Syrian "refugees should stay where the hell they are... No one has worked harder for the human condition than I have, but they’re not part of the human condition..."
29 December 2015
|Daily News Updates|
After five years of struggle, the civil war in Syria increasinlgy resembles the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s, the bloody struggle that provided a preview of the larger war the came in 1939. In Spain, Fascist forces were backed by Italy and Germany, pitted against leftist forces, some backed by the Soviet Union. The anti-fascist forces were divided into Stalinist, Trotskyite and Anarchist factions, which battled each other as well as the fascists. In Syria, Shia Iran is backing the Alawite [quasi co-religionist] Assad regime, while Sunni monarchies - Saudi Arabia and Qatar - backed some opposition militias. The situation is far more complex, but this framework is a good place to start.
Syrian rebel groups were fighting each other, with more than 1,000 people killed in the first two weeks of January 2014 in clashes among armed opposition groups. The infighting appeared to be benefiting the government in Damascus. It was the worst rebel-on-rebel violence since Syria’s civil war began nearly three years earlier. Opposition fighters targeted the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/Levant [ISIS/ISIL], which had been terrorizing civilians. The battles among rebels appeared to be boosting the Syrian government. Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gained ground in the chaos of rebel-on-rebel fighting.
By mid-2014 the Government's military campaigns had been largely successful, whether in the Qalamoun region in shutting off the Lebanese back door to rebels, in retaking Homs, surrounding neighborhoods in Damascus and Aleppo. By mid-year, Assad was well on his way to retaking Aleppo, Syria's northern capital. But a large chunk of the country remained out his control, and that he was in virtual isolation. More than half of the Syria electorate did not even have the chance to vote in the June election.
A United Nations-backed report detailed the economic and societal devastation of the four-year war in Syria, where the violence of a multiparty civil conflict became further inflamed by a multinational battle against Islamic State militants. The report, released 10 March 2015y, said the war had cost the Syrian economy over $200 billion dollars and brought "drastic levels of inequality and inequity" to people across the country who struggle to find food. The result was a spike in unemployment, which shot from about 15 percent at the start of the war in 2011 to nearly 58 percent by the end of 2014. That left almost 4 million people out of work in a country where the population has also dropped from about 21 million to 17.5 million since the fighting began. The fighting killed 220,000 people, sent 3.8 million refugees into neighboring countries and forced another 6.8 million to flee their homes within Syria.
As the violence in Syria has mutated from civil unrest into civil war, it has grown ever more brutal. The public squares where people gathered in March 2011 – exactly four years ago – now serve as monuments to destruction, the remnants of a once vibrant society. The neighbourhoods where Syrians dared to demonstrate and call for their civil rights have been reduced to rubble. World heritage sites have been turned into battlefields and archaeological sites, looted. With the violence in Syria now entering its fifth year, the country has been plunged into darkness.
Civilians have always been the primary victims of violence in Syria. Women and children, men and boys, the elderly, persons with disabilities, are treated as legitimate targets by Government forces, anti-Government armed groups, extremists and terrorist organizations. Children have been indoctrinated and instrumentalised on a massive scale. The men and women who aid those wounded or in need of humanitarian assistance are systematically arrested, detained, tortured and killed. The symbol of the Red Crescent has ceased to be a shield of protection.
An alarming number of cases of sexual violence are still being committed inside Syria. Both ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra have stoned women to death on charges of “adultery”. Yazidi women and girls, abducted by ISIS in Iraq, are being sold and re-sold inside Syria, where they are held in sexual slavery. This terrorist group has brutally executed men accused of homosexuality by throwing them off tall buildings.
The Course of Combat
Syria may be heading toward a break-up that would see the formation of at least three new mini-states. One such mini-state would be an enclave for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government in the west and northwest that would be populated by members of the Alawi sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam, Shiites and Christians. Another would be a Sunni-majority state in the center and south of the country and the third would be a separate entity in the northeast for Syria’s two million Kurds.
In 2012 Syria’s Orthodox Christian Church claimed that Islamist rebels were carrying out “ethnic cleansing of Christians” in Homs. The Vatican news agency, Fides, said most of the 50,000 Christians living in the city left when Islamists went door to door in the neighborhoods of Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan telling Christians they would be shot if they did not leave. Militants Islamists have sometimes used the slogan, “the Alawites to the grave and the Christians to Beirut.”
By mid-2013, as Syria continued its sectarian civil war, some argued that state-based nationalism was declining and something larger and older was taking over. The Syrian war seemed to mark the beginning of the end for the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which divided the Ottoman Empire after World War I and created the modern Middle East. Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese army general and now the director of a political think tank in Beirut, believes the likely outcome of the civil war is the breakup of Syria. He foresees Alawites, members of an offshoot sect of Shia Islam, and Christians cleaving together along Syria’s coast, and Kurds and Sunni Muslims establishing separate states of their own.
Ben Caspit wrote February 11, 2014 that "... Israel Defense Forces top brass believe that the struggle in Syria could last as long as a decade. Wording this cautiously, a very high-ranking Israeli defense official told me: “We’re facing a decade of struggle in the Syrian environs.” Either way, Israel believes that the Syria we had come to know over the past few decades is gone. ... a senior IDF official commented... “the concentration of all the global jihad madmen in Damascus and the Golan Heights is also a disconcerting development. So as far as we’re concerned, the alternatives are bad either way. And there’s also the possibility that these alternatives would coexist, which means that the current situation could last for many more years. Assad will keep his grip in Damascus and the Alawite strongholds, while jihadist forces will grow stronger and take control of all the other areas."
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|