History Paper on Syrian Civil War and Humanitarian Intervention
The Syrian Civil war dates back to March 2011, when protests erupted in the city of Daraa after the arrest and supposed torture of teenagers who had spray painted a building demanding a revolution from the oppressive era (Lanza et al. 32). This occurred after the Arab Spring protests that had taken place in order to rise against the corruption in the ruling governments and economic hardships. The Arab people were not satisfied with the Assad government. The unrests following the arrests of the young boys quickly escalated into nationwide protests, as people demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad. The government responded using lethal force, killing the protesters in a bid to intimidate the masses and suppress the protests. Things got worse with the killings, and by July 2011, violent protests rocked the major cities of Damascus, Homs, Latakia, Idlib, and Daraa (Lanza et al. 32). The security forces killed more than a dozen people, and many were injured. These protests led to the emergence of opposition troupes that had both civilians and defectors from the government. This situation led to the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, as the opposition battled against the government forces for control of cities. With these perspectives in mind, this paper explores the cause of the Syrian Civil War, humanitarian interventions carried out and whether the efforts were successful, peace efforts that have been taken by organizations and other countries to calm the situation, and Russia and Iran’s role in the civil war.
The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful protest and quickly escalated into a civil war, six years later. The war was triggered by the high rates of unemployment, corruption, dictatorship by the political class, and the economic repression experienced under the President as mentioned earlier (Lanza et al. 32). The government’s use of extreme force led to the emergence of a rebel group, the IS which further worsened the state of the nation. Some former Iraq soldiers joined IS after failing to perform under the new government, after the killing of President Saddam Hussein. This rebel group in Syria terrorized the country and went to the extent of establishing caliphates where they ruled using the Sharia law (Lanza et al. 32). In a bid to stop the IS, a coalition led by the US launched an airstrike in Syria that was meant to destroy the terrorists but ended up killing many civilians instead. The United Nations Commission of Inquiry found out that both the government of Syria and the rebel troops participated in blocking access to food, water, and health to the civilians. Moreover, the troops prevented humanitarian agencies from services to needy civilians. This further worsened the situation in Syria. The rebel group, Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, also known as ISIS, has also been blamed for waging a campaign of terror. They used the Sharia law to inflict severe punishments on offenders, and carried out mass killings of rival armed groups and other atrocities (Engle 129).
The crisis in Syria resulted in the increased need for humanitarian intervention. However, there appeared to be a stalemate concerning what measures to use, as the UN Charter had banned the use of force against another state which was deemed as the most appropriate in the case of Syria. As at February 2013, the UN had estimated that as many as 70,000 Syrians had died in the war. A peace point plan was established in response to the growing crimes in Syria by the UN (Trim et al. 16). A conference followed, and the issues raised included how to stop the fight, pulling back the military concentrations, and a ceasefire. A timeline was then given to Assad and the rebel army to make a truce by April 12th the same year, but it failed. Then, the UN sent its peace-keeping troops to Syria unarmed, and by May, there were reports that both the Syrian government and the opposition had begun their wars, breaking the peace agreement and plan proposed by Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General (Engle 129).
Since the inception of the peace plan, there has been no form of humanitarian intervention in Syria (Trim 22). The civilians had no access to public services like medical care. They were trapped in a place where infrastructure was destroyed and the economy was failing. Nations such as France and USA took a relaxed stance to intervene the situation in Syria. Instead of sending troops, the USA, for example, placed sanctions on Syria. France had no intention of starting military action in Syria. There are three main reasons why the International Community might have backed out on the intervention plan. First, Syria’s military was well trained and well-armed with bases all over the country. It was possible that any intervention could have been met by strong resistance (Davy 26). Second, by moving into Syria, Western nations had to face both the diverse opposition and the government with its numerous policies. Third, Syria was being backed up by Russia (a super-power nation), China, and Iran. The most plausible decision that could be taken was the Annan peace plan. The political situation in Syria thus made it impossible for the UN member states to take decisive action in order to prevent the widespread human rights violation (O’Sullivan 5). President Assad of Syria was accused of using chemical weapons against the civilians in August 2013. The action violated its treaty commitments that banned the use of chemical weapons. The world was angry at Syria, but no intervention was put in place. Countries were reluctant and vague concerning the legality of humanitarian intervention without the Security Council Resolution. It should be noted that Assad had earlier on agreed to the plan, but his subsequent actions like the chemical attack demonstrated that he had no intention of acting on it (Wilkins 33).
Amidst the attempts by UN member states to call a ceasefire that will end the Syrian war, it is quite clear that Iran, Russia, and China have been supporting the government of Syria all along. Russia launched an air campaign against Assad’s opponents in 2015, while Tehran has been accused of supplying Syria with subsidized weapons and military advisers, thus worsening the situation in Syria. During the UN Security Council held in 2011 and 2012, Russia and China vetoed resolutions that allowed for sanctions on the Assad regime. Neorealists argue that Russia and China are acting on an option that serves their best interest (Davy 25). Russia has close economic relations with Syria, as it tries in every way possible to protect its naval base in Tartus and along the Syrian boundary (O’Sullivan 7). Russia is also a major stockholder of Syria’s arms trade. Another reason for minimal humanitarian intervention could, therefore, be blamed on Russia’s stance on the issue. The Syrian crisis could be blamed on the continuous and numerous attempts made by Russia to reclaim its influence in the Middle-East to after the fall of the Soviet Union (Wilkins 38).
To sum up, humanitarian intervention in Syria has failed because of many reasons. To begin with, the Syrian War occurred at a time when the world was still dealing with the Arab uprising that had led to the death of the Libyan president, Muammar Gadaffi. The United States, for example, would have required a lot of resources and sacrifices to intervene in the civil war. Having learned from the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, where Western intervention had spectacularly failed, it was important to take a careful stance. Russia was protecting its economic interests, and research done on its citizens showed that they were happy with the country’s non-interventionism in Syria. Indeed, the Syrian Civil War has been the worst human rights violations in history. However, the conflict that most nations were facing was between humanitarian norms vs. the national interest. National interest has often prevailed, and this proves that humanitarian intervention is never fully motivated by humanitarian objectives. The stance Russia took in the Syrian war made it difficult for USA to participate in the humanitarian intervention. Moreover, American citizens had been wearied by the previous wars in which the country participated. There was also a possibility that a Syrian intervention would have worsened the country’s stability and worsened their relations with other countries. Russia, on the other hand, had a geo-political interest in Syria that would have been affected by their intervention. In both cases, therefore, it is clear that national interests overweigh the need for an intervention. As a result, rebel fighters have continued to control up to 15 percent of the Syrian territory. The province of Daraa is still controlled by rebels. The IS militants still control large parts of Central and Northern Syria. The peace talks held in 2014 in Geneva broke down after the UN blamed the Syrian government for refusing to talk about the opposition demands. Humanitarian intervention can only work if carried out after a proper assessment of the long-term objectives to be implemented. Until the motive of human intervention is driven by humanitarian objective, the crisis like the ones in Syria will never end. However, political consequences still continue to counter the principles of intervention.
Davy, Jonathan. “Prevailing Neorealism: Explaining How International Politics Hinders Humanitarian Intervention in Syrian Civil War.” from http://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/38105529/Prevailing_Neorealism__Humanitarian_Intervention_in_Syrian_Civil_War_2011-2013.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1495123492&Signature=8xZ9B%2F13F4TpTMFRViIoz%2BplK4c%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DHumanitarian_Intervention_in_Syria.pdf Accessed 18 May 2017.
Engle, Eric. “Humanitarian Intervention and Syria.” Barry L. Rev. 18 (2012): 129.
Lanza, Adam, et al. “Syrian Civil War.” Timeline (2011).
O’Sullivan, Niamh. The Moral Enigma of an Intervention in Syria: A Just War Analysis. Istituto affari internazionali, 2012.
Trim, David JB, and Brendan Simms. “Towards a History of Humanitarian Intervention.” Humanitarian Intervention: A History (2011): 1-24.
Wilkins, Burleigh. Humanitarian Intervention: Moral and Philosophical Issues. Aleksandar Jokic. Broadview Press, 2003. Retrieved from https://books.google.nl/books?hl=en&lr=&id=YHunVIYf9eIC&oi=fnd&pg=PA7&dq=Wilkins,+Burleigh.+Humanitarian+Intervention:+Moral+and+Philosophical+Issues&ots=laP30V8dCA&sig=ktoSSK6EU_sveTzlQtHPTIwaE_g&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Wilkins%2C%20Burleigh.%20Humanitarian%20Intervention%3A%20Moral%20and%20Philosophical%20Issues&f=false