One Big Thing: Syrian Conflict Continues...
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What you need to know:
- Since 2011, internal conflict in Syria between the Assad regime and pro-democracy rebels broke out and has since evolved into a brutal civil war. In just the past 3 months, 800,000 people have been displaced by the latest Russian-backed offensive led by the Assad regime. Throughout this conflict, Assad, with strategic and military support from Vladimir Putin, has committed atrocities ranging from the most recent offensive in Idlib to the use of chemical weapons on civilians in the same province.
- Imagine the whole population of South Dakota moving to North Dakota within three months during the winter. That’s the type of humanitarian crisis Syrians continue to face right now.
- Turkey plays an important but complicated role in the war. Its humanitarian role cannot be underestimated as it has welcomed millions of Syrian refugees. However, its recent occupation of northern Syria and it’s targeting of Kurdish forces has brought harsh criticism.
- On the flipside, Turkish forces have occupied Idlib to provide a safe haven for refugees in Syria as Ankara has already made claims saying that they cannot handle any more refugees. As described in The Hill, Michael O’Hanlon and Steve Heydemann urges the U.S. and it’s allies to back Turkey in its efforts around Idlib.
- The question remains if the fragile relationship between Turkish president Erdogan and Putin will hold considering the military confrontation between Turkish and Syrian forces, which are backed by Russia. The cost on Turkey is mounting.
Why is it important?
- Syria has been one of the most high-profile humanitarian disasters in modern times, yet little has been done to end the crisis. Exacerbated by regional and global powers’ interests, Syrians have been caught in the line of fire of indiscriminate attacks. Unable to live normally or flee to safety, citizens have been forced to pay the true cost of this conflict.
- Regimes that commit these types of atrocities are a danger to their citizens but the global community as well. How a regime treats its own people is often indicative of how it will behave in its foreign policy. Effects of this humanitarian crisis have also spilled over into neighboring countries as over 6.7 million refugees have fled Syria since 2011.
- Russia has also used the Syrian conflict to expand its influence in the Middle East while also supporting Putin’s longtime friend and ally, Bashar al-Assad. It has also proved to be, at times, a successful domestic political strategy as Putin has used similar external conflicts, for example the 2014 invasion of Eastern Ukraine, to solidify his domestic popularity.
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