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Why hasn't Syria's civil war ended?
As of May 2014, Syria's civil war has led to
an exodus of almost 3 million Syrian refugees
more than 160,000 dead.
The Syria crisis started when protest first broke out in March 2011 to peacefully demand for the release of political prisoners and the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad.
Many saw the uprising as part of the Arab Spring and it was widely predicted that the demise of Assad's regime was imminent within 18 months.
Three years on, peaceful protests have turned into an armed rebellion.
A negiotated settlement between the opposition rebel groups and the Assad regime is now dead in the water.
And a military victory by the rebel groups seems like a pipe dream.
In fact, Assad's regime has recently acquired key opposition strongholds. Assad is now preparing to have himself re-elected for another seven-year term in this 3rd June election.
Why hasn't Syria's crisis ended? Why is Assad's regime unexpectedly durable?
Syria's opposition forces, the country's primary hope for democracy, are actually quite fractured with many members having separate interests.
There are as many as 1,000 groups commanding an estimated 100,000 fighters. Some members are from The Free Syrian Army ("FSA"), which comprised of many secular ex-military forces and Sunni Muslims. Others are part of the Al-Nusra Front which is affiliated to al-Qaeda.
However, the secular moderates are outnumbered by the jihadists in the radical Muslim groups, whose brutal tactics have caused widespread concern and triggered rebel infighting. In addition, the diversity of interests and ties to terrorist organizations make other country's decision to support the opposition forces a more complicated choice.
The geography of Syria makes it even more challenging for rebel to achieve any military success against the Syrian government.
Unlike Libya or Egypt, Syria is not a vast country with huge areas where rebels can retreat, strategize and resupply. Syria is ten times smaller than Libya but have a population that is three times higher.
As the result, the opposition rebel groups have not been able to control significant parts of the country for a long period of time.
Most of the Syrians reside in the two cities, Damascus and Aleppo. However, both of the cities remain tightly controlled under Assad's iron-fisted regime. Sporadic and guerrilla attacks do occur, but the government troops simply resume control thereafter.
A Proxy War
Unlike the uprisings in Egypt and Libya, the major and regional powers were split on whether to support the Assad's regime or the opposition rebel groups.
Saudi Arabia and Al-Nusra Front have been the main supporters of the opposition. The United States supports the opposition with non-lethal aid (food and medical aid).
On the other hand, Iran and Russia have both maintained strong ties to the Assad regime.
Were the major powers to intervene, it would quickly become a proxy struggle. And that would lead to an even prolong the civil war, immensely increasing the number of civilian casualties.
Low Level Dissent
The low-level dissent and unity amongst the army, intelligence services or business community have also largely contributed to the success of the regime.
The Assad family members are Alawitesite sect that represents only 12% of Syrians, and the key military and intelligence posts belong to Alawites.
These leaders remain fervently loyal to Assad's regime, knowing that in a post-Assad Syria, they would be massacred in the ethnic cleansing of the Alawites.
The solution will be for all major and regional powers to accept the demise of Assad's regime and impose sanctions on his government. The opposition groups will need to unite together and detach itself from links with terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda.
An end to Syria's civil war?
The solution to end Syria's civil war would be for all major and regional powers to accept the fall of Assad's regime and assist in imposing sanctions on the Syrian government. The opposition groups will need to unite together and detach itself from links with terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda.
Without any support from other countries, the crippling sanctions imposed will starve Assad's regime of the resources and funds required to challenge the opposition rebel groups.
This will likely result in the Assad family brokering for a peace agreement. The armed conflict can then be replaced by a political solution to discuss the opposition demands and establish a transitional governing body based on mutual consent.
If the opposition succeeds in deposing Assad, the next priority will be the need to prevent a political choas and the ethnic cleansing of the Alawites and other miniorities in Syria.
- Michael Gerson: The despair of Syria’s refugees - The Washington Post
One side in Syria, Bashar al-Assad’s, uses mass atrocities to prevail in the country’s civil war.
- Syrian crisis: Keeping up with key developments - CNN.com
- BBC News - Syria election: Refugees vote in Lebanon and Jordan
Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan are being given the chance to vote on Wednesday in the presidential election due to be held on 3 June.
- Syrian crisis explained: Q&A - Telegraph
Syria's civil war has raged for two years, claiming 93,000 lives. It is now dragging the US into conflict again. Alex Spillius explains why
- The Case Against Intervention in Syria - TIME
Regime change is overdue, but a slow squeeze is a smarter solution than war
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