How ISIS got involved with the Syrian civil war is a sordid story that is all too familiar for Arab nations undergoing revolution. The struggle of regime power and the confidence of aggravated youth has had varying outcomes for these countries. Many remain entrenched in a battle of ideals with no decisive victory in sight. This is seen most clearly today in the state of Syria, which is currently tearing itself apart from the inside out as we speak.
Like most multi-national conflicts, the situation in Syria is dynamic and troubling. The black and white, two dimensional world of morality we like to cram global conflicts into has become more useless than ever. This situation must be understood from all sides in order to recognize the extent of the quagmire.
On one hand there is a regime, in a pseudo-powerful position, attempting to bring back Syria to a stable situation. This stable situation, of course, would still mean the current regime remains in power. This has been deemed a non-option for Syrian rebels and thus does not seem like a likely outcome.
The rebels have strong irreconcilable points of opposition against Assad’s regime. This is understandable seeing as his regime is responsible for bombing civilians with chemical weapons, mass censorship, and more. However, the rebels have struggled to topple the Syrian government, leaving the country embattled and weak. Their own questionable tactics (which also include intentional civilian casualties – namely against Christians and minorities) have left them without significant traction.
These are the circumstances that ISIS has leveraged in order gain a strong foothold in Syria. While heinous and denounced by many global powers, many people have actually praised the Islamic State for being less corrupt than the existing regime and rebel militia groups. This triangle of power has left world powers scratching their heads in what the BBC calls, “a war within a war”. Meanwhile civilians remain trapped amidst the chaos.
This paper examines the depth of these issues in an attempt to explain why a remedy is still forthcoming. Too often we arrogantly place blame without surveying the body of offenders. The Syrian Civil war is not simple and not dissimilar to most global conflicts. When every party is at fault how can any side be supported without significant repercussions? The final paragraphs of my paper discuss this in more detail below.
“It is no secret that Syrians (and Iraqis) are currently stuck between a rock and a hard place. They are trapped between their ruling dictators or Islamic extremists, neither of which are particularly benevolent. President Assad has been criticized for allowing ISIS to create a stronghold in Syria in order to bolster support from the West. In the event of Assad’s demise a logical assertion would conclude that IS, being the next most powerful entity, would fill the power vacuum. ‘ISIS’s power will only be enhanced in Syria by Assad’s continued hold on power…yet fears that a freewheeling regime collapse would give way to warlordism and terror across Syria are justified. For now, Syria offers a grim lesson: Muddled U.S. policies can produce as disastrous an outcome as military intervention’.
Uprisings in Syria have lead to what has been popularized as a ‘Jihadi Spring’. Military involvement against IS has not had the effect the U.S. had hoped for. ‘In fact, there are widespread concerns that the assaults may actually enhance the appeal of the ISIS, with new recruits, Arab and Western, seeing it as a beleaguered Islamic force under wanton attack from the West.’ The Islamic State continues to gain traction as the narrative of modern Syria becomes increasingly difficult to dissect. Meanwhile civilians, unsure of where to turn for safety are fleeing their homes; seeking refuge in neighboring countries. Europe is now seeing the culmination of a promise made in early 2015, ‘to flood Europe with…migrants’ made by none other, than the Islamic State.”
The Islamic State recognizes this paradox more than most nations and uses it to their advantage. This paired with the indifference they have towards established national laws, borders, and cultural taboos has made them cancerous and appealing. ISIS gives individuals, trapped in the whirlwind of greater conflict, an outlet for misunderstood aggression.
From 10,000 kilometers away it’s easy for Americans to catch the broader view of what is happening in the Middle East from CNN and Fox news, but the devil is indeed in the details. Understanding the situation both ways (macro and micro) is necessary in making sure that we too do not find ourselves in a similar situation.