Syria, a country of high mountains, deserts and fertile plains is the home to diverse ethnic and religious groups and lies west of Iraq. The majority of the population is Arab Sunnis and the rest is composed of Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Christians and Alawite Shia. The trouble in Syria began in 2011 in the city of Deraa where 15 school children were arrested and reportedly tortured for writing anti-government graffiti on a wall. The locals decided to protest against the move. The protestors peacefully called for the release of the children, democracy and greater freedom for the people in the country. Assad's government responded angrily to the protest and on March 18, 2011 the army opened fire on the protestors. It killed four people. The following day army shot at the people gathered to mourn at the funeral of the victims. This lead to the creation of an unprecedented anger in the people and gave birth to an unrest that would last for more than half a decade. The demand for democracy and greater freedom escalated to the demand of resignation of President Bashar-Al-Assad, a demand which he nonchalantly refused. A violent civil war soon erupted in the country. On one side were the protestors and the other side were the government and its supporters.
Violent clashes erupted and the opposition began to organize an armed struggle against the state. Since then, half of Syria's population of 24 million has been displaced either internally or externally and an unfathomable number of refugees are frantically seeking safety in Europe. The war has transformed the Middle East and has become a battle ground for competing powers in the region like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey as well as the United States of America and Russia. It spawned the Islamic State Terror group, the most brutal militant group in recent history, which has killed thousands in Iraq and Syria as well as carrying out terrorist attacks in Europe and rest of the world.
Eight years into the civil war, Syria has turned into the greatest humanitarian catastrophe of our time. The number of innocent dead Syrians continues to grow as the war achieves a dismal milestone. The death of 3- year old boy, Aylan Kurdi while fleeing warzones in September, 2015 caused a dramatic upturn in international concern over the refugee crisis. The picture of 29- year old Abdul Hamid Al Yousef on a grim minibus while holding two dead babies in his arms put another harrowing face on Syria's tragedy. The conditions faced by civilians inside Syria are worse than ever. On February 21, 2017 a series of ISIS bombings also targeted a Shia religious site in Damascus and a civilian neighborhood in HOMS, killing 109 and injuring 235, including children. ISIS also claimed responsibility for several car bombings and suicide attacks in Latakia governorate on May 23 killing 145 civilians. Also, the use of chemical weapon in 2017 on a town in North-West Syria has led to the death and injuries of many civilians.
The government is trying to clear rebels from the enclave, which is home to an estimated 393,000 people. The two-week assault in February 2018, has brought to light the footage of hospitals being bombed and children being carried out from rubble. According to the recent reports almost 300 civilians has been killed in the five-day long bombardment by Syrian government forces in the rebel held Eastern Ghouta area. It was the highest two-day death toll since the 2013 chemical attack on the besieged enclave which killed hundreds of Syrians.
As the carnage in Syria continues, the powers that are capable of taking serious measures to stop it are busy finding excuses to explain their collective ineptitude. American backed rebels and Russian backed Syrian army need to sign a long-lasting ceasefire agreement, without any compromises.
A ceasefire agreement would bring a big relief to Syrian civilians who have been facing heavy bombings since the war begins. The United Nations will also have to come to an arrangement with Russian and Iran to eliminate ISIS and Al Qaeda safe havens.
As the war in Syria grinds on, the Trump administration may be tempted to focus solely on narrow counterterrorism missions. That would be a mistake. The April chemical weapons attack was a reminder that the brutal war can have global consequences. And if the civil war rages, it will be impossible to deal a long-lasting defeat to extremist organization like ISIS and Al Qaeda. The Trump administration has an opportunity to seize the leverage that the United States has earned through its counter ISIS campaign and cruise missile strike to achieve a long- lasting solution to the civil war. It will not be easy. It will require an administration that has become increasingly comfortable with using military power, to engage in deft diplomacy to de-escalate the conflict, manage dispute and to reassure anxious allies. It will require President Trump to do several things he has thus far been reluctant to do, including playing hardball with Moscow, engaging with Iraq and supporting efforts to stabilize and rebuild Syria.
In short, the“Art of Syrian Deal"is possible but it will take real leadership, a willingness to strike tough bargains with adversaries and allies alike and the use of all instruments of American power to achieve a long- lasting peace.
By: Divya Rawat