(This was an editorial I wrote on March 28, responding to the ‘ceasefire’ between The Syrian Opposition and The Syrian Government.)
In February of 2016, the international peace talks that had been pushed since 2012 by representatives of major nations in the UN had finally accomplished what looked like a step in the direction of ending the Syrian Civil War. The Russian/American led International Syria Support Group (ISSG) organized a “cessation of hostilities” between many of the major factions involved in the savage war, which would take effect as of February 27. The twenty powers and organizations that made up the ISSG promised to monitor compliance amongst the factions involved in the Middle East, as to secure peace. This ceasefire did not extend to the factions that had been deemed terrorist organizations by the United Nations, such as The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Jabhat al-Nusra. This call for peace was remarkably acknowledged by nearly all of the leaders involved, and the foreign armies of Iran and Russia, which had been supporting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, began to slowly pull out of the war torn nation. The bloody, destructive War in Syria, lasting almost five years and killing possibly as many as 470,000, seemed to finally be coming to a close.
Many believe that this was a huge achievement, and that this would significantly facilitate American efforts in multiple areas. The United States had never officially been a combatant in the Syrian Civil War, and although there was debate amongst Americans about whether or not Bashar al-Assad should be removed from power, our main enemy in the Middle East is and was ISIS. It seems that every faction in Syria has a bone to pick with ISIS, as the organization is notorious for their brutal extremism and their mass genocides against all other factions. This ceasefire amongst the other factions has so far shown to be a bane to the Islamic State, as most enemies are now focusing their forces on the terrorist group rather than each other. The War on ISIS has seemingly been tipped in our favor now that they are one of the only groups that is safe to attack in Syria without international response. The massive humanitarian crisis in Syria has also been much easier to combat now that a truce has been reached. Global relief organizations have come in massive groups and are attempting to rebuild the ravaged country. Those in favor of the ceasefire believe the great refugee crisis spawned by the war will be easier to take care of now, and that we will be able to deal with these waves of immigrants better, as they will eventually abate in size. With an armistice between the multiple parties involved in the war, being of many different branches of Islam with radically different beliefs, all being connected to larger powers, perhaps this will bring stabilization to the Middle East.
Of course, there is a chance that this ceasefire won’t hold, and sadly, this is a very strong chance. Although all of these factions in Syria are united in their hatred of ISIS, they are not united in ultimate goal in any way whatsoever. The War in Syria was never just a simple war between Government and Opposition like most Civil Wars. The war has had several different combating sides all zealous in their beliefs since the very beginning. Dictator Bashar al-Assad has never shown any sign of giving up his power, and strongly believes that the enemies he fights are all terrorists. It’s not unbelievable that once it seems safe for him to do so, he would attempt to unite Syria under his iron fist yet again. The multiple rebel organizations are very fervent in their belief that Assad is an evil tyrant that must be deposed. His control of speech and supposed secular rule are despised by many. The rebels will have to battle each other, even if Assad steps down (however unlikely), as they all have radically different beliefs on how the government should be run. The Free Syrian Army for example, believes in a democratic, free society, while the Islamic Front believes in complete Sunni Muslim control, and oppression to all those who disagree. While many believe that American support for a moderate rebel position would bring peace, America has never shown very good judgment as to what a ‘moderate rebel’ is. This is clearly shown in almost all of our interventions in the Middle East. The Syrian Civil War was also not strictly a war in Syria, but rather a war all across the Arab world. Behind many of the major factions was a much stronger nation, supporting them with weapons, supplies, and troops, with most of the major Muslim nations, such as Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, having a hand somewhere in the war. While some believe that with the ‘end’ of hostilities amongst the factions, these other nations will perhaps be less aggressive towards each other. More realistically, the antagonism between these major nations could very likely force them to bring out their chess pieces in Syria yet again. This being said, I sincerely doubt that anyone, Syrian or not, will forget Assad’s use of illegal chemical weapons and mass genocides.
The declaration of international intervention if this peace is not recognized, will almost surely lead to deeper American involvement into a war we can’t possibly understand. This can never truly end with a simple treaty, as this is not simply just a war between political parties, but a war for the entire Middle East. The more we get tangled in this web of alliances and hostilities, the harder it will become to escape, and we may find ourselves in a new world war. Perhaps it is best that the USA stays out of this war, even if we desire peace, as we will find ourselves stuck in yet another bloody war of attrition in the Middle East.