Understanding Syria

An intense conflict; friends and foes fighting side-by-side
Rahman Mohamed
Updated April 9, 2017

Today when a someone hear’s “Syria” they often think of ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and Levant), or DAESH (Arabic acronym for ISIS).  What’s commonly misunderstood is the complications of the conflict in Syria.  Today conflict in Syria is made up of civil war, war against terrorism, and proxy wars that are evolving into direct war involving nations outside of Syria.

The Arab Spring is known in many parts of the world as a series of civilian action against dictators and authoritarian governments in support of democracy occurring in the Middle East and North Africa.  The Syrian civil war is often considered a part of the Arab Spring but has evolved to what may be termed as a World War.

Bashar Al-Assad is currently the President of Syria.  He has been considered a violent dictator.  Over 5 years ago a civilian uprising began in Syria.  Citizens created a rebel faction to overthrow Bashar Al-Assad and create a democratic government.

The rebels have had support from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Jordon.  Bashar Al-Assad’s government has seen support from Russia and Iran.  Although none of these nations were directly involved in the conflict there was moral support and encouragement.  Iran has been reported to spending billions to support Bashar Al-Assad and Russia has been reported to launch military action against rebels.

A proxy war is a term used to describe a war in which the nations at war are not directly interacting with each other.  The Syrian civil war has often been called a proxy war of the United States and its allies against Russia and its allies

In 2014 the Syrian conflict changed dramatically.  DAESH appeared.  DAESH, known worldwide as ISIS, ISIL, and Islamic State, is a third party.  It does not associate itself with the rebels or President Assad.  DAESH seeks to create its own state that includes territory in Syria and Iraq and govern using Sharia law.  Although its name suggests territory in Iraq and Syria DAESH has today become confined to a portion of Syria.  Worldwide it is considered a terrorist group.

Around the world terrorist attacks have been committed by persons willing to die or commit suicide; many but not all associate themselves with Islam and are commonly known as Jihadis.  These include the attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on 7 January 2015, the recent attack on UK Parliament on 22 March 2017, and the attack on Canadian Parliament by a lone gun man on 22 October 2014.  On 9 April 2017 Coptic Christian churches were bombed.  DAESH has claimed responsibility for these attacks, that the terrorists committing these attacks had pledged allegiance to DAESH.

Worldwide there are reports of persons working to radicalize others and persons who are being radicalized and going overseas to fight for radical groups.  Today Canadian Abderrahmane Ghanem is being held in Algeria on account of terrorism, seeking to join extremist groups.  Abderrahmane, his family, and his lawyer based in Vancouver continue to state that he is being charged based on association; his friends left Canada to join extremist groups while Abderrahmane was travelling.

Today the conflict in Syria includes DAESH, the Syrian state led by Bashar Al-Assad, and the Syrian rebels against Bashar Al-Assad.  Countries around the world have sent in resources to combat DAESH.  These include Australia, Russia, United States, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, UAE, and UK among multiple other nations.  Although Russia and USA and differ on their support of the Syrian civil war they are united in their fight against DAESH.

The recent missile strikes ordered by President Donald Trump on a Syrian airbase has been met with differed reactions, both support and opposition.  The missile strikes were justified as an appropriate reaction to the use of chemical weapons on civilians, what has been claimed to be an action of President Bashar Al-Assad and a war crime.  The strikes are not associated with DAESH.

Canada is one of the nations involved in this war.  Outside of the Middle East – Turkey, Iraq, and Lebanon, and Jordan – Canada and Germany have been complemented in taking in and resettling refugees from Syria.  Canada is providing humanitarian assistance and training in the fight against DAESH.  In a statement from the PMO, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said

Canada fully supports the United States’ limited and focused action to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against innocent civilians, including many children. President Assad’s use of chemical weapons and the crimes the Syrian regime has committed against its own people cannot be ignored. These gruesome attacks cannot be permitted to continue with impunity.

This week’s attack in southern Idlib and the suffering of Syrians is a war crime and is unacceptable. Canada condemns all uses of chemical weapons.

Canada will continue to support diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria.

Syria has been called the greatest refugee crisis since World War 2.  In response there are movements to raise money for humanitarian efforts in Syria and raise awareness and support for Syrian refugees in Canada and Europe.

Tension increases between Russia and the United States in response to the United States’ missile strikes in Syria on April 6.  There have been mixed reactions.  Some refugees and nations state it is in reaction to the use of chemical weapons.  They say these weapons should have been used earlier.  Others feel that USA should not be bombing their land.

There are suggestions that the missiles against Syria are a warning to North Korea and China.  North Korea has recently been testing missiles and is said to be holding nuclear weapons; China has not shown any action to prevent any attack by North Korea.

The battle in Syria is being called by some to be World War 3.

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