On Oct. 5th during an interview in Damascus with Bashar Al-Assad, the Syrian president, an Iranian journalist from the Iranian Khabar TV channel said, “Now we can see a change in positions regarding the situation in Syria. The states which used to call for overthrowing the regime have started to declare that they accept President Assad’s participation in an interim government.” Later in the interview, Assad responded to the journalist’s comments by saying, “But what is absolutely certain is that Western officials are in a state of confusion and their vision lacks clarity. At the same time, they are overwhelmed by a sense of failure concerning the plans they drew and didn’t achieve their objectives.”
It has been almost five years since the bloody civil war in Syria began. The Economist estimated that the war in Syria has created one of the worst humanitarian crises of the 21st century. Damages “are estimated at more than USD 200 billion to the infrastructure, about 250,000 casualties and about six to seven million displaced Syrian individuals,” Iranian Khabar TV channel said. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) in 2014, “[e]ven if the conflict ceased now and GDP grew at an average rate of five per cent each year, it is estimated that it would take the Syrian economy 30 years to return to the economic level of 2010”.
In April of 2011, the anti-regime movement was first triggered by protests against Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. Fifteen schoolchildren, young boys between the ages of 10 and 15, were arrested and tortured in horrific ways “for writing anti-government graffiti on a wall”, BBC reported. The following protests were peaceful, requesting the children to be set free. Many Syrians took advantage of the situation to also advocate for democracy and freedom. During the Arab Spring in December 2010, many authoritarian regimes and their dictators were overthrown, and Assad could have been one of them.
In March 2011, the Syrian regime responded savagely to the protesters. The Assad army opened fire on local protesters, killing at least four people. The next day, the families and friends mourning at the victims’ funerals were openly shot, and one person was reportedly killed. The public was greatly shocked and extremely frustrated at what had happened. Soon the unrest spread to other Syrian provinces. Consequently, a civil war started where anti-government civilians fought the regime. The civil chaos allowed more terrorist groups to get involved, all having the common goal of owning Syria and its wealth.
Bashar Al-Assad’s regime used chlorine, a component of chemical weapons, to spread fear among civilian populations. In September 2013, U.N. inspectors confirmed the existence of chemical weapons and the use of them on civilians. The BBC Middle East report did not explicitly declare who the responsible actors were.
In March 2013, the jihadists, born from “an especially brutal Al Qaeda faction”, according to ABC News, gained rapid military success by invading the Syrian city of Raqqa – one of the first provincial capitals to fall under terrorist rebel control. The terrorist group ISIS is present in numerous towns near both the Turkish and Syrian borders. The group is reputed for extreme brutal rule in the areas that it controls, forcing hundreds of thousands of Syrians to flee. ISIS’ main earning is from the oil fields it controls in eastern Syria and Iraq. The terrorist group controls 60 percent of oil refineries in Syria and produces 50,000 barrels and two million dollars a day in Syria only, making ISIS the best financed terrorist group ever seen. Additionally, the members of the group tax civilians on everything and reportedly sell some of the supplies back to the Syrian government. They are even said to sell antiquities from historical sites. As of today, it is believed that the Islamic State controls over half of the country—35,000 square miles.
In September 2014, the U.S., U.K., and other countries joined forces, using planes and drones to attack the terrorist group’s jihadist fighters on the ground. Assad has received a plethora of pressures from at least four militant groups: the Southern Front, backed by the United States and Jordan; the Army of Conquest, sponsored by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, and the Al-Nusra
Front, backed by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. Many predicted Assad’s fall for years, but Syria’s dictator has held tight to his power due to the broad support, often financial in nature, from Russia, China, Iran, and The Hezbollah.
In the recent weeks, Putin has shown new signals about the way Russia will be dealing with Assad and the growth of ISIS’ occupancy in Syria. Syrian president, Bashar Al-Assad, has told an interviewer from the French magazine Paris Match that he will not step down. He declared this not because he wants to remain president, but because he “will never accept that Syria became a western puppet state.” Officially, Russia has staunchly backed Assad through the four-and-half-year Syrian war, insisting that his removal cannot be part of any peace settlement. Assad has said that Russia will never abandon him. Moscow has recently begun sending troops, tanks, and aircraft in an effort to stabilize the Assad regime and fight Islamic State extremists. Russia has been even criticized for bombing anti-Assad groups instead of ISIS.
The Telegraph explained that President Bashar Al-Assad’s “key backers declared victory” on Sunday September 27, “after Western leaders who had previously backed Syrian rebels, including David Cameron, said they accepted he would stay in power, at least for the time being.” President Hassan Rouhani of Iran told CNN in an interview, “I think today everyone has accepted that president Assad must remain so that we can combat the terrorists.” David Cameron said that “Assad can’t be part of Syria’s future. He’s butchered his own people, he has helped create this conflict and this migration crisis, and he’s one of the great recruiting sergeants for Isil.” Today, nations against Assad’s regime are left with almost no other option than taking him back, at least, temporarily.
Featured Image credit Al Jazeera