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Dumping ground of international diplomacy

The human tragedy in Syria has reached a point where no one knows who is killing who and why

Dumping ground of international diplomacy
Victims of war.

Syria has emerged as the new ground for proxy wars between world powers, which has not only produced one of the greatest human crises in that country, but also rattled the whole region. The civil war started as part of the Arab Spring in 2011 and affected all the neighbouring countries and beyond. Thousands of Syrian refugees have fled to the adjoining countries, including Turkey and Lebanon and thousands of others have flooded to European countries.

According to the world media reports, more than 250,000 people have been killed and over 11 million are forced to leave their homes. The Arab Spring, which started in Tunisia with slap in the face of a vendor by a policeman, appeared in Deraa city of Syria when police arrested and tortured some youth who painted a school wall with revolutionary slogans. The government forces opened fire on a protest demonstration, killing several civilians, but it provoked the people with more street protests. The incident triggered a series of countrywide protests demanding President al-Assad to resign.

The government used brutal force to quell the protests, but it multiplied street protests across the country. Opposition supporters eventually began to take up arms — first to defend themselves and later to expel security forces from their local areas. The violence further escalated as rebel groups battled government forces for control of cities and towns, as a result, the fighting knocked Damascus and Aleppo one year after the war started. The situation is complex and confusing and out of the realm of al-Assad vs opposition conflict. The residential areas have been destroyed and hospitals are bombed, but the endgame is still not in sight.

The crisis was the product of subjugation of masses demanding political reforms and civil liberties by the dictatorial regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Syria, a Sunni majority country is ruled by a minority Alawite clan, which holds all the key posts in the country. The movement for civil and democratic rights has now turned into a bloody conflict. At least four super powers — Russia, the United States, France and Britain — are involved in this conflict. There are also disagreements between the foreign powers on the status and role of Bashar al-Assad and opposition groups with different agenda and ideologies.

Iran supports al-Assad regime while Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar support different opposition groups. There is complete mess in Syria as fighting continues between the groups and countries, blaming one another for the crisis. The United States and Russia have strong presence in the country with unclaimed objectives. Both are playing a role of friends and foes at the same time with each other and both have unspecified interests in al-Assad regime. The perpetual conflict is a slap in the face the United Nations which has failed to play its role in suppressing the crisis. The four super powers, excluding China, have failed to reach a consensus on the crisis. The role of Israel is still unknown in the conflict despite the fact its aircrafts conducted various sorties on Syria apparently to stop Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed group in Lebanon, from helping the al-Assad regime. But Syrians allege that Israel is the biggest supporter of Bashar al-Assad.

International affairs experts rightly opine that Syria is the best place for the big powers to test their newly-developed lethal weapons. The countries, which claim to be the champions of human rights and civil liberties, must act to minimise the human sufferings otherwise flood of refugees will continue to flow to the European Union whether it likes it or not.

The crisis has severely damaged the economy of Syria as well as neighbouring countries, including Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. Thousands of refugees have settled in Turkey from where they set off for Europe on foot and by sea, risking not only the lives of women and children, but also creating difference of opinions in the European nations. The British exit from the European Union is the outcome of the Syrian crisis and Germany, France and Switzerland are facing the refugees’ exodus.

The crisis started half a decade ago has no foreseeable end as the number of parties involved in the trouble have been increasing with every passing day. The Russians aircrafts are bombing the opposition groups mostly concentrated in Aleppo and Homs in support of the al-Assad regime while the US is supporting the opposition groups and bombing the government positions.

Another lethal group involved in the crisis is Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS which is fighting for the establishment of khilafat with its own unexplained objectives. Russia blames the United States for the formation and support of the ISIS. Even the US presidential candidate, Donald Trump, has blamed President Barrack Obama for the establishment of the ISIS. The British and French presence in the country is also adding to the crisis. Iran has reportedly lost some of its top army officials in Syria. It provides al-Assad not only moral and political support, but also military support to defend the dictatorial regime at all costs.

The situation has reached a point where no one knows who is killing who and what are the basic objectives behind their fighting. Russia has now warned the United States not to take direct action against al-Assad as it would have severe repercussions across the Middle East. On another note, the United States is undecided on how to intervene in that country to defuse the crisis. Despite its soft corner for the opposition, it failed to decide how it should use its military force against the Syrian regime.

International affairs experts rightly opine that Syria is the best place for the big powers to test their newly-developed lethal weapons. The countries, which claim to be the champions of human rights and civil liberties, must act to minimise the human sufferings otherwise flood of refugees will continue to flow to the European Union whether it likes it or not. The United Nations has become a toothless forum of international powers that use it for their vested interests. Syria and Palestine are the two hotspots where this world body has done too little and too late. Kashmir is the flashpoint and imminent danger to the world peace, but it has failed to even issue a statement.

Aftab Afzal Ranjha

aftab zain
The writer is a Lahore-based journalist. He may be reached at [email protected]

2 comments

  • Kashmir and Palestine are the burden of history on the United Nations and big powers. Syria is the new entrant and a brutal example of state terrorism against its own people. The international community has failed to play its role in all the three places. India and Israel are emerging as new colonial powers. Israel in Palestine and Syria and India in Kashmir.

  • In 1982 I was at an American university and had a discussion on Middle East politics with an Egyptian student. After some talk about Israel and Syria, I mentioned the then-recent massacre at Hama by Hafiz Assad, the father of Bashar. His response: it is their internal affair!

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