The Islamic State and Assad: The Lesser of Two Evils
Two evils have emerged in Syria putting both the Syrian people and foreign nations in one of the hardest scenarios. The extremist organization and the oppressive regime led by the Ba’ath party are two of the conflicting sides that the international community has to choose from. The little opposition party caught between the two major forces has been backed by some foreign nations although the Assad regime has the backing of some of the major superpowers across the world making the current problem one of the most difficult to deal with in recent times (Stern and Berger 10). Russia and Iran represent two countries that are firmly under Assad’s pocket. The countries have expressed their intent never to move away from such pockets and have in fact assisted the Assad regime in fighting the opposition group in some of their major areas. Additionally, the Ba’ath regime has cut off any form of help that was being brought to the people. It is just recently that some quarters of the United Nations program were allowed to pass through the country to offer their assistance to the Syrian people. On the other hand is the Islamic state whose arsenal that was abandoned by the Americans during the Iraq war has assisted them to take over major towns of the country and even go forth to establish what is currently known as their capital city in Mosul (Stern and Berger 10). IS faces a major threat since the beginning of the years as it has lost momentum on some areas that were initially perceived as its stronghold. It has lost parts of Palmyra to the current forces of Assad and is also facing a lot of hostilities in both Iraq and Syria. The opposition has taken some huge parts of the country especially Damascus from the current regime. Assad currently faces two threats. One comes from the IS while the other comes from the rebel forces. These activities have ended up creating more instability in the country. The opposition forces are currently backed by the United States which provides them with tactical warfare training as well as the light weaponry. The United States and other foreign nations also assist them with aerial bombs that target certain strongholds where majority of the terrorists live (Stern and Berger 10). IS has opted for a different approach. It has used its Syrian civilians who are fleeing their country to other parts of Europe to carry put terrorist attacks killing more people. It has also established a recruitment center in Syria where majority of its people have training on how to carry out terrorist attacks in the countries of the west. The places where it has taken shapes it has ensured that people follow the Sharia (Stern and Berger 10). It has also released numerous radical videos supporting its activities across the world. The whole worlds as well as the United States presidential candidates have spoken about the issue in different forums. Both parties agree that Assad’s regime is associated with numerous human rights violation while IS posses one of the most dangerous threats across the world. Assessing the complications of these two parties it would be right to combat IS first then deal with Assad’s regime later.
The formation of the IS began after the end of the Iraq war where the Unities States overthrew Saadam Hussein’s regime and even hanged the leader of the country in a foreign land. Saadam came from one of the majority communities in the country which by then dominated Government. The United States opted to form a Shiite dominated government (Cockburn 2). The Shiite represented the minority community that had for long years felt the wrath of the major group. Both the United Kingdom and the United States ensured that they completely weakened the Sunni majority and gave more power to the Shiite. This new government enacted by foreign forces in the land seemed to be taking revenge against the once dominant community. After some time most of the opposition parties which were mainly Sunni based sprung up and gathered more support than the current government that was in power (Cockburn 12). They spread a lot of hate speech towards UK and US forces that were still present in their lands even after the war had ended. These new calls by the opposition were dealt a blow when the Shiite formed government and the western military ensured that voices were unheard in the world (Cockburn 23). Sectarian violence would slowly begin in the country majorly calling for United States troops to leave the country. Ultimately, the United States government recalled majority of their troops back home. Sunni terrorist soon took over some parts of the country and continued their hate speech against both the new government and the foreign troops present in their land. Ultimately, the Sunni took some of the weaponry left behind by the United States forces and rose against the current regime (Cockburn 23). They became associated with other Islamic terror groups like the Al-Qaeda terrorizing people across the world. During this time, the Assad regime was facing a backlash due to the Arab uprising in the Middle East which had advocated for removal of presidents and regimes across Asian countries.
The Assad regime was facing pressure from all quarters across the world. It had been seen as one of the more oppressive countries across Asia. The opposition groups slowly started by demonstrations against the Assad regime in major cities across Syria. The protest was being organized on a daily basis. The Assad regime responded by use of a lot of force killing a lot of the protestors (Sekulow 12). The Arab spring wave had managed to remove several presidents across most of the Arabian countries. Some of the protestors choose to fight and preach hatred against the Alawite population where Assad came from while other chooses to fight in the name of Islam and against western and non-Muslim support. Some opted that they were fighting a holy war against all other states across the world. Non religious groups fighting in the war declined in numbers losing its momentum in the process and rendering the initial fight useless (Cockburn 52). The Muslim based organization took over and went by the name of Al-Nusra. The group was on a winning streak taking over major cities across the country. The group was famously known for taking over the city o Aleppo from the Syrian forces. It is this group that caught the eye of the terrorist organization that had established itself in major areas across Iraq. The two units united with the aim of creating a Muslim caliphate in both Syria and Iraq such as a similar Caliphate had been brought down during the First World War (Cockburn 32). Several other groups that were once affiliated with Al-Qaeda joined ranks with the new group and the name Islamic State for Iraq and Syria was established. The battles continued with the Assad’s regime with ISIS continuing to take a lot of territory that once belonged to the regime forces. The non-Muslim rhetoric that had initially begun declined over the years. All areas that were under ISIS were under ISIS were under the strict Sharia laws. ISIS went farther and adopted new techniques that were quite ruthless. It terrorized and robbed all civilians and at the same time started a war against the opposition fighters (Sekulow 32). They wanted them to either join their cause or die. ISIS was one of the groups that were well equipped with all machinery and weapons necessary to start a war. They ended up controlling most parts of Northern Syria and more especially their oil fields. After this they began recruiting people from all areas across the world. Soon they preached ideals of jihadist similarly to the once used by Al-Qaeda and other terror groups (Sekulow 34). They urged a lot of people to come to Syria to be trained and fight against the western states and other parties. ISIS gained a lot of support since it was one of the groups whose actions and activities were rampant across the world. People flocked in Syria to be trained expanding the desire of ISIS to become a worldwide caliphate. ISIS managed to quash some of the opposition groups present in Syria and opened up new routes that could be used by people to their lands. However, the beginning of the year saw a change in strategy by most countries fighting worldwide terror. The Assad regime together with the Iraqi forces has been able to take control of some cities that were in the grasp of the militants. One such city commonly used by the terrorist group to advance its activities has been blocked and taken by the regime forces. Additionally, after the attacks that were funded by ISIS on Brussels airport, Charlie Hebdo and San Beradino, the world forces came as one to finally combat this issue (Chossudovsky: Ahmed). Airstrikes and support to both the regime and rebel forces has been provided by different countries across the world. All these efforts are in place since they want to destroy ISIS. Two major superpowers have been at crossroads supporting different factions in these wars. The United States have emphasized their support for rebel forces while Russians have emphasized their support for Assad’s regime.
The war caused by both ISIS and the Assad regime has resulted in the loss of life of many individuals as well as the creation of both internally displaced people and refugees (Black). Syrian Center for Policy Research estimates that close to 470,000 deaths have been reported (Black). The number might be higher considering that some bodies are never found. It also estimates that close to 45% of the Syrian population has been displaced due to the war. The estimates that close to 11.5 % of the population has either been killed or injured (Black). The current number of registered employees leaving outside Syria currently stands at 4. 8 million although the number increases per day (Black). This number is mainly composed of women and children.
Syria as a country is in turmoil because of the different groups that are fighting against each other. The Assad regime is being supported by the Russians and Iranians because of its strategic location. Most countries have noted that removal of Assad in power would ultimately signal taking over of the country by the Islamic State affiliated parties. The same thing that happened in Iraq is more likely to happen in Syria. Russia and Iran as two countries are opposed to the move because once Assad has been removed; another Islamic leader would come in (Miller). The new leader might advance issues relating to terror activities advanced by the other parties. Most countries in Europe and also United states admit that Assad has been able for the longest time possible to keep the Islamic state from entering into the capital city of the country. When the United Kingdom requested its parliament to approve airstrikes against Assad in 2013, the request was disapproved because it was realized that the removal of Assad would not bring peace to the country (Crowfort). The United Kingdom in itself could not restore the image of such a country by imposing a Harvard educated secularist (Miller). The country would still be ruled by other different fanatical leaders who are more likely to be associated with the terror activities.
The Assad regime has proved to be a close ally to two key countries in the world. These are Russia and Iran. The fight against ISIS requires that all countries be under one banner. Otherwise the differences between the countries fundamentally make elongates the time period of the war. Russia as a country has numerous interests in Syria as a country (Ellyatt). The country holds both military and economic importance to countries such as Russia and removal of Assad from power would see some of this interest denied (Perry and Mason). Russia Mediterranean naval base is located in this country and in case terrorists take over the country, then such advantages cease to exist. Syria is one of the key allies of Russia especially after the western nations supported the overthrow of one of the important Ukraine leaders to annex the Crimean Peninsula from Russia. Saddam Hussein was once one of the important leaders associated with Russia. Syria under Assad is seen as the only strategic influence that countries like the Russia have to control the Middle East. Therefore, Russia strategic interests seem to be more genuine and offer broad based reasons as to why they should continue to support the Assad’s régime. The Russian forces in protecting its interests in Syria have been noted to fight against moderate rebels supported by the United States (Perry and Mason).
The party majorly involved in terror activities is the Islamic state and not the Assad’s regime. It is true that the Assad’s regime has been implicated in gross violations of human rights in the past. This evil cannot be justified by any means. However, the Assad regime does not pose a greater threat as compared to the one posed by the Islamic State. The terrorist organization has been involved in massive attacks across the world killing people across the world. A good example is the attack that happened in Brussels. Other important terror activities that have happened across the world include those that happened in Charlie Hebdo as well as those in San Beradino. The Islamic state has imposed sharia law on its entire people and threatens the world with terror activities. This seems to a be a more dominant threat compared to removing Assad from power. Russia is one of the superpower countries that deals with major weapons (Miller). To protect its interest in the East and more specifically in Syria it has been attacking both terrorist groups as well as rebel fighters. It has gone forth to support the Assad regime though their interests and their perceived role in the United Nations has been greatly doubted by other parties.
Assad regime is the only factor that prevents Syria from being overtaken and controlled Al-Qaeda forces. It has been stated that the Nusra- front an affiliate of the Al-Qaeda is more likely to take over the country once ISIS has been defeated. It is estimated that the Al-Nusra will establish an Islamic emirate in Syria and as a result it will pose more of a dangerous threat as compared to the threat posed by ISIS (Engel). Such a threat will affect the USA and Russians Position since it will in one way or another influence the activities of the once dreaded Al-Qaeda (Miller: Crews). As long as the Assad’s regime exist, there will always be different rebel forces attempting to remove it from power. All of this rebel groups will ensure fight to take control of the country and therefore it would be more difficult for any part to advance their war. The United States is also aware that any activity that attempts to bring the Sunni who make majority of the decisions associated with ISIS are currently improbable (Engel).The rebel forces against Assad’s regime are seen as being weaker and thus countries like the United States are more likely to benefit if Assad remains in power. The United States Government under the leadership of Obama has provided weapons to rebel fighters to fight against the Islamic State. It has also prevented its other allies especially Saudi Arabia and Turkey from attacking the Assad’s regime though it already notes that the regime has been implicated in massive gross violations of the human rights for many years (Engel). The ceasefire agreement between the regime backed forces and opposition forces backed by the United States illustrates that the major threat that Syria faces is not that of Assad but of the different forces originating from the Islamic State.
The United States and other European nations have agreed that there needs to be a form of political transition in the country. There seems to be no alternative apart from Assad. All European nations have been in one way or another affected by the activities of terror activities linked to ISIS. The imminent danger posed by the groups is so huge. The terror activities have managed within a short span to carry out terror activities in different countries across Europe and the United States. Assad as an individual seems to be the only viable option for the country. The opposition forces which could have taken over the country instead of Assad has been fractured because due to differences in ideologies. The opposition that had initially started the protest were weakened by different forces. Although Assad lacks the majority of support from the Sunni community, the leader stands out as the only viable option between the ISIS and the Islamic regime.
The United States policy in the Middle East was much more focused in ensuring that there was democracy in all states. It also advocated for the strict observance of all rights of individuals in the society. This policy in effect had won over the hearts of most people in the early 1990. However, the target on American soil during the 9/11 attacks changed the way the United States was perceived in the whole of Middle East countries. Most countries in the Middle East were more concerned with coming up with their jihadist policies rather than building on their western policies. The United States and other countries across the world should come to terms with the realization that European policies across the world do not work in Islamic states. The only way they could deal with the Islamic State is by supporting the Assad’s regime and opting for a political solution that could address the current problem faced in the society.
As long as Assad remains in power, extremist groups will always exist in the country and the threat to ISIS will also remain. Most scholars argue that ISIS has dominated worldwide scenes because Assad’s government has never focused on attacking the Islamist terror groups. Essentially, the government of Assad has been fighting moderate rebels or opposition groups. Both factions know that the major threat posed comes from ISIL but the government and its allies have ensured that rebel forces are destroyed (Coughlin). For example Russia was accused severally of failing to hit required targets. Instead of focusing on destroying ISIS they opted to fight against rebel forces in the name of protecting the interests of Assad’s. Therefore, the continued stay of Assad into power has in several ways ensured that the Islamic States dominance in power continues (Coughlin). Additionally, there have been no major notable effected changes associated with Assad’s war on the terrorist groups.
The dominance of the Islamic State has decreased ever since different parties joined the war. The success of this war is not in any way related to the current power struggle between Assad and the rebel groups (Herb). It is true that a stable Syria would provide one of the best approaches in dealing with the Islamic state that has taken the northern part of the country. A political agreement between the two parties will cement and assist in finally dealing with the issue related to the Islamic State (Gurcan). For such a coordinated effort to take place, it is important that Assad paves way or join ranks with the rebel forces (Herb). It is only through such agreements that defeating ISIS would become viable. It is important to note that during cessation of the war between the different parties, Assad’s regime showed no intent to discuss any issue that related to a political agreement between the different parties. In essence, Assad seemed to be advocating for the current war between the two factions that could be fighting against the Islamic State. Such actions do not assist in elimination of the common threat which is ISIS. If the two forces come together, then it is more likely that the Islamic State will crumble since more resources will be focused on eliminating their threat as compared to the infighting witnessed by the different parties across Syria.
The United States has also been implicated in the current predicament facing Syria as a nation. their activities in the Middle East that started as early in the 1940’s when they played a role in the coup that eliminated one of Syria top leaders and their events in Iraq can be said to have led to what has happened in the country (Blankenship). Some arguments that have been advanced have portrayed the United States as a nation that supports the rebel fighters are attacking some of their closets allies in Turkey. The United States as one of the super power countries could have stopped this war even before it begun but it gave a deaf year even after it had benne reported that Sarin nerve gas was being used to kill people in Syria. One of the closest allies of the United States in the Middle East has been hugely implicated in this war. It is claimed that Turkey started funding the activities of ISIS and other groups long before the it was associated with today’s event (Blankenship).. It is claimed that the Turks are fighting Kurdish militants who are fighting against ISIS. It is claimed that Turkey is also leaving its borders open allowing different people to get in and out of Syria. In one way or another it is claimed to be tactically assisting ISIS and at the same time supporting the Al-Nusra front. Such actions have not in any way been criticized by the United States. In fact it can be claimed that the Arab spring partly funded by the United States government as well as the weaponry left behind after their war in Iraq and their support for rebel groups played a role in the formation of terror groups such as ISIS (Goldberg 10). Dealing with ISIS would require an approach that is not supported perceived to be one sided.
The presence of Assad in the country is also causing more havoc in the other countries and in the process making it impossible to defeat the common threat which is ISIS (al-Khatib et al). The United States have been directly linked to the Syrian Kurdish forces associated with a militia groups known as the People’s Protection Unit or YPG (Guéhenno). This group is affiliated with Kurdistan Workers’ party abbreviated as PKK. The insurgent group has been fighting the Turkey government for more than thirty one years. Other allies associated with Assad’s government especially Russia and Iran have been mentioned to be supporting PKK in order to spoil the image of the Turks across major areas in Europe (Guéhenno). PKK and the turkey government were in talks before the groups was mentioned in terror activities in both Syria and Turkey. The presence of Assad as the leader of Syria will always be associated with its allies such as Russia and Iran. As a result the country will continue supporting activities aimed at the Turkish government. The effect of this would be a coalition that attempts to fight against ISIS while its own house is divided will never win the war.
Assad is a lesser evil as compared to the threat posed by the Islamic State. If Assad’s regime falls toady then the country risks being run by the terror group something that will advance actions of the terror group. The removal of Assad has also been associated with loss of strategic factors for super powers like Russia and the increase in terror activities against the western nations across the continent. Assad may not be the best suited person to lead the country but has currently managed to prevent entry of the forces into the capital city. Assad has also created factions between the different coalition partners fighting ISIS. For the world to be able to defeat ISIS, there needs to be a political solution to the current problem as well as a joint coalition partner assisting the political remedy. This is the only way that Syria will become a free nation. As it stands, there is no political agreement and coalition partners have continued fighting against each other. The only remedy remaining is to currently support Assad.
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