by Sebastian A '14

The Syrian Civil War

The Syrian Civil War, like many of the revolutions and revolts that swept the Middle East, came out of the Arab Spring in early 2011. On March 15, 2011 much of the conflict that swept the countries like Bahrain, Tunisia, and Egypt made its way to Syria after a feud over government graffiti. Like the many forms of protest present during the Arab spring, Syria’s conflict eventually escalated to such an extent that, by the early Fall of 2012, the country was in a Civil War. Like many countries taken up by the wave of unrest, less than a year ago the political scene in Syria seemed to be fine. Media headlines estimate death tolls as high as 30,000 people. As the conflict continues to rage on, the UN estimates more than 350,000 refugees have fled Syria into the neighboring countries of Iraq, Turkey, and Lebanon. Newly appointed Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Haqi estimated the conflict has cost Syria nearly 34 billion dollars with current costs of rebuilding razed infrastructure at nearly 40 billion dollars.

The conflict in Syria is rooted primarily in a country torn by ethnic divisions – a minority sect of Allawites that has ruled Syria through a military dictatorship. President Bashar al-Assad, who succeeded his father Hafez al-Assad in 2000, and most of the military and political figurehead, belongs to a ruling minority of Allawites. The Allawites make up a mere 10 percent of the Syrian population, which is starkly juxtaposed with a 75 percent of Sunni Muslims. Therefore, the main reason for Syrian unrest is the inadequacy of political representation that comes with the small sect ruling with an Iron Fist.

In fact, this was not the first instance of large-scale political tumult in Syria. In 1982, under the rule of Hafez al-Assad, the Syrian government killed around 10,000 people after conflict involving the Muslim Brotherhood. Currently Assad has taken to combating rebel forces and has the support of majority of the Allawite population. However, despite the support of the Allawite community and a relatively strong military, the Assad regime has not been able to crush rebel forces – the majority of which on Sunni. So, unlike the many other Arab nations affected by the Arab Spring, the Syrian Government is equally matched by the opposition forces, which one of the main reasons that there is an ongoing conflict.

The conflict in Syria has brought not only regional but global attention. The nature of conflict has questioned the loyalty of many of Syria’s allies including Turkey, which shelled Syria after conflict spilled over the borders in early October. Despite the UN condemnation of Assad and his regime the United States has sought no part in aiding the military struggle of the rebels, a stance starkly different from the intervention of Libya. However it is important to note that American intervention would aggravate one of Syria’s closest regional allies Iran, which would possibly cause wide scale conflict involving Lebanon and Israel. Any sort of foreign intervention in the conflict would undoubtedly upset the balance of power and intricate alliances that are present in the region.

Nonetheless all successful uprisings are only as successful as the period of political reformation that follows. Based on the organization and diversity of the rebel forces, under the broad banner of the Free Syria Army, it is clear that the creation of a government based on egalitarian principles of representation will be a challenge. The exiled opposition government formed is known as the Syrian National Council and is filled with various factions, each seeking to have a prominent say in the political processes that would take place after the war. The various disagreements within the council and the use of Islam as a platform to generate fervor and zeal within the rebels are two circumstances that will inevitably affect the process of government-building  that may soon follow.

Want to learn more about the Syrian Civil War? Check out this interactive map!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s