Syrian Civil War
The Syrian civil started out as an uprising that sought to end the rule of the Bath government led by the Bashar al Assad family after four decades of rule since 1963. The civil unrest started on March 15 2011 as calm protests that were met with violent resistance by the government using live ammunition and coordinated killings by the armed forces. The protests graduated to nationwide unrest by the end of April 2011 (Wieland, Almqvist, and Nassif 7). The protests were considered as part of the Arab spring that was moving through the North African and Middle East regions. The protests were because of immense public demand for reforms in economic policies and democratic reform towards enhanced levels of freedom for the public.
The protests were considered as a national threat to the rule of the Assad regime resulting in deployment of the Syrian army to quell the growing protests. The resulting effect was that the civilian protests turned into armed rebellions given that the government used force to quell the seemingly calm protests. The conflict has been termed as asymmetrical given that there are numerous reports indicative of army sieges and clashes in cities and towns across the entire country. In the year 2012, the United Nations through a report indicated that the war was highly sectarian in nature. The report claimed that the conflict was marginalized between the Shia Muslims and its allies, such as the Alawite forces in the government, against the largely Sunni Muslim rebel groups (Wieland, Almqvist, and Nassif 14).
Widespread discontent among the public on the laid-back approach assumed by the government towards eradication of poverty in poor regions provided a catalysts for the uprising. The origin of the uprising is claimed to have been in Daraa and Homs that have high poverty records. In addition, the deep divisions in social classes in Syria are claimed to have been among the main factors of the uprising. Al Assad aided the Sunni merchants of Damascus and Aleppo to grow their wealth with free market policies. As at 2011, Syria was facing significant levels of poverty with rapid increases in the prices of commodities in the wake of a drought at the beginning of the year 2011 (Wieland, Almqvist, and Nassif 23).
In the year 2013, the Syrian government received support for the war from Hezbollah, Iran and Russia. On the other hand, the rebels in Syria were provided with weapons and logistical support by the governments of the United States, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Such involvement by international parties has defined this war as a proxy war due to the partisan positions taken by the western and anti-western regimes. As at July 2013, the Syrian army had been able to take control of an estimated 30-40% of the territory in the country with 60% of the entire Syrian population (Wieland, Almqvist, and Nassif 31).
The Syrian government is claimed to have used chemical weapons on several occasions, inducing fierce reactions from the government. The United Nations team confirmed that there was widespread use of sarin gas despite the lack of direct connection to either party. Te Syrian army used cluster bombs against the rebel groups from reports in the year 2012. Cluster bombs are banned weapons due to their devastating effects on civilian populations. In addition, reports indicate the use of scud missile attacks on the various rebel strongholds such as Aleppo. Such munitions were used in civilian territories resulting in massive deaths and loss of property.
The Syrian Air Force developed barrel bombs, which is a form of an improvised explosive device (IED) which has the potential to result in devastating effects on civilian and army populations. The government forces are also claimed to have used thermobaric bombs with reports indicative that the Syrian army used them in March 2013 in Qusayr resulting in massive deaths of civilian population (Wieland, Almqvist, and Nassif 37).
The Free Syrian Army was formed as a collection of the rebel units that opposed the Syrian government. By the end of the year 2011, the FSA was able to coordinate attacks on the various Syrian government troops and allies positions. At the beginning of the year 2012, Al Assad’s army started using heavy artillery against the rebel groups with indiscriminate shelling the led to the death of civilians and destruction of many civilian homes.
The Al Assad forces and FSA entered in a ceasefire arrangement that was mediated by the United Nations on 12 April 2012. The ceasefire was a failure given that both factions continued with hostilities towards each other. The frustrations of the United Nations backed ceasefire resulted in the pullout of the United Nations mission with the resignation of Koffi Annan in August 2012. With resumption to the fighting, the fighting grew in intensity with reports of the government forces using helicopter gunships in the coastal region of Latakia Governorate. The United Nations also reports of heavy shelling in villages that were considered pro-FSA. The International Committee of the Red Cross termed the conflicts in Syria as a civil war by the end of July 2012 given that the fighting had escalated significantly to the rest of country (Wieland, Almqvist, and Nassif 41).
The United Nations estimates that by the month of June in 2013, the death toll resulting from the conflicts stood at over 100,000deaths. The civil unrest is claimed to have resulted in mass murders and tortures in prisons. Furthermore, students, liberal groups, human rights activists have been imprisoned for their castigation of the entire government activities. In addition, various human rights groups have also condemned both factions, the government and the rebel groups, for their brutal human rights violations. In addition, reports indicate that an estimated 6000 women were raped since the beginning of the conflict with estimations of higher numbers as conflict continues and unreported cases. Furthermore, the United Nations and other human rights watch groups indicated massive torture and discrimination against residents in rebel held territories by the Syrian government forces (Wieland, Almqvist, and Nassif 42).
The United States and other humanitarian aid groups reported experiencing blockades that prevented them from accessing civilians to provide them with aid. The Syrian army and rebel groups were both responsible for holding humanitarian aid workers hostage, confiscated food meant for civilians and cut off water supplies. Amnesty International and the United nations claim that their inspections and investigations found that majority of the violations and mass murders were conducted by the Syrian government troops. In addition, humanitarian organizations have indicated that the severity of civil unrest has resulted in displacement of estimated 4million Syrian residents with an additional 3million individuals seeking refuge in neighboring countries (Wieland, Almqvist, and Nassif 47).
The conflict in Syria renewed the tensions that existed between Russia and the United States and its allies. This has resulted in a proxy war given that the United States and the Russian government are involved indirectly in the war through provision of logistical, military and financial resources. The conflict in Syria is indicative of the international views of the war with government allies such as Russia and Iran providing Al Assad’s government and troops with support on different levels. On the other hand, the rebel groups get their support from the United States, the European Union and other pro-western countries in the Arabian Peninsula. The war has been termed as a means for superpowers to test their might and renew their rivalry given their high interests in the Syrian war.
Wieland, Carsten, Adam Almqvist, and Helena Nassif. The Syrian Uprising: Dynamics of an Insurgency, 2013. Print.