Since the fall of the Soviet Union, this is the first time great powers have also come face to face to contain each other. The direct involvement of Russia in the conflict since September 2015 has created a proxy war like situation between the US and Russia
The protests and the unrest of local groups against President Assad’s regime since 2011 have created a frenzied situation involving many militant groups and leading them to make their place in Syria. The unrest and consequent civil war in Syria encouraged many others to struggle for the domination of the crisis-ridden state. Ever since then, though massive crackdowns were carried out to curtail the rebels, the situation has become even worse.
The Assad regime blames western powers for their clandestine role in fuelling the chaotic situation of its country. Some analysts also strongly believe this is apparently a continuation of western policy similar to the recent multi-regime revolutions in the Middle Eastern region. For instance, a fleeting look over the fall of many recent regimes during the Arab Spring, like Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and many others, depicts that long-standing regimes could not survive even through strong resistance against the will of the great powers.
The Arab Spring was different from the Autumn of Nations in 1989, which swept through Eastern Europe and almost the whole of the second world. The Arab Spring was triggered through modern technological communications, being termed a social media or Facebook revolution, where revolutionists gathered through social media for the common agenda of ousting the long-standing and so-called democratic dictatorships.
Armed groups have gained significant momentum and strongholds in various parts of Syria; the al Nusra Front with the support of al Qaeda is believed to be very strong in the northwestern part of the country. This complexity of the Syrian war has attracted the concerns of many powers. Islamic State (IS), with the support of Jaesh al Jihad, the Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigade and many other small militant groups have significantly dominated the momentum and become the strongest challenge to President Assad’s regime.
Initially, President Assad relied upon the partially unsuccessful tactics of using the state military against these rebels but a significant move was made through the composition of local volunteer groups in 2014 known as the National Defence Force of Syria mainly supported by the Hezbollah, Iran and Russia.
The war became furthermore intricate after Turkey’s and Russia’s direct engagements, apparently in pursuit of strategic goals in Syria. Similarly, through such moves there are likely chances of further involvement by many other Gulf countries that would of course fuel the conflict. It is also important to note here that since the fall of the Soviet Union, this is the first time great powers have also come face to face to contain each other. The direct involvement of Russia in the conflict since September 2015 has created a proxy war like situation between the US and Russia, and, as a consequence, there are likely chances that this proxy war may shortly transform into a world war involving many other countries in Syria.
The crisis is slowly drawing the sketch of a Cold War era like situation where the great powers often supported proxies against each other in achieving their vested interests.
Russia is a front line supporter of President Assad’s regime and has also blocked many serious UN Security Council resolutions against him. Apart from political support, the direct involvement of Russia through military strikes along Syria’s Mediterranean coast and fierce aerial attacks against IS are believed to be an escalation towards greater involvement of many other countries in this war.
Notably, the use of Turkish bases by the US forces and the limited roles of Canada, Turkey, Australia and France in the war, though at the moment may seem symbolic, it definitely demonstrates that only the US is not involved in the operation. There are many others waiting for the right time and the war in Syria has now become a playground for many competing players. After Georgia and Ukraine, the west tried hard to contain Russia in Syria through a proxy war but that has gradually become a new Cold War with allies in a global confrontation.
The writer works for the Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org