Since March 2011 Syria has been in a civil war that has taken the lives of more than 70,000 people. President Bashar al-Assad has used severe crack downs on a once peaceful protest for a democratic change. Now with the help of Hezbollah and even with some help from the Russian government things in the country seem to spill over more than the world truly wanted. However, let me be clear Russia is not the only nation which has had a hand in this civil war. Israel on the 5th of May bombed Damascus because of Iranian missiles intend for Hezbollah to help Assad’s regime fight the rebel fighters. Iran has played a role in assisting the Assad regime during the bloody fighting taking place in Syria. All major players with a hand in a country that is seeing innocent civilians being caught in the cross hairs of this once peaceful demonstration.
The world is seeking a peaceful end to the Syrian conflict however, with more outside forces becoming involved in the civil war the situation seems to have no signs for peace in the upcoming months or even another year. In a Associated Press article Syria says Assad will remain president until 2014 states the following “Syria’s foreign minister laid out a hard line Wednesday, saying Bashar Assad will remain president at least until elections in 2014…” Words that no one wants to hear at this time.
To add to the problems being faced in this civil war, the Syrian National Coalition have been at odds during talks that are being held in Turkey. In order for transition to take place a new government needs to be forned if they plan to rebuild their country from the horrors of war. Yet however, they are more divided than the United States Congress. This setback is a thorn to the United Nations effort to broker negotiations to end this war in a peaceful transition. Now with Russia planning to send weapons to Syria, Israel’s defense chief said “[A] Russian plan to supply sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles to Syria is a threat and signaled that Israel is prepared to use force to stop the delivery.” The United States has not agreed with Israels plan to strike if such a shipment is made but have sided with them in condemning Russia and their supply to Assad.
For the Russians to supply the Assad regime weapons is counter productive to belief of seeking a end to this civil war. The regime is being assisted by Hezbollah from Lebanon and now Russian weapons will also aid the Assad regime in fighting anti-Assad forces. Talks on whether the arming of Syria are still taking place as Europeans ended their arms embargo on Syria. In a New York Times article European Nations End Weapons Embargo, Creating Path to Arming Syrian Rebels Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans stated “The only effect you could have — let’s be realistic about this — is that it will stimulate the Russians to provide even more arms. But they’ve been providing so many arms that I’m sure even more will not make much of a difference.” That even with the end of the embargo Russia’s supply would not make a difference in part because they have supplied the regime since the beginning of the conflict. However, it now can give independent European nations the ability to supply rebel forces.
However, no country has yet declared that they will begin to supply rebel forces with weapons. The one item that has prevented the Europeans and the Americans from providing the rebel forces with weapons is the uncertainty of where those weapons go. It is known that jihadist extremist have imbedded themselves into the ranks of rebel forces. This is a result from a lack of support from major governments of Europe and the United States. As the world stood by seeking to end the civil war quickly and peacefully, jihadist extremist saw this as an opportunity to help rebel forces and gain support.
With the help from Iran and Hezbollah just adds to an intense situation that appears to have no end in sight as the days go by. There are signs that the Assad regime is begin to picking up some traction in its war. As stated in a Associated Press article “The regime had seemed near collapse during a rebel offensive last summer but has scored a number of battlefield successes in recent weeks.” If the Assad regime is successful and pushes back rebel forces and retakes key cities does this damaged the United Nations image as well as the United States and European countries? Rebel forces will not allow for the Assad regime to gain victory but with the outside help he is getting is making it difficult for the rebels to hold their ground or even advance.
Two years have passed and world leaders have allowed the situation in Syria get to the point where it is now. Assad is defiant to stay in power as we see from his foreign ministers statement that he will stay in power till elections in 2014. Rebel forces as well as majority of the world want Assad to step down as soon as possible so a peaceful transition can begin to take place in the county. But Assad even if elections are held will not allow for fair elections to take place. It will be just a show for the world to believe that some form of a democratic process had taken place and the people voted for who they want. Assad will of course win the elections to stay in power.
Another problem facing world leaders is the possibility that chemical weapons were used by the Syrian government. In the New York Times article, mentioned earlier, reported the following “Le Monde [French newspaper] said that it had placed two journalists with the rebels for two months, and that a photographer working for the paper “suffered blurred vision and respiratory difficulties for four days” after inhaling a gas on April 13.” If it is confirmed that chemical weapons were used this may be a game changer for President Obama and to the rest of the world leaders. However, what will be the plan of action? Going ahead with arming the rebels? or Working towards a plan of a No Fly zone or considering boots on the ground? One key aspect of the possible usage of chemical weapons is that it makes one think if the Assad regime has opened its warehouses to use those chemical weapons is it possible that they may have hand some over to Iran or Hezbollah?
The situation in Syria is just faltering. Innocent civilians have been killed and countries stand deadlocked on what to do. Russia arms the regime and Iran with Hezbollah are fighting rebel forces. Israel has bombed missiles intended for Hezbollah only for their interest. To protect their homeland from any threat they deem to label as a threat. Syria has responded by saying that if it happens again that they will attack Israel. The conflict in Syria is severely far from repair and the more that the United States waits to play a role in leading to the road of peace Syria becomes a much more difficult situation and takes away any options that once were in discussion to have the conflict end.
Russia needs to put its mindset of completing the arms deal that they have with Syria to the back burner and realize that it needs to assist world powers in being able to cease the killings and bring peace to a nation at war for two years. A plan which is already being discussed must include Russia in placing trained chemical experts in the warehouse inside of Syria. Securing those facilities needs to be a priority. The United Nations must also send a coalition to provide security if Assad and his top military officials step down. Also sending investigation teams to validate allege accusations of the usage of chemical weapons and human rights violation. Both sides need to be held accountable not just one. Countries such as the United States and European nations should commit to investing in the rebuilding of Syria. In no way am I saying that they should have involvement in the political process meaning that they pick someone they want. The people of Syria should be the ones who select their new form of government. Investments in its infrastructure and providing humane services to those affected by the war. This may seem all to unrealistic because it is difficult to predict the next events in the country. Whether Israel will strike again depends on the United States. They must show Israel that the United States will condemn any further attacks by Israel. Giving Israel a pass to do as they please will only complicate the situation.
The effects of what happens in the future will surely have an impact on many countries foreign policy especially when dealing with Iran. As mentioned earlier Iran has supplied weapons and personnel to the regime if Assad stays Iran will have a very strong alliance with Assad spelling problems for the United States and even Iraq who faces a unstable government with sectarian violence. Leaders need to cease the stalling and drill out a plan and include Russia in the talks because things are looking worst then have been since this began.