As many of you have heard, President Trump has decided it is now appropriate to launch missiles at Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian forces, yet another intervention by the United States in what is best categorized as a brutal civil war, and as a result we need to talk about Syria.
The forces of al-Assad represented the disputed majority government, which in 2014 won its re-election for the third consecutive term by roughly 84 points, despite the oppositions contentions that the elections were less than democratic.
Furthermore, these elections are plagued with suspicion, as they were only taking votes from the Syrian government’s controlled territories, which is anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of the country’s population depending on where the refugees actually were at the time of the vote. As a further affront to democracy, Assad in his most recent election before the civil war (2007) won 97.62 percent of the vote, suspicious to say the least. I think it is fair to call Assad what he really is, not a democratic president, but rather a dictator over the Syrian people.
As of Jan. 2017, Assad has regained control of 65.5 percent of the Syrian population, and has financial support from Russia, Hezbollah, Iran and China. His current military strength is estimated to 306,500 soldiers, is nearly equal to that of all opposition factions combined, and when compared to the largest opposition faction, he has nearly double their manpower. His opponents, cumulatively control 35.5 percent of the country’s population and will be outlined below. They are in order of power as of most recent estimates respectively:
The Syrian Opposition, backed by Turkey, U.S. (partially), France (partially), Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Libya (135,000 soldiers).
Rojava (Kurdish nationalists), backed by the combined joint-task force of; The United States, Germany, France, The United Kingdom, Belgium, Australia, Jordan and others (115,000 soldiers)
Al-Qaeda affiliates known as Ahrar al-Sham and Tahrir al-Sham backed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia (39,500 soldiers).
ISIS backed allegedly by Qatar and Saudi Arabia (20,000 soldiers)
These four factions, could be as low as three, assuming the rumors of the alliance between Ahrar al-Sham and the Syrian Opposition are true, which cumulatively control roughly 35.5 percent of the Syrian population combined, and their influence has been decreasing for the past two years to the point that victory is within President Assad’s grasp.
As a result, this war can best be described as a proxy war between the traditional democratic west vs. the communist bloc (Western Europe vs. Russia) while simultaneously being a middle eastern proxy war between Shia and Sunni sects of Islam (Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar vs. Iran and Hezbollah). Furthermore, with each side having less than desireable traits, it becomes difficult to determine what, if any, role the American’s should have in the conflict, as there is no clear good guy in this civil war.
While every single American can agree that financing ISIS is a bad idea, and irregardless ISIS has become largely irrelevant in the war anyways, the question becomes what do we do about the other four.
On the one hand we have the Kurds (our current choice), who are historically abysmal at human rights, restricting the social and religious rights of non-arabs, in addition to the usual lack of women’s rights. Yet on the others we have a proven dictator willing to gas his people (Assad) or an organization whose alleged supporters we have spent the past decade trying to remove from power (TSO’s extremist faction and Al-Qaeda).
In short, no matter who wins civil liberties and democracy, lose in this conflict. With this understanding, I hope people begin to process that the war in Syria isn’t about human rights, it’s not about chemical weapons, it’s the U.S. wanting another cold war conflict with the Russians, and for Middle Eastern powers, it has become a proxy war for greater religious conflict of Sunni vs. Shia Islam.
If this continues, Syria will join the list of broken nations and if we continue to intervene, we must bear the responsibility for. In our modern era, we must end the cold war mentality which cost millions of lives and billions of dollars, and look inward to fix the deep problems facing our own nation, while we let the regional powers have their war to themselves.
Dave Owen is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]