by Matthew Hobbs
Following the war in Iraq, we have continuously seen the numerous human consequences of war in the Middle East—specifically, instability and panic at large.
The standards of Iraqi quality of life have been decimated by the United States’ aggression. Even Iraq’s rudimentary democratic processes were undermined by our intervention. The number of conflicts between Sunni and Shiite populations in Iraq has been growing which rather unsurprisingly take place as a result of U.S. foreign policy but also due to Iraq’s unstable neighbor, Syria.
The Shiite-based Hezbollah movements in Lebanon have recently conducted significant military operations on the scattered Sunni anti-Assad forces fighting in Syria—which means a significant portion of rebels are not necessarily from Syria.
Assad-controlled military units and Hezbollah fighters have strategically retaken an important rebel stronghold near the border of Lebanon. President Assad has lost the support of Shiite-run Iran, which is intrinsic to the Syrian power-system. Additionally, a consuming degree of economic turmoil is taking place in Turkey, a major frontline anti-Assad state and source of Sunni rebels. Because a drastic devaluation of the Turkish lira, Assad’s military dominance in the region has been strengthened.
For a significant amount of time, U.S. military operations has been systematic killing minority divisions of Syrian society in the North-Eastern regions, namely the Kurdish population. Since the Syrian civil war, Syrian government forces have abandoned many Kurdish-populated areas, leaving the Kurds to fill the power vacuum and govern these areas autonomously. With this vacuum comes a decreased ability to rely on government forces for protection. The culture and psychology of the conflict—rather, the backbone which pervades all civil war—is that which is generally borne out of the motive for revenge: “You killed my uncle, so I will kill your cousin.” Indifference is not a luxury for many to take in Syria.
Efforts to curb widespread violence in the region have not been instituted; in fact, exactly the opposite has taken place. The U.S. publicly claims that since Russia has vetoed any significant aid or military intervention by way of the UN Security Council, the U.S. cannot proceed with financial or humanitarian assistance. However, it should be noted that the U.S. did not consult the Security Council before many of its violent occupations, including that of Iraq. There is a possibility there would be an even greater foreign military presence if the country wasn’t in such a tail-spin. The West sees Syria as too bloody to implement strategies which will create an even greater sense of volatility.
History plays an important role in understanding the complexities that engulf Syria. First, its borders were not drawn by the Syrian people—they were implemented by imperialist policy, namely the Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916 by British powers. By the time the civil war is over, the borders of the country will most likely be redrawn, not by the rebels but, yet again, by imperialist powers.
The Arab Spring, which took place almost 3 years ago, is shaping the interrelationships of most Middle Eastern states—which is to say their ruling parties, including but not limited to, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who all have vested interests in this power struggle.
Through a lack of education and lack of press (as journalists have been repeatedly killed and kidnapped in Syria,) a vast portion of the American people are kept at bay in understanding when it comes to policy in the Middle East. Although, this isn’t the case when it comes to the rest of the world. In fact, to most, it is fairly obvious we are interested in the world’s largest supply of energy reserves and want in the palm of our hand—even in face of such visible consequences in Syria.
As a whole, the United States’ current way of understanding of the world is shaped by propaganda and pithy ideas that assert we have a “responsibility to protect”. Such a thought is poisoning the wellspring of debate. Through these and other means of control, including anti-terror campaigns and drone strikes in Syria, it seems we are only interested in propagating America as the world’s foremost stabilizing force. Upon studying the context of Syrian civil war, one may realize the importance of a cessation of American intervention.
While Obama stated in 2013, “Assad must go,” the United States continues to have a poor track record of allowing rebels or opposition parties in power. Even though we claim to be the democratic leader of the so-called “free world,” Assad remains in power.