By Nigel Li
Amidst tensions rising and declining across the world from Ukraine to the South China Sea, the Syrian question remains unanswerable. For five years the Syrian civil war has brought a rift to the cradle of civilization. What started out as a conflict between two parties, the government and the Free Syrian Army, has erupted into a multi-faction conflict. The Al-Nusra Front along with the infamous Islamic State has poisoned Syria and the world with fear.
Not all is lost against the evils of this world. The past few days have demonstrated that the Islamic State is slowly receding as government forces liberate key strategic locations. On April 3rd government forces regained control over provinces in Homs. As of that day the government now controls 80 percent of the town Al-Qaryatayn as Sputnik News reported.
Yet why does Syria matter? What is so important about this territory of infertile land that has gotten the world’s superpowers so worked up? The major stakeholders in this conflict, the United States and the Russian Federation, have turned the conflict into a proxy war. Russia’s desire to secure their naval facility in Tartus has resulted to their intervention in the conflict. The 30th of September 2015 marked the moment where the geopolitical stage of Syria shifted. The tables turned from the United States’ favor to Russia’s as members of the Federation Council unanimously agreed to intervene in the Syrian conflict.
After months of airstrikes along with the decision to place Russian boots on Syrian soil, President Vladimir Putin declared that his mission was a success. It is clear and evident that the Islamic State along with the opposition forces are slowly retreating. This is worrisome for the United States for many good reasons.
The U.S. has supported the toppling of the Assad Regime ever since anti-government protests began in 2010 calling for a democratic Syria. As the “godfather of democracy,” the U.S. stepped in and supported the democratization of Syria, at whatever cost. Noam Chomsky, political scientist and Linguistics professor at M.I.T, in an interview titled “On Shutdown, Waning US Influence, Syrian Showdown” claimed that the U.S. with its immense power has dominated the geopolitics of the world. Furthermore, other countries “better live up to them, or else. We have to demonstrate that. So that’s what the bombing of Syria was to have demonstrated.” Whether you believe the U.S. is fighting for the right cause is up to you, but when supporting opposition forces which have ravaged a once stable country in the name of democracy, it is best to reconsider such a stance.
So what lies ahead for Syria? With nearly 6.5 million Syrian refugees displaced, it seems nearly impossible for the nation to recover to where it was before. As the conflict slowly stabilizes, the future of Syria remains unstable. In a recent phone call between the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, along with the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, have agreed to set aside their differences in dealing with Syria (CNA). It has shocked many that for once the two belligerent super powers have agreed to work together in a contentious region. Russia’s strategy of spearheading the opposition forces has weakened U.S. influence in Syria. This has brought the U.S. to use its final weapon – diplomacy.
As we are here in the warm tropical island nation of Singapore, we are not able to fully comprehend the atrocities that occur on a daily basis around the world. I even find it hard to believe that this conflict has been able to stretch for so many years. The U.S. and Russia are working together not because they feel like they can be “friends” again, but rather that the war against terrorism has jumped back on the agenda. Terrorism has no borders and it can happen anywhere. Fear has no limits and it can happen to anyone.
The very notion that we are privileged to enjoy such a stable life is a message to all of us, that it is our duty to stay informed. As complicated as the Middle East gets, we will never be able to fully grasp what is happening there. However, that does not justify our apathy towards the crisis our world is facing. We will inherit the world that politicians today are manipulating. We must stay informed so we do not make the same mistakes.