The Syrian Civil war started 5 years ago, and, as per the SCPR, has caused the deaths of over 470,000 people. The conflict is between the Syrian Arab Republic, the legitimate government, lead by Bashar Al-Assad,and rebel groups such as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Al Nusra front, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and various Kurd groups, including the YPG and PKK. Although countries like the United States are choosing to fund Syrian Rebels in the civil war, it does not seem that this is an effective resolution to the conflict.
But what exactly is going on in Syria? As the storm clouds of the Arab Spring drifted across the Maghreb and Middle East. In Syria, protests for a change in government eventually led to an armed conflict. From a report by the United Nations, “The conflict has become overtly sectarian in nature,” meaning that in Syria’s case the conflict is between the Alawite government forces and Sunni rebel groups. Among the unrest, groups like ISIS have taken western parts of the country and have established their own so-called “Islamic State,” making international attention to the situation in Syria larger. Simultaneously, The United States intervention into the conflict which, although aiming to destroy ISIS, seems to have ulterior motives to overthrow the Syrian Government. As we’ve seen in the last few weeks, western led air strikes have hit Assad regime troops.
The escalation of US intervention in this conflict demands scrutiny. Firstly, The United States needs to stop funding rebel groups such as the FSA. Arming rebels was a complete mistake by the US government; giving those rebels weapons was basically giving weapons to terrorists. Regarding the Syrian rebel groups, SAS student Nigel Li said: “I do not think that the United States should fund Syrian rebels… the arms sent over to these rebel factions have been distributed to radical groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda (Al-Nusra).” If you look at other factions that the FSA are aligned with, you will find groups like the Al-Nusra Front who have aligned themselves with Al-Qaeda. Essentially, the US Government in supporting the very same FSA known to be very brutal, as seen in a report by Russia Today where Syrian rebels executed over 80 people outside Damascus (the capital of Syria). Many others were kidnapped and used as human shields. Their brutality does not end there. The FSA have executed Assad supporters as well of POW’s on video, posting them online. Russia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gennady Gatilov, stated, “The brutal massacre of government supporters by the opposition in the city of Aleppo shows that human rights violations are being committed.” So the question surfaces as to whether the US is, in fact, supporting the same sorts of atrocities it so condemns when committed by enemies.
The Arab Spring has become an absolute disaster, and US intervention seems to be stoking the fire. During the Libyan civil war, people took up arms to fight against Muammar Gaddafi who had been in power for over 30 years. The United States in turn choose to supply these rebels to fight against the Libyan government. The rebels eventually took over the country and killed Gaddafi. Where is the state of Libya now? It is identified by most experts to now be a failed state. Terrorist groups have taken over parts of the country, local militias have been formed to protect areas in the southern part of the country and its cities haven’t even been rebuilt from the war. This isn’t the only country that has descended into chaos because of the Arab Spring. Another example is Egypt. In 2011 the people of Egypt ousted their president of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak. They held an election the following year, and Mohamed Morsi was democratically elected as the President of Egypt. A year later people took to the streets to oust another president. After ousting Morsi, the country had turned into a military dictatorship, where many journalist were arrested for reporting on the truth. What will happen to Syria if the government falls? Will it end up like Libya and become a failed state ruled by local militias and terrorists? Will it be like Egypt where they put themselves into a cycle and end up with yet another authoritarian leader?
Let’s consider a possible scenario: If the United States keeps funding the rebels, and they take over Syria, it would make it easier for groups like ISIS and other extremist groups to take over the country. At a time where Syria is very unstable, a rebel takeover will mean that there is no order or strong power that will be able to fight ISIS and other groups. We’ve seen this happen in Libya. During the Libyan revolution, the United States funded and gave weapons to Libyan rebels. In 2014, after the revolution, militants swore allegiance to ISIS. The leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi announced the creation of 3 branches of ISIS in Libya: Cyrenaica in the east, Fezzan in the desert south, and Tripolitania in the west. ISIS in Libya practice the same oppressive policies as their branches in Iraq and Syria, noted by the August, 2015 with mandated Islamic codes of dress and behaviour. Insubordination resulted in crucifixions and public lashings. So if the Syrians rebel and an unstable force takes control of Syria, ISIS and other extremist groups are likely to gain more ground.
Finally, although many western news sites like the BBC and CNN like to call the Syrian rebels moderate, these so called “moderate rebels” are doing things that groups like ISIS would do. During attacks on villages, photos have shown rebels kill Alawite (a branch of Islam practiced predominantly in Syria) civilians. Another problem with calling these rebels moderate is that there is nothing moderate about what groups like the FSA are being trained to do. There is nothing moderate with taking up arms and killing soldiers, police officers and civilians. But western media still calls these rebels moderate even though they perform these horrible atrocities.
Assessing the situation in Syria at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the next year or so. Even if fighting ended between the Assad regime and rebels, the situation with ISIS (to the east), Israel (to the south) and Turkey’s recent military operations in the north of Syria, will become new issues for the forces that control Syria after the current civil war ends. Ultimately, we need to re-evaluate foreign intervention in what could easily become a conflict-without-end.