Saturday, February 15, 2014

Craig D. Graham: Top 6 international consequences of the Syrian civil war

  The conflict in Syria has obviously had extremely devastating effects on the domestic population. However, there have also been significant consequences for the international community. Wars rarely stay within political borders and the Syrian conflict is no exception. Here are the six most destructive effects of the Syrian civil war on the rest of the world.

6) International Relations

  The Syrian civil war has caused significant damage to relations between several countries. Specifically, United States-Russia/China relations have been damaged due to the latter two countries using their veto powers at the United Nations Security Council to block resolutions for military action against the Assad regime. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia-Turkey relations have been harmed due to Saudi support for Islamist groups with links to terrorism in Syria, while the Turkish government has preferred to equip secularist fighters. United States domestic policy has been affected too, as some argue that President Barack Obama has taken a soft stance against al Assad.

5) Chemical Weapons

  Chemical weapons have rarely been used in conflict due to the instant death and paralysis that are caused by them. However, a new precedent has been set in Syria that has implications for the rest of the world: a government can now use chemical weapons against its own people, including civilians, and not be punished for it. President Barack Obama's relatively soft stance against al Assad's use of sarin gas demonstrates the United States' unwillingness to act on their threat of "crossing the red line." Now, dictators around the world will be less deterred in the future when considering using chemical agents.

4) Proxy Conflict

  There are two main sides in the Syrian conflict: The pro-Assad side and the anti-Assad side. Although there are many groups contending for power in Syria, most of those fighting against al Assad will likely fight amongst each other if and when the president is deposed. In the meantime, however, the forces fighting together against Assad are mostly Sunni Muslim groups: Free Syrian Army (FSA), Ahfad al-Rasul Brigade, Islamic Front, al-Nusra Front, Army of Mujahedeen, and several other smaller groups. These opposition fighters are supported financially and militarily by the governments of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, the United States and other Western powers. On the other side, the pro-Assad groups include mostly Shi'ite and Alawites: Syrian Government (including the military and the Ba'ath Brigades), Hezbollah, Jihad Jibril Brigades (armed wing of the PFLP), and many other militant organizations. These groups are supported by the governments of Iran, Russia, North Korea, China, and Venezuela. This mix of interests demonstrates international involvement in the Syrian Conflict and the complex game of high stakes chess that is being played.

3) Border Countries

  There are no borders in war. The complexity of the Syrian conflict has caused it to spill over into Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and the Golan Heights (technically part of Syria but occupied by Israel). The spillover has included violence and a massive influx of refugees, both considerable security risks. Violence is an obvious security risk, but refugees are also problematic as they may have no records to identify who they are and what they did in the past. Refugees are also a strain on the economy of the hosting country as the government is required to provide care for them.

2) Security Vacuum

  With no legitimate authority in Syria the country has become a safe haven for militant groups of varying types. Al Qaeda-affiliated organizations, mercenaries, foreign fighters, and many others have taken advantage of the security vacuum in Syria. The problem for the rest of the world is that the war-torn country has become a place where militant ideologies and terrorist activity can thrive and individuals are also gaining significant combat experience. Once the war is over, these people can use their experiences to continue violent action elsewhere.

1) Foreign Fighters Returning Home

  Interestingly, the security vacuum is already causing security concerns for other countries. Australia is already experiencing a spike in violent activity due to fighters returning home from the Syrian battleground. Also, parts of the European Union have raised the alarm about numerous residents returning from Syria with combat experience, new ideologies, and the means to implement their ideas violently. Foreign fighters returning home may be the biggest concern for the rest of the world.

  About the author: Craig Graham is a freelance journalist, geopolitical analyst, and the founder of

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