August 30, 2013 A2
THESIS: While Syria is a fascinating country with a rich culture and history, it has many significant political and social issues that have resulted in the ongoing and current conflicts with which it is struggling.
The Conflict in Syria A4
Syria has been in the news frequently because of the protests and uprisings that are occurring there. Every day, it seems as though there are more killings and attacks, and the violence is escalating. These issues actually began back in 2011, when a civil war started in the country. Since that time, there have been increases and decreases in the violence and conflict taking place there. In 2012, governmental changes were designed to bring some peace to the region. Unfortunately, the changes did not have the desired effect. By 2013, problems were still mounting. August of 2013 saw tensions reach their peak, with the government using chemical weapons on its own people. While A5 Syria is a fascinating country with a rich culture and history, it has many significant political and social issues that have resulted in the ongoing and current conflicts with which it is struggling.
Syria, known officially as the Syrian Arab Republic, borders several countries as well as the Mediterranean Sea. The country dates back to around 10,000 BC, and was a center of Neolithic culture (Wright 243). A6 There was a lot of Christianity in Syria in the past, and eventually the country changed and became Islamic. The capital was moved to Baghdad. There was also a period of Ottoman rule, along with control by France. Syria became independent in 1946, when the French troops were forced to evacuate the country (Wright 243). A republican government had been formed, and the country was left to its hands when the French moved on. Gaining independence did not bring peace to Syria, though. There was upheaval that dominated its politics through late in the 1960s (Wright, 244). Things settled down a bit, and then started to become problematic for the Syrian people once again. Now the problems in Syria are reaching crisis proportions, and there is really no end in sight to a civil uprising that has already left thousands of people dead.
Syria's civil war has been ongoing since the Arab Spring in 2011, but there were problems in the country long before that time (Rankin 2013). A7 The presidency of Bashar al-Assad means that his family has reigned for four decades. Since the majority of the country is Sunni and al-Assad's family is Alawite, there is a lot of tension with the ruling of the country (Rankin). A8 Egypt and Libya recently staged revolts to change their government or overthrow leaders they did not want in power, and that caught on in Syria, too. There were peaceful protests organized by many citizens, but the government responded violently (Rankin).
That violence resulted in the deaths of a large number of civilians, and that resulted in more retaliation. There were two groups, the civilians representing political change and the government forces led by al-Assad (Syria). When citizens began to arm themselves, the clashes started to intensify. The citizens, who were soon called the rebels, also started to split into two groups. Some were very secular and just wanted change, while others were much more radical. The radical group started to take over the east and north of Damascus, with the other group remaining in the suburbs (Rankin). As of August 30, 2013, the United Nations estimates that more than 100,000 people are dead from the conflicts and protests taking place all over the country (Rankin, 2013). A9
Use of Chemical Weapons
There has been everything from sniper shootouts to widespread shelling in Syria. One of the main issues that have brought international scrutiny is the use of chemical weapons (Rankin). Any government using chemicals to kill its own people is a serious concern, because of the implication that it would use these weapons on others, as well. That makes the government not only a threat to its own people, but to the rest of the world. However, there have not been any retaliatory measures by other countries against the Syrian government. That does not mean these will not happen in the future, but only that they have not yet occurred. Millions of people who survived the attacks, the protests, and the chemical weapons are seeking refuge in neighboring countries. Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon are popular places for displaced masses of Syrian people (Rankin).
Because of the refugees, though, tensions have risen in those nearby countries. The violence is spilling over the border, which could bring other countries into the fray and put them at risk (Rankin). Many of the provisions in Syria are dwindling, and people do not have enough to eat or enough medical supplies. The violence keeps aid missions from getting into the country, so the supplies that are almost gone cannot even be restocked (Rankin). There is a serious humanitarian crisis taking place there, and there does not appear to be any easy end to the conflict in sight.
The use of chemical weapons is the biggest sticking point when it comes to how people in other countries feel about what is taking place in Syria. Not only is the use of these weapons heinous, it is also a direct violation of International Law (Rankin). Hundreds of civilians died in that attack, and many of them were children (Syria). A UN envoy of investigators was sent into Syria once video of the attack was released. It appeared as though nerve gas was used, and the horrifying effects were immortalized on video that was seen around the world. The UN investigators had trouble initially with verification of the use of chemical weapons, because the Syrian government banned them from the site where the attack took place, apparently in an effort to keep them from knowing the real truth about what the government used on the civilians (Rankin).
Recently, though, it has been confirmed that chemical weapons were used. That has escalated a discussion of whether military intervention by other countries is going to be necessary. World leaders, including US President Barack Obama, are carefully weighing options and considering what their next move should be when it comes to Syria (Rankin). There have been several countries that have urged the use of force against al-Assad and his regime. The UK is one such country (Rankin). However, there are many issues to consider where the use of force is possible. Whether long-term instability would be made worse by intervention from other countries is a serious issue to be dealt with.
Intervention by Other Countries C1
On one hand, standing by and not doing anything could encourage al-Assad and indicate that he can do whatever he wants without any kind of retaliation. On the other hand, intervening could cause retaliatory strikes against nearby countries and the Syrian people, which could further destabilize the situation (Syria, 2013). It is very important to take a careful look at the short- and long-term ramification of either choice before a decision is made. That appears to be what the US and other countries are doing. While President Obama has said that al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against his own people in unforgiveable, Obama has also been cautious to avoid making a determination of what (if anything) he is going to do about the issue of Syria (Rankin).
Before any military action takes place, it is vital to be sure of the ramifications. While unexpected issues can always arise, the more one weighs the options and understands the potential consequences, the more he or she can focus on the best and most logical course of action. Thoughtfully considering every option in the best way to go, especially with such a delicate issue that could affect the lives of millions of people.
At the time of this writing, a final decision as to what to do about Syria has not been made. In other words, there is no pending military (or other) action from any country. However, that could easily change at any time. Great Britain's Prime Minister has stated that he intends to introduce a UN resolution that would authorize the use of force (Rankin). There has to be approval for any military action under International Law (Rankin). Vladimir Putin and the Russian government protest such an action, and feel as though it will be detrimental to Syria – doing more harm than good (Rankin). Despite the concerns from that country, an intervention into the issues taking place in Syria appears to be imminent. If the UN fails to agree, coalition-led forces can always be sent to the region (Rankin).
The same kind of agreement and approval is not required for that action, and Britain appears to be laying some of the groundwork for a team led by the United States (Rankin). Nothing has been officially decided, however, or if it has the media has not been alerted to it. Any intervention into the country would be most likely targeted to toward the military units that actually used the chemical weapons. It would probably not be a "boots on the ground" operation such as the war in Afghanistan, or a full-scale effort to oust al-Assad from power. Instead, it would just be designed to stop the issues from escalating and to protect the civilians from any more damage by their government. The protection of many innocent lives remains the ultimate goal.
The Future of Syria C2
Syria's troubled past appears as though it will spill over into the future. Without military or other types of intervention from other countries, it seems as though nothing will change. The country is in strife right now, and because tensions have been high for so long they will not just defuse easily. However, an intervention from other countries may not provide Syria with stabilization, either. There is a deep concern regarding whether Syria would benefit from any kind of intervention, or whether it would cause more of a serious issue than has already been seen. Further destabilization of the country could lead to more bloodshed and a larger number of innocent lives lost. It could also mean that more people would start spilling over the borders into neighboring countries – many of which have already taken in large numbers of refugees and cannot easily accommodate any more.
Since an intervention of some sort appears to be imminent, it is likely only a matter of time before sweeping changes are made in Syria. While there probably will not be an attempt to remove al-Assad from power, it is difficult to say what could happen in the future. If there are more chemicals used, countries may find that they need to focus on more drastic measures in order to stop the damage taking place in Syria. More innocent lives will continue to be lost until something changes. What is very important to remember about intervention into Syria, though, is that there are really no "good" and "bad" sides there (Rankin, 2013). The government has its troubles, but the rebels are also causing problems. With different kinds of beliefs on both sides, it will not be easy to reach an agreement.
The level of strife has been building for so long that it cannot be easily contained just because the government wants the people to back down or because another country stepped in and tried to calm the rebels. Changes and concessions will likely have to be made on both sides (Rankin). In short, Syria still faces a long road ahead. Each step in one direction takes something away from the other side, making it more volatile in many cases. With that in mind, any decisions made can upset the balance of power even further and plunge the country into further difficulty. This is largely why no other countries have intervened yet. There is a serious risk of making the problems in Syria much worse before they get better.
Works Cited C3
Rankin, Seija. What you need to know about the crisis in Syria. Refinery29. 2013. Web. 30 August 2013.
"Syria" Syria in context: Understanding the war. Reuters. 2013. Web. 29 August 2013.
Wright, Robin. Dreams and shadows: the future of the Middle East. New York: Penguin Press, 2008. Print.