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The Syrian War

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The Syrian War

Photo: Pablo Tosco / AFP / Getty Images

Benji Hyer

W!ZARD News Author

The Syrian war began as a struggle between President Bashar al-Assad and political opposition back in 2011. In the wake of the Arab Spring, the Syrian people aimed to oust Assad, only for his forces to violently crack down on protestors. Since then, the civil war has become a global affair, with numerous countries getting involved, most recently Russia.

But with all the developments, it’s been difficult to figure out who is on which side. Worry no further, because I am here to explain!

Let’s start with Assad. He’s facing an armed uprising in his country which he’s been trying to crush, most notably – and appallingly – with the help of chemical weapons. Assad has been backed by his Allies: Iran, terrorist group Hezbollah from Lebanon, and lastly Russia. The USA, Turkey, Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, and much of the Western world want Assad gone, so they’ve been arming or training many of the rebels attempting to unseat the brutal dictator. The problem is that one of the main insurgent groups split to become the Islamic State, who is opposed by everyone, including the other rebels. Numerous nations are bombing Islamic State, and Russia claim to be doing so as well. However, Russia have been found to be bombing some of the other rebel groups as well – like the Free Syrian Army – to keep Assad in power. Some of these groups being weakened by Russia’s air strikes are actually funded by Gulf countries like Sunni Saudi Arabia or Qatar, both rivals of Shiite Iran.

Meanwhile, Turkey say they also want Assad to be deposed, however they’re not bombing him yet. Instead, they are bombing Islamic State, and most significantly, the Kurds. The Kurds are additionally enemies with Islamic State and Assad, plus they are supported by the USA. The USA are allies with Turkey too, so to sum up: America’s friends (Turkey and Kurds) are fighting each other, while also fighting their foes (Islamic State), who is a bigger enemy than their other foe (Assad).

This is all complicated by the differing global opinions on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict – which has become very heated in recent weeks – and the fact that America – famous friends of human rights abusing Saudi Arabia – are now also seen as allies with Iran after their nuclear deal. Moreover, this proxy war further signals a strain on the USA/Russia relationship; could we perhaps see an escalation into a second Cold War?

The Syrian conflict has thus far claimed the lives of 310,000 men, women and children. Millions of people are displaced, adding to the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the 1940s. The West argue that the only way for the war to end is with Assad overthrown, but the alternative to his reign seems worse, with Islamic State growing in influence. The strategy of the West has failed, and Russia’s intervention is simply pouring “gasoline on the fire” in the words of US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter.

Confused? Welcome to the world of international politics…

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