An Analysis Of The Syrian Civil War

CwP

CwP is a former US Army Officer and US Department of Homeland Security Immigration Officer, and current government contractor. Writing is a hobby at the moment, to which he enjoys giving detailed insights into America's foreign policy and various political concerns.

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Overview

Over the last six years the situation in Syria has continued to deteriorate, and the ever-worsening situation has had a far-reaching impact. The conflict led to the modern formation of the Islamic State (which has leadership and ideological ties back to Jamāʻat al-Tawḥīd wa-al-Jihād, founded in 1999); the worsening of the security situation in neighboring states (especially Iraq, which was already unstable); the creation of an opposition-group quagmire (with overlapping government and extremists ties between groups, making overt support for a group a daunting task), and a huge humanitarian crisis impacting the Middle-East, North Africa, and Europe. Last night’s attack represented the US’ first military overture leveled directly against the Assad regime, conducted in response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons against its civilian population. This was far from the first use of chemical agents against civilians in Syria. The military response may have been primarily a political gesture, meant to send a message that such tactics will no longer be tolerated, and to punctuate the current administration’s critique of the previous administrations response to such events as weak.

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Many are now discussing whether the attack was warranted, or successful. It is a fair question, and certainly not a simple one. The previous President of the US will not be able to live down his “red line” comments with regard to use of chemical agents. But his political and security predicament was no simpler then, even though the problems were not yet as severe and did not have the scope of impact as they do currently. Knowing if, when, and to what extent to intervene in another country’s civil crisis isn’t something one can solve with a basic equation. President Obama missed opportunities early on, but did so in the calculated expectation that the Assad regime would be more willing to engage with nascent opposition groups, and that neighboring countries would be able to successfully intervene. There was a miscalculation regarding the measures Assad would be willing to employ against his own people and the willingness and ability of other actors in the region to impact the situation. But, this happened on the heels of a long military campaign in Iraq (and the seemingly forgotten campaign in Afghanistan – which is still ongoing), and no one was spoiling for another potentially protracted ground fight with no clearly defined end-state. I can understand the previous administrations hesitance to become embroiled in the conflict.

By 2013 it was clear that the lack of direct support for opposition groups was a vacuum being filled by extremist groups. As the US considered the possibility of providing materiel support to the opposition, they now had to contend with prohibitions related to material support to violent extremism. Which groups were not affiliated with extremists? How could we be sure? And as ISIS emerged as more significant threat to regional and global security, more nations became interested in getting involved in the Syrian crisis. As other nations began to wade in, we had to consider their strategic interests in our calculus as well. The destruction of ISIS may be a shared strategic vision, but the roadmap to their destruction was and is very different based on desired outcomes for Syrian governance post-civil war. Russia and Iran both have strategic interests in Assad remaining in power. The US has avoided making Assad’s removal a critical requirement, though a transition to a new government has been a stated end for some time. Now that we have launched a direct attack against Assad other actors are concerned about the future stability of the regime. There has already been some harsh diplomatic rhetoric; a short-term concern is the potential loss of collaborative efforts to defeat ISIS. We could also see degradation of relations with both Russia and Iran, which could have a ripple effect with respect to other countries with which relations are strained. Strong supporters Russia will fall in on their narrative that this was an “act of aggression” by the US. China has numerous strategic partnerships with Russia, so Russia may be in a position to influence Chinese policy toward the US and its strategic interests for trade and freedom of movement in the South China sea, both already topics of contention for the US and China.

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It is too soon to tell what the second- and third-order effects will be for this strike. It has already soured relations with Russia to a limited extent. It may not go any further than whet is currently being expressed, provided we don’t make a habit of attacking Assad directly. As for short term intentions, did this strike meet the intent? On this point I don’t think I can give an answer, but I think I can provide some questions.

First, what was the intent of the strike? Did we intend to wipe out Assad’s capability to deliver chemical strikes? If so, was this objective successful? Perhaps, if this was the only place where chemical weapons were stored and this was the only airfield from which they could be delivered. If there are other caches of chemical weapons then they could most likely still be delivered via other platforms from other locations. I do not know which is the case.

If the strike was not to debilitate chemical storage and delivery systems, then what was the goal? Perhaps the objective was simply to advise Assad that we would no longer tolerate use of chemical weapons. If so, the strike could prove effective. However, Assad and his regime have proven quite capable when it comes to widespread harm to civilians employing only conventional weapons, so this strike is unlikely to yield any significant improvement for the security of the average Syrian citizen.

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Was the strike purely a political gesture, to demonstrate that the current POTUS is stronger than the previous POTUS? On that count, the strike certainly conveys that the new administration is willing to take military action when it feels that there is sufficient situational gravity. It does not necessarily send the message that the administration is sufficiently rational or deliberative in decisions to use military power. Our Secretary of Defense has asserted that our overall Syria strategy is unchanged. If that is true, that suggests that there was not proper consideration of the potential for diplomatic or even military repercussions for the strike. We did put the world on notice that we are willing to fire missiles over chemical weapons use. It could have a deterrent effect on some actors. Others may choose to accelerate efforts to develop first-strike capabilities.

What are our planned next steps? If there is no change to our Syria strategy, then what is the plan to ensure our more contentious partners in the fight against ISIS are certain that this isn’t a major shift to a policy in conflict with their goals and interests? If this is a shift, then what is the new strategy, and how will this help us get there? And what is the plan for the inevitable loss of cooperation from other actors that do not want to see Assad go? How will we mitigate the potential for direct armed conflict with a near-peer state actor? What is our plan to identify and mitigate threats from proxy actors?

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From statements, we know that this most recent chemical attack was just too much for us to allow to go unanswered. The use of chemical weapons, especially against one’s own population, is an egregious crime. But, let’s not forget that as of a year ago the estimates for the number of deaths in the Syrian civil war was as high as 470,000. The atrocities committed by Assad against his people have not all involved the use of chemical weapons, but they are no less horrifying. Why is this one event worthy of direct military action but no other event – or the cumulative effect of all of the events over the last six years – is or was worth such action? Why is this one event worth the risk our regional objectives and strategic partnerships? I realize that the new administration has a different perspective from the last. Does this strike signal a policy shift indicating that equivalent tragedies using conventional weapons may be met with direct military action?

My concern is that this was carried out simply to look tougher than the last administration without due consideration to potential ramifications. It appears haphazard and inconsistent with a coherent strategy. No matter what the goal was originally, it is certain that this strike will not end the suffering of the Syrian people, or end the crisis overall. Any decision to employ military action should be made in the context of furthering the long-term goal of regional stability. I do not believe this action helped.

A Breakdown of the Ukraine-Russian Conflict

David McDonald

David McDonald

David is a 19-year-old Canadian student currently attending the University of Guelph. He currently studies Public Management and economics with hopes of one day becoming an accomplished journalist. David enjoys reporting on global events and actively try to make a difference in the world.
David McDonald

Interests in Eurasian natural gas pipelines and vastly different political ideologies within Ukraine lie at the core of this geopolitical dispute – Although the war has dragged on for years, a conclusion does not seem to be on the Horizon.

Overview

The Ukraine-Russian conflict has been the bloodiest European attempt since the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Misconstruing amongst the Ukrainian government towards handling social issues within their Eastern fronts, as well as glaring economic motives on both sides, are the driving forces behind this re-emerging conflict.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine and Russia retained close economic and social ties. However, the conflict began almost immediately after. Conflicts of interest include Ukraine’s significant nuclear arsenal, the division of the Black Sea fleet, various gas disputes as well as political and social dissensions. This situation is complicated, and there are far too many angles to take when approaching this topic for just one article, so I’m going to keep it simple and focus on what I believe are the primary drivers behind Russian-intervention in Ukraine: Oil and cultural sovereignty.

 

Hidden Economic motives behind the Ukraine-Russia Conflict

I use the term ‘hidden’ loosely, because, with any given conflict between nations, it must be inferred that there is some economic gain to be achieved; otherwise, there would be no point in fighting.
For Russia, the financial gain lies in control of oil that flows through Ukraine to the European Union. Resource scarcity and competition to dominate Eurasian energy corridors are the main driving forces for Russian engagement in Eastern Ukraine, as well as Syria, but that’s a story for another day.
Gas pipelines stretching from Russia to Europe Through Ukraine

Russia has strategic economic interests in various pipelines that travel through Ukraine and into Europe

Ukraine is undoubtedly one of the most geostrategically important countries within the Eurasian hemisphere. It lies at a crossroads between the dominant-European Union economy and Russia, as well as having easy access to the Middle East and even Asia.

Amongst the many pipelines that run through Ukraine, the $21.6 billion South Stream natural gas pipeline – which stretches nearly 1,500 miles – is a large motivator for Putin to be engaged in Ukraine right now.
The pipeline is core to a more major battle being fought over Europe between Moscow and Washington. It may even have been a motivation behind Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
What makes this pipelines so important? It aims to connect Russia’s gas reserves – the world’s largest – to the European market. Europe currently relies on Russia for about 30 percent of its natural gas, 80% of which travels through Ukraine. This pipeline ultimately aims to strengthen Russian economic ties with the EU.

Russia-Ukraine Gas Disputes

To understand the idea of the South Stream pipeline, we must venture back to the Russia-Ukraine gas disputes that lasted from 2005 – 2010. The conflict began in March 2005 over the price of natural gas supplied and the cost of transit. During this conflict, Russia claimed Ukraine was not paying for gas, but diverting that which was intended to be exported to the EU from the pipelines. Ukrainian officials at first denied the accusation, but later Naftogaz admitted that natural gas intended for other European countries was retained and used for domestic needs.
The dispute reached a high point on January 1st, 2006 when Russia cut off all gas supplies passing through Ukrainian territory. A preliminary agreement between Russia and Ukraine was achieved three days later, and the supply was restored. The situation calmed until October 2007 when new disputes began over Ukrainian gas debts. This led to a reduction of gas supplies in March 2008. During the last months of 2008, relations once again became tense when Ukraine and Russia could not agree on the debts owed by Ukraine.

In January 2009, this disagreement resulted in supply disruptions in many European nations, with eighteen European countries reporting major drops in or complete cut-offs of their gas supplies transported through Ukraine from Russia. In September 2009 officials from both countries stated they felt the situation was under control and that there would be no more conflicts over the topic, at least until the Ukrainian 2010 presidential elections.
This leads us to our next issue; the political tensions between Ukraine and Russia

Ukraine politics deeply intertwined with Russia’s – A melting point for conflict

Political tensions between the two nations built with the election of Viktor Yushchenko – a natural leader of the Ukrainian opposition coalition and not as Pro-Russian as his predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych. Russia was not pleased by the Orange Revolution of 2004, which saw the Ukrainian populist Viktor Yushchenko elected president instead of the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych. The Revolution spawned out of a general conspicuity of electoral fraud within the Ukrainian Government.
Orange Revolution Ukraine

The Orange Revolution in Ukraine (2004) helped influence a Viktor Yuschenko Presidency. (Photo by Marion Dumiel) .                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Moreover, Ukraine continued to increase its cooperation with NATO, deploying the third-largest contingent of troops to Iraq in 2004. Tensions with Russia under Yushchenko’s leadership built (as signified by the gas disputes) and did not cease until the pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was elected in 2010.

 

Upon Yanukovych’s election, Russia felt that many ties with Ukraine could be repaired. Before this, Ukraine had not renewed the lease of Black Sea Naval base at Sevastopol, meaning that Russian troops would have to leave Crimea by 2017. However, Yanukovych signed a new lease and expanded allowable troop presence as well as allowing troops to train in the Kerch peninsula.
Many in Ukraine viewed the extension as unconstitutional because Ukraine’s constitution states that no permanent foreign troops shall be stationed in Ukraine after the Sevastopol treaty expired, however, knowing that Yanukovych was pro-Russian, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Yulia Tymoshenko, the main opposition figure of Yanukovich, was jailed on what many considered trumped up charges, leading to further dissatisfaction with the government. In November 2013, Viktor Yanukovych declined to sign an association agreement with the European Union, a treaty that had been in development for several years and one that Yanukovych had earlier approved of. Yanukovych instead favoured closer ties with Russia.
Yanukovych’s reign consisted of much more controversy proceeding this. It began with the Euromaidan movement, which saw public protests in Kiev’s city square, demanding closer European Integration. The scope of the protests expanded, with many calls for the resignation of Viktor Yanukovych. These protests led to the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution.
2014 Ukraine Revolution

Protesters advance towards new positions in Kiev on February 20, 2014. Armed protesters stormed police barricades in Kiev on Thursday in renewed violence that killed at least 26 people and shattered an hours-old truce as EU envoys held crisis talks with Ukraine’s embattled president. Bodies of anti-government demonstrators lay amid smouldering debris after masked protesters hurling Molotov cocktails and stones forced police from Kiev’s iconic Independence Square — the epicentre of the ex-Soviet country’s three-month-old crisis. AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKILOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images

The Revolution consisted of a series of violent events in February of 2014. Involved were riot police, violent protests, and unknown shooters, among others. The protesters took control of government buildings in the capital city of Kiev, along with the city itself. As the police abandoned their posts across the capital Kiev and the opposition established control over key intersections and the parliament, President Yanukovych fled Kiev for Kharkiv in the east of Ukraine, where he traditionally has had more support.

Ukrainian political views

The Ukrainian populace remains largely separated by political ideology – with Western Ukraine favouring European Union support, and Eastern Ukraine citizens leaning towards a Russian ideology

After this incident, the Ukrainian parliament voted to restore the 2004 Constitution of Ukraine and remove Yanukovych from power. A vote on the resolution that stated that Yanukovych “is removing himself [from power] because he is not fulfilling his obligations” emerged 328–0 in support. The vote was 10 short of three-quarters of the Parliament members, the requirement of the Constitution of Ukraine for impeachment. Yanukovych stated that the vote was unconstitutional because of this issue, and refused to resign. Politicians from the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine (majority are pro-Russian), including Crimea, declared continuing loyalty to Yanukovych.

One of the first issues the parliament approached was that of the language, annulling a bill that provided for Russian to be used as a second official government language in regions with large Russian-speaking populations occupied primarily in the South-Eastern regions of Ukraine. The parliament adopted a bill to repeal the 2012 law on minority languages, which protected the status of languages other than Ukrainian. The proposal alienated many in the Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine and a few days later, on 1 March, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov vetoed the bill, effectively stopping its enactment.
Russia’s Interest In Crimea
Days after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled the capital of Kiev in late February 2014, armed men opposed to the Euromaidan movement began to take control of the Crimean Peninsula.  After the occupation of the Crimean parliament by unmarked troops who were suspected to be Russian militia, the Crimean leadership announced it would hold a referendum on secession from Ukraine.

This heavily disputed referendum was followed by the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in mid-March. Ukraine and most of the international community refused to recognize the referendum or the annexation. On 15 April, the Ukrainian parliament declared Crimea a territory temporarily occupied by Russia.

Ukraine-Crimea-Map

Crimea serves as an important strategic interest for Russia

Since annexing Crimea, the Russian government increased its military presence in the region, with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying a Russian military task force would be established there. In December 2014 the Ukrainian Border Guard Service announced Russian troops would begin withdrawing from the areas of Kherson Oblast. One of such villages occupied by Russian troops was Strilkove, Henichesk Raion, located on the Arabat Spit, which housed a significant gas distribution centre.
Russian forces stated they took over the gas distribution centre to prevent terrorist attacks. This reasoning is remarkable in the most ludicrous way. Russian media sources are keen on covering up their true intentions of invading Ukraine – which is oil – and do so by using ‘Terrorism’ as a press outlet.  Russian forces then withdrew from Kherson, marking a brief end to nearly 10 months of the Russian occupation of the region.

Renewed Conflict In Ukraine

On August 8th, 2016 Ukraine reported that Russia had increased its military presence along the demarcation line. Proceeding this, Ukraine closed several border crossings. On August 10th, Russia claimed two servicemen were killed and 10 injured in clashes with Ukrainian commandos in Armyansk on August 7, and that Ukrainian operatives had been captured.
Putin has accused Ukraine of turning to the “practice of terrorism,” for merely defending their land. Ukrainian President Poroshenko called the Russian version of events “equally cynical and insane”. The U.S. denied Russia’s claims, with its ambassador to Ukraine stating “The U.S. Government has seen nothing so far that corroborates Russian allegations of a “Crimean incursion”.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warned that Russia was preparing for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, something that Europe is too weak to prevent it from doing. However, I will argue that this statement is nothing more than media propaganda, to try and sway the Ukrainian populace in a direction that favours NATO alliances.

Conclusion

Military conflict between Ukraine and Russia has ceased recently, but tensions between the two nations remain. Russia will continue to push for dominance within Eastern Ukraine at least on a political, economic, and social scale, to avoid further casualties. The proposition of the South Stream natural gas pipeline is one that is important to Putin; he understands that in order for Russia to have continued economic prosperity with the Eurasian economies, he must secure natural gas exports.

Knowing Putin’s intentions, one cannot exclude all chances for future conflict – it is almost inevitable. Ukraine is ethnically torn between East and West, and Putin wants to capture the pro-Russian west populace of Ukraine, as well as the land and money that comes with it. If the conflict in the region continues, expect Putin to use possible threats of terrorism as a backbone for promoting pro-Russian media coverage.

The dispute between these two countries is complex. Their history leading up to this point has led to vastly differing ideologies on politics, language, religion, and social status. Including economic forces, all of these variables come into play with this issue, which is why it is so difficult to understand, and even more perplexing to completely solve.

As a curious onlooker, I am eagerly awaiting what will happen next between Ukraine and Russia, because the implications affect us all.

Aleppo Begins Evacuation After Years Of Civil War

David McDonald

David McDonald

David is a 19-year-old Canadian student currently attending the University of Guelph. He currently studies Public Management and economics with hopes of one day becoming an accomplished journalist. David enjoys reporting on global events and actively try to make a difference in the world.
David McDonald
Aleppo, Syria
A historic city, torn apart by years of relentless civil war; The worst humanitarian crisis in recent years is being referred to as the “modern-day Stalingrad,” Here’s why

Overview

The battle of Aleppo is the most important component of the ongoing Syrian civil war; Here, a faceoff between the Assad government and the Syrian Rebel forces is in full-swing, and the city, in ruins.

 

In 2011, Aleppo was Syria’s largest city with a population of 2.5 million people. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has been described by Time as Syria’s commercial capital. Tension within Syria has been building up since protests against the Assad government began as early as March 2011. In Aleppo itself, large protests began more than a year later in May 2012, and controversy has escalated ever since.

 

Conflict first arises when rebel fighters from neighbouring villages converged on the Syrian hub to aid in protests, to which the government responded with heavy-handed, ill-advised bombardments of the city.

 

At the beginning of the Battle of Aleppo, rebels reportedly had between 6,000 and 7,000 fighters in 18 battalions. The largest rebel group was the al-Tawhid Brigade and the most prominent were the Free Syrian Army, largely composed of army defectors. Most of the rebels came from the Aleppo countryside and from towns including Al-Bab, Marea, Azaz, Tel Rifaat and Manbij.

 

Before we dive into specifics, we must not get the Rebel groups confused with the Islamic State (ISIS). These are two different groups, fighting for two different reasons. ISIS currently has no interests in the region, their strategy lies in controlling the North-Western oil pipelines that stretch from Iran to Turkey – something I explain in further detail here.

 

Course of the Battle

The course of the Syrian war in whole has taken a drastic change in recent years, so much so that the entire country is being disputed amongst four separate armies. In the case of Aleppo, real battles began in July of 2012 and has escalated to a point where today, it is being considered one of the worst humanitarian crises’ since the Vietnam war.

 

A breakdown of the battle:

 

2012: Initial rebel attack and capture of Eastern Aleppo
Free Syrian army engages on an offensive attack in Aleppo in July and early August. Many casualties suffered. Rebel commanders said their main aim was to capture the city center. Rebels secured a strategic checkpoint in the town of Anadan just north of Aleppo, as well as capturing Al-bab, an army base northeast of the city. During this time, rebels targeted security centers and police stations in an attempt to cripple the Syrian hub.
2013: Advances and counter-advances
After multiple attacks on Aleppo International Airport, all flights were suspended on 1 January 2013. The following month, the rebels seized Umayyad Mosque; and during the battle, the mosque’s museum caught fire and its ceiling collapsed.

On June 9th, the Syrian Army announced the start of “Operation Northern Storm”, an attempt to recapture territory in and around the city.Between 7 and 14 June, army troops, government militiamen and Hezbollah fighters launched the operation. Over a one-week period, government forces advanced in the city and the countryside, pushing back the rebels. However, according to an opposition activist, on 14 June the situation started reversing after rebels halted an armored reinforcement column from Aleppo that was heading for two Shiite villages northwest of the city.
2014: Syrian Government Encircles Rebels
Government forces, having lifted the siege of Aleppo in October 2013, continued their offensive in 2014 (we see this in the diagram to the right, government forces are highlighted in green). This culminated in the capture of the Sheikh Najjar industrial district north of Aleppo and the lifting of the siege of Aleppo Central Prison on 22 May 2014, which contained a garrison of government soldiers that had resisted rebel forces since 2012. A ceasefire proposal was presented by a UN envoy in November; under the proposal, the Syrian Arab Army would allow the rebels to leave Aleppo without violence and would help with their transportation. In return, the rebels would surrender their arms. President Assad reportedly agreed to consider taking this ceasefire plan, though no official confirmation was made. The FSA rejected the plan; its military commander Zaher al-Saket said they had “learned not to trust the Assad regime because they are cunning and only want to buy time”.

 

2015: War of Attrition
In preparation for a new offensive, the rebels heavily shelled government-held parts of Aleppo, leaving 43 civilians dead and 190 wounded on 15 June.On 17 June, rebel forces captured the western neighborhood of Rashideen from Syrian government forces.Throughout 19 and 20 June, a new round of rebel shelling killed 19 more civilians.

In early July, two rebel coalitions launched an offensive against the government-held western half of the city.During five days of fighting, the rebels seized the Scientific Research Center on Aleppo’s western outskirts, which was being used as a military barracks. Two rebel attacks on the Jamiyat al-Zahra area were repelled. Government forces launched an unsuccessful counter-attack against the Scientific Research Center.

 

2016: Civilian and Rebel Supply Lines Cut By Assad Regime
By 2016, it was estimated that the population of rebel-held Eastern Aleppo had been reduced to 300,000, while 1.5 million were living in government-held Western Aleppo.

 

By late July, the military had managed to sever the last rebel supply line coming from the north and completely surround Aleppo. However, within days, the rebels launched a large-scale counter-attack south of Aleppo in an attempt to both open a new supply line into rebel-held parts of the city and cut-off the government-held side. The whole campaign, including both the Army’s offensive and subsequent rebel counteroffensive, was seen by both sides as possibly deciding the fate of the entire war.

 

Rebels started an attack on western Aleppo in late October, which failed, with government forces retaking areas in the southwest which they had lost to the rebel’s late July offensive. The Syrian Army then started an offensive to finish rebel-held Aleppo once and for all. In which they captured the Hanano district, Sakhour district, Jabal Badro district, Bustan al-Basha district, Hellok district, Sheikh Kheder district, Sheikh Fares district Haydariyah district, Ayn al-Tal industrial district and reportedly the research housing south of Jabal Badro. They also captured the Ard’ Al Hamra district cutting rebel-held territory in Aleppo by 40–45%.

By the 13 December 2016, the rebel area shrunk to only 5% of the original territory of the city. A ceasefire was announced and the fighting stopped in order to enable the evacuation of civilians and rebels. The buses were prepared for the evacuation. However, the Syrian government resumed the bombardment of east Aleppo again on the 14 December. The deal thus fell apart, with both sides blaming the other for the resumed fighting.

 

Aleppo Today

Syria has effectively turned into a Proxy war, in which American-backed rebels, stand against the Russian-backed Syrian government. Aleppo is the most prominent example of this. What started off as peaceful protests have now developed into a full-fledged civil war, and the city of Aleppo has been left in ruins while opposing forces continue to fight.
Before and After the syrian civil war in the city of aleppo

 

 

Evacuations began for thousands of civilians and rebels from Syria’s eastern Aleppo on Thursday, but for many, fleeing their homes means leaving one war zone for another.

Most of the civilians will be taken to the rebel-controlled area in the neighboring province of Idlib, one of the few remaining footholds rebel groups still have in the country — and most likely the regime’s next target for recapture. Rebel fighters were also being allowed to move there. Approximately 3,000 people and more than 40 wounded were brought out of eastern Aleppo during the first two evacuations on Thursday, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Syria, Marianne Gasser, said in a statement.

 

Secretary of State for the U.S, John Kerry rebuked the Syrian Assad regime for carrying out “nothing short of a massacre” in Aleppo, as tens of thousands of civilians were held in the recent siege of the rebel stronghold.

 

Mr.Kerry is completely right. The violence within Aleppo and the general lack of restraint towards anyone within firing range are horrific. Hospitals in Aleppo that house the elderly, sick, and children, have now all been bombed by either the Assad regime or the Free Syrian Army, among others. Neither side is showing restraint, and thousands continue to die because of this.

 

“There is absolutely no justification whatsoever for the indiscriminate and savage brutality against civilians shows by the regime and by its Russian and Iranian allies over the past few weeks and, indeed, over the past five years,” John Kerry said at a press briefing on Thursday.
According to a tweet from Syrian English teacher, Abdulkafi Alhamdo, “We are [given] only two deadly choices: Death or displacement. Both of them are heartbreaking,” Aleppo citizens (what’s rest of them) are being sent to refugee camps with minimal access to food, water, and shelter – all because of an unjustified uprising against the Assad government.

 

The conflict in Syria, and specifically, Aleppo, has reached the point where it can indeed be called a “humanitarian crisis.” The lack of cooperation from either side in conflict demonstrates the sheer lack of care for the Syrian people. Neither the Assad regime nor the Free Syrian Army seems to care about the well-being of innocent civilians. The situation is so bad, it has even been compared to the modern day “Stalingrad.”

 

Despite this, Aleppo residents will be allowed to leave on Thursday under a new ceasefire agreement reached overnight. However, it is estimated that over 50,000 civilians still remain inside Eastern Aleppo under rebel control.

 

Some news outlets have even gone so far as to say the violence has ‘ended’ in Aleppo. To the contrary, I don’t think the violence in this area will cease until rebel groups completely back out of the area and release those civilians.

 

At this point, however, it seems that the Assad regime has won this battle against the Free Syrian army, and Syria itself, is one step closer to ending this brutal civil war.

 

A Geopolitical Analysis of Western Intervention in Syria

David McDonald

David McDonald

David is a 19-year-old Canadian student currently attending the University of Guelph. He currently studies Public Management and economics with hopes of one day becoming an accomplished journalist. David enjoys reporting on global events and actively try to make a difference in the world.
David McDonald
A man at a site recently hit by what activists said was a Scud missile in Aleppo’s Ard al-Hamra neighborhood, February 23, 2013. REUTERS/Muzaffar Salman

Introduction

It seems like yesterday when the Syrian crisis and ISIS threats were all over the news. When in reality, this was several months ago.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen news about the civil war going on in Syria. I just recently wrote an article about the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, and a main contributor to the public opting out of the multi-nation pact was the influx of Syrian refugees pouring into the country.
I’ve decided to tackle the daunting task of trying to understand what is going on in the Middle East right now, and condense it into a readable article with all the top facts that I think you should know.
More specifically, I’m going to analyse why there is civil unrest in Syria, why there are over 250,000 civilians dead and millions of others displaced and forced to be refugees, as well as why Western superpower USA along with Russia and the UK are invading the country and bombing thousands of innocent civilians (bet you haven’t heard about that on CNN). Furthermore, I’ll detail why this is a geopolitical crisis (politics having to do with geographical factors) and not just a civil war based on radical islamists who want nothing more than land and money.
The issue is very complex, and I won’t be able to offer every perspective in this article, but I will be able to give you a clear, concise guide to what is actually going on in the Middle East, and why there are millions of refugees that are fleeing to bordering countries.

History of Syrian Unrest

The country has been experiencing civil unrest for quite some time now. Since July 17th 2000, Bashar Al Assad, son of brutal dictator Havez Al Assad (ruled Syria from 1971 to 2000) has thrown the nation into a state of turmoil. He is unwilling to relinquish control to democratic pressures. He caused a civil war which shattered his nation. He opened the door to Al-Qaeda radicals to walk through and grow exponentially. He willingly allowed the use of weapons of mass destruction on his own people. The biggest problem of this whole mess? He isn’t even the worst dictator in his country.
Syria is in such a terrible state because there are two main evils fighting against each other: Assad and the rebellion (ISIS and the Kuds). So how did this all start?

Timeline of recent events in Syria (2011-present day)

  • March 2011- Security forces shoot dead protesters in southern city of Deraa demanding release of political prisoners, triggering violent unrest that steadily spread nationwide over the following months.

 

This event started the fight between the Syrian government and the IS (Islamic State)
  • May 2011 – Army tanks enter Deraa, Banyas, Homs and suburbs of Damascus in an effort to crush anti-regime protests. US and European Union tighten
  • June 2011 – 120 members of the security forces have been killed by “armed gangs” in the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughour. Troops besiege the town and more than 10,000 people flee to Turkey. President Assad pledges to start a “national dialogue” on reform.
  • July 2011 – February 2012 – New Syrian National Council says it has forged a common front of internal and exiled opposition activists. Arab League votes to suspend Syria, accusing it of failing to implement an Arab peace plan, and imposes sanctions. December – Twin suicide bombs outside security buildings in Damascus kill 44, the first in a series of large blasts in the the capital that continue into the following summer.
  • July 2012 – Free Syria Army blows up three security chiefs in Damascus and seizes Aleppo in the north.
  • August 2012 – US President Obama warns that use of chemical weapons would tilt the US towards intervention.
  • 2013 – several bombings take place, bordering nations such as Israel were to blame at the time but action was never taken. Also sees the rise of Islamists. Syrian government accused of using chemical weapons to kill civilians in an attempt to distinguish an uprising, these claims were denied.
  • 2014 January-February – UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva fail, largely because Syrian authorities refuse to discuss a transitional government.
  • 2014 February – August – ISIS declare “caliphate” in several territories. This term means ‘Islamic State’ where a caliph is the political and religious leader and his power and authority is absolute, meaning the Syrian government has no power in the areas controlled by ISIS.
  • 2014 September – US and five Arab countries launch airstrikes against ISIS in the areas captured by the terrorist regime.
  • 2015 January – June – ISIS and Kurdish forces fight for territory and power.
  • 2015 September – Russia carries out its first airstrikes in Syria, saying they target the ISIS group, but others claim these strikes target anti-Assad rebels.
  • 2015 December – Britain joins US-led bombing raids against Islamic State in wake of Paris suicide bombing attacks.
  • 2016 March – Syrian government forces retake Palmyra from Islamic State, with Russian air assistance.
  • 2016 May – Present – US-Russian ceasefire set back in February is extended. Fighting still continues however.
Assad Vs. ISISTo sum all of this up, everything began when security forces killed peaceful protestors in a southern Syrian city. From there, Assad ordered army tanks to stop anti-regime protesters. The Syrian government then fails to implement a peace plan in the nation and the UN suspends them. From there, numerous terrorist acts take place from suicide bombings to mass killings in an attempt to overthrow the government. The government retaliated in an attempt to restore peace, but the fighting only got out of hand. ISIS began conquering massive amounts of land throughout the country and claimed these areas to be an Islamic State (an area where the government has no control). From there, the US, Russia, UK, China, and Germany alongside several other nations have all intervened to no peaceful conclusion yet. To this day, the fighting still continues, the government still has little control over its country, and thousands of people are fleeing the country on a daily basis. Although you don’t hear about this much in the news anymore, the problems still consist.
 

 

Why are America and Russia Interfering?

The US media is making the argument that because the Assad regime is using chemical weapons on the Syrian people, the US military should intervene by arming and training the Free Syrian Army in the hopes of overthrowing President Assad and restoring peace to the Syrian people.
On the surface, most Americans would agree that Assad is a brutal dictator and should be removed from office. But if you asked most Americans whether or not the US military should intervene in Syria to make sure the profit margins of oil companies remain strong, it’s likely most rational folks would say no.
Digging just beneath the surface, it’s easy to see that US interest in Syria isn’t to provide Democracy to the nation, but to ensure the Kirkuk-Banias oil pipeline (Syria’s largest pipeline that is bringing in billions of dollars worth of revenue) will be restored to profitable status.
Even President Obama’s press secretary said that foreign policy isn’t driven by what the people want, but by what is best for “American interests.”
Air strikes in Iraq and Syria
Above you can see where US and Russian air strikes are being placed. Given the knowledge that the US media has backed us with, one would think that this is primarily to defeat ISIS, right?
Well, in reality, it’s much more than that.
Oil pipelines in Syria
I’ve taken the above map and added the main Syrian pipelines with large black lines, as well as small red circles that show large oil refineries in the country.
It might just be me (I’m just being humble, it isn’t just me) but doesn’t it seem a little weird that the largest, most concentrated US and Russian airstrikes are placed right by large oil refineries and pipelines?
It isn’t just a coincidence, this is precisely why the US and Russia are in Syria. Notice how Russia’s airstrikes occupy the Western side of the country while the US airstrikes occupy the northern, eastern, and southern areas of Syria, as well as areas in Iraq.
There are huge areas occupied by ISIS that the US and Russia are paying no attention to, why? Because they aren’t close to the oil pipelines!
One of the main black lines on this map is the Kirkuk-Banias pipeline, which runs from Kirkuk in Northern Iraq, to the Syrian town of Banias, on the Mediterranean Sea between Turkey and Lebanon.
Ever since US forces inadvertently destroyed it in 2003, most of the pipeline has been shut down. While there have been plans in the works to make the Iraqi portion of the pipeline functional again, those plans have yet to come to fruition, and Syria has at least 2.5 billion barrels of oil in its fields, making it the next largest Middle Eastern oil producer after Iraq.
Oil companies are becoming dependent on the Kirkuk-Banias pipeline’s output and are eager to get the pipeline operational again. The tension over the Syrian oil situation is certainly being felt by wealthy investors in the markets, who are thus dictating US foreign policy.
Interesting how big time oil investors are having a large say in US foreign affairs, right? It just goes to show how much of US foreign intervention is really done in the sake of improving the lives of others, rather than economical interests (that’s right, not a sizeable percentage of it).
middle east oil pipelines
Moving on, Qatar needed to get its Qatar-Turkey” pipeline through Syria, and Europe looked forward to linking up with the world’s largest gas producer because it was over-dependent on Russian supplies.
Vladimir Putin had previously cut off gas supplies to Europe in the dead of winter 2009 after a dispute with Ukraine over gas royalties. The Russian military has since invaded Ukraine and given Putin’s aggressive stance, Europe now urgently needs to find an alternate gas supply not controlled by Russia. This makes a middle-eastern pipeline coming through Syria a very attractive proposition.

The Assads soon realized that they were in a position of power. They decided to up the ante by creating an alternative source of fuel for a trans-Syrian pipeline. Thus, the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline was born.
If you look at this diagram and compare it to the previous one that shows where Russia and US bombs are placed, it is clear that Russia is trying to maintain control of already established pipelines in Syria, and the junction where these two new pipelines cross.
From an economic standpoint, this is a smart decision. Considering that Russia is the main contributor of oil to Europe, any competition can severely hurt their economy. However, from an ethical standpoint, it is completely unfair to the Syrian people.
Yes, Russia and the US are providing support to the anti-government army, but at what cost? You guessed it, the homes of countless Syrian people.
This brings me onto the next issue in Syria: the refugee crisis.

Syrian Refugee Crisis

Syria’s civil war is easily the worst humanitarian crisis we’ve seen in a very long time. Half of the country’s pre-war population (more than 11 million people) has been forced to flee their homes.
syrian refugees150,000+ of whom have been killed.
Families are struggling to survive inside Syria, or make a new home in neighboring countries. Others are risking their lives on the way to Europe, where several countries are tightening down on immigration regulations.
Bombings are destroying crowded cities and horrific human rights violations are widespread. Basic necessities like food and medical care are sparse.

The U.N. estimates that 6.6 million people are internally displaced. When you also consider refugees, well over half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, whether they still remain in the country or have escaped across the borders.

Where are they fleeing to?


Syrian Refugee Crisis
As you can see, many have chosen bordering countries as a temporary safety net, but the conditions are simply too poor for these people to stay there long term.
Thousands have migrated into Europe, where countries are struggling to find the resources to help them.


Syrian Refugee Crisis
These refugees face terrible living conditions because they do not have secure homes. They live in tents, crowded with many other people, and eat only what is given to them.
This is unfair to the millions of people who have lost their way of life, and it’s all because of political and religious disagreements from people of power within Syria and Iraq, along with economic interests from Western nations.
It’s a sad realization that this is happening right now, yet we rarely hear it on TV, or even the internet for that matter. This is one of the biggest displacements of humans we’ve seen in recent years and it’s unfortunate that the Syrian conflict has dragged on for this long, because these people have nowhere to go.
It’s hard for developed nations to simply let in thousands of refugees because it threatens security, the economy, and job security. It’s easy to argue that we should bring as many of them to our country as possible, but from a legitimate standpoint, it is much harder to do.

My take on all of this

It’s a lot of information to take in, and even experts on this issue get confused as to what the interests are of everyone involved. But after this analysis, I can take away a few things:
  1. This issue won’t be solved unless the powers in Syria and Iraq can come to a conclusion as to how they will be governed. This is easier said than done, because they have been fighting over religion for thousands of years. Thus, US-Russia intervention is only a short term solution. Extremist groups won’t be going anywhere if they are dissatisfied with the leadership in the country.
  2. The United States’ main interest in Syria is the Kirkuk-Banias pipeline. It is worth billions of dollars and is currently not functioning. If they can effectively overthrow ISIS and take control of this pipeline, it will be a very lucrative proposition for US oil companies.
  3. Russia is in Syria to control the Western pipeline junctions, primarily the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline, which could pose a large economic risk for Russia if it becomes a main exporter of oil into Europe.
  4. Alongside all of these geopolitical issues, it seems that the media is underrepresenting Syrian refugees, as they rarely make it into the news. Millions of innocent civilians have been displaced, and a solution to this problem doesn’t seem to be on the horizon. If the US and Russia were really there to make a positive impact, they would be helping these refugees instead of bombing their homes.
 
 
This analysis has taught me more about how war really works. To people who know a lot about war, it won’t come to a surprise that it is all about money. I’m completely aware of this, but before this analysis, I wasn’t aware of the massive pipeline issues happening right now because the media doesn’t tell you about it.
Syria Vs. Western PowersI’ve also realized that the mainstream media not only in North America, but globally, doesn’t tell you the whole story. There is so much more to this conflict than America fighting ISIS and ISIS fighting back against a corrupt government. There are layers upon layers to this that have religious, political, and economic consequences. There are many nations involved, and billions of dollars on the line in the form of oil money. And the civilians receive the bad end of this deal.
If you dig deeper, you can find the true motives of everyone involved.
I’ve found some of the motives, but lord knows, there is much more to this issue than is even presented on the internet.
But from my humble perspective, it’s just sad that the two most powerful nations in the world aren’t fighting to protect the innocent civilians of Syria and bring peace back to the country, but rather fighting to control oil pipelines and profit billions of dollars in order to “protect American interests”.
It’s like me witnessing a bully take a little kids money and me going up to him and reclaiming the kids money but instead of giving the kid his money back, I step over him and go buy myself some ice cream.
It just goes to show how blinded we are by money and power, especially amongst the people that claim the top position on the human hierarchy.
 
Something needs to change, and it isn’t going to come with the people who are in charge, it must come with a massive shift in ideological thinking. A shift in thinking that sees us value the betterment of our fellow people rather than the claiming of material desires, like me giving that little kid his money back.
 
 
 


http://theantimedia.org/how-the-war-in-syria-is-about-oil-not-isis/