Syria, a country where half the population has been uprooted by the ongoing conflict, which borders Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Israel where anti-government demonstrations began in the not so distant past; it was March of 2011. The protests were part of the Arab Spring uprising but over the years developed into the worst refugee crisis since WWII with the rise of ISIL. A group that has managed to fill with awe an unprecedented number of people due to their tech savvy members and successful recruiters. Beheadings, destruction of world heritage monuments and sexual enslavement are just a few examples of the horror inducing feeling that ISIL has managed to perpetrate since 2013 which initially has rendered everyone incapable of taking any meaningful action.
The public might have been horrified when we read about the chemical weapons used on the Syrian civilian population in August of 2013. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 “for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons”. The world was appalled, and the US’ pride severely hurt, when the video of ISIL executing American journalist Steven Sotloff came out in 2014. That same year,; the death toll in Syria reached new highs, 76 thousand just that year as reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. But slowly, the world has become complacent regarding Syria’s people. Those hoping for a US intervention were left disappointed for the first time ever. The world woke up for a second in August of 2015 when airstrikes hit nine hospitals in just four days and killed not only civilians but also Doctors without borders workers.
The fact that everyone thought Syria was going to be another Algeria, some hoping it would follow in Tunisia’s footsteps, and that the protests would die down and not turn into the biggest refugee crisis, at that time justified the non-interventionist stance of many countries. Also, the American public didn’t want another Iraq. But as months went on and the crisis worsened, with countries and groups taking strategic sides, ISIL, which was dismissed as an Al Qaeda wannabe, started to gain territory. Over time, it has become unclear who poses the biggest threat to Syria and that’s partially due to Assad’s decision to release jihadist prisoners, some of whom would join the rebels, to make an international military intervention a PR nightmare. Thus, Syria became the ground for proxy wars. While Saudi Arabia was busy funding and encouraging extremists, Iran backing Hezbollah and supporting Assad, Russia bombing the rebels, Kurds and troops trained by CIA, ISIL gained more territory and suddenly it became unclear who the main enemy was. Even allies who were either backing Assad or the rebels became divided on the issue of priority and the best way to intervene.
Syria peace talks took place on 30th October 2015 with seventeen countries as well as three organisations participating in the Vienna process. However, the two most important parties, the government of Syria and the Syrian opposition, didn’t take part in the talks. On 14th of November another meeting took place and an agreement was reached by the parties present that the Syrian government and the opposition should engage in formal negotiations under UN auspices with a target date of 1st January 2016, only to be then postponed till the 29th of January. In the end, the talks began on the 1st of February and were suspended just two days later. The UN envoy for Syria insisted negotiations had not failed and would resume on 25th February. Saudi Arabia made its position clear saying that ISIL has to be defeated and Assad needs to stand down. To show its resolve, it sent troops and fighter jets to military base in Turkey. The Saudi foreign minister also said that if necessary, the Kingdom is ready to remove Assad by force. Russia’s involvement has complicated the situation from the beginning and will continue to do so. The question now is, will Russia and Iran call Saudi Arabia’s bluff?