OPINION: US involvement in Syria should support the rebels


Hunter Hartlage

On April 6, 2017, Syria’s use of chemical weapons provoked President Trump to directly attack Bashaar al-Assad.

The Syrian War is a multi-dimensional conflict that has displaced millions and taken hundreds of thousands of lives…and no one has a strategy for solving it. The U.S. Government is now taking a different approach with the Syrian war as the focus was on the eradication of ISIS from Syria.

As the Arab Spring spread through the middle east, the Syrian Civil War soon developed. The Syrian Civil War began after government security forces fired into a crowd of protesters in the city of Deraa in March 2011, killing at least three demonstrators. This event sparked many more protests across the nation, which the government suppressed with force and the slaughter of civilians. Soon, the protesters began to take up arms. The conflicts that followed became international issues, with Syrian allies such as Iran sending military support to Assad’s government, and Persian Gulf states like Saudi Arabia supplying the rebels in an attempt to thwart Iran’s influence.

The United States became involved in the war in 2013, after Assad used chemical weapons in the Ghouta area of Damascus, killing close to 1,300 people. In response, the Obama Administration started a CIA program with intention to train and arm syrian rebels. Then, in February of 2014, an Iraq-based affiliate of Al-Qaeda broke away from the group and became its own entity. Calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), this group becomes a powerful international terrorist threat, and begins fighting mainly against rebel groups and Kurds, an ethnic group situated mainly in Turkey and northern Syria and Iraq. At the end of 2014, the United States began bombing territory controlled by ISIS.

In 2015, the United States ended the Pentagon’s program to train rebels in Syria. One of the major reasons for the program’s discontinuation was that it would only train rebels who would fight ISIS, and not those who would fight Assad. Many rebel groups were concerned with fighting Assad’s regime as well as ISIS, so the program gained little traction. Then, in September of the same year, Russia began sending military aircraft to a base in Syria. Although Russia claimed that their target was ISIS, they mainly began bombing rebel forces, some of which were backed by the United States.

At the end of 2016, Assad’s forces reclaimed the Syrian city of Aleppo from rebel control. Aleppo was the last urban stronghold not controlled by Assad, and its loss dealt a major blow to rebel forces, but the fighting was far from over. In spring of the next year, Assad once again used chemical weapons against his people, killing 85 people. A few days later, the United States responded by launching tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base, directly engaging Assad for the first time.

Fareed Haidar (11, HSU), is a Syrian student who has family living in Aleppo. “They were born there and have lived there ever since the war started,” Haidar said.

Haidar stated his stance on the war

“I think that Bashaar al-Assad is stupid but I think America needs to be involved in it, I think it’s good for Syria so they can end the war,” Haidar said, “I think anyone who is there to help is good.”

The Civil War involves many dangerous people. Assad and his regime, which is backed by Iran and Russia; ISIS, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda that broke away from the group and became an international terrorist threat; and the rebels, which consists of multiple groups of activists and extremists in opposition to Assad and ISIS, and have the backing Persian Gulf states like Saudi Arabia. With all of these powers involved, the question of U.S. involvement has become increasingly prevalent. With the current conditions of the war, there is no end in sight, but the United States definitely has the power to significantly change the direction that the war is going. These are some ways the United States could make a positive impact in the fight for ending the war and bring stability back to the region.

Although there have been numerous efforts from Persian Gulf states to help the rebels fight Bashar al-Assad, unfortunately none  have worked. The war has been going on for too long and with the current conditions, there seems to be no end in sight. But by calling the region higher we can see a change in this progression of war.

Saudi Arabia has provided resources and funds for the free Syrian army but has failed in making an impact. These resources do not help the rebels accomplish their goals and it will only get smaller. The rebels are fighting a war against two powerful sides when they can’t even stand up to one. The free Syrian army will dissolve if nothing is done about it. By increasing Gulf State influence on the Syrian army, we can help restore powers to the rebels. Gulf States have a lot of resources and money that could be put towards stopping Bashar al-Assad and saving lives.

Bashar al-Assad should not be allowed to commit any more atrocities to humanity. He has grown out of control and something needs to be done. With the help of the free Syrian rebels, we can take out Bashar al-Assad. Although Russia is allied with Syria and the US, there is nothing Russia would be able to do out of this situation. Sanctioning Russia would instill fear into the Russian Government preventing civilian deaths.

On account of the Geneva Protocol, the use of chemical and biological weapons is not permitted. There has been controversy over the source of Syria’s chemical weapons. Although Syria is fighting on their own territory and are not violating the Geneva Protocol, Bashar al-Assad is committing mass atrocities. If Russia is the source of the chemical weapons- which is disputed- they would be in violation of the Geneva Protocol. The issue with this is that there is no punishment for the violation of the Geneva Protocol.

What would the U.S. Government do if Russia was in violation of these protocols? To stop Bashar al-Assad, there is many things we have to be careful of. Our alliance with Russia could be threatened if we don’t take precautions when going through with our actions towards Bashar al-Assad. We need to help spread awareness about these issues around the region. By doing this, we can help get the rebels back on their feet. We can help the rebels attack Bashar al-Assad which removes the threat of consequences that would be raised if we started to directly attack Bashar al-Assad (following the April 2017 missile strikes).

Currently, the rebels are fighting against Bashar al-Assad coupled with the intimidation from the Kurdish forces, Hezbollah and ISIS. The rebels need more support. Under the Trump Administration, Kurdish fighters have been supplied heavier weapons. This causes conflict with Turkey and could ignite more combat between Turkish and Kurdish forces. The U.S. involvement in this war could cause more of an unstable condition in Syria. The U.S. is in the middle of this conflict between the Kurds and Turkish forces. This puts us in danger and could risk a backlash from Turkey.

The rebels need to be the priority of the U.S. Although it is not our job to fight this war for them, we are involved in this war and it is our job to prevent the loss of civilian lives. Supplying the Kurdish forces strays from the goal of helping the rebels. There will continue to be fighting in Syria and if we do not raise awareness in the region to help the rebels or continue to support the rebels, their forces will continue to diminish and Bashar al-Assad’s power will increase.