Syria in the fourth year of con­flict

Turkish Review - - NEWS -

The Syr­ian cri­sis, which has con­tin­ued un­abated for three years, has now en­tered a fourth year of con­flict. This spe­cial is­sue on Syria brings to­gether a group of schol­ars and an­a­lysts to ex­am­ine the ori­gins of the con­flict in Syria, the groups that ac­tively par­tic­i­pate in it, and the im­pact of the civil war on neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, in­clud­ing Is­rael, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

The gen­e­sis of the rev­o­lu­tion against the As­sad regime and the ar­rival of the “Arab Spring” to Syria are il­lus­trated by Rad­wan Zi­adeh, who traces the ori­gins of the pop­u­lar re­sent­ment against As­sad in re­cent Syr­ian his­tory and cat­e­go­rizes the dif­fer­ent groups that are fight­ing in the re­bel­lion. The piece by Raphaël Le­fèvre gives a his­tor­i­cal over­view of the Mus­lim Brother­hood’s role in mod­ern Syr­ian his­tory, and then an­a­lyzes its in­flu­ence on the civil war in Syria, ar­gu­ing that while the or­ga­ni­za­tion presents it­self as a mod­er­ate Is­lamist group, the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing se­cu­rity con­text means its mil­i­tary off­shoots are sus­cep­ti­ble to rad­i­cal­iza­tion.

A mil­i­tary so­lu­tion to the Syr­ian con­flict seems in­creas­ingly unattain­able. As Muriel Asse­burg points out in her opin­ion piece, po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment is also out of reach as the war­ring par­ties are un­will­ing, for a num­ber of rea­sons, to com­pro­mise and end the killing. Among the rea­sons for this re­luc­tance to com­pro­mise is, as shown in the piece by Ella Wind and Omar Dahi, a shadow econ­omy that is based on war­lordism, for­eign fund­ing, theft, smug­gling and black mar­kets. Wind and Dahi an­a­lyze the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the eco­nomic sphere in Syria af­ter the start of the up­ris­ing, and the half-mea­sures taken by the regime that failed to ad­dress the root causes of the peo­ple’s griev­ances as it went into sur­vival mode.

The role of re­gional ac­tors is also ad­dressed es­pe­cially in Joseph Alagha’s ar­ti­cle on Hezbul­lah’s in­volve­ment in the Syr­ian up­ris­ing. Alagha ar­gues that Hezbul­lah sup­ported the Arab street with the ex­cep­tion of Syria, where it stood by its long­time ally, the Syr­ian regime. While this sup­port was ini­tially se­cret, the party fi­nally an­nounced in May 2013 that it had en­tered the con­flict in Syria on the side of Bashar al-As­sad’s regime, deem­ing this strug­gle an ex­is­ten­tial fight. In­deed, Hezbul­lah joıned the fight pro­vid­ing lo­gis­ti­cal and ma­te­rial help not only to res­cue its ally and de­fend its rear­guard, but also to pre­serve its weapons sup­ply route. This has how­ever been at the ex­pense of its re­la­tions with Sunni groups such as Hamas, as its ac­tions have fueled Sunni-Shia dis­cord not only in Lebanon but also in the re­gion at large.

The im­pact of the cri­sis on neigh­bor­ing coun­tries is ad­dressed by Michael Bishku and Ja­cob Abadi in their pieces on Is­rael and Jordan, re­spec­tively. Bishku ex­plores the his­tory of the re­la­tions be­tween Syria and Is­rael since the ar­mistice be­tween the two coun­tries in 1949, in ad­di­tion to the role played by the Pales­tini­ans in af­fairs be­tween the two na­tions. He also ad­dresses vari­a­tions in Turk­ish at­ti­tudes vis-à-vis Is­rael based on the changes in its re­la­tions with Syria and the Pales­tini­ans, and de­scribes the di­vi­sions in the re­gion and the re­ac­tions of dif­fer­ent groups -- such as Hamas and Hezbol­lah -- to the Syr­ian cri­sis.

Abadi ex­plores the his­tory of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Jordan and Syria, and ex­plains the change in the at­ti­tude by King Ab­dul­lah II to­ward the Syr­ian con­flict. As Abadi notes, af­ter 2012, Jordan be­came in­creas­ingly ac­tive in help­ing the Syr­ian rebels, with the king adopt­ing the ap­proach taken by the US and Saudi Ara­bia. The piece also briefly dis­cusses the im­pact of refugees on Jordan’s so­ci­ety, de­mog­ra­phy, in­fra­struc­ture and econ­omy, and the fear the pres­ence of refugees en­gen­ders among Jor­da­ni­ans.

Dr. Rola al-Hus­seini, Ed­i­tor-at-Large

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