Syria Descends into Chaos
The Ukrainian crisis has dominated international relations in the last few months. In the Middle East, however, the Syrian civil war continues unabated. The conflict has already begun to destabilize the entire nation. 150,000 Syrians have been killed, and there are nearly 2.5 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries. The regime has hung onto power, and it now seems nearly impossible that the Syrian opposition will dislodge Bashar al-Assad. The government has regained control of much of Syria’s heartland in the south and west of the country. Homs, once seen to be the center of Syrian resistance, fell to government forces earlier this week. However, much of the north and west of the country is under rebel control. The rebels are split into many factions, and a civil war has started between the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and more modern rebel forces.
Syria does not have a bright future. While the dictatorship lives on, the country is fractured, and large parts of it have been destroyed. The humanitarian dimension of the conflict is also astounding. Lebanon alone has more than one million refugees, while Jordan and Turkey each have close to 600,000. These countries are supporting the Syrian refugees as best they can, but the future implications of the humanitarian crisis are enormous. The Assad regime has taken to starving out rebel strongholds to force their submission, bombing civilian centers and even using chemical weapons against its own people. The West has only stood back and watched as this happens.
The Assad regime has survived through sheer tenacity and brutality against its own people, as well as the support of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and China. Russia and Iran have funneled arms and funds to the regime. The opposition, meanwhile, has only received limited aid from the West, despite many assurances of support. The geopolitical implications of the Syrian civil war and the apparent continuation of the Assad regime are also striking. Russia has successfully backed an ally that the United States and its allies have repeatedly derided and called to step down. An Assad victory in Syria will place the nation squarely in Russia’s camp at a time when Moscow has few allies abroad.