellion against government and people started demanding president Bashar – al – Assad to step down but he refused.

Actors in the conflict

  1. Assad Government
  • Capital city – Damascus
  • International allies of Assad government are Russia, China, Hezbollah and Iran.
  1. Syrian rebels(Free Syrian Army)
  • Capital City – Aleppo
  • They are demanding Assad to leave his office of president.
  • They are getting support from USA, UK, France, Turkey(Turkey is providing support to Free Syrian Army(FSA)) and Arab League(They are helping rebels group by providing them troops and assistance)
  1. ISIS(Islamic State of Iraq and Syria)
  • Capital City – Raqqa
  • This group has been declared as a terrorist organization by both USA, Russia and United Nations.
  • ISIS is a direct threat to neighboring state in middle east and is broadcasting its intent to attack Saudi Arabia and the West.

Recent Development

2011

  • In March 2011, this conflict started when peaceful protestors were marching on street against Assad’s regimes. This protest soon spread in Homas, Hama and Damascus. As the violence continued, the government began a massive military crackdown against protestors.
  • In July 2011, the largest wing of Syrian movement was organized as Free Syrian Army(FSA) headed by Riad – Ali – Assad, a former Syrian Army Colonel.

2012

  • In March 2012, Arab League and UN attempted to implement ceasefire by negotiating between rebels groups and Assad government.
  • For this purpose, Kofi Annan was appointed as UN-Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria.
  • He provided a six point peace plan for ceasefire which is popularly known as Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan.
  • Assad government in Damascus had agreed but Syrian Armed forces attacked a number of towns and villages and summarily executed scores of people.
  • Thus peace plan practically collapsed in June 2012 and UN mission was withdrawn from Syria and Annan officially resigned after this.

2013

  • In late 2013, Assad government crossed all red line and used Sarin gas(a chemical weapon) on the people in Damascus which killed upto 1400 civilians.
  • After this UN appointed inspectors to investigate the matter of using chemical weapom. Inspectors confirmed that chemical weapons had been used in Syria but report did not say anything about who was responsible.
  • During G20 summit on September 6, 2013, Russian president Putin and American president Obama discussed the ide of taking Syria’s chemical weapon under International control.
  • Russia suggested Syria to give up his chemical weapons and Syrian foreign minister Walid – al – Moallem immediately agreed to  accept the proposals.

2014

  • In 2014, an extremist branch of Al – Qaeda, ISIL(Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) entered in eastern Syria and rapidly captured vast Syrian ground and made Raqqa its capital.
  • Later this group changed its name to ISIS.

2015

  • In late 2015, Russia intervened in Syria in favor of Assad regime for the first time in years.
  • With the help of Russian air strikes, Assad regime was able to regain many parts of the country (Northern Syria) including Aleppo City.

2016

  • In 2016 Assad government again gained the ground and new peace talks failed.
  • As a result, UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura canceled the third round of peace talk set to begin in Geneva (Geneva III peace talks).

U.S position in Syrian Civil War

  • The United States called for Assad’s resignation in August 2011.
  • In 2012, US closed its embassy in Damascus and issued a series of sanctioned against the Assad regime.
  • In 2014, US started a covert plan to arm moderate rebels in Syria through a “train and equip” program, but this was suspended in October 2015.
  • In 2014 – 2015, US started operation “Inherent Resolve” to conduct targeted strikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq in an attempt to “degrade and destroy” the terrorist groups.
  • USA’s intelligence agency CIA continued to supply arms to the rebels groups in the region.
  • At this point, it became impossible for US to take any direct action because Russia is supporting Assad regime.

Implication of Civil War in Syria

  • Today Syria’s GDP is half of what it was before the war started.
  • More than 2,50,000 Syrian people have lost their lives in five years and millions of innocent people have migrated to neighboring countries.
  • 80% of children are harmed by the civil war.
  • Large scale of human migration from Syria to neighboring countries and European Union has created a global refuge crisis.

Syrian Crisis and India

  • Historically India has had a good relation with Syria. Syria is a member of NAM. But India has always taken a neutral stand to Assad’s regime.
  • Due to Syrian Crisis, India has abandoned its oil investments in Syria. Though India has not much dependency on Syria for her energy needs, but the political stability in the entire west Asian region is very important for India.
  • More than 7 million Indian people are working in these countries. So stability of the whole west Asian region should be India’s priority.
  • However, India is working to become a permanent member in UN security council, so India should deviate from its path of Non – Alignment policy and should take a decisive stand on global affairs like Syrian Crisis.

Conclusion

  • The outside powers that are involved in Syria through proxy should reconsider their decision. They should stop financing the extremist groups to avoid further conflicts in the region.
  • The US and Russia, instead of reviving a cold war era, should engage in negotiations with the Syrian government for constructive results on humanitarian ground.
  • They should provide support to establish a democratically elected government.
  • After large devastation, it is nearly impossible for government to rebuild its human and social capital for living. So international community should come forward with a helping hand to bring the war – torn nation into its normal condition.
  • India can also play a constructive humanitarian role to establish peace and stability in this region.

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