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International Involvement in the Civil War in Syria

  • Egbert Jahn
Chapter

Abstract

The civil war in Syria, which has now lasted for 8 years already, and which has expanded to become a small world war, with military interventions from four major UN powers and soldiers and armed fighters from around 80 countries, is characterised by highly complex, rapidly changing alliances and blurred front lines between numerous military and political participants.

The war in Syria first began during the “Arab Spring” in 2011, and arose from the social-political confrontation between the dictatorial regime of the Baath Party and the Assad clan and heterogeneous, partly pro-west, liberal, potentially democratic oppositional forces, which soon—as was the case in other Arab countries—began to compete with Islamist groups of widely ranging religious and political attitudes. Until the summer of 2013, there was still dispute in the West regarding a military intervention to topple the Assad regime, when the Syrian government also used gas weapons against the civilian population. The dispute over the gas weapons, which was mediated by Russia, largely marked an end to the discussions surrounding western intervention, since Russia made its interest clear in the retention of the Assad regime and its marine base in Tartus, which had been guaranteed by Assad. After that, the Sunni Islamic fighting units in the war against the Assad regime, which received huge material and financial support from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, gained greater importance. The Assad regime, meanwhile, increasingly adopted the features of an Alawite regime, and received support from Shiite Iranian and Lebanese fighting units. Finally, with the formation of “Islamic State” (IS), the civil war in Syria became merged with that in Iraq. This in turn triggered the formation of a broad alliance against IS, which was mainly led by the major western powers with the involvement of Sunni states, and which to date has been restricted to air attacks against IS and in part also to the support by Kurdish armed units in northern Iraq and northern Syria. Finally, the Russian air force openly intervened on the side of the Assad regime in north-western Syria, where the regime is being opposed by a highly tangled web of pro-western, moderate Islamist and extremist al-Qaida groups, as well as local IS units. Despite a dangerous military dispute between Turkey and Russia, to date, this has only opened up limited opportunities for the formation of a new alliance between the Assad regime, the moderate opposition and the entire community of states against IS, which not only aimed to overthrow the internal order of all states, but the entire state system itself. As a result, it will be a long time before real peace returns to the region.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Egbert Jahn
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MannheimMannheimGermany

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