The war in Syria has become complex and multi-sided. Its roots are deep and widespread not just in the Middle East region but in the entire world. Major powers of the world are fighting for influence in the region.
The on-going armed conflict is fought primarily between the government of President Bashar al-Assad, along with its allies, and various forces opposing the government.
Iran and Russia support the Syrian government militarily. While Russia
conducted air operations in support of the government since September 2015, the US led international coalition of 2014 has conducted airstrikes against ISIL in Syria as well as against government and pro-government targets.
Background on Syrian Civil War
In the garb of the Syrian war, the major powers are expanding their sphere of influence in the Middle East. The war is aimed at leaving the Middle Eastern countries insecure so that they become dependent for security, military weaponry, military training and technology.
The historic Arab Spring which erupted in 2011 was about local demands. End of corruption in the state bureaucracy and politics was one of the demands. The uprising spread to several Middle Eastern countries. Consequently, both life and property of people became the first casualties of the unrest.
An uprising, which was a part of the Arab Spring, started in Syria also. To suppress the people, some children were imprisoned and tortured. People demanded their immediate release. However, the authorities came up with harsh measures against the demonstrators. In response, more people across Syria got agitated.
However, President Bashar did not try to understand the demands of his people. He ordered the security forces to silent them. The forces obeyed him faithfully only to allow the neglected spark to burn the entire house- since then entire Syria has seen death and destruction.
Thousands of innocent people- children, adults, elders have been murdered while millions of people have lost their homes and properties which worth billions.
Mr. Assad responded in the similar fashion like his father, Hafiz Assad had responded to an uprising in 1982. However, Syrian people returned fire with fire. Whether invited or uninvited, international and regional players joined the war. Now it seems that there is no way out of the political tsunami that has engulfed Syria.
The Struggle for Power in Syria
Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two regional rivals, joined the foray. Assertive Turkey had concerns over refugees and Kurdish involvement. So it began to intervene. Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and other nations took sides. Israel stepped in. European nations did not stay out.
The big picture is that US, Saudi Arabia and Israel led group seeks to remove Assad from power while Russia and Iran led group seeks to retain Assad in power. In this tug of war, a bloodbath is continuing. Syrian civilians are bearing the brunt of the power struggle among the big players who pose as sympathizers of the Syrian people. In reality, all parties to
the war are using Syrian civilians as a fuel to keep on burning the smithy of war in the Syrian war zone.
Meanwhile, Assad is in no mood to leave the most powerful chair of Syria. A question- if Assad does not step down and the US and its allies persist in their endeavor to see his back would Russia and US engage in a direct clash against each other? The probability of a direct armed conflict between the two countries is low. But if they do, Middle East is likely to become the breeding ground for nuclear holocaust. World war third may follow.
It was reported in 2012 that the international community intervened and brought the Assad government to the negotiation table in Geneva. Assad regime was in a weaker position then. It agreed to hand over authority to a new transitional government that would write a new constitution and run UN-supervised elections excluding him.
However, Russia stepped in with a massive air force and armed the Assad government with weapons of mass destruction. Within months, Russia turned the tables. Whole cities and civilian areas were grounded. Millions of people were displaced to other areas or to take refuge in neighboring countries. Iran sent in more Revolutionary Guards with Shiite militias from Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Later on, the allies became competitors. Consequently, Russia and Iran are seeking to divide “Useful Syria.” It includes the heartland and Mediterranean coast. The Americans and their Kurdish allies are competing with Turkey over the north.
With Israel joining the foray, the situation seems set to turn into a big battlefield for major powers. Israeli missiles and fighter jets had attacked a Syrian chemical factory, arms shipments to Hezbollah, and military convoys and posts. Iran recently began to establish military bases in different parts of Syria, following Russia’s example. An Iranian drone was shot over the Golan Heights and an Israeli F16 was downed by Syrian air defense. Later on, Israeli air force attacked some 11 Iranian positions in heartland Syria.
Turkey has warned that it will never tolerate US backed Kurdish forces at its southern borders. Its army went into an open war and entered the northwestern part of Syria.
Ceasefire Attempt in Syria
Meanwhile, the UN seems to have run out of ideas as to how to handle this grave humanitarian crisis. The crisis is expanding its sphere to engulf the entire region. The Security Council resolution to a humanitarian ceasefire for thirty days may fail to implement. Firing continues, making the ceasefire to just stay on paper.
There is an immediate need of putting the war on hold. Negotiation is the way out of the conundrum. All parties in the war zone need to realize that they are sitting on a time bomb. The bomb is ticking. Once it explodes, no one will survive.
International organizations have accused the Syrian government, ISIS and rebel groups of severe human rights violations and massacres. But no breakthrough favoring peace in the war-torn country has come up.
Meanwhile, the conflict has caused a major refugee crisis. Over the course of the war, a number of peace initiatives have been launched, for example, the March 2017 Geneva peace talks on Syria led by the United Nations. But fighting continues with no end in sight. All major players are in the game: Russia, Iran, the United States, Turkey and Israel. Arab neighbors fear that their security is at stake.
That being said, it will be miraculous if the war ends with a victory of the Syrian people with all the invaders pulling out peacefully and Syria returning to normalcy.
Sheikh Shabir Kulgami is a Kashmiri (Indian) political commentator, analyst and columnist. He writes extensively on South Asia.