Western Point of View: Political and Strategical Analysis of Syria Case Study

1.0 Introduction

The Syrian crisis has threatened to destabilize the region, hence attracting the concerns of different Western countries (Blanchard, Humud & Nikitin 2015). Both the United States and European countries have been in the fire front in trying to implement ways of ending the crisis. The country has also become a major global epicenter of international terrorism with the rise of jihadists and militant extremists such as ISIS. To some extent, the Western countries have showed different interests in Syria. Their strategies and their involvement in the efforts to end the Syrian crisis have portrayed different opinions and interests in the region as a whole (Harvey & Mitton, 2015.

Considerably, the United States and Russia can be considered as being the most vibrant Western countries to engage in Syria crisis (Mongrenier, 2015). The question of Zionism and ISIS has also resulted to a sharp debate regarding whether the two are really the opposing sides or just two sides of the same coin. For instance, Russia has defended the Assad regime in Syria from the Western interventions and sanction, maintaining low-key but very strong ties, which are intended to ensure the accessibility of military ports on the Mediterranean cost of Syrian as well as blocking the United Nation’s consensus by exercising its veto power in the International Organization’s Security Council (Humud & Nikitin, 2015).  However, the West has not been prepared in using force to overcome Russia’s support for Assad’s rule and to circumvent the United Nations despite the atrocities perpetrated by the forces of Assad.

Ideally, the Western views on Syria consist through three different aspects: first, it views the conflict as a major threat to security as posed by the militant extremist such as ISIS (Renner 2015; Humud & Nikitin 2015). Secondly, the Western views on the conflict from the perspective of the influx of a large number of Syrian refugees into Europe (Blaxland, 2015). Thirdly, the high rate of consequences resulting from the Syrian conflicts has forced many of the civilians in Syria to migrate to the neighboring countries such as Turkey and Lebanon.

2.0 Background of Syria

Syria emerged as an independent country after a period of nationalists’ unrest and French rule. This happened during the Second World War in the wake of the Fist World War. Before this, the territory was ruled by the Ottoman Empire and had proved to be a major stage for important events during the founding of Islam and Christianity, repulsion of Mongol invasion in the Middle East and the Muslin-Christian conflicts during the famous crusades. The country is centrally and strategically located, hence making it a major avenue for the regional and super power competition during the Cold War period. Additionally, its ethnic, political, environmental, economic and religious challenges are just a mirror of the challenges facing other countries in the Middle East region (Rather, Ali & Abbas 2015). Even long before the conflict being witnessed now, Syria struggled with the challenges which had bred deep dissatisfaction in other Arab autocracies such as high inflation rates, rampant corruption, repressive security forces; high unemployment rates and limited upward mobility of labor. These are some of the factors which fueled the opposition to Syria’s authoritarian government which had been ruled by the Baath party since 1963 as well as the al-Assad family since 1970.

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Just like many other countries in the Middle East, the Syrian population is very diverse, being comprised of different ethnic as well as religious groups. Assad’s regime has prevented these different ethnic and religious groups from playing a divisive role in the social or political life while the French and the Ottoman administrators had at given times tried to manipulate the popular divisions in the country (Jenkins, 2015). The majority of Syrians are Arabs, although the country contains small minorities such as Kurds. The religious sectarian differences in Syria are especially important. Apart from Sunni Muslims, who create the largest religious proportion in the country, Syria also contains some other religious sectarian minorities such as Alawites, Ismailis and Druze. The country is also comprised of other several Christian denominations (European Parliament 2016). Despite what is seen as the secular nature of the rule used by the Baath party, the religious sects have played an important role in the country as they are regarded by some Syrians as a symbol of identity as well as the determinate of political orientation.

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The religious economic, ethnic and geographic identities have continued to overlap in influencing the choices as well as the views of Syrians concerning the current conflict. Within the sectarian and ethnic communities, there are familial as well as tribal groupings which often provide the underpinning for both commercial relationships and political alliances. Social economic differences abound among the laborers, farmers, the employees in the public sector and the farmers (Katz & Casula 2015). The politics of Syria was highly influenced by the economic classes in the country. For instance, the rural and the less advantaged Syrians supported the opposition movements, while the urban and the wealthier ones appeared to develop some mixed opinions. The opinions of these diverse groups in Syria have further been shaped by the current conflict as well as the devastation that has been caused by the conflict in large areas of the country. Some Syrians are also influenced largely by the tribal and local attachments. This has been seen in the rivalries between the two largest cities -  Aleppo and Damascus. This is also seen in the concentration of the ethnic communities and sectarians in discrete areas of Syria.

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3.0 Syrian Conflict at a Glance

The Syrian protests evolved into an insurgency as the government of Syria met initially peaceful civilian protests. During the initial stages of the conflict, the isolated acts of violence by members of the opposition attracted heavy handed responses from the military, hence leaving a large number of civilians as well as sparking cyclic and retaliatory clashes of increasing intensity (Renner 2015). During this period, extremists groups also began to emerge. In some early engagements, armed civilians and military defectors defeated the state security forces, hence enabling the opposition elements to seize their control of the territory as well as disrupting the spans control over the Syrian population and territory.

A broad spectrum of the opposition actors in Syria, who initially demanded fought for varying degrees of political change, coalesced around their demands to remove President Bashar al-Assad.  Similarly, during this period of time, Islamic activists as well as other armed groups insisted on a systemic and large scale change regarding how the country was governed (Jenkins 2015). They also sought to assert their main prerogatives in the areas they controlled. There was an influx of foreign actors in Syrian and who acted on both sides of the conflict. This prove to be very instrumental in amplifying the tensions in the country (European Parliament 2016). For instance, the authorities in Syria described their major opponents as foreign backed conspirators and as a result, labeled their armed oppositions groups as terrorists. Therefore, the authorities wed a merciless response so as to restore the state control, protect the pro-government civilians and resist the selected foreign interference.

4.0 France’s Diplomacy Strategy in Syrian Conflict

Since the beginning of September 2015, the French air force extended its scope of operations in Syria. This is a true strategic inflection but France and its allies still demand that Bashar Al-Assad should be ousted (Herzog 2015). During the same period, the President of France, François Hollande – declared that the French air force would be launching air strikes on the Syrian territory. Additionally, the opinion of France is that the ousting of Assad is not a condition for achieving a political transition in Syria. This can be seen as a strategic and diplomatic inflection but not really a political reversal. However, there is a need to put the France policy on Syria on perspective. For instance, Paris had always developed ambiguous relationships with the Baathist regime as well as its chief (Harvey & Mitton 2015). Similarly, the French mandate in the Levant, which is a close relationship partner with the religious and ethnic minority, was developed.  Syria’s occupations of France and Lebanon will play a crucial role in the region which is still pushed towards this particular direction. On March 2011, the pacific Syrian uprising was repressed savagely. The government of France firmly condemned this, and in close participation with the United States the European Union and the Sunni states demanded an outright removal of al-Assad. During this particular time, there seemed no need for a military invasion as the fall of al-Assad regime seemed very likely and inevitable. In order to avoid any possible disintegration of Syria as witnessed in case of Iraq, the Western leaders shifted their focus on the post - Assad period (Yan, 2016).  Upon the election of Hollande, this particular political guideline was upheld. On 7 September 2015, Hollande announced that it would undertake airstrike in Syrian air space. The air raid was then done before the UN General Assembly. Additionally, after the use of chemical weapons, France was ready to strike Syria. However, the President of the United States showed a preference to disarmament under the control of the position of chemical weapons (OPCW).

5.0 United Kingdom’s Position

The question of whether the United Kingdom should get involved in the Syrian conflict was a matter of debate and that has exposed some serous divisions within the Labor party (Weaver & Borger 2015). Additionally, this has also caused unease among some government backbenchers (Parens & Bar-Yam 2016). The government’s case is usually built on the argument that such actions would probably disrupt the ability of ISIS to organize attacks in Europe while at the same time contains the extremists group by denying its access to the finance and territory, which would be achieved primary through oil exports.

The number of Syrian refugees in Britain amounts to less than one percent. However, there is a strong resistance from Britain to allow Brussels to implement course for a collective action (European Parliamentary Research Service Blog 2016). This argument is acting as hindrance of principled and fair solution to the problem. However, this is very shortsighted.

6.0 Russia’s Strategy in Syria

For a long time now, Russia has defended Assad regime in Syria from the Western interventions and sanctions as well as blocking the United Nation consensus by excising its veto power in the United Nation’s Security Council. Ideally, the government of Russia has a number of different motives behind its intervention in Syrian conflicts (Averre & Davies 2015). Among these motives are the desire to be seen as the world superpower, to build a position under which other nations in the world, especially the United States and European countries, will respect Russia and its desire to help an old ally.  However, the strategy used by Russia in the Syrian crisis is one that can also be seen to stem from a mixture of hard headed experience and realism for over two decades since the collapse of communism, which was main ideology propagated by the country. Under these circumstances, if the Baath state in Syria is overthrown, this would result to long term anarchy or even a takeover by the Islam extremists such as the ISIL and the al-Qaeda (Wishnick 2016). As a result, Moscow had decided to provide the Syrian states and its Kurdish and Hezbollah allies with the Russian air force just in the same way, from the view of the official of Russia, as the United States provided an air force for the opposition in Libya in 2011.

The Russian decision came at the ideal time because the Syrian state forces seemed to be crumbling in the face of the attacks from ISLN (European Parliamentary Research Service Blog 2016). The decision was also reached because the state of the US policy and interests made it very unlikely that the United Nations would really do anything to block the actions of Russia.  The Russian analysis of the situation can be seen as entirely correct (Abboud 2016). This emanates from the fact that the United States officials are now forced with a set of dilemmas regarding their decisions and actions in the Middle East (European Parliament 2016). The kind of strategic calculations, which would appear very viable to the United States, would be that the US forms alliances with other countries such as Iran, the Syrian state and Hezbollah in the region.

7.0 US Strategy in the Syrian Conflict

The very broad set of bilateral United States sanctions on Syria existed even before the outbreak of the current conflict. Some of these sanctions were triggered by the Syrian designation as the state sponsor of international terrorism and had a limiting effect on the delivery of the Unite States and international humanitarian assistance in the country since 2011 (Blanchard, Humud & Nikitin 2015). The strategy applied by the United States in Syria is directed towards helping the opposition of the Syrian government in ousting Assad. In October 2015, the administration of President Barrack Obama announced its plans to significantly shift its programs focus towards equipping some vetted fighters in Syria and way from equipping and training new units in the neighboring countries. However, these plans carry with themselves some very unique risks to the region as a whole (Herzog 2015). The comprehensive training approach under the US strategy program sought to first establish unit cohesion, support and groom reliable leaders and to articulate the spirit of nationalist motivation among all other fighters in the place of sectarian, ideological and local goals. The strategy used by the US has however not been  in a  position to block Russian strategy  mainly because in private-, considerable parts of the intelligence and security communities in the US as well as other Western capitals have essentially agreed to the Russia analyses that the Syrian oppositions are not really developing as a military force which is serious.

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7.1. US view

The US views on the current crisis in the country as being dehumanizing and against the basic human rights. Additionally, the total number of challenges which face the Arabic countries, seventy percent of the American citizens consider ISIS in Syria and Iraq as the top threat to the interests of America in the region (Herzog 2015).

8.0 Scandinavian Points of Views                             

8.1 Danish view

Recently, the parliament of Denmark passed a bill that seems to be designed to solidify the county’s reputation as the least attractive countries in the Western Europe for Syrian refugees (Rather, Ali & Abbas 2015). This law has extended the period of time before which those registered have to wait before they apply for any other family member to join the other members in Denmark. Hence, Denmark is now viewing the current situation in Syria as an added burden.

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8.2 Norwegian view

Recently, the government of Norway has reached a decision to accept one thousand refuges to be resettled in Norway. Norway is known for its efforts to respond to the major international refugee crises as well as provision of safe haven for the refugees (European Parliament 2016). Norway seeks to extent this to the Syrian situation.

9.0 The EU View

Syria has become a major concern for Europe for two major reasons: first, a good number of the EU citizens have migrated to Syria as jihadists (European Parliament 2016). Secondly, the number of refugees from Syria has continued to increase. These two reasons have created the urgency on the side of EU to create a lasting solution to the Syrian crisis.

Conclusion

Syria has developed to become a global epicenter of regional turmoil, humanitarian crisis, global jihad refugees, emitting waves of global terrorism and instability. Both the United States and European countries have been in the fire front in trying to implement ways of ending the crisis. Syrian ethnic, political, environmental, economic and religious challenges are just a mirror of the challenges facing other countries in the Middle East region. Ideally the Western countries view the Syrian conflict from three major perspectives: as a threat to security, responsible for the increasing number of refugees and the gross displacement of civilians from Syria. Different western countries have advanced different views, strategies and interests regarding their involvement in the conflict.

 

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