The Importance of the Battle for Aleppo
Four years have passed since the battle in Syria started and yet it is not clear when it will end. CNN and other media outlets have every day reports on the daring humanitarian situation in Syria and especially in Aleppo. According to these reports, destruction, humanitarian crisis, human rights violations and religious feuds have only aggravated the already precarious situation in Syria. While many countries are already considering the War in Syria a genocide conducted by Al-Asaad regime, some countries like Russia and China have denied and opposed these allegations. Moreover, they have opposed to any type of humanitarian relief send by the U.N. The idea of a No-Flight zone has been lingering among the US government and its allies. Although many people are in favor of a No-Flight zone, some other opposed to the implementation of it in Syria Air Space. Martin O’Malley, former Maryland Governor stated in an article published by CCN that the concept of a No-Flight zone sounds attractive but he doesn’t think it will work and on the contrary would make problems. O’Malley that since Syrian Air Space is controlled by Syrian and Russian forces, the implementation of the No-Flight zone will lead to an escalation of force between the US and the Russian government that could result into an armed conflict with Russia. After researching more into this topic, I have found two major challenges on the Syrian conflict that has torn the country apart. Humanitarian crisis relief and the religious sectarian differences within the country.
Throughout history we have learned that humanitarian crisis has always been challenging. In the hands of a rootless dictator, Syria is not exemption of this rule. My personal experience while working for the Department of the Army have shown me that coordination and agreements between two or more parties within a conflict are something not to be taken lightly. In many cases, these agreements don’t go as planned and the need to fulfill basic human needs such as food, shelter and medical assistance for one group can be seen as a provocation or opposition to the other group. In an article published by the Chicago Tribune in September 19th, the US State Department spokesman, John Kirby, stated that a humanitarian convoy on its way to Syria was hit by airstrikes by the Syrian military backed by Russian forces. A “gregarious violation” is how Kirby called the incident where many volunteers got killed or injured.
According to an article published by BBC, the U.N. said that they will require more than $3.2 BN to help the more than $13.5 million people including the more than 6 million children victims of the war. Moreover, the US Department of State in its website mentioned that the U.S. has agreed to provide additional $439 million dollars in humanitarian assistance to Syria and its neighboring countries to mitigate the crisis of the Syrian migrants. Food, water, medicine, shelter and basic human needs are at in some much need for the people trapped in cities like Aleppo as well as in the neighboring countries.
The Humanitarian crisis not only takes part within the country. It has also triggered a massive exodus of Syrians across borders especially in the neighboring countries of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. In an article published by USNEWS, Paul Mutter wrote that according to the U.N., has 257 refugees per 1,000 citizens, Jordan has 114 refugees per 1000 citizens, and Turkey has a similar influx of refugees but the proportion there is smaller since Turkey is a much larger country. This big influx of refugees had already altered the economy in these countries. Furthermore, Mutter said that many citizens of these countries have complained that they’re losing their jobs over skilled Syrian laborers offering cheaper labor.
Shiites, Sunnis and Christians
One very difficult aspect in the war in Syria is how to deal with the different types of religions, their respectively sects and their involvement in this crisis. In order to understand the complexity of this issue I think it is necessary to identify major key players in the crisis. With a vast Muslim majority, Syria also has a Christian community living in its borders. As Olga Khazan wrote in an article published by the Washington Post, the Sunnis represent the majority with a 60% of the population. As stated in the article, the Sunnis are against the Al-Assad regime for the most part and tend to help the rebels. Around 12% are Christian that rather support the regime than to be crushed by the forces loyal to Al-Asaad. Shiites represent a 15% of the population and the Alawites around 12% of the Syrian population. As the article reads, the Alawites which are a Shia sect are a minority in Syria but they have the most power in the country. They hold key military positions in Syria and Al-Asaad’s father was the one that brought them to power after World War I. What started as another Arab Spring in the region has turned into another sectarian war. In an article by the BBC, the author recounts how the Syrian war has brought attention other powerful nations into the conflict. As the article stated, Iran and its Shia majority has been supporting Al-Asaad regime. Billions of dollars and subsidized weapons have been poured into the Syrian forces in the effort to crush the opposition. In addition to that, the Syrian government also enjoys the support of Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shia Islamist group.
According to the article by the BBC, the Sunni opposition have the support of other powerful countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, France, the UK and the US in some sort of form. As the article stated, the opposition lead by the Free Syrian Army has been requesting anti-aerial weapons to be able to fight and to try to stop the air strikes in Aleppo by the Syrian forces backed by the Russian government. It is important to mention that the US has been hesitant to armed the Sunnis with anti-craft weaponry fearing they may fall in hands of ISIS and other jihadist groups. As history as shown us in Afghanistan, we have an example of what could happen if the US help arming the opposition. There, the US provided stingray anti-craft missiles to help the Afghanis fight the Russian forces many years ago. The same weapons were used against the US during Operation Enduring Freedom by the Taliban.
We can conclude that there is no clear sight on when the violence will stop in Syria. The slow response by the international community has resulted in a battle where the opposition is locked in a sectarian war that has brought forces and fighters from other places with their own agenda. Arabs against Persians, Sunnis against Shiites, Russia and the West have their own interests in this war and have complicated any type of humanitarian relief for the people in Syria. Millions of people have been displaced and hundreds of thousands have been killed as a result of the war. History has shown over and over that civil wars end either when one side finally achieve victory, or when the involved parties reach an agreement. If the different sects involved in this conflict don’t get to an agreement, then the fight will continue. A definite military victory either by Sunni opposition backed by the West and some Arab countries or Al-Asaad forces back by Iran, Russia and Hezbollah have to take place otherwise the fight will continue for years to come.
Barnard, Anne. “In Rebel-Held Aleppo, Residents Report Increasing Desperation.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 07 Dec. 2016. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.
Bradner, Eric. “Martin O’Malley against Syria No Fly Zone.” CNN. Cable News Network, Sept.-Oct. 2015. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.
Khazan, Olga. “Who’s Fighting Whom in Syria?” The Washington Post. WP Company, 18 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.
Mutter, Paul. “A Middle Eastern Marshall Plan.” U.S. News & World Report. U.S. News & World Report, 16 Jan. 2015. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.
News, BBC. “Syria: The Story of the Conflict.” BBC News. N.p., 11 Mar. 2016. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.
Services, Tribune News. “Aid Convoy Attacked as Syria Calls Cease-fire Failed.” Chicagotribune.com. Associated Press, 20 Sept. 2016. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.