An Analysis of the Syrian Crisis
Table of Contents
- An Analysis of the Syrian Crisis.
- System Level
- Overview of Regional Influences on the Current Crisis
- Brief History of Country and its Political Climate
- Syria’s Fractured Opposition
- Russia and China Veto on Syria
- State Level
- The Authoritarian State
- Religions in Syria
- Individual Level
- President Assad’s Background
- Al Assad’s Personality Traits and how it affects the Conflict
An Analysis of the Syrian Crisis
This paper posits to explore and provide an analysis of the Syrian crisis. The Syrian crisis is intertwined into the multifaceted fabric of Middle Eastern interactions which mystifies numerous political observers inside as well as outside the region. It follows the Arab Spring currently witnessed that has taken the entire globe by surprise. A majority of political observers could not have anticipated that sequence of events that overthrew the regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, as well as Libya would threaten the Syrian regime of President Bashar Al-Assad. The intricate state of affairs in the Middle East has encouraged President Al-Assad to cling unto power and instigate a bloody onslaught against his populace. The Syrian citizenry has continuously demanded that been demanding that President Al-Assad steps down, in order to facilitate the setting up of a government with a solid democratic foundation. Even though President Al-Assad has lost a solid power base, it is apparent that he has exploited the intricate regional state of affairs which has destabilized the capacity of the United Nations (U.N) to firmly counter the Syrian crisis. In order to comprehend the complex state of affairs, it is appropriate to take a broader look at this region. This may help in understanding why the U.N seems incapable of being decisive against President Al-Assad (Mario, 2012).
Overview of Regional Influences on the Current Crisis
From the time the Syrian crisis began, a lot of experts consider Turkey as a foremost player in bringing the conflict to an end either by military intervention or pressure. On the other hand, the ruling Syrian Alawi minority who number approximately less than 3 million have family ties with approximately more than ten million Turkish Alawi minorities. This would mean that, in the event that Turkey tries to overthrow the Syrian Alawi regime, it may encounter some complexity at home (Abdulmonem, 2012).
It is evident that the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki supports Syria. This is most likely because he acknowledges that, in the event that the ruling Alawite administration, which bears close ties with the Shiites, is overthrown, the Iraqi Sunnis would get stronger. This would ultimately weaken the Shiite grip on the administrative affairs of Iraq. It would be more appropriate for Prime Minister Al-Maliki to demonstrate support for Syria as well as its Alawite regime (Bassam, 2012).
Lebanon endeavors to liberate itself from the influence and grip of Syria that has lasted for over 5 decades. However, the current clashes at Jabal Mohsin District between Alawites and Bab Al-Tabbana District in Tripoli between the Sunnis reflect the influence of Syria in Lebanon. In addition, several members of the Lebanese administration have close associations with the Syrian government and that clarify why Lebanon abstained from denouncing Damascus or even implementing sanctions against it (Abdulmonem, 2012).
Iran always maintains a close watch over the region. It instigates and maneuvers as well as offer monetary assistance covertly and occasionally directly participates in regional dealings as it does in several parts on Syria. Iran is seeking supremacy in the region and attempts to assume a major role in global affairs in spite of whether it has the capacity to assume such a position or not. Tehran is apprehensive that the conflict against Assad’s government might be a lead up to a future conflict against Iran. This gives the reason as to why Iran supports the Syrian administration and vice versa. The two regimes are at similar crossroads and may fall or prevail together. Iran acknowledges that, in the event that the Syrian regime crumples it could disrupt its vision of nuclear energy development, which numerous countries have expressed apprehension that Iran aims at producing nuclear weapons. If Iran’s nuclear dreams disintegrate, its regional influence and global politics will be weakened (Bassam, 2012).
Brief History of Country and its Political Climate
In 1920, a sovereign Arab Kingdom of Syria was founded under King Faysal who afterward became the King of Iraq. Nevertheless, his rule in Syria came to an abrupt end a few months later, following the conflict between his Arab forces and French forces at the skirmish of Maysalun. French troops assumed occupation of Syria after the League of Nations placed Syria under the mandate of France. In 1940, Syria was governed by the Vichy regime until the Free French and British occupied it in July 1941. France evacuated its troops in April 1946, following continued pressure from the Syrian nationalist groups, leaving Syria under the control of a republican administration that had been shaped at some stage in the mandate (Abdulmonem, 2012).
Although speedy, economic development followed Syria’s declaration of independence in 1946, the Syrian political arena was marked by turmoil. Syria’s political volatility during the years subsequent to the 1954 coup, the evident parallelism of Egyptian and Syrian policies, and the petition of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s during the Suez crisis of 1956 produced support in Syria for union between the two countries. Syria and Egypt merged in 1958 to shape the United Arab Republic, and subsequently Syrian political parties ended overt activities. Egypt controlled economic policy in Syria, creating resentment among a lot of Syrians. However, the union crumpled, and subsequent to a military coup in1961, Syria withdrew from the union to form the Syrian Arab Republic. Volatility characterized the following 18 months, with several coups that ended with the establishment of the National Council of the Revolutionary Command (NCRC), by leftist Syrian military officers. The NCRC took control of legislative and executive authority. This turn of events was engineered by the Ba’ath Party (Arab Socialist Resurrection Party), which was active in Syria as well as other Arab nations. This new cabinet was lead by the Ba’ath party. The Ba’ath party has continued to dominate in Syrian political leadership since then.
Following the repercussions of the 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S, the Syrian political landscape changed, as the Syrian administration began some degree of collaboration with the U.S. counterterrorism initiatives. This was on the grounds of shared hostility against al-Qaeda’s objectives. Syria was in opposition to the Iraq conflict in 2003, but bilateral associations with the U.S deteriorated swiftly. In 2003, U.S President George W. Bush endorsed the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003. This instigated the imposition of a sequence of embargos against Syria if the Syrian administration did not stop its support for terrorist groups in Palestine, and restrain its military as well as security meddling in Lebanon. The Syrian administration was also expected to cease its quest of weapons of mass destruction, and abide by its commitment to United Nations Security Council resolutions concerning the reconstruction and stabilization of Iraq. In 2004, the U.S established that Syria was yet to comply with the conditions and instituted embargos that prohibited the exportation to Syria of products from the U.S. except for medicine and food (Frost, 2008).
Tensions between the U.S and Syria intensified from 2004 to 2009, primarily in regard to concerns issues relating to Lebanon and Iraq. Prior to the execution of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the U.S and France in 2004 had influenced the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1559, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon. As a result of demands from the international community after the Hariri assassination, the Syrian forces positioned in Lebanon from 1976 were withdrawn by 2005. Sensing isolation from the international community, Syrian reinforced its associations with Iran as well as radical Palestinians militant groups in Damascus, and embarked on efforts to eradicate all signs of domestic dissent. However, in 2007, President al-Assad, through a referendum won a second 7-year term, after garnering 97.6% of the votes (Davidovic, 2008). After 2009, the U.S has endeavored to engage with Syria in an effort to explore areas of common interest, decrease regional apprehension, and support Middle East peace. These initiatives included executive and congressional meetings with higher-ranking Syrian bureaucrats, including President Bashar Al-Assad, and the arrival of a U.S. diplomat to Damascus. The Syrian administration’s violent reaction to public dissent since March 2011 has lead to the isolation of Syria politically from the U.S, the Arab world, Europe, and other parts of the global community. Prior to the suspension of operations in February 2012, the role of the U.S. embassy in Syria robustly supported the movement en route for political reform as well as greater openness (Mario, 2012).
Syria’s Fractured Opposition
The Syrian opposition is a broad group, representing Syria’s ideological, generational, and sectarian divides. Since the commencement of the protests, the opposition is still struggling to surmount infighting, mistrustful tactics, immature politics, and inexperience. These flaws prevent it from developing the requisite capacity to offer credible different political options to the Syrian population. This disarray in the opposition is not new, since prior to the eruption of protests, the opposition had suffered from disagreement, and the recurrent problems of opposition groups in exile. In August 2011, Syrian opposition figures attempted to assemble their supporter under the Syrian National Council (SNC) to create a unified force against the Syrian regime. However, the SNC is flawed by internal wrangles and differences among the memberships. Some leading opposition leaders have currently abandoned the SNC, while several others are expected to follow suit. Some opposition members have described the SNC as autocratic, leading to the resignations that have heavily fractured the protests. This has in reinforced the Assad regime’s stature in the international and Arab arena, due to the opposition’s failure of to join ranks. In such environment of variables, focus has shifted to the alternative of a political resolution to the crisis. However, some opposition leaders such as Luai Hussain are seeking a universal political settlement that is suitable to all parties. However, unity between the protestors is still a mirage (Eiad, 2012).
Russia and China Veto on Syria
Following the Arab spring materialization in Syria, China and Russia employed their veto to endorse a UNSC resolution with an intention to bring to an end the Bashar-al Assad administration’s hostilities on the opposition. The U.N estimated in December 2011 that over 5,000 persons had perished since March of the same year. Updates to that figure have been difficult owing to the state of insecurity in Syria. The opposition alleges that approximately 7,100 persons, including 461 youngsters, have perished since the commencement of the Syrian uprising. It is evident that the international community seeks to end the conflict, but the question begs as to why china and Russia are opposed to a ceasefire. The natural response appears to be that, both china and Russia are reluctant to set a precedent, which would afterwards be replicated in a similar state of affairs developing in their countries. Putin, the Russian Prime Minister, is experiencing unusual resistance and he fears that a movement like the Arab spring in Russia that would oppose his leadership style would pave the way for democratic restructuring as he seeks re-election for Russia’s top office for the 3rd time (Bassam, 2012). Putin is aware that Russian’s desire a more liberal democracy in place of the communist democracy that rules Russia currently. Russia supplies Syria with weaponry and controls a naval base at Tartous. Russia has expressed intent to mediate in consultations between the Syrian administration and the opposition in Moscow. However, the Syrian National Council chief, Burhan Ghalioun, maintains that Bashar-al Assad resignation is mandatory prior to any such consultations and prior to the transition of power in Syria (Team SAI, 2012).
China’s foundational national interest is to maintain China’s fundamental system as well as national security. While national security as a foundational interest is clear, the term fundamental system (tizhi) emphasizes long-term disquiet of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in relation to regime security as well as threats to its authority. In 2004, the Chinese President Hu Jintao, while addressing the Central Military Commission, expressed this interest in terms of perpetuating the absolute control of the CCP (Kaldor, 2009). In China, the Tibetan monks self-immolation as well as the Uyghur uprising along with a variety of related fault lines like the rich-poor divide, political aspirations amongst the middle class as well as a rise in mass unrests over the past several years which have been brutally suppressed have forced vigilance on the Chinese Communist administration. China’s administration views these as threats challenging the power of the regime and the CCP. As demonstrated by CCP’s swift response to initiatives by activists overseas to instigate a Jasmine revolution (molihua geming) subsequent to the Arab Spring in 2011, China’s leadership is hypersensitive to internal challenges to its rule (Mario, 2012).
However, Russia, which was at one time, a super power and China as an emergent super power, by this veto would be trying to ensure disintegration of the unipolar world that is led by the US, in favor of a multipolar world order whereby these powers have equal power in running world affairs (Sorensen, 2010). Ultimately, Russia’s bold actions and declarations in support of the Syrian regime are schemes meant to restore its place as an international superpower. Whereas Russia has substantial economic as well as, strategic reasons for sustained support, Syria offers Kremlin the opportunity to defy the West’s power in the Middle East affairs (Team SAI, 2012). Supporting Assad’s regime is not founded on moral or ideological principles, but rather on bare power politics.
China has adopted a lasting strategy to defy the US supremacy so as to preserve its foundational national interests. This has been through focusing on the less developed and emerging economies in order to promote its global agenda. It aims to exploit its autonomy in the global system in order to limit the limitations of unipolarity. It is apparent that China feels disproportionately inhibited by the U.S and therefore, actively sustains the growth of other powers, particularly in the developing and emergent economies of the world (Team SAI, 2012).
The Authoritarian State
The Syrian regime’s violent reaction to protests since March 2011 has lead to the death of approximately 5,400 people according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The wounded, tortured, arbitrarily arrested, and disappeared protestors as well as their relatives within as well as outside of Syria are targeted, cannot be enumerated. The Syrian administration has been reported to employ artillery fire in confronting unarmed civilians; campaigns for door-to-door arrest; shooting of medical staff who try to assist the injured; raids against mosques, clinics, and hospitals, as well as arrest of medical workers and purposeful damage of medical supplies. This has led to approximately ten thousand refugees fleeing the country, from March 2011, headed to Turkey and Lebanon according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Commission of Inquiry’s report to the General Assembly, November 2011(Abdulmonem, 2012).
As Bashar al-Assad deployed tanks and troops to confront the protesters, he compromised the civilian access to basic necessities including water, food, as well as medical supplies. Following lengthy consultations, the Syrian regime agreed in December 2011, to permit an autonomous monitoring mission to freely move inside Syria as a component of a peace program mediated by the League of Arab States. Nevertheless, briefly after the monitoring mission started, there were allegations that the Syrian administration was impeding the monitors’ access. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) the Syrian forces were transferring detainees to increasingly sensitive military sites whereby access to monitors could not be easily granted (Hook, 2011).
Religions in Syria
The vast majority of Syrians are Muslim, whereby approximately 74% of the Syrian population comprises of Sunni Muslims. The Alawite, Ismailis, Yazidis, Druze, and Shi’a comprise 16% of the Syrian population. The Alawite comprise a significant minority in Syria, and they hold an unbalanced share of Syria’s political power. Although the Alawites consider themselves as Muslims, they merge their declared creed with several Christian rites as well as esoteric cults. Also, significant are the Druzes, whose faith is a derivative of Shi’a Islam. Alawites, Druzes, and Orthodox Muslims, together constitute approximately 90% of the Syrian population. Approximately 10% of the Syrian population is Christian, while Greek Orthodox is the prevalent denomination among the Christians. Other Christian denominations include Armenian Orthodox (Gregorian), Armenian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Maronite Christian, Mennonite, Baptist, Nestorian (Chaldean), and Mormons. There is also a tiny Jewish population in Damascus, Aleppo, and Al Qamishli. Although according to the Syrian constitution, Islam is not the State religion the president must be a Muslim. Islamic law remains the main foundation of legislation (Brendan, 2009).
President Assad’s Background
Born on Sept. 11, 1965, Bashar el Assad is the second son of the former Syrian President Hafez el Assad, who ruled Syria from 1971. His initial area of training was in medicine as an eye doctor, initially in Damascus at a military hospital, prior to moving to London’s St. Mary’s Hospital. Bashar el Assad was never groomed to assume leadership, but rose to leadership because his elder brother Basil, who led the presidential guard, perished in a car crash. Prior to assuming leadership of Syria, Bashar el Assad was considered as rather awkward and meek figure. He was seen as increasingly thoughtful and quiet. Following his brother’s demise, his father enrolled him into a military academy, and began preparing him for power. The manner in which President Al Assad’s perceives the protestors is clearly evident in the way his regime has handled the crisis (Gardam, 2010).
Al Assad’s Personality Traits and how it affects the Conflict
Bashar Al Assad lacks self-confidence, maturity, charisma, leadership qualities as well as the killer instinct that is vital to anybody who would rein Syria. The selection of an inexperienced and young leader who evidently lacks public trust was inconsequential in Syria. Syria is a nation that is experiencing severe economic and social problems that necessitate unequivocal and immediate solutions. More importantly, Syria plays a critical regional role and might decide the region’s fate. Therefore, the leadership vacuum that exists in Syria owing to Assad’s unimpressive personality traits presents problems, for Syria as well as for the entire Arab region (Eiad, 2012).
Links of Al Assad to the Alaawites in Syria
The role played by the Syrian elite in the country’s crisis might bear an influential factor in the regimes’ collapse. Currently, the elite are in a firm alliance with Assad’s regime, and this would make it exceedingly challenging to envisage the regimes downfall. Throughout his decade in command, Assad considerably strengthened links between the Sunni, merchant class as well as the military that is Alawite- dominated. Assad shares much in common with the Damascus elite than he shares with the Alawites in the north-west of Syria. Sunnis are integrated into Syria’s official power structures, whereas the indigent Alawites have experienced a demotion in their status. When Assad assumed office in 2000, he instigated a series of strategies that led to a gradual liberalization of the country’s economy. The Alawites remained mainly in the army while the Sunnis controlled the economy. This has led to a split among Syria’s elite, mainly, the Sunni who are mainly the business class, and the Alawite in the security forces (Gardam, 2010).
This paper would pose the question as to whether the global community has a right to intervene to deal with the tyrannical nature of President Al Assad’s regime. This understanding would be powerfully informed definition of sovereignty as the absolute and perpetual power of a state. One complex and extremely discussed subject in relation to Syria’s humanitarian intervention is the criteria for when intervention is appropriate. Paradoxically, there is reserved consensus with reference to which situation activates this right. With this in mind, it remains the prerogative of the Syrian people to charter their way forward, since the international community is tied in an intricate web of bureaucracy.
These most recent EU sanctions bear significant impact since the EU is the country’s largest export market for oil. Syria produces approximately 385,000 barrels per day, and exports approximately 150,000 barrels each day, of which the largest portion goes to the European countries, mainly the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, as well as France. The country exported €3.1bn in crude oil and related petroleum products to the European Union last year. This accounts for 92% of its entire exports to the European countries. The EU sanctions against include a freeze on the assets of Syria’s central bank. It is now evident that the Syrian population should reconsider the wisdom in armed rebellion or external military assistance. This is because the protests have dragged on for approximately 12 months, while Assad administration has demonstrated that, it can hang on for as long as it would take. This is irrespective of the related humanitarian, material, and political costs. The options to overthrow the Assad regime through Arab or foreign military involvement or even through arming the Syrian protestors have failed. This means that, a political solution remains as the only option. This resolution should be founded on consultations between the opposition and the regime and the accord to implement authentic reforms.
- Abdulmonem M. (2012). Overview of the Regional Players. Saudi Gazette. Retrieved from http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentID=20120219
- Bassam, H. (2012). Syria’s Curious Dilemma. Middle East Research & Information Project. Retrieved from http://www.merip.org/mer/mer236/syrias-curious-dilemma
- Brendan, J. (2009). Politics of Ethnic Conflict Regulation. London: Routledge.
- Davidovic, J. (2008). Are Humanitarian Military Interventions Obligatory? Journal of Applied Philosophy25 (2) pp. 134-143. Retrieved from https://bora.uib.no/bitstream/1956/3692/1/58323156.pdf
- Eiad, W. (2012). Oppositions in Disarray. Syria Today. Retrieved from http://syria-today.com/index.php/december-2011/916-politics/17467-oppositions-in- disarray-
- Frost, E. (2008). Asia’s Contemporary Regionalism. N.Y: Lynne Publishers. Retrieved from http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/about/frost.
- Gardam, J. (2010). Necessity, Proportionality Use of Force. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from https://bora.uib.no/bitstream/1956/3692/1/58323156.pdf
- Hook, S. (2011). U.S. Foreign Policy: Irony of World Power. N.Y: CQ Press.
- Kaldor, M. (2003). International Civil Society: A Response to War. Cambridge: Polity Press.
- Mario, L. (2012). Sovereignty, Syria, & the Arab Spring. National Review Online. Retrieved from http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/291196/
- Sorensen, G. (2010). Sovereignty: Change & Continuity in Fundamental Institutions. Political Studies, 47, 90.
- Team SAI. (2012). Analysis: China and Russia’s Veto on Syria. South Asian Idea. Retrieved from http://southasianidea.com/analysis/china-and-russias-veto-on-syria/