The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published as well as unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility of anything that has been found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.
Ashwini Kumar Tewary, EMBA 2015- 2018, Vinod Gupta School of Management
“We are just living on the edge of life, We’re always nervous,we’re always afraid”
The above statement sums up the entire sentiment of the Syrian population.
Once regarded as a cradle of civilization of the Middle East, for centuries Syria has been a melting pot of religion and ethnicities. But now it has become a flash point for supremacy between The United States and Russia.
Syria has had an autocratic ruler in President Asaad for decades . It also happens to house a military base of Russia (the only outside Russia). Syria with the support of Russia has always voiced its opinion against Israel, an ally of USA. The Middle East became unstable after the Iraq war. The instability in Syria can also be masked with the spillover effect reason of the Iraqi war.
It all began in March 2011, when security forces opened fire on pro democracy protesters, people took to streets. The unrest triggered nationwide protests demanding President Asaad’s resignation. The government used force to crush the dissent and this resulted in opposition supporters taking up arms , first to defend themselves and later to fight the security forces. The conflict escalated into a civil war and slowly acquired sectarian overtones. It has now resulted in a Sunni and Shia war, drawing the neighboring countries and an excuse for the world powers to establish their supremacy. Capitalizing on the chaos in the region, Islamic State (IS) – the extremist group that grew out of Al Qaida in Iraq – has taken control of territory across northern and eastern Syria. Its many foreign fighters in Syria are now involved in a “war within a war”, battling rebels and jihadists. Iran and Russia have supported the government of President Assad and gradually increased their support. The government has also enjoyed the support of Lebanon’s Shia Islamist Hezbollah movement. The Sunni dominated opposition of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Arab states along with the main backers USA, UK & France has armed the rebels to fight the Asaad Government.
In the summer of 2011, before the civil war broke out Syria signed a gas pipeline deal with Iran and Iraq. This would span from Iran’s gas-rich South Pars field to the Mediterranean coastline in Lebanon, via Iraq and Syria. It would be the largest gas pipeline in the Middle East. Further, the agreement calls for the construction of an underwater pipeline under the Mediterranean Sea, stretching to deliver Iranian gas to energy-hungry European nations from Lebanon to Greece. Syria’s geographic location on the Mediterranean Sea makes it an obvious export center for oil producers within the greater Middle East seeking to export their oil and gas reserves to European markets. Meanwhile the Sunni kingdoms and the western nations had invested heavily in a new gas pipeline which would feed the demand of the European nations. This pipeline was known as the Arab Gas pipeline. The mistake of President Asaad was to reject the Arab gas pipeline in favor of the Iran, Iraq and Syria pipeline. Thus he became a direct competitor to their business. Further, in 2013 & 2014 the Syrian government signed a major deal with the Russian Oil companies and Russian Government to explore gas along the Mediterranean . So it was all in all a Russian deal as Iran, Iraq and Syria were the closest allies of Russia. It was actually Putin all the way.
The Arab states classified it as a Sunni and Shia war as the new gas pipeline would be passing through all the shia dominated regions. The Gulf nations have both an Economic & a Religious reason to oppose the pipeline. They have armed the protesters with money and ammunition to destabilize Syria and overthrow President Asaad. The United States accused the Syrian Government for using chemical weapons on its people and has entered the fray. The American interests are to have a favorable government in Syria and protect the interests of Saudi Arabia. Putin will never let it happen as he too also has a lot at stake.
The escalating violence and IS advances have had a significant humanitarian impact on Syria and its neighbors. Syria is now the world’s biggest internal displacement crisis, with more than seven million people forced from their homes. Millions have fled mainly taking refuge in surrounding countries .Turkey and Lebanon have each taken in more than one million Syrians, while Jordan, Iraq and Egypt have become home to hundreds of thousands more. The Syrians are now taking refuge in the European countries. The Europeans were certainly not prepared for this.
This” spill over effect” will be interesting to analyse in the coming decade.