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Syrian Conflict

Eight Short Chapters of the Conflict


BBC
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IF7sRdOJMD0
November 21, 2016
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make
violent revolution inevitable" (JFK, 1962)

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38056872
A bit of History
Syria is a land of fertile frontier, monumental mountains, and desolate
deserts.

Syria is the home to several diverse ethnical and religious cultures: the
Kurd, Armenians, Assyrians, Christians, Druze, Israelis, Alawite
Shias, and Arab Sunnis.

Arab Sunnis account for the majority of the Muslim population

In the twentieth century, Syria was under colonial control of the


French.

Not until 1946 did Syria gain its independence. (BBC, 2012)

Although Syria become a sovereign state, and French colonists were


out of power, it brought new problems to the face of the Syrian people.
Like many countries post-colonial control, Syria spiraled
through periods of instability and constant conflict that was
fueled by the inability for the different cultural factions in
Syria to peacefully coexist.

In essence, Syria was similar to playing “king of the hill”


between different groups in the country.

Soon enough other countries recognized Syria’s conflict and


allied with them.

From 1958 to 1961, the country was unified with Egypt.


In 1963, an army coup organized by Arab Sunnis retook Syria’s
independence

It was an Alawite Shias party took control with the support of Egypt.

This committee that initiated a coup consisted at one time or another


a Sunni, Amin al Hafiz; a Druze, Hamad Ubayd; and two Alawis,
Muhammad Umran and Jadid. After the secession from the UAR in
1961, the Syrian Baath Party was formally reestablished at a party
congress in May 1962.

The coming to power of the Baath Party in 1963 is sometimes referred


to as "the revolution," although the March 8 coup was not executed by
the Baathists and did not actually initiate the great social revolution
postulated in Baathist ideology. In any case the party was supreme, but
factionalism continued within the Baathist regime.
Definitions
The Syrian Civil war is highly sectarian and syncretic

Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, while


blending practices of various schools of thought
Islam in Syria is followed by 90% of the
country's total population:

Sunnies

Sunnis make up 74 % of the total, mostly of Arab, Kurdish


and Turkoman ethnicities.

Sunnis are mainly of the Shari'a madhhab ( doctrine) with


pockets of Hanafi and Hanbali.
Shias
Shias make up the remaining 13% Alawites are the
predominant Shia group, followed by Twelvers and Ismailis.

Several large Sufi orders are active in the country, including


the Naqshbandi tariqa( missionnaires), and Qadiriyya.

Sufism as the name for the inner or esoteric dimension of


Islam which is supported and complemented by outward or
exoteric practices of Islam, such as Sharia.

Although not traditionally considered as Muslims, the


Druze make up 3% of the total population.
Emergency Relief Co-ordinator Stephen O'Brien said hundreds of civilians
had been killed in eastern Aleppo in the past week
Syria
Leader: Bashar al-Assad, in power since 2000
(inherited power from his father).

Since March of 2011, at least 250,000


Syrians have been killed according to the UN.

Protestors are calling for political freedom,


an end to corruption, action on poverty,
and an end to the emergency law of 1963.

Syrian govt. claims the protestors are


‘terrorists and armed gangs’.

The U.S. and EU have imposed sanctions on


Syria, but the conflict has not ended.
As of yesterday
The number of people living under siege in Syria has
doubled this year to almost one million, the UN says.
Emergency Relief Co-ordinator Stephen O'Brien said the
figure had jumped from 486,700 to 974,080 in six months.
People were being "isolated, starved, bombed and denied
medical attention and humanitarian assistance in order to
force them to submit or flee," he said.
Mr O'Brien also told the Security Council that he was "more
or less at my wit's end" over the situation in the divided city
of Aleppo, where an estimated 275,000 people living under
siege in rebel-held eastern districts face "annihilation".
Syria: The story of the conflict

More than 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives in four-and-


a-half years of armed conflict, which began with anti-
government protests before escalating into a full-scale civil
war.

More than 11 million others have been forced from their


homes as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and
those opposed to his rule battle each other - as well as
jihadist militants from so-called Islamic State.

This is the story of the civil war so far, in eight short


chapters.
Dispair, Fear, Displacement
Uprising turns violent
Uprising turns violent
Pro-democracy protests erupted in March 2011 in the
southern city of Deraa after the arrest and torture of some
teenagers who painted revolutionary slogans on a school
wall.

After security forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing


several, more took to the streets.
Uprising turns violent
The unrest triggered nationwide protests demanding
President Assad's resignation.

The government's use of force to crush the dissent merely


hardened the protesters' resolve.

By July 2011, hundreds of thousands were taking to the


streets across the country.
Uprising turns violent
Opposition supporters eventually began to take up arms, first
to defend themselves and later to expel security forces from
their local areas.
Descent into civil war
Descent into civil war
Violence escalated and the country descended into civil war
as rebel brigades were formed to battle government forces for
control of cities, towns and the countryside.

Fighting reached the capital Damascus and second city of


Aleppo in 2012.
Descent into civil war
By June 2013, the UN said 90,000 people had been killed in the
conflict.

By August 2015, that figure had climbed to 250,000, according to


activists and the UN.

The conflict is now more than just a battle between those for or against
Mr Assad.

It has acquired sectarian overtones, pitching the country's Sunni


majority against the president's Shia Alawite sect, and drawn in
regional and world powers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KLvjs7Yrtw

The rise of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) has added a further
dimension.
What ISIS Wants
https://www.prageru.com/courses/foreign-affairs/what-isis-
wants
3. War crimes
3. War crimes

A UN commission of inquiry has evidence that all parties to the


conflict have committed war crimes - including murder, torture,
rape and enforced disappearances.

They have also been accused of using civilian suffering - such as


blocking access to food, water and health services through sieges -
as a method of war.

The UN Security Council has demanded all parties end the


indiscriminate use of weapons in populated areas, but civilians
continue to die in their thousands.

Many have been killed by barrel bombs dropped by government


aircraft on gatherings in rebel-held areas - attacks which the UN
says may constitute massacres.
3. War crimes

IS has also been accused by the UN of waging a campaign of


terror.

It has inflicted severe punishments on those who transgress


or refuse to accept its rules, including hundreds of public
executions and amputations.

Its fighters have also carried out mass killings of rival armed
groups, members of the security forces and religious
minorities, and beheaded hostages, including several
Westerners.
We're just living on the edge of life. We're always nervous, we're
always afraid

Mother-of-nine Mariam Akash, whose husband was killed by a


sniper
4. Chemical weapons
4. Chemical weapons

Hundreds of people were killed in August 2013 after rockets


filled with the nerve agent sarin were fired at several
suburbs of Damascus.

Western powers said it could only have been carried out by


Syria's government, but the government blamed rebel forces.
4. Chemical weapons

Facing the prospect of US military intervention, President


Assad agreed to the complete removal and destruction of
Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.

The operation was completed the following year, but the


Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
(OPCW) has continued to document the use of toxic
chemicals in the conflict.

Investigators found chlorine was used "systematically and


repeatedly" in deadly attacks on rebel-held areas between
April and July 2014.
4. Chemical weapons

IS has also been accused of using homemade chemical


weapons, including sulphur mustard.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical


Weaponssaid the blister agent was used in an attack on the
northern town of Marea in August 2015 that killed a baby.
5. Humanitarian crisis
5. Humanitarian crisis

More than 4.5 million people have fled Syria since the start
of the conflict, most of them women and children.

Neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have struggled to


cope with one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent
history.

About 10% of Syrian refugees have sought safety in


Europe, sowing political divisions as countries argue over
sharing the burden.
5. Humanitarian crisis

A further 6.5 million people are internally displaced inside


Syria, 1.2 million were driven from their homes in 2015
alone.

The UN says it will need $3.2bn to help the 13.5 million


people, including 6 million children, who will require some
form of humanitarian assistance inside Syria in 2016.

About 70% of the population is without access to adequate


drinking water, one in three people are unable to meet their
basic food needs, and more than 2 million children are out of
school, and four out of five people live in poverty.
5. Humanitarian crisis

The warring parties have compounded the problems by


refusing humanitarian agencies access to civilians in need.

Up to 4.5 million people in Syria live in hard-to-reach areas,


including nearly 400,000 people in 15 besieged locations who
do not have access to life-saving aid.
5. Humanitarian crisis
6. Rebels and the rise of the
jihadists
6. Rebels and the rise of the jihadists

The armed rebellion has evolved significantly since its


inception.
Secular moderates are now outnumbered by Islamists and
jihadists, whose brutal tactics have caused global outrage.
So-called Islamic State has capitalised on the chaos and
taken control of large swathes of Syria and Iraq, where it
proclaimed the creation of a "caliphate" in June 2014.
Its many foreign fighters are involved in a "war within a war"
in Syria, battling rebels and rival jihadists from the al-Qaeda-
affiliated Nusra Front, as well as government and Kurdish
forces.
6. Rebels and the rise of the
jihadists

In September 2014, a US-led coalition launched air strikes


inside Syria in an effort to "degrade and ultimately destroy"
IS.

But the coalition has avoided attacks that might benefit Mr


Assad's forces.

Russia began an air campaign targeting "terrorists" in Syria a


year later, but opposition activists say its strikes have mostly
killed Western-backed rebels and civilians.
6. Rebels and the rise of the
jihadists

In the political arena, opposition groups are also deeply


divided, with rival alliances battling for supremacy.

The most prominent is the National Coalition for Syrian


Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, backed by several
Western and Gulf Arab states.

However, the exile group has little influence on the ground


in Syria and its primacy is rejected by many opponents of Mr
Assad.
7. Peace efforts
7. Peace efforts
With neither side able to inflict a decisive defeat on the other,
the international community long ago concluded that only a
political solution could end the conflict in Syria.

The UN Security Council has called for the implementation


of the 2012 Geneva Communique, which envisages a
transitional governing body with full executive powers
"formed on the basis of mutual consent".
7. Peace efforts
Talks in early 2014, known as Geneva II, broke down after
only two rounds, with then-UN special envoy Lakhdar
Brahimi blaming the Syrian government's refusal to discuss
opposition demands.

Mr Brahimi's successor, Staffan de Mistura, focused on


establishing a series of local ceasefires.

His plan for a "freeze zone" in Aleppo was rejected, but a


three-year siege of the Homs suburb of al-Wair was
successfully brought to an end in December 2015.
8. Proxy Wars
8. Proxy Wars
At the same time, the conflict with IS lent fresh impetus to
the search for a political solution in Syria.

The US and Russia led efforts to get representatives of the


government and the opposition to attend "proximity talks" in
Geneva in January 2016 to discuss a Security Council-
endorsed road map for peace, including a ceasefire and a
transitional period ending with elections.
8. Proxy Wars
What began as another Arab Spring uprising against an
autocratic ruler has mushroomed into a brutal proxy war that
has drawn in regional and world powers.

Iran and Russia have propped up the Alawite-led government


of President Assad and gradually increased their support.

Tehran is believed to be spending billions of dollars a year to


bolster Mr Assad, providing military advisers and subsidised
weapons, as well as lines of credit and oil transfers.

Russia has meanwhile launched an air campaign against Mr


Assad's opponents.
8. Proxy Wars
The Syrian government has also enjoyed the support of
Lebanon's Shia Islamist Hezbollah movement, whose
fighters have provided important battlefield support since
2013.

The Sunni-dominated opposition has, meanwhile, attracted


varying degrees of support from its international backers -
Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan, along with the US,
UK and France.
8. Proxy Wars
Until late 2015, rebel appeals for anti-aircraft weapons to
stop devastating government air strikes were rejected by the
US and its allies, amid concern that they might end up in the
hands of jihadist militants.

A US programme to train and arm 5,000 rebels to take the


fight to IS on the ground also suffered a series of setbacks
before being abandoned.