This country swept the news spectrum in the past couple weeks, as the United States , United Kingdom, and France further their involvement in Syrian politics. The questions “What on earth is going on in Syria?” along with “What does The U.S. have to do with Syria?” has drawn many minds. In order to be able to follow the present political state of Syria, it is crucial to run down the timeline and understand the history of this country’s political affairs.
After World War I, the map of Europe was essentially redrawn, leading to the geographic area of modern Syria.
Syria, along with a few other Middle Eastern countries previously under the Ottoman rule, became a mandate under French control. After several nationalistic revolts and proposals, the country eventually gained independence.
Syrians gain complete independence under the ruling of Shukri al-Kuwatli. With the founding of the United Arab Republic by the Syrian and Egyptian government, then Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser gains a hand on Syria’s government rulings.
Nasser dissolves every political party in the country, leaving Syrian unionist groups unsatisfied with the Egyptian domination within their country.
This primes Syria for a military coup on the capital by the Baath Party, which eventually seizes full power. However, this does not last long, as just three years later yet another coup took place led by Salah Jadid, this time overthrowing the civilian Baathists and placing Hafez al-Assad as defense minister. The overthrowing of Baathists begins the rise of the Assad Regime that is in place today.
Through Hafez al-Assad’s authority with the state, he internally organizes yet a third coup, in which he replaces president Nur al-Din al-Atasi and sends Salah Jadid, his former political partner, to prison.
Syria (along with Egypt) engages with Israel over the Golan Heights that was taken by Israeli forces in 1967. Assad’s willingness to work with the Israelis, along with declaring that all candidates running for president must be Muslim, causes further internal tension within Syria.
Syria joins the US in a coalition against Iraq, furthering their relationship. This comes up later on. The death of Assad was met with the succession of Bashar, his son, who is currently the president of Syria.
Amidst the Gulf War, the US places sanctions on Syria due to its belief that the Syrian government was supporting militants going to fight in Iraq against the Americans. Later on, these sanctions are undone.
The Obama administration renews the former economic sanctions on Syria due to suspicions that Bashar was advocating for and financially supporting terrorist groups in Lebanon against Israel, a massive ally to the US.
The Assad army regime stormes into the cities of Deraa, Banyas, and Homs with tanks, attacking rebels and pro
testers against the government. This violence towards anti- regime citizens lead the Arab League to punish the Syrian government by suspending its eligibility, due to its belief that they were violating the Middle East’s struggle for peace.
Assad’s regime continues city attacks, mainly in Homs. The United Nations (UN) endorses a peace plan for Syria that both China and Russia support. The Obama administration warns the Syrian regime that the use of chemical weaponry will most likely result in US involvement in the war. However, just a few months later, Aleppo is attacked involving the use of chemical gases and the U.S. did not intervene as previously threatened. Damascus is also attacked. The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces is created, and the UN recognizes them as authorized representatives of Syria.
The UN brings to attention the fact that chemical weapons were used by the Assad Regime in the city of Ghouta during the Damascus attack. No punishment or responsibility is presented. The US and UK put a pause on the compliance weapons they were providing the rebels opposing the government due to the suspicion that they may be working with Islamist radical terrorist groups. Later that year, ISIS names a new caliphate in the Syrian city of Aleppo, causing the US along with other Middle Eastern states to attack the civilian filled city.
ISIS captures the city of Palmyra in Syria and destroys several culturally and historically rich monuments and artifacts. Another terrorist group claiming to be motivated by Islam seizes the city of Jaish al-Fatah. Russia, in alliance with the Assad Regime, sends missile air strikes to Syria, saying that their intention was to destroy the radical Islamic groups. However, civilian deaths were in high numbers. The rebels believe that the attacks targeted any opposition to the regime, radical or not.
Syrian rebels team up with Turkish rebels to fight Kurdish groups wanting independence and ISIS militants. The Syrian government, with the help of Russia, takes back the city of Aleppo from the rebels. This is a big loss for the rebels, as this is the biggest city in Syria and was their only firm grasp. This event is commonly referred to by the supporters of the rebels as “the fall of Aleppo”. By the end of the year, an agreement made in Kazakhstan by Turkey, Russia, and Iran formally states their plans to ceasefire against non- Islamist rebel groups opposing Assad’s regime.
The rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun is attacked by Assad’s regime allegedly with the use of chemical gases. President Donald Trump of the U.S. sends missiles to one of Assad’s air bases that is presumed to be the source of the airplanes containing chemical weaponry. A rebel group called Syrian Democratic Forces is supported by the U.S., and is aided in maintaining the city of Raqqa. With their help, forces 0f ISIS in the city are terminated. ISIS loses Deir al-Zour to the Syrian government. The north-western Idlib province continues to be raided by Syrian and Russian forces claiming to fight off radical Islamic groups.
This leads us to this year: In early April, the U.S., along with its western allies France and Britain, sent missile air strikes to Syria with the intention of threatening the Assad Regime to stop using chemical weapons on civilians and other oppositions. U.S., French and British forces struck three sites: a research center close to Damascus and couple a suspected chemical weapons storage facility outside Homs- all sources believed to be encouraging chemical weaponry. This event has not only furthered polar attitudes in the Middle East, but in the U.S. and Europe as well.
Still not clear on what is happening? Here are some common questions answered that should contribute to the bigger picture today:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
So, what are the rebels fighting for?
The Syrian rebels are fighting Assad’s dictatorial regime with the hopes of over throwing him and establishing a more democratic republic.
Why does the U.S., UK and France want to get involved?
During the Cold War, post World War II, Russia and the U.S. indirectly fought through a series of button-pushing decisions to keep the other team on its toes. Essentially, the US is encouraged to become allies with any country Russia dislikes. It’s safe to say that what is going on in Syria regarding the Americans and the Russians is just left over from the Cold War.
Why is Russia involved?
48% of arms imported to Syria are Russian, making it a very profitable alliance. They do this through a severely valuable naval base in the city of Tartus located in Syria.
What has changed in terms of relations with Syria under Trump from what it was under Obama?
In 2013, Assad’s regime once again used chemical gases in the city of Ghouta, after the Obama administration called for a red line on all such weaponry. However, this retaliation was not followed through and the U.S. did not attack Syria. Many believe that this incident is what encouraged the increase of military force used on Syrian civilians in 2015 and 2016, since they did not believe they would face any punishments. Under the Trump administration, there has been active support of the Syrian rebels from the U.S. against Russia and the Syrian government.