TYears after it began, Syria’s horrible civil war has faded from the headlines. Reluctant to get involved, American and European politicians, and the Western public, for the most part, look the other way. Russia plays a fundamental role, but on the wrong side. Interventionist regional states like Turkey, Israel and Iran prioritize short-term selfish interests. The result is a stalemate, a semi-frozen conflict characterized by sporadic violence, deep pain, and strategic indifference.
However, this epic failure to stop the war continues to have far-reaching negative consequences for international security, democratic values and the rule of law, as well as the citizens of Syria. Whether it’s human suffering, refugees, war crimes, chemical weapons, or Islamist terrorism, the many toxic legacies of war are global, pernicious, and ongoing.
Syria is the world war. Here are 10 reasons why 10 years of endless misery and chaos has hurt everyone:
Estimates of civilian lives lost since March 2011 vary wildly, from around 117,000 to 226,000, but the sheer scale of this modern death camp is indisputable. “Tens of thousands of civilians arbitrarily detained in Syria remain forcibly disappeared, while thousands more have been subjected to torture, sexual violence or death in custody,” the UN reported this month. Syria’s cities and economy are in shambles. Twelve million people face hunger. Such figures may have lost the power to cause commotion. But the underlying moral question still has universal relevance: why is this carnage allowed to continue?
More than half of the 22 million people in Syria before the war are displaced, approximately 6.6 million abroad. Many are trapped in Idlib, in northwestern Syria, caught between opposing forces and prey to Islamist militias. “If the regime launches a military campaign in Idlib, there would be a catastrophe,” said local journalist Fadi al-Halabi. The influx of refugees has disrupted regional, EU and UK politics, fueling far-right parties and anti-immigrant biases. Death now arrives daily on the beaches of Europe. How is this tolerable?
President Bashar al-Assad and his cronies are charged with a wide range of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Civilians, rescue workers, health workers and hospitals are common (and illegal) targets. The International Criminal Court is blocked by vetoes from Russia and China. Investigations into Assad have been launched in France and Germany. Members of the Syrian security forces have been prosecuted. But failure Bringing perpetrators to justice, including Islamist and opposition groups, is a mockery of international law.
Repeated use of the forbidden regime chemical weapons defying global treaties has serious international ramifications. After a notorious 2013 sarin attack in al-Ghouta, Assad reportedly surrendered his arsenal. But the UN has identified more than 40 CW attacks since then. Russia has repeatedly obstructed investigations, while the United States has ignored its own “red lines.” As a result, 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention he is seriously weakened.
Islamic State (Isis)
An enduring beneficiary of the war is the Islamic State (Isis), which invaded territory in Syria and Iraq in 2014. While an international coalition eventually crushed the caliphate, Isis was behind many terrorist attacks in Europe in 2014-17. It has inspired anti-Western jihadist groups around the world and is reportedly rebuilding in Iraq. Captured Isis members, such as British-born Shamima Begum, remain in legal limbo in violent desert prison camps. The Western response to Isis redux is dangerously fragmented.
Russia and the USA
The war has marked a clear shift in the balance of power in the Middle East since United States to Russia. After Barack Obama refused to intervene militarily, Vladimir PutinPresident of Russia filled the ensuing power vacuum in 2015 and likely saved the Assad regime. Joe Biden’s main concern is deterring pro-Iranian militias and jihadists, as a witness to the limited airstrikes last month. The UN-led peace process collapsed in January, and Biden seems to think it is too late to save Syria. It would be great if he was proven wrong.
Western states initially expressed sympathy for attempts to topple dictators and authoritarian regimes in Tunisia, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Syria in 2010-12. But as events became unpredictable and Islamists became involved, the West fell back. The briefly opened window on peaceful reform in the Arab world slammed shut. The cause of global democracy was a big loser. Syria symbolizes its defeat.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, The authoritarian president of Turkey, has taken advantage of the facts to prosecute his vendetta against the kurds At home and abroad. Erdogan’s army occupies the border areas, partly to prevent further refugee influx and deter a regime assault on Idlib, but also to thwart Iraqi-style Kurdish self-rule in northeastern Syria. He has subordinated the fight against Isis to this battle while coordinating with Russia. The Syrian quagmire has undermined Ankara’s ties with the United States, NATO and Europe, raising the question: who lost Turkey?
Israel in Iran
Israel is concerned about the build-up of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and pro-Tehran armed forces in Syria and Lebanon. It has launched hundreds of airstrikes against Iran-linked targets there, and has urged the United States to do the same in response to rocket and drone attacks in Iraq, the Gulf and Yemen. For Israel and Iran, Syria has become an advanced battle zone in a multi-front struggle. The welfare of your people is none of your business. His chronic weakness suits both.
The failure to end the war has caused enormous damage to international institutions. The UN security council in particular has been severely discredited. So have UN peace efforts. However, if the “big five” of the UNSC had really wanted to stop the conflict, there is little doubt that, acting together, they could have. That they haven’t even tried is the most shameful legacy of the war in Syria.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism