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The Syrian Civil War

(2011-2012)

Syria has been a dictatorship run by the Assad family since 1970. In that year, Hafez al-Assad, the Defense Minister, launched...Read More Below

Bashar al-Assad

Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria

Syrian Uprising Timeline

(2011)

Syrian Flag

Syrian Flag

 

 

Names of the Conflict:
Syrian Uprising

Syrian Civil War

 

 

 

DATES OF CONFLICT:

BEGAN: March 15, 2011--Protests against the Assad government began

 
ENDED: Ongoing
 

The Syrian Civil War (2011-Present):  Syria has been a dictatorship run by the Assad family since 1970. In that year, Hafez al-Assad, the Defense Minister, launched a coup that put him in power. Upon the death of Hafez al-Assad in 2000, his son, Bashar al-Assad, became President of Syria. Both Assads used terror and force to remain in power. The elder Assad suppressed a rebellion in 1982 in the city of Hama by unleashing the Syrian military on that city. At least 10,000 people, mostly innocent civilians, died in that uprising.  The Assad regimes use terror, intimidation, and a ruthless security force to retain power.  In addition to the official security forces, the Assads employ a militia made up largely of fellow members of their religious sect; the Alawites.  This militia, called the Shabiha (Arabic for apparitions, or ghosts), are described as armed thugs dressed in civilian clothes.  Early in the street-protest phase of the Syrian conflict, the Shabiha would be used to attack demonstrators while the uniformed police and security would stand by and allow these attacks.  With the advent of the combat phase of the Syrian conflict, the Shabiha are used as a militia to back up the army.

 

In March, 2011, as part of the "Arab Spring" rebellions throughout the Middle East, protests began in Syria, and rose to the level of an anti-government uprising resulting in at least hundreds of deaths.  

 

As the conflict continued, members of the Syrian military defected and formed the "Free Syrian Army," which presented itself as the armed wing of the uprising. The Syrian government forces typically respond to attacks and protests with massive force, bombarding civilian areas indiscriminately, and causing heavy casualties. As of March, 2012, the United Nations estimated that at least 18,000 perished in this conflict, while at least 250,000 had fled their homes. By the summer of 2013, the number of dead in the war was estimated to be over 100,000.

 

Syrian refugees have sought safety across the borders into Lebanon and Turkey, but their presence, and armed incursions by Assad loyalists, have brought the violence in Lebanon as well. Western sources also note that Iran is aiding the Assad regime, possibly with military advisors. Beginning in February, of 2013, Assad’s Shiite Lebanese allies, the Hezbollah militia, openly joined the war, fighting alongside Syrian government forces in al-Qusayr.  Hezbollah also fought in the Battle of Zabadani

 

As the deaths increase, and as Assad's forces actively fire on presumed rebel positions to the north in Turkey and also fire on Israeli forces in the south, Western concerns over Assad's stockpile of chemical weapons and what he intends to do with them drive rhetoric from the U.S., Britain, and others regarding possible intervention to seize or destroy those weapons of mass destruction.

 

As the fighting intensified, Syrian forces are believed to have used chemical weapons several times against rebels in Homs, Aleppo, and other areas.  These attacks remained unconfirmed, which was significant, as American President Obama had declared that use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” that could provoke an American and Western military response.  Then, on August 21, an incident occurred in the Syrian town of Ghouta in which some 1,400 people died of what was clearly a chemical attack of some kind.  United Nations inspectors investigated and prepared to submit their report.  As the investigation continued, the United States prepared for military action, moving several naval ships armed with cruise missiles nearer to Syria, while special reconnaissance aircraft were flown into the region in preparation for some sort of American  and allied retaliatory attack.

 

Britain and France were also preparing for military action when British Prime Minister Cameron lost a vote in the British Parliament over his request to engage Syria.  With Parliament voting to not go to war with Syria, it appeared that the United States and France would have to go it alone against Syria.

 

Then, on August 31, 2013, just as the world expected President Obama to announce an attack, the President appeared at a White House press appearance announcing that he would defer military action until he had a vote from Congress on whether or not to attack Syria in response to the Ghouta Chemical attack.  While the world expected an American attack on Syria, the Obama Administration cut a deal with Assad and his Russian backers to stave off an American attack. The Russians and Syrians said they would destroy Assad's stocks of chemical weapons. Obama accepted this and no U.S. attack on Syria occurred.

As the Syrian War continued to grind on, the war shifted, as ISIS laid claim to large swaths of Syrian territory (and expanded from Syria into Iraq), prompting international intervention, first by the Western allies in Iraq, and then increasingly, pro-Assad interention by the Russians, Iranians, and Hezbollah. Israel began launching more and more air strikes against Hezbollah and Syrian targets (both government and rebels).

In the Spring of 2017, the Syrian government was accused of using chemical weapons again, but this time, America, under new president Donald Trump, responded militarily. On April 6, 2017, President Trump ordered the U.S. military to attack the Syrian air base from which the chemical attack originated. Nearly 60 cruise missiles struck Shayrat, a Syrian air base.

 

 

 Syria Uprising Links and Resources:

Timeline of the 2011 Syrian uprising--Wikipedia Article

Timeline: Syria--BBC

 


 

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