THE mandate. In June of 1920 the San

THE SYRIAN CIVIL WAR AND ITS EFFECTS

 

In this paper I will speak on
the Syrian Civil War and how it connects to the rise of ISIS. I will also touch
on how this continuing conflict will affect the global stage in future years.
To truly begin this paper, I believe it
is important to understand the history of Syria. The history of the country plays an important part in
why the Civil War was able to happen in the first place.

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There is a great deal of
ancient and medieval history in Syria but I am going to start in the more
modern history, specifically I’ll be starting after World War I when Syria was
put under a French mandate.

            In June of 1920 the San
Remo Conference was held following World War I to decide what to do with certain
Middle East countries. League of Nations mandates were administered and they put
both Syria and Lebanon below a French mandate and put Palestine under British
control. The French separated Syria into three independent regions, and separated
Lebanon from Syria entirely. Immediately,
the Syrian people felt a lot of tension towards French rule and it did
not take long for this tension to turn in to a full-scale uprising, and it was
to be the first of many. In 1928
elections were held for a constitutional assembly, where a constitution was
drafted but the proposal was rejected by the French High Commissioner, and
again this sparked a wave of nationalist protests. At the point in Syrian
history, we are already seeing a pattern of nationalist movements and constant
uprisings. Keep in mind that at this time it is because there is a foreign
power in rule. A foreign power with their hand in the country’s politics is
something that will continue to stick with Syria, so this need to uprise is
already weaving itself in to Syria’s culture.      In 1936 France agreed to work towards
Syrian independence and so they disbanded the separate regions, all the while
continuing to maintain military and economic control. 5 years later, Free
French and British troops occupied Syria. A few years later, in 1943 a nationalist, Shukri al-Kuwatli,
was elected as the first president of Syria but the country did not gain it’s
independence until 1945. Around this year
was the time when the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party was founded. The
Ba’ath Party was a political party that called for the alliance of the Arab
world into a single state and pushed for freedom from Western control. In 1955 President Shukri al-Kuwatli
pushed for an increased relationship with Egypt and this led to the formation of the United Arab Republic, which combined
Egypt and Syria as one nation. The Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser became
the leader of the new state and one of his initial orders was the forceful dissolving
of all Syrian political parties. This included the Ba’ath party, which was a
main force in pushing for the union of Egypt and Syria. There was a lot of discontent with the types of decisions Nasser was
making, and they ultimately helped turn the Syrian people towards discontent
with the Egyptian domination of the UAR. In 1961, it incited a collection of
Syrian military officers to lead a coup and seize power, which dissolved the
union. It only lasted for 4 years. So again
we are arriving at the conclusion that the history of Syria is filled with
strife and discontent towards those in power, even if it was a system of power the
Syrian people themselves pushed for.

            In
1963, senior members of the Ba’ath
party and their army officers seized power. In 1966 Salah Jadid, a Syrian general and politician in the
Ba’ath party, led a coup against the civilian Ba’ath leadership. He took
control of the government and pushed hard anti-Zionistic views and he also
aligned Syria with the Soviets. This was close to a decade after Syria had
gotten them selves involved with the Soviets in the middle of the Cold War, so
the precedent for close ties was there. In
1967 Israeli military forces seized the Golan Heights from Syria and
destroyed much of Syria’s air force, beginning the Six Day War with Jordan,
Egypt and Syria. In 1973 Syria
and Egypt went to war with Israel again, but they again failed to retake the
Golan Heights Israel had seized in 1967.
Almost a decade later in 1975, President Assad said he was prepared to
make peace with Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal from “all occupied
Arab land”. Israel did not comply and instead, in 1981, they formally
annexed the Golan Heights.

            After the Islamic
Revolution in Iran, Muslim groups in 1980 instigated riots and demonstrations
all over Syria. 1980 was the year the
war between Iran-Iraq began. Syria backed Iran, which was sticking with
the status quo considering there were rivalries between the Ba’athist
leaderships in Syria and Iraq. In
1982 the Muslim Brotherhood and other Sunni Muslim groups started an uprising
against the government in the city of Hama, which the army quickly suppressed.
Syrian Human Rights Committee reports said that 40,000 civilians were killed in
the midst of it. It became known as the Hama Massacre. “The single deadliest act by any Arab government
against its own people in the modern Middle East.”wright

            The
next two decades were filled with similar tumultuous uprisings and volatile
movements. 20 years later, in the year 2000 the elder President
Assad died and was succeeded by his second son, Bashar al-Assad. In the same
year senior United States officials, with President Bush, included Syria in a
list of states that they entitled the “axis of evil.” The main claim
being that Damascus was acquiring weapons of mass destruction. This led to the United States imposing
major economic sanctions on Syria over what it termed its backing of terrorism
and irresponsibility in not being able to stop militants entering Iraq.

            In
2009, trading launched on
Syria’s stock exchange in a gesture towards liberalizing the state-controlled
economy. (toll of war 8)The
next year the United States
renewed its sanctions against Syria, saying that it still supported terrorist
groups, pursued the use of weapons of mass destruction and that it had provided
Hezbollah with SCUD missiles in violation of UN resolutions.

            2011 is the year that the seeds for Civil War were really planted.
The Arab Spring erupted across the Middle East; pro-democracy protests and
anti-government riots began happening all over. Not surprisingly the government
responded with extreme violence. In May of that year Syrian military tanks
entered Homs, Banyas, Deraa, and areas of Damascus in their struggle to squash
anti-government protests. The year came to a head when President Assad killed
the governor of a northern province in Hama after mass anti-government demonstrations
happened there. The pushback was so sudden and volatile he ultimately sent in forces
to “restore order” at the cost of hundreds of civilian lives. In an unprecedented move, the Arab
League voted to suspend Syria from the organization as a result of Assad’s
actions and the manner in which he suppressed the anti-government sentiments in
his country. They accused him of failing to implement a peace plan, and imposed
sanctions on the country. As of present, Syria is still suspended from the Arab
League. It seems like every time Syria had a group or an individual claw their
way to power, someone else stepped in at the slightest show of weakness. There
are constant power vacuums that get created and filled by the next people to
find themselves in a position to fill it.

 

            In 2012, the Civil War
began with fervor and while up until this point the country possibly could have
been saved and brought back to a manageable level with diplomatic gestures or
an attempt at peace, what followed knocked everything into a wild and volatile tailspin.
To put it simply, this is when all Hell broke loose in the country. The uprisings
and riots against President Assad continued and quickly turned into a full on
civil war. In keeping with their
usual tactics, the government did not handle it
well. The Assad regime began bombing cities, including Homs. The rebel group in
the country, the Free Syria Army, retaliated and killed three security chiefs
in Damascus and seized Aleppo in the north. The Prime
Minister of Syria, Riad Hijab became the highest-ranking government official to
defect to the rebel side. Many of the historic areas in Aleppo were destroyed as attacks and fighting carried on.
As the Assad regime continued to use force against
it’s own people, President Barack Obama warned the Syrian government that any
use of chemical weapons would push the already on the brink Unites States
towards intervention. But that didn’t stop them.

            In 2013 the Syrian Government repeatedly denied allegations of chemical
weapons use.
Chemical weapons were used in an attack on the
Ghouta suburb in Damascus and “1400
civilians were killed”decoder, but the UN chose not to place the
responsibility on anyone. The White House expressed their belief that the
Syrian Government was at fault but they did nothing. The next year, the UN held peace talks in Geneva but they failed,
largely because Syrian authorities refused to discuss a transitional plan for
the government. The civil war in Syria was possible because from the beginning
of its modern history, Syria has been inherently weak and unstable. The culture
is wrapped in violence and bloodshed and the idea of a stable transition is
almost unthinkable for a place with no real idea of what stable looks like. “As the conflict in Syria raged on
over the past few years, the humanitarian needs and the human cost of the
crisis rose with every day that passed. With alarming speed, Syria became the
world’s largest refugee-producing country Blue Helmets 360” 11 million people have
been displaced as a result of the Syrian Civil War,(Syrian refugees) many staying in the Middle East, in countries like
Turkey and Jordan where the refugees have “ethnic ties to the population”Spillover 57), some
make it to Europe and even to the United States. But the strain on the
countries housing the refugees has started to take a toll and many refugees are
not able to get in anywhere, they are displaced within their own country. (deconstruct 332) Countries
that took in refugees are also facing problems with ISIS militants using
refugees as a Trojan horse of sorts. They “sneak” into these countries
accepting refugees and cause mayhem. The men who set bombs off in Paris in 2015
were ISIS members masquerading as refugees. (bbc)

            In the midst of the chaos and division in the country ISIS found the perfect
space to infiltrate. ISIS is a group that has proven so radical and
brutal that even al Qaeda has disowned them. Militants declared their caliphate
in the territory from Aleppo to Diyala, an area in Eastern Iraq. They began proving their dominance of their
hold on the area by performing extremely brutal and public executions of anyone
they saw fit. They killed journalists, foreign aid workers; anyone who they
believed defied them. “The Islamic State carved out a mini
state in Syria’s chaos” NY times. Stepping in, the United States created a coalition with five Arab countries, with whom
they launched air strikes against ISIS around Aleppo and Raqqa, the unofficial
capital of the caliphate. The Kurdish
forces working against ISIS managed, in 2015, to push them out of Kobane, a
town on the Turkish border, after half a year of fighting. But in that
same year ISIS militants
seized the ancient city of Palmyra, which is found in central Syria.(milne)
They set out to and succeeded in destroying countless monuments at the pre-Islamic
World Heritage site. ISIS is successful because they are successful at
recruiting new members. They use the Internet, social media, YouTube, poetry,
all different kinds of tactics to bring in recruits from all over the world.
This means that they do not have to train all their members, and ISIS relies
heavily on the terrifying power of lone wolf members. They indoctrinate their
recruits to be independent and self-sustaining.

            In
that same year, Russia actively got
involved, which added yet another complex layer to the already complicated
issue. They carried out air strikes in Syria and held that they had been targeting
ISIS. This came as hard to believe, as both experts in the West and members of
the Syrian opposition said the strike quite devastatingly hurt more anti-Assad
rebels. The Syrian government
ended up taking Palmyra from ISIS with assistance from the Russians, so it soon
became more than apparent whose side they were on. The victory for the Syrians
did not last for long though as they were driven out from Palmyra again a few
months later. Russia and Syria have always been allies; “Russia’s only military base outside of the former
Soviet Union is in Syria, which supported Moscow during the Cold War.”decoder
Russia, like Iran is hoping to prop up President Assad and keep him has an ally
in the future. That would not be possible with a rebel power in place that is
backed by the United States. This strange puppet show that is going on in Syria
with all these big world powers pulling the strings, is “the first time since the end of World War Two, that
the U.S. and Russian military forces are involved in a common armed conflict
with opposing aims”decoder. The two countries are actively and publicly
at odds for the first time in decades. The potential repercussions of this are
obviously lengthy but the question becomes, is this Syrian Civil War a jumping
off point for war between world super powers?

            Turkish troops aided Syrian
rebel groups in 2016 in pushing back ISIS militants from a section of the border
between the two countries but that same year, Syrian government troops recaptured
Aleppo, with help from Russian and Iranian militias. This move took away the
last major stronghold that rebel forces had been holding.

           

            2017
was a significant year in the fight against ISIS and the Assad regime in Syria.
United States President
Donald Trump ordered a missile air strike on an airbase in Syria with the claim
for reasoning being that the Syrian government had planes that had purportedly
staged a chemical weapons attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, which was held
by rebels. Later that year the United
States moved to arm the Kurdish Popular Protection Units. The Kurdish Popular
Protection Unit fought alongside the main resistance, the Syrian Democratic
Forces, who were responsible for capturing the significant Tabqa dam from ISIS.
The United States also shot down a Syrian fighter jet near Raqqa after it
allegedly dropped bombs near rebel groups the United States backed. The real
cherry on top of the year though was ISIS being driven out of Raqqa, the
capital of their Caliphate and a big holding for them. This was a huge win for
the people of the Middle East and all people opposing the terror jihad of ISIS.
The civilians of Raqqa endured three terrible years of ISIS’ rule and while the
ISIS loss of the city does not mean they are immediately collapsing it
certainly is the most promising step in a long time. There has to be continued
persistence by the United States and its Allies in fighting back ISIS as they
tend to rebuild quickly.  (state we knew 15)

            Syria’s war still rages
on though. The government is not backing down and neither are the rebel forces.
The rebellions have hope now and that is not easily taken away. ISIS is still
an unwanted member of this conflict, filling the vacuums that get created by
the government’s constant massacre of its people. There is not really an end in
sight to their reign but the fall of their capital and the shrinking of their
caliphate is a light in the darkness. The people of Syria who are trying to
escape the collapse of their nation are lost around the world, with many of them
never making it anywhere and those who do, face extreme hardships as refugees
in their new homes.

            Also, Syria has never
truly been in control of itself. There has always been other outside powers at
play in the country. This makes it a much more complicated scenario than simply
a civil war by and within a country.