Starting as pro-democracy protests in March 2011, the now full-scale Syrian civil war has just entered its fifth year.
Having arisen along with that escalation is the complexity of the war, which were caused by the participation of neighbouring countries and world powers, including, but not limited to, the air strikes inside Syria launched by the US-led coalition in order to “degrade and ultimately destroy” Islamic State (IS) and the presence of Russia in Syria.
Russia has been one of Syria’s most important international backers. With a key naval facility located at the Syrian port of Tartous, it is in Moscow’s interest to protect President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Russia has continuously used its veto power to block resolutions on Syria despite accusations and criticism from other members of the UN Security Council.
It also provides military aid and, since 30 September 2015, direct military intervention followed by Syria’s formal request for help against rebel and jihadist groups. As the resistance from IS intensified, Russia also increased its bombing power, particularly with the introduction of the Tu-160 and Tu-95 strategic bombers in mid-November last year.
Standing on the other side of this complex unrest, yet at the same time striking at the same target – IS – is the Western power. Since September 2014, the US has been conducting air strikes on IS and other jihadist groups in Syria as part of an international coalition against these groups. Attacks that might benefit President Assad’s forces or intervene in battles between them and the rebel forces have been deliberately avoided. Despite the disagreement between the East and the West regarding the intricate power map of this war, both Russia and the US agrees that only a political solution can end the conflict.
On the other hand, far below the top powers that are held responsible for this catastrophe are more than four million people, who have fled Syria since the start of the conflict, most of them women and children. It is considered the largest refugee exodus since World War Two. While the neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt are taking in the largest share of the refugees, some have decided to risk their own lives to cross the deadly seas towards a hopefully better future in Europe.
Since the refugee crisis began in early 2015, Germany, Sweden, Italy and France have received around two-thirds of the EU’s asylum applications. This refugee crisis have sparked starkly contrasting opinions from both political parties and citizens alike, and discussions are being carried on to seek optimal solutions.
As grim as the future may seem, it is in the power of both the West and the East to bring the conversations to the table and resolve the Syrian conflict permanently while also putting an end to the jihadist groups. The future of Syria does not lie in the triumph of any forces, but in the children who are now being displaced across the globe. Only when peace is restored for their childhood can the country’s future be secured.