Afghanistan and Iraq are horror stories of their own, but Syria is the real tragedy. Syria was not really doing much during the Bush years, and part of the Obama years. They weren’t friendly, but they weren’t being bombed either.
The spring of 2011 in known as the Arab Spring. It was the time when several Arab nations had revolts that overthrew their dictators and longtime leaders. Tunisia kicked it off where it was done somewhat peacefully. Egypt was the next big move. It was more bloody there, but the Egyptian president eventually resigned. Libya was very bloody. What started as protest became a civil war. It was a war so big it involved a NATO air campaign and US support. It ended in six months with the horrid killing of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Then there was Syria. Syria started as protest, then came the civil war, and now nobody knows what to call it.
Syria is ruled by Bashar Al-Assad who is a dictator. Like the other protestors of the other Arab countries, they wanted him to step down. He didn’t, and it led to war. Like Libya, the US questioned whether it would aid the Syrian rebels known as the Free Syrian Army. They pondered this through 2012 and 2013. The issue concerned sending weapons to the rebels. The American government was afraid that the weapons would land in the hands of radical terrorist which was very likely. President Obama stated that Syria should not cross his “red line” where they use chemical weapons against their enemies. The Syrian government still crossed that “red line” and chemical weapons were used. The overall issue with the Syrian government and Bashar Al-Assad is their alliances with Iran and Russia. Directly engaging Al-Assad could lead to confrontations with Russia and Iran, and don’t forget Israel is always related.
The disgruntled Sunnis of Iraq took advantage of Syrian turmoil. It opposed the Al-Assad government in the form of the Islamic State. At the same time, they spilled the fighting over to northern Iraq against the new Iraqi government. This is where the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was formed. Formally known as Al-Qaeda of Iraq, ISIL is a conventional militia armed mainly on the ground. Their forces have been competent against the Iraqi and Syrian governments. In both of these countries they control much territory. The group follows yet another perverted interpretation of Islam that mandates the killing of non-Muslims and Muslims who do not accept their views. Their views have been seen to be so radical and savage that the actual Al-Qaeda views them as incorrect. ISIL has claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks globally including the recent one in Paris, France. Many extremist Muslims are acting on behalf of ISIL to perform terrorist attacks worldwide. All of these has lead to where we are now.
In 2014, the United States began an air-campaign alongside several NATO and Arab allies in Iraq and Syria. France has entered the stage after their terrorist attacks. Russia is involved by supporting Al-Assad by attacking ISIL and the Free Syrian Army. This is causing complications. Russia’s air campaign has recently ended, but their attacks have claimed the lives of civilians. Though it helped defeat parts of ISIL, it’s been damaging with Russo-US relations. Their support for Al-Assad is contrary to the US’ support towards the rebels.
Iran has strong ally towards the Syrian government. Iran, like Russia, supports Al-Assad in defeating the Islamic State militant. However, they also support the defeating their rebels as well. Like with Russia, it makes it difficult for the US to support rebels against rivaling nation that are making the conflicting into their own proxy experiment. The Syrian government has used tactics that are similar to that of the late Saddam Hussein in the 1980s and 90s. The US government has absolutely no intention to find peace in Syria with Al-Assad continuing to be in power. The Russian and Iranian do not agree with the Americans on this, and they would not want to see a pro-western President calling the shots in Syria. Above all, Al-Assad does not want to give up his power.
Turkey and Lebanon, being Syria’s neighbors, have been very affected by the war. Terrorist attacks by the ISIL have struck fear in the hearts of both countries. The Turks are concerned about the Kurdish people gaining ground due to the conflict. The Kurds are a Muslim minority in places like northern Iraq and mountainous parts of Turkey. The Turks have had violent confrontation with Kurdish rebels, and they have been engaged in the conflict partially to defeat the Kurdish fighter alongside the Islamic State. Lebanon is not in active conflict in Syria, but their enemies are close the gate. Still remembering their civil wars of the past decades, the Lebanese are no stranger to war. However, the increase of Syrian refugees have affected the demographics in Lebanon, and the government is becoming less and less capable to care for them.
The refugee crisis has been strain for many of the surrounding nations. Turkey is looking to square a deal with the European Union in handling the influx of refugees. The conflict has caused a largest refugee migration since World War II. Certain right-wing politicians in Europe are skeptical or uncompromising with bringing in any of the refugees under the concern of accepting possible terrorists and increasing the Muslim population of those states that are predominantly Christian. At the same time, the conditions that the refugees are experiencing in Germany and Lebanon are far from spectacular. Many are put into miserable facilities and thrown into an unwelcoming communities. Most that enter do not want to stay, but returning home is difficult because home is where the war is.
Though Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States were supportive when the US began its air campaign, they have not paid much attention towards the conflict in Syria. Saudi Arabia is currently fighting a proxy war against Iran in Yemen. The sharp drop in oil prices is making the Gulf States feel less luxurious to fight a war right now.
Currently, the fighting on the ground is Syria is being done by several factions: the Syrian government, the Free Syrian Army, ISIL, and Kurdish fighters. In the air, the US, Canada, and France have supported a bombing, but for the exception of the US, they have pulled their support. Russia says to have completed their mission, yet their presence is still prominent. Jordan and Turkey continue to fight, but for their own interest.
At this point, what is the final solution? The United States could send to whole party, and invade Iraq, Syria, and have someone assassinate Al-Assad, but those tactics were used in the last decade and have practically got us in the situation we are in now. It would end things rather quickly, but it would only send the message that the Iraqi government was truly incompetent and the only way they survived was through the United States military. This will only grow the spread of radical Islam. If you haven’t figured it out already, the religion of Islam truly has nothing to do with any of this. If it did, then 1.5 Billion Muslims would have declared war on the West. Generally speaking, these countries are being run by corrupt leaders and so much war has torn them. Islam is only being used as propaganda for those seeking power and revenge. The final solution to still bet on are the hard fighting Muslim/Arab soldiers who repel radicalism. These people, men and women, fight every day to defeat this menace and win their freedom. Understand that they are not the United States or other military powers that can do this so swiftly. It will take time, and it will be costly.
We are now reaching our fifteenth year since 9/11. In this time, we have invaded two countries, defeated a dictator, killed one of our greatest enemies, and inspired others to embrace democracy. It’s rocky and uncertain, but so was America when it began. Unlike old communism, there are no terrorist countries. These rogue criminals will face justice as did Bin Laden and thousands more. America and the American people have to continue betting on democracy, and support our foreign democratic expenditures to prevail.