The State of Syria

Often situations escalate so quickly that many of us are left wondering what exactly is going on.  Couple that with the tendency that the American media has to ignore world news for the sake of covering U.S.-related stories, and many are left in a state of ignorance.  This article serves to inform by answering questions concerning the crisis in Syria.

What is happening in Syria?

Syria is experiencing the end of a period of random terror and violence, and the beginning of a full-fledged civil war.  The rebels, still a divided group, are fighting the Assad regime, which has been in power in Syria since 1971 by way of the Ba’ath party, a party whose political views are shaped by nationalism, Islam, and socialism.  President Bashar al-Assad, who initially offered political reform, has fought the rebels bitterly, sending in troops and tanks in addition to torturing people who denied any connection to the Free Syria Army.  Two weeks ago, after evaluating the level and type of persistent violence in Syria, the International Red Cross declared the situation a civil war.

Why is this happening?

Last year anti-government protests in Tunisia sparked a surge of protests throughout the Arab world.  Syrian opposition, like that of so many other countries, did not pass up the opportunity to overthrow a government they view as harsh and unfair.  The government, unlike that of Egypt or Libya, has not given in, and continues to crack down on the rebels.  While some Syrians have fled their country because of the rampant violence, many remain either for fear or a lack of resources preventing them from fleeing, or because they are fully invested in this fight.  Embittered by the harsh crackdowns by the government, the rebels are now fighting for a full overthrow of the government in favor of a democratic one, and will not be content with the sort of reforms Assad initially proposed.

Source: The Economist, 2011

What, if anything, is being done to stop the fighting?

The UN has been arguing about resolutions for Syria since the conflict began and has imposed some minor sanctions on Syria.  The UN Security counsel recently proposed further sanctions on the country, but the measure was vetoed by China and Russia, a move the UK’s Foreign Secretary called “inexcusable and indefensible”.  Russian ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said that he did not object to the sanctions themselves, but rather the part of the UN charter by which they would be allowable.  According to Churkin, use of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter could lead to “external military involvement in Syrian domestic affairs”; military involvement would certainly test Russia, who as of now is an ally of Syria’s.  As of now no military resolutions have been proposed besides 300 military observers who have just returned from the country.  Today, the UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, visited the site of the worst European massacre since World War II: Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovinia.  Later he advised UN members to keep in mind the atrocities of the Bosnian War, lest they be repeated in Syria.  His message conveyed dedication to finding a meaningful resolution to stop the violence as soon as possible and reminded the world that superfluous debate and lack of quick action can be disastrous; 100,000 people were murdered before UN troops set foot in Bosnia.  The death tally for the Syrian uprising is now at 18,0001.

Ban Ki-Moon placing flowers at a Srebrenica gravesite. “Never Srebrenica.  Nowhere, to nobody.”  Photo Courtesy: ahram online

The state of Syria is horrifying, unsettling, and subject to much change in the coming weeks.  Stay informed.


UPDATE: 7/29, 5:43pm:

As of this morning, a major battle has broken out in Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city.   The government has launched a land and air attack on all of the city, parts of which are under rebel control.  Guardian News correspondent Luke Harding reported that “tens of thousands of civilians have fled”.  French President Francios Hollande has called on the UN to get involved in Syria “as quickly as possible”.  This weekend is expected to be especially tumultuous in Aleppo and other Syrian cities.





What’d I Miss?: World News Update 7/9-7/15

Here’s a round up of the world’s news for the past week…


– In a plan that aims to save 65 billion euros (roughly $80 billion), Spain’s Prime Minister has introduced drastic new austerity measures.  These measures include an increase in sales tax and a decrease in industry subsidies (which instigated a large rally and clashes with police), among other things.

Courtesy of BBC


– In Syria a former senior political official and recent defector from that country has confirmed that the Assad regime will not hesitate to use chemical weapons if it finds it necessary.  He also mentioned that the Assad regime had collaborated with Al Qaeda in the past.

– The Red Cross has declared that violence in Syria is so rampant that the situation is now effectively a civil war.


– For the first time since South Sudan’s secession, the presidents of both Sudan and South Sudan sat down in a meeting; the UN deadline for the two countries to redress their grievances is August 2nd.

South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir Mayardit.

– What positive effects could social media have in containing conflicts in Africa and other developing regions?  A CNN article addressed just that.


– A Taliban-imposed ban will prevent nearly 250,000 children in mostly rural areas from receiving polio vaccines in Pakistan.  The BBC reports that Pakistan is one of three countries in the world where polio still presents a substantial problem.

– A new vice marshal (army chief), Hyon Yong-Chol, was appointed in North Korea after the former one, Ri Yong Ho, was supposedly “relieved of his duties due to illness”.  Many are skeptical as to whether it is actually true, considering the strict censorship customary of the North Korean press.


– A U.S. ship carrying medical supplies and food arrived on the shores of Havana, marking the first time in 50 years an American cargo ship has docked in Cuba.

– Marcos Yules, an indigenous Colombian leader, has pressed Farc, the largest Colombian rebel group, and the Colombian government to take their ongoing fight elsewhere, citing the damage the fight has done to the community.


 – It has been a tough week on the campaign trail for Mitt Romney, as he was met with boos at an NAACP speech, was attacked by conservatives telling him to release his tax returns, and became the focus of incumbent Barack Obama’s harsh new campaign ad.

Stay informed!

What’d I Miss?: World News Update 7/2-7/8

Here’s a quick round up of the world’s news for this past week…


– Romania’s left-leaning parliament has impeached authoritarian President Basescu, which means he is suspended from his job.  On July 29th, the Romanian people will decide in a referendum whether Basescu will permanently lose his position.  This is a major gain for Prime Minister Ponta, whose Social-Liberal Union has a majority in the parliament.

– In France, 40 graves of German WWI veterans were defiled on the 50th anniversary of peace between the two nations (not that the peace lasted for long…).

Smashed grave of a German WWI veteran.  Photo Courtesy: BBC


– A major Syrian general, Manaf Tlas, has defected to Paris, and in doing so, severely harmed the Syrian regime.

– Brand-new Egyptian President Mursi reversed the dissolution of parliament by the military by ordering that it reconvene.  Jon Leyne (BBC) said that “Mr Mursi’s decision may put him on a collision course with military leaders.”


– Rebel forces have taken the town of Rutshuru in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.


– Japan has promised $16 billion in aid to Afghanistan in the next four years.  The money should help ease the transition of NATO troops leaving the country.


– Enrique Pena Nieto, of Mexico’s PRI party, has won the presidency in that country.  However, protests have erupted in Mexico over the legality of the election; many are accusing Pena Nieto and the PRI of buying votes.

President Enrique Pena Nieto (PRI)


– The Canadian unemployment rate has dropped from 7.3% to 7.2% in the month of June, with the public sector rising by 45,800 in May and June.

– The long-standing U.S. blood ban on gay and bisexual  men (MSMs–men who have sex with men) donating blood, is being reevaluated by the American Red Cross because of recent drops in donations.  The ban was instituted in the 1980s towards the beginning of the AIDS crisis.  A similar ban was also put on Haitians, but was repealed in the early ’90s due to available and reliable testing for HIV/AIDS.

Happy Sunday!