Syrian Crisis: Timeline, Peace talks, Causes and Implications

April 15, 2018

More than 4.65,000 lives have been already claimed in Syria after the breakout of civil war in 2011, coupled with international interference in the name of "Responsibility to protect" doctrine. The main victim of the great game of middle east are the common citizens who have become refugees in neighbouring countries and are fighting for their survival. 

 

 

 Syrian Timeline:

 

Syrian Independence

1920: Syria and Lebanon were placed under French mandate by the San Remo Conference. 

 

1920-21: Syria divided into three autonomous regions by the French by completely separating Lebanon and providing separate areas for Alawis and Druze

 

1925-26: National agitation against Syria.

 

1936: Autonomous regions dissolved but Lebanon kept separated.

 

1943: Veteran nationalist Shukri al-Kuwatli is elected first president of Syria, leads the country to full independence three years later.

 

Founding of Baath Party

 

1947: Michel Aflaq and Salah-al-Din al-Bitar found the Arab Socialist Baath Party.

 

1963 March: Baathist army officers seize power.

 

1966 February: Salah Jadid leads an internal coup against the civilian Baath leadership. Hafez al-Assad becomes defence minister.

 

1967 June: Israeli forces seize the Golan Heights from Syria and destroy much of Syria's air force in the Six Day War with Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

 

1970 November: Hafez al-Assad overthrows president Nur al-Din al-Atasi and imprisons Salah Jadid.This led to the rise of Assad regime in Syria.

 

 

Bashar al-Assad Regime starts

 

2000 June: President Assad dies and is succeeded by his second son, Bashar.

 

2001 September: Detention of MPs and other pro-reform activists, crushing hopes of a break with the authoritarian past of Hafez al-Assad. Arrest continue, punctuated by occasional amnesties, over the following decade.

 

2002 May: Senior US official includes Syria in a list of states that make-up an "axis of evil", first listed by President Bush in January. Undersecretary for State John Bolton says Damascus is acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

 

2004 May: US imposes economic sanctions on Syria over what it calls its support for terrorism and failure to stop militants entering Iraq.

 

2005 February-April: Tensions with the US escalate after the killing of former Lebanese PM Hariri in Beirut. Washington cites Syrian influence in Lebanon. Damascus is urged to withdraw its forces from Lebanon, which it does by April.

 

2008 July: President Assad meets French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris. The visit signals the end of the diplomatic isolation by the West that followed the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri in 2005.

 

2009 March: Trading launches on Syria's stock exchange in a gesture towards liberalising the state-controlled economy.

 

2010 May: US renews sanctions against Syria, saying that it supports terrorist groups, seeks weapons of mass destruction and has provided Lebanon's Hezbollah with Scud missiles in violation of UN resolutions.

 

Civil War Begins

 

                                                                                                                                        (source: The Atlantic)

2011 March: Security forces shoot dead protestors in southern city of Deraa demanding release of political prisoners, triggering violent unrest that steadily spread nationwide over the following months. President Assad announces conciliatory measures, releasing dozens of political prisoners, dismissing government, lifting 48-year-old state of emergency.

 

2011 May: Army tanks enter Deraa, Banyas, Homs and suburbs of Damascus in an effort to crush anti-regime protests. US and European Union tighten sanctions.

 

2011 June: The IAEA nuclear watchdog decides to report Syria to the UN Security Council over its alleged covert nuclear programme reactor programme. The structure housing the alleged reactor was destroyed in an Israeli air raid in 2007.

 

July 2011: Defectors from the military announced the formation of the Free Syrian Army, a rebel group aiming to overthrow the government, and Syria began to slide into civil war.

 

2011 November: Arab League votes to suspend Syria, accusing it of failing to implement an Arab peace plan, and imposes sanctions.

 

2012 March: UN Security Council endorses non-binding peace plan drafted by UN envoy Kofi Annan. China and Russia agree to support the plan after an earlier, tougher draft is modified.

 

2012 August: Prime Minister Riad Hijab defects, US President Obama warns that use of chemical weapons would tilt the US towards intervention.

 

2012 December: US, Britain, France, Turkey and Gulf states formally recognise opposition National Coalition as "legitimate representative" of Syrian people.

 

2013 September: UN weapons inspectors conclude that chemical weapons were used in an attack on the Ghouta area of Damascus in August that killed about 300 people, but do not allocate responsibility. Government allows UN to destroy chemical weapons stocks, process complete by June 2014.

 

2014 January-February: UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva fail, largely because Syrian authorities refuse to discuss a transitional government.

 

2014 June: Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants declare "caliphate" in territory from Aleppo to eastern Iraqi province of Diyala.

 

2014 September: US and five Arab countries launch air strikes against Islamic State around Aleppo and Raqqa.

 

2015 May: Islamic State fighters seize the ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria and proceed to destroy many monuments at pre-Islamic World Heritage site.

 

2015 September: Russia carries out its first air strikes in Syria, saying they target the Islamic State group, but the West and Syrian opposition say it overwhelmingly targets anti-Assad rebels.

 

2017 January: Russia, Iran and Turkey agree to enforce a ceasefire between the government and non-Islamist rebels, after talks between the two sides in Kazakhstan.

 

2017 May: US decides to arm the YPG Kurdish Popular Protection Units( a rebel group composed of Kurdish people). These fight alongside the main opposition Syrian Democratic Forces, which captures the important Tabqa dam from Islamic State.

 

2017 June: US shoots down Syrian fighter jet near Raqqa after it allegedly dropped bombs near US-backed rebel Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

 

2017 October: The Islamic State group is driven from Raqqa, its de-facto capital in Syria.

 

2017 November: Syrian army takes full control of Deir al-Zour from Islamic State. Syrian and Iraqi forces put IS under pressure in the dwindling areas still under its control.

 

2017 December:  Russian President Putin visits, declaring mission accomplished for his forces in the battle against Islamic State.

 

April 13, 2018:  Trump announces "precision strikes" against the Assad regime in response to the latest chemical attack, which he called "evil" and "despicable." "These are crimes of a monster," he said. referring to Assad.

Syrian Demographics:

Note: The important point to consider is although most of the population is Sunni, but the political and military establishments have been largely dominated by Alawi sect of which President Bashar is a member. Alawi sect is a sub sect of Shia muslims.

Syrian Economy:

 

  1. The economy of Syria is based on services, agriculture, oil and industry. Its GDP per capita expanded 80% in the 1960s reaching a peak of 336% of total growth during the 1970s. 

  2. Since 2011, all of the components of Syria's GDP have plunged - with serious drops in manufacturing and agriculture. The chart shows the stunning drops in Syria's GDP growth rates, including the estimated 25% contractions year-over-year in 2012 and 2013.Exports have lost 80% of their real value from 2010 to 2015, according to BMI's estimates.

  3. Oil output has dropped significantly in recent years, given that many oil fields are under the control of ISIS - aka the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh. 

  4. Although Syria was not one of the world's biggest oil producers, the commodity still accounted for about 50% of its exports and about 30% of the government's revenue in 2010.

 Causes of Syrian Civil War:

  1. Arab Spring: In 2011, successful uprisings - that became known as the Arab Spring - toppled Tunisia's and Egypt's presidents. This gave hope to Syrian pro-democracy activists.

  2. Global Warming: Severe drought plagued Syria from 2007-10, causing as many as 1.5 million people to migrate from the countryside into cities, exacerbating poverty and social unrest.

  3. International Intervention: If we see the above timeline of Syrian crisis, we observe overzealous nature of USA which has been interpreted by scholars as vested interest of USA.

  4. Use of Chemical Weapons: Chemical weapon utilisation in the Civil war has escalated the civil war to trigger the "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine of UN.

Peace Talks:

Peace negotiations have been ongoing between the Syrian government and the opposition in order to achieve a military ceasefire and political transition in Syria, but the main sticking point has been the fate of Assad.

India's stance on Syrian Crisis:

  1. India has asked all the parties to exercise restraint in Syria. 

  2. India considers use of Chemical weapons, if true to be deplorable and ask for independent investigation by the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons).

  3. India officials declared, "The matter should be resolved through dialogue and negotiations, and on the basis of the principles of the UN Charter and in accordance with international law."

  4. India has not openly declared whether it wants President Bashar al-Assad to remain in office or to vacate for peace to prevail. 

 Impact of Syrian Crisis on India:

  1. India and Syria have always enjoyed cordial relations with each other with not much dependence on each other. Although, India has invested in Syria and also extended two Line of credits to Syria worth 10 million and 100 million dollars. 

  2. India has substantial interest in the region in the field of trade, investment, diaspora, remittance, energy security etc.

  3. With international interventions in Syria, the oil prices might rise and thus threaten energy security of India as India imports 78% of its crude oil requirements. 

  4. Also, Indian foreign policy in middle east walks on a thin line and thus needs proper balancing. Such crisis pose a challenge to Indian foreign policy.

  5. We have 7 million diaspora in middle east which is a source of foreign exchange for us. These crisis lead to reduction in diaspora and also pose security threat to our citizens living in these countries.

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