Syrian mess seems to be an exact depiction of the Hobbesian concept of the anarchic state of nature, seen as entailing a state of war—and “such a war as is of every man against every man” (Leviathan XII 8).
Anarchic state of nature emerged in Syria when protests against the President Bashar Al Assad in March 2011 turned into a violent insurgency, drawn in global and regional powers and Arab Spring became as Autumn for the Syrian commoners. Involvement of domestic, global and regional players made the conflict naughty. On the Syrian battleground different wars are being fought by the same players.
The overlapping wars could be categorized as the civil war, sectarian war and the Cold War, whatever we name it, as a consequence, infrastructure turned into rubble, jolted Syrian economy, devastated social fabric, disarrayed political, ethnic and sectarian harmony and given roots uncontrollable humanitarian crisis.
It was initially a Civil War of armed rebels against government and existing political system; a sectarian war, where Sunni rebels groups and Islamic Jihadist insurgents fighting (backed by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and trans-national countries) against Assad’s minority Alawite sect protected by loyalist forces, then came Shiite fighters from Iran and Hezbollah of Lebanon and cold war (proxy war) between Russia and the United States and their allies. Since the insurgency loosens the state authority, the country lost billions of dollars, people are forced to refuge neighbouring countries and beyond.
The multiplicity of involvement by the internal and external actors made difficult to reach conclusion on any mutually agreed solution acceptable to each party. Conceptual understanding becomes even more challenging to ease the knot. The realist believes that threat magnitude of any conflict multiplies if actors are more than three, the disturbance will be substantial. If superpower jumps in and confined itself to the political involvement the disturbance remained limited but militarily involvement produces disastrous outcomes.
There are different perspectives on the Syrian conflict, illustrate different dynamics. Benedetta Berti and Jonathan Paris “Beyond Sectarianism: Geopolitics, Fragmentation, and the Syrian Civil War” explains three reasons as the pretext of Syrian Civil War. First, regional wave of social and political mobilizations spurred by the Arab-Spring, secondly, sense of frustration over growing social inequalities and bad governance within Syria and finally deteriorated living conditions of lower middle class and working class, rising inflation, the decline in oil prices, and shrinking subsidies from Damascus. These three factors set the grounds for the argument that Syrian conflict was not engineered and inspiration from the Color Revolutions or Arab spring as natural phenomena.
On the other hand, there is a perspective believes Arab Spring-inspired the Syrians revolt was pre-planned or engineered, just like Andrew Korybko in his book on “Hybrid Wars: The Indirect Adaptive Approach to Regime Change”, claims that in Syria, the anti-government agitators that initiated the Color Revolution attempt fight for the same regime change goals as international terrorists (and in many cases have become one and the same) and openly employ fighters whose salaries are bankrolled by foreign governments.
Both assumptions could be valid as initial protests, civil uprising, and defections appeared in response over a minor issue, arrest of a boy and aides by the government for writing graffiti “The people want the fall of the regime” in favor of Arab Spring and government’s brutal response triggered unprecedented reactions from the opposition groups was situational. Involvement of regional and global powers to protect their allies and advance their interests was engineered indirect adaptive approach was preferred to change the regime. Assad’s opposition grasped the support of regional as well as global powers, Sectarian grounds also made alignment clear, Shia crescent vs Sunni Axis.
According to BBC as many as 1,000 armed opposition groups in Syria, commanding an estimated 100,000 fighters. Some of the groups are very small operational at the local level, they lacked centralized command and control system but fighting against the Assad’s Army and loyalist forces. The major problem with the fighting groups, they agree to dawn with Assad but hold diverge agendas what will be the fate of government afterwards.
Secular and moderate armed rebels fighting for the democratic-liberal state but Islamic Jihadist groups including Al-Qaeda affiliates Al-Nusra Front and Islamic State of Iraq & Syria ISIS and other Islamic groups are fighting to establish Islamic State (Khilafah). Regional alignment in the Middle East based on sectarian grounds made conflict even more complex, Sunni axis’s composed of Kingdoms in Gulf led by Saudi Arabia, Jordan supporting moderate and Islamic fighters while Hezbollah fighters and loyalist forces are backed by Iran. The sole beneficial of the Syrian conflict is Israel; successfully diverted the attention from Palestine issue; weaken the enemy Bashar Ul Assad, putting the issue of Golan Heights in doldrums, widen Arabs-Iranian rift.
Syrian battle also provided the ground for Cold War II, unfold the regional and global power structure, Putin’s Russia is militarily involved into the Syrian crisis, challenged American rules of the game, and emerged as balancing factor into the Middle Eastern affairs. These developments proved that there will be no more a single country may decide the fate of the others; Sino-Russian nexus also set the stage of the multi-polar world.
Whatever we call it, Civil, Sectarian or Cold War, whatever perspective we assume, whosoever lose and won the war but that for sure that Syrian people are the real and end losers (no need of this – of the war). The humanitarian crisis became catastrophic and United Nation Security Council (UNSC) could not be the catalyst for peace, at any stage, in Syria because veto powers of the council are directly or indirectly part of the conflict.
The UN claims more than 250,000 have died in the war, some Syrian based think tanks count death toll double compare to the UN figures. Syrian Center for Policy Research audited the war’s economic cost at $255 billion, essentially wiping out the nation’s wealth. According to UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, Syria is witnessing the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis of our times, a continuing cause of suffering for millions which should be garnering a groundswell of support around the world.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.
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Almas Haider Naqvi is PhD Scholar at School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR), Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He is a senior journalist having experience of more than 15 years currently associated with Dunya News Group as Foreign Policy and Diplomatic Correspondent. In recognition of his credible reporting, Aghai Awards awarded him in 2015.