A Glance at the Past

Syrian Rebels

Some basic facts about Syria’s civil war help the global community understand this ongoing war because there are so many factors behind it.  

Syria’s relations with some Middle East countries and with the western world were never friendly at all from the times of Hafiz-al-Assad, who is the father of Syria’s current President Bashar-al-Assad.  Such ideological and political differences have burbled for decades.

Starting in the early 20th Century and extending into the late 20th Century, much of the world became divided, under Cold War politics, into two blocs: some countries became allies of the former Soviet Union and some of the Western World, more specifically of the United States of America.  During the Cold War, Syria more closely aligned itself with the Soviet Union for the simplest of reasons: as a mostly Islamic (and, by extension) anti-Western culture, Syrians felt more comfortable with the anti-Western stance of Soviet politics, relying heavily upon the old Islam polemic, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”.  The material aid provided by the Soviets to the Syrians helped the Communist cause gain a foothold (albeit a shaky one, outside Turkey) into the Middle East. 

The father of Syria’s current president, Hafiz-al-Assad, was a Syrian Army General.  Though purportedly a soldier and without political influence, it is well-known that militarists have sway in political matters, especially if they have political ambitions.  While Hafiz-al-Assad may have been a thoughtful and ultimately keen politician with Syria’s best national interests in mind he probably set the stage for today’s current civil conflict by aligning himself ideologically and diplomatically with the Soviets.  Many believe had he struck up a diplomatic relationship with the West, more particularly with the United States, toady’s conflict would never have occurred.

Historically, because of both political but mostly ideological differences, Saudi Arabia and Turkey posed the biggest threat to the national security of Syria. When addressing the question of why the Turkish or Saudi governments care for Syria logistically, the Syrian President responded enigmatically (and without basis in fact: 

“Turkey wants to establish supremacy in the Middle East, so for this purpose they believe it is necessary to scrap the current Syrian Government . . . Turkey is trying to establish a new Ottoman Empire, which is not possible at all.  The Saudi Kingdom has also similar dreams like Turkey [expanding its territory].”

It is a well known truth that some of Syria's neighbors ( Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait) seek to overthrow Assad government. The Saudi Royal family, Qatari Royal family, Kuwaiti Royal family and Turkish current President Racep Tayyep Erdogan are keen to remove Assad. Every one of them have its own agenda to achieve.

Saudi's animosity towards Assad is his close friendship with Iran and unlike his predecessor he liked to have a close ties with Iran. Saudi Arabia who consider Iran a threat to its national security cannot sit idle to see the relationship grow. In addition, Saudi can observe how Syrian land plays a role of bridge in transferring Iranian weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas. Saudi Arabia believed it was significant to altogether remove Bashar-al-Assad. For this particular reason Saudi's were determined  to accompany any element who was ready to assist them in this illogical objective. Perhaps that's the reason why Saudi establishment is sponsoring and backing Syrian rebels and Al- Nusra Front. 

The Saudi's publicly proclaimed in supporting Syrian rebels and Al-Nusra Front. At the United Nations general assembly Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir told journalists, “There is no future for Assad in Syria. There are two options for a settlement in Syria. One option is a political process where there would be a transitional council. The other option is a military option, which also would end with the removal of Bashar al-Assad from power.” He added that it's on Assad to choose in which way he will leave his position, “This could be a more lengthy process and a more destructive process but the choice is entirely that of Bashar al-Assad.” 


The Syrian Capital Damascus

What steps have been taken so far?

After nearly three years of civil war in Syria the killing of innocent people continues.  No one knows when this war will end because until now all peace talks between the Assad regime and UN peacekeepers have been futile.

UN peace officer Kofi Annan has been sent many times by the United Nations to talk to Syrian President Assad to find a solution but he has failed to gain the trust and cooperation of Syrian’s leader.  

A second diplomat sent by the UN, Lakhdar Brahimi, keen to solve this issue was similarly unable to get Assad and Syria’s perceived rebel leaders to a conference to discuss their differences.

Meanwhile, human rights violations abound.  And the surrounding countries are adversely feeling the effects as well.  Lebanon is becoming overrun with Syrian refugees, fleeing from the internal warring in their homeland.  The economic stress such refugees cause cannot be overstated—the surrounding countries feel compelled to take these people in but are not adequately equipped to provide them with much more than a space to pitch a tent or to provide clean water (in most cases).  Refugee camps, comprised of tormented and frightened Syrian civilians, dot the Lebanese landscape.  

The world wants a diplomatic solution regarding Syria’s civil war. President Assad is being pressurized not only from the West but by some other Middle Eastern governments as well to step down.  In effect, this would negate the “cause” of the Syrian rebels.  However, equally importantly no one globally has asked for the Syrian rebel leadership to more closely examine its stance and cease its hostilities, either. 

In light of a possible surrender scenario, Syria’s president Bashar-al-Assad has claimed that if the rebels throw down their arms he assures them that the Syrian Army, under his command, will not fire a single bullet on them.  Meanwhile (according to UN reports) thousands of people so far have been killed during this war; it is an alarming situation.  Syria’s continuing internal conflict in the Middle East may spill over into other parts of the Middle East (a troubled region for millennia, one that has never been at peace since the first Canaanites were ousted by the Jews returning from enslavement in Egypt).

It is believed Syria’s rebel forces are being armed and financed by the West, with incidental Saudi and Qatari financial aid.  US Secretary of State John Kerry and Qatar’s Prime Minister recently officially announced in a convention in Qatar that they will continue to provide weapons to Syria’s rebels because they think that this is the only way of peace and there is no other way. 

In an interesting statement, the Qatari Prime Minister, Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa Al Thani, claimed, “The only way to regain the peace in Syria is to support Syrian rebels.”

 It is almost certain there must be another solution, though no one has hit upon it yet.

Syrian child wandering on destroyed homes
Credit: Creative Commons Images: Flickr (Public Domain), Author Peter Stevens

The infinite Syrian civil war

How demonstrations were converted into a civil war

Back in March, 2011 the horrible, disastrous and unendurable civil war was initiated by foreign powers on Syrian land. It was started with the intention of forcing Bashar-al-Assad to hold elections. People started to hold demonstration for democracy and freedom. There was no doubt about the legitimacy of their demand. Also it was their fundamental right to hold demonstration against government. However, in the face of protests and demonstration foreigners (rebels) found access among them. Gradually some elements among them begun to make violence. That violence was the start of a long and horrendous civil war that the people of Syria was about to face. 

President Assad from the start saw nationwide protests as a "foreign backed conspiracy." He added, “Many people were misled in the beginning, thinking that what is happening is a state of excitement, a wave of the ‘Arab spring’…. [But it] isn’t a revolution or a spring; it is terrorist acts in the full meaning of the word”. In one of his interview to BBC he said, " In the west that time was called and some still talk about that as peaceful demonstration period. I will tell you that during in the first few weeks many policemen were killed, shot dead. I don't think they were killed by sound waves of demonstration so it was just a fantasy and we have to talk about the facts. From the very beginning the demonstrations were not peaceful. Some who joined the demonstration wanted democracy that is true."

Many accusations made against Assad in killing its civilians. To answer this important question he said, "If we were the one who killed our people as they say, how could we stand while the people are against us, supposedly, and the west and the regional countries. I spent four years in my position with the government, army and institutions. Without public support it is impossible and it is mentally unpalatable." 

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