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Syria: The world's broken heart


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The reports from Syria that the US-led coalition employed the use of white phosphorus in the city of Raqqa, one of ISIS's territories in Syria, represents the latest dimension of this harrowing civil war.

The protests that transpired in Syria in March 2011 as part of the Arab Spring and the fight against dictatorial regimes ripened into a civil war by July of 2011, and innocent civilians have been heavily paying the price since.

Earlier this month, US backed Syrian fighters made advancements in Eastern Raqqa against ISIS, and the US followed up it up with the use of white phosphorus. The use of white phosphorus in Raqqa, an incendiary weapon that can pose a significant threat to human lives upon exposure to air, to the extent of melting the human flesh to the bone, illustrates the magnitude of the threats to human security that Syrians are facing.

The US's actions in Syria are part of Trump's plan to 'defeat Islamic terrorism', as ISIS are prevalent in large parts of Syria. However, his pledge to eradicate Islamic terrorism could have more plausibility if he had not just signed a historic arms deal with Saudi Arabia, one of the key ideological drivers behind Islamic terrorism.

Nevertheless, the US-led coalition in Syria has stepped up the intensity in order to take back the city from ISIS, but this has been detrimental to Syrian safety. The Syrian crisis is already one of the worst humanitarian crisis in history, with reports suggesting 11% of the population has been killed or injured, and many more being displaced, internally and externally, which only fuels the growing refugee crisis. Thus, US forces upping the ferocity of their attacks, of which there is no indiscrimination of targets, with the hope of killing a few Islamic State representatives, will do more harm than virtue. 

Bombing civilian areas to halt the augmentation of ISIS and with the hope of safeguarding Western freedom, values and security has not worked for years, and has instead proved severely counter productive by causing the implosion of states and generating an environment in which the enemy being targetted can penetrate and use to strengthen. This is noticeable in Libya, Yemen and Iraq, and is no different in Syria. The enemy is galvanised whilst the civilians languish. How many more Syrians must fall before an alternative strategy is exercised?

Moreover, the multitude of actors operating in Syria adds to the complexity of the conflict, and unfortunately, the casualties. The sectarian tensions that have been unleashed accross the Middle East, following the Iraq War in 2003, which expedited post Arab Spring, are contributing to consequential levels of violence.  Accordingly, Saudi Arabia and Iran's influence in the escalation of sectarian tensions is compelling.

Saudi Arabia's regional aspirations are paramount to their motives in Syria. Their insistence on being the prevailing hegemon in the Middle East coupled with their aversion of Iran and their Shia rule has led to Saudi providing financial and military aid in abundance to anti-Assad militants with the purpose of quelling the Iran-Syria alliance and the prospect of a Shia/Alawite political order in Syria, and subsequently, the Middle East. 

Hence, Saudi's emphasis on halting Iranian presence has only strengthened the Iranian eagerness to surmount Saudi pressure and influence.

Consequently, Saudi Arabia and Iran are propping up various military organisations. Particularly, Saudi Arabia have equipped the Al Qaeda linked Jabhat Al Nusra, amongst many, and Iran in response have administered their support for Shia military organisations, such as Hezbollah, who have risen in prominence in the Syrian conflict, to prevent the rise of groups such as ISIS who have repeatedly targetted Shia Muslims. As a result, Saudi Arabia and Iran are essentially fighting a proxy war in Syria and aggravating the Sunni v Shia hostility in the process. 

Additionally, the increased tensions between Saudi and Qatar have not aided the situation, with Qatar opting to also attempt to gain a foothold in Syria, by underpinning various Sunni groups from the early stages, which is considered a primary factor in the Saudi led Qatar blockade.

Resultantly, the various powers and the influence they are exerting in Syria has inflamed the sectarian tensions, whilst concurrently contributing to the mass deaths aswell as the displacement and loss of lives and homes of many Syrians. Thousands have died and many more injured and forced to leave their homes as a result of powers using Syria as a battlefield to fight their proxy wars. 

Similarly, just as the US, Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are exploiting the plight in Syria in order to realise their ambitions, Russia are operating on a similar wavelength. Putin's involvement in Russia originates from Russia and Syria's alliance throughout and after the Cold War, and since 2015, Russia have undertaken continuous air strikes in Syria, aimed at diminishing the role of militant organisations and bolstering the position of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. Reports suggest that thousands have been killed as a result of Russian air strikes alone, and the increasing levels of violence suggest that number will increase, alongside the relentless military involvement on Russia's behalf.

Notwithstanding, Assad is also contributing significantly to the drastic situation the Syrians find themselves in, as evident with the air strikes he uses on any opposition to the regime, and to the extent of using illegal chemical weapons, which have compromised the safety and security of thousands of Syrians.

Hence, the situation in Syria is perplexing and critically damaging. The war which has been used by several powers as a means of achieving their foreign policy objectives, has materialized into a country with punishing humanitarian effects.

The UN estimates that 6.3 million people have been internally displaced, and well over half the population are in need of humanitarian assistance, whether that is in Syria, or in places like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey where they are in refugee camps. 

Likewise, there is a plethora of human rights violations being committed and the death tolls are rising promptly with each passing day.

A country that was once eulogzied by Western outlets for the direction it was heading in, has descended into total anarchy and induced the destruction of lives and homes. The role of external powers has intensified the situation and precipitated the worst humanitarian crisis of our lifetime.

Syria has collapsed, and sadly, it appears, will continue to spiral downwards.

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