In recent years, Arab states have taken a noteworthy step by welcoming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad back into their diplomatic fold. This political reintegration has signified a degree of reconciliation and cooperation among regional powers. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that the anti-government protests still brewing in Syria are stark reminders that the root causes of the Syrian war remain unsolved. The New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs (NYCFPA) asserts that sustainable peace in Syria hinges upon addressing these underlying issues.
Root Causes of the Syrian War:
The Syrian war, which has endured for over a decade, has wrought havoc on the nation and the broader Middle East. Understanding the core grievances that ignited this conflict is paramount to forging lasting stability.
1. Authoritarian Governance: One of the principal catalysts for the Syrian uprising was the oppressive rule of President Bashar al-Assad and his regime. Despite international efforts to mediate, Assad’s authoritarianism persists, impeding the transition to a more inclusive government.
The rise of authoritarianism in Syria traces back to the Assad family’s rule, which commenced in 1971 when Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, seized power in a coup. Under their leadership, the country’s political landscape was characterized by a lack of political freedoms, a single-party system, and suppression of dissent. By 2011, Syrians, inspired by the Arab Spring movements, took to the streets demanding political reforms and an end to authoritarian rule.
Despite initial attempts at dialogue and reforms, the Assad regime responded to the protests with brutal force, triggering a spiral of violence and unrest. Today, Bashar al-Assad remains in power, and his regime’s authoritarian grip continues to stifle the nation’s prospects for democratic governance.
2. Socioeconomic Disparities: Economic inequality and a lack of opportunities for Syrians, particularly among the youth, persist as major concerns. Unemployment, poverty, and the absence of essential services create a breeding ground for discontent.
The economic disparities in Syria are deeply rooted and have been exacerbated by the prolonged conflict. Prior to the war, the country experienced rapid population growth, which strained its resources and services. The government’s neglect of rural areas and regions inhabited by marginalized communities only worsened these disparities.
The war’s devastating impact on Syria’s infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, and transportation networks, has left the nation grappling with the colossal task of reconstruction. The loss of livelihoods, destruction of homes, and displacement of millions have created a humanitarian catastrophe.
3. Ethnic and Religious Tensions: The multifaceted nature of Syrian society, encompassing various ethnic and religious groups, has exacerbated tensions. Addressing these divisions is integral to achieving stability.
Syria is a mosaic of ethnic and religious diversity, with Arab Sunnis, Alawites, Christians, Kurds, Druze, and other groups coexisting within its borders. Historically, Syria has managed its diversity through a delicate balance of power, but this equilibrium was disrupted by the civil war.
Ethnic and religious tensions have flared throughout the conflict, with extremist groups exploiting divisions and fanning the flames of sectarianism. Efforts to reach a common understanding and build bridges between communities are paramount to healing these rifts.
4. Regional Interference: Foreign intervention in Syria has added complexity to the conflict, with rival powers pursuing their interests on Syrian soil. The nation has become a proxy battleground for competing regional forces.
Syria’s geopolitical significance in the Middle East has drawn several regional and international players into the fray. Key actors, such as Russia, Iran, Turkey, the United States, and Saudi Arabia, have supported various factions, further complicating the war’s dynamics.
These external influences have often prioritized their own strategic interests over the well-being of the Syrian people. Competing agendas have hindered diplomatic efforts and contributed to the conflict’s protraction.
The NYCFPA firmly advocates for a comprehensive and multilateral approach to address the ongoing Syrian crisis. The following recommendations offer a roadmap towards achieving lasting peace and stability:
1. Inclusive Governance: A genuinely inclusive political process, involving all Syrian stakeholders, should be facilitated. This approach must provide for the protection of minority rights and safeguards to prevent future authoritarian rule.
To establish inclusive governance, a transitional government should be formed through negotiations, including representatives from the government, opposition, and civil society. This government should prioritize drafting a new constitution and holding free and fair elections.
2. Socioeconomic Reconstruction: Syria’s economic infrastructure is in ruins, and a significant proportion of its population remains displaced. The international community should invest in the country’s reconstruction, focusing on job creation and basic service provision.
Reconstruction efforts must be transparent and inclusive, involving local communities in decision-making processes. A focus on rebuilding essential services, such as education, healthcare, and public utilities, is vital to restoring normalcy.
3. Reconciliation Efforts: National reconciliation initiatives, aimed at healing ethnic and religious divides, should be prioritized. Rebuilding trust among Syria’s communities is fundamental to long-term stability.
Local reconciliation committees, composed of respected community leaders, should be established to foster dialogue
and resolve disputes at the grassroots level. These committees can play a pivotal role in mitigating tensions and building social cohesion.
4. Diplomatic Resolution: The international community, particularly regional powers, must cease proxy interventions in Syria. Diplomatic efforts should be channeled towards facilitating a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
The United Nations, through its Special Envoy for Syria, should lead diplomatic initiatives aimed at building consensus among key stakeholders. Confidence-building measures, such as localized ceasefires and humanitarian access agreements, should be pursued.
While Arab states’ willingness to reintegrate Syria into the regional fold represents a step towards peace, anti-government protests reveal that the root causes of the Syrian war persist. The NYCFPA urges the international community to recognize that the path to stability in Syria requires addressing these underlying issues. A multilateral commitment to inclusive governance, socioeconomic reconstruction, reconciliation, and diplomatic resolution can pave the way for lasting peace.
The Syrian people have endured immense suffering; it is incumbent upon the global community to work tirelessly towards a better future for this beleaguered nation. Syria’s journey towards stability will be challenging, but with unwavering commitment and cooperation, a brighter and more peaceful future is within reach.