The Middle East has experienced several civil conflicts as well as the rising of extremist groups. The past decade has seen a rise in the number of uprisings, most of them propagated by the people’s discomfort with the ideologies of those in power. This paper seeks to bring more light into the situation that has been in Syria and its neighboring country, Iraq.
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The origin of the civil war in Syria
The year 2011 (March), some citizens started demonstrating against the Syrian government headed by President Bashar-al-Assad. The protests originated due to the Arab Spring whereby several protests were going on in various Arab countries from the time the Tunisian government was brought down early 2011. The protests were at first peaceful, but when the government forces reacted to it with much force, the rebels took up arms and started the war with the government. The prevailing events dragged the whole nation into a civil war.
In the month of July, several individuals who had defected from the Free Syrian Army also joined the rebels against the government. In fact, the differences between various ethnicities, Islamists, and secular fighters brought political complications to the crisis (Manfreda 2015).
The widespread civil war brought about deaths above 200,000, which comprised mostly of civilians in a period of four years. Continued bombings have destroyed cities and widespread violations of human rights. The populations of the affected areas are also unable to access basic amenities like healthcare and food. The war has displaced more than 7 million people according to UN reports. In fact, the war registered more than 3 million refugees with Syrian origin. In addition to the existing refugees, almost a third of the country’s population is in need of humanitarian help.
Interests and grievances leading to the crisis in Syria
Several issues have fuelled the crisis in Syria. One of the main reasons for the conflict is political repression. President Bashar as-Assad took over after his father who had ruled the country died. His actions ensured that the concentration of power was in the first family, and he continued with the system of a solitary party. The actions cleared all the hopes of any reforms and brought dissent with the political set up. The country has never had any democratic transfer of power from mid 20th century, and a military coup was seen as the only hope (Mansoor 2014).
The uneasiness with the ideologies of the Syrian Baath party was another contributor to the start of the conflict. The party was considered as the originator of Arab socialism, which was an ideology that brought together Pan-Arab nationalism and the economy. The situation changed that by the year 2000 when the party’s ideology was crippled after losing wars to Israel and a slump in the economy. When Assad took power, he tried implementing a Chinese approach to reform the economy but he was never successful.
The few remaining traces of socialism promoted the start of private investments raising the consumption power of the upper-middle class people in the urban set ups. The process, however, favored mostly families that have personal links with the first family. The action left the rest of the country burning with anger due to the rising costs of living and high cases of unemployment.
The country has also been adversely affected by cases of droughts since the year 2008. More than a million people depending on farming have been unable to get a source of income and therefore migrated to the growing slums in the urban areas. As a result, people got angry about the way a small population of the country was growing to be rich and the government lacked intervention to bring uniformity (Landis 2014).
The other contributor to the uprising was the growth of a young population that is unemployed. Every year, the country had about 250,000 new entrants to the job market yearly that lacked sufficient job opportunities. These individuals quickly joined sides with those against the government.
Widespread corruption in the country was another contributor to the uprising. The poor therefore had no means of fighting for their rights and had to resort to protests as a way of fighting for their rights. The corrupt system allowed even the opposing forces to buy weapons from the forces of the state. The families of detained relatives were also able to bribe the authorities so that their relatives could be released (Manfreda 2014).
The government of Syria runs a system of fear having several intelligence services. It was the same brutal security forces that reacted with much force to the peaceful demonstrations provoking the protestors to resort to violent means. Besides, the Alawis, which is a minority religious group from the Shiite community where the Assad family belongs, controls the top positions of Syrian security. The majority of the country’s population is Sunnis, and they are not comfortable with the minority being in control. The situation contributed to the religious animosity among the Sunni and Shiite communities who live together contributing to the uprising.
The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt that ensured the success in ousting the governments were a motivation to the Syrians. The widespread uprisings in the Middle East made the Syrians realize that they had a chance for change (Manfreda 2014).
The rise of ISIS
Originally, ISIS was an Iraqi al-Qaida group going by the name Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). With the intensification of the war in Syria, it first started getting involved in the war. In June 2011, one member of ISI (Abu Muhammad al-Joulani) formed a Jihadi group called Jabhat al-Jabhat al-Nusra that got involved in the Syrian war (Cockburn 2015).
Later on, Baghdad wanted more influence of the group, which was rapidly growing. Baghdad sought this by getting involved in the influence of ISI in Syria. The step brought about the formation of ISIS in 2013. Internal differences later emerged on the methods and strategies that ISIS was employing with the group getting too harsh to both Jabhat al-Nusra and al-Qaida. The differences made ISIS to lose grounds in Syria. However, it later on came to capture a large territory including the second biggest city in Iraq, Mosul, Falluja, Syria and Aleppo (Tran 2014).
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ISIS has had many brutal and ruthless actions in the areas it controls in Syria killing several top officials of other opposing groups. Even though it has been seen as having high levels of brutality, it has still managed to attract some Sunnis to help it fight against the Nouri al-Malik who leads the government of Shias.
The ISIS troops have an advantage over opposing forces by having high motivational levels, highly equipped and hardened for battle. The group runs schools, courts, and several other services. They also fly their flag, which is black and white in all the facilities that are under their control.
The group boasts to have more than ten thousand individuals in its ranks. The group has volunteers recruited from Syria and others from Europe and the United States of America. The group dominates networks for extortion in Mosul to get resources to run its operations. It also managed to capture a rich gas field called Conoco that was previously under the control of Jabhat al-Nusra. Having captured Mosul, a large Iraqi city, its claims of being the strongest Jihadi group can be justifiable (Ghosh 2014).
The interests, interactions and institutions that contributed to the rise of the ISIS
Several individuals have been seeking ideologies or individuals to blame for the fast growth of the Islamic State. In fact, several pundits are looking for certain politicians that they can put the blame on to justify their political motives. In addition, various analysts are trying to come up with explanations for the rapid growth of a small terrorist group that seizes and controls regions by selecting political players to put the current Middle East on crisis.
Most of these theories could be true, but the major contributors to the emergence and rapid growth of ISIS have not been fully addressed. The studies majorly focus on minimal issues, but the focus that should be on social and historical factors is not yet comprehensively covered. The public in the region demand the formation of a state on an Islamic caliphate, but this has been ignored given that ISIS is viewed as the major problem. Even if the foreign troops kill the top leaders of ISIS, the Jihadist followers may come up with substitute leaders to ensure that they achieve their dream of a global caliphate (Shahhosseini 2014).
One of the factors that contributed to the rise of ISIS was the performance of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that several supporters of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein were not comfortable with in the end. He tried to displace the Baathist followers in the country who had been in control over a long period. Former Sunni soldiers were promised to be paid to join forces in fighting against the Al-Qaida extremist forces to strengthen the new Iraqi state. However, once al-Maliki consolidated power, he let go of the soldiers without even taking caution of disarming them. When civilians started protesting against him and got a violent reaction from the government, the previously dismissed soldiers joined them to fight against the government and later welcomed ISIS into Iraq.
The Arab spring also did not bring fruits to the expected standards. As people were celebrating the ousting of the Egyptian president, they never knew that it would lead to a buildup of another coup de tat. The war emerged in the country after failures in negotiation and peaceful democratic transition of power. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood supported the demands that are radical and firmness from the demonstrators. In turn, people lost hope in peaceful transitions and the missions of the radical groups advanced in the Middle East (Jafari 2004).
The developments in the political situation of Syria under President Bashar Assad also contributed to the rise of ISIS. The opposition and several other interested parties expected Assad to end his rule, but it seemed that it would not come. The opposing groups came up with military groups that got well equipped and dangerous. When their chances in Syria became limited, they resorted to Iraq that was already having several loopholes to be invaded by extremist groups.
The popularity of the extremism theory in the Middle East was a contributor to the rise of ISIS. People were felt the humiliation due to the fall of the Islamic civilization and lack of efficiency among the political setups in the region. Moreover, people felt that they were denied the right of determining the way to be governed. The citizens tried to fight for what they wanted in a peaceful manner, but the opportunity was denying. The events led to the emergence of radical means (Tran 2014).
One of the institutions that may have been involved in the rise of ISIS is the Saudi Arabian government. On several occasions, issues have arisen that the Saudi government funds terrorists but the connection with ISIS is seen as being deeper. Saudi for a long time had close links in ideologies with Sunni Islam and loathing of Shia Islam. It has therefore been involved in financing Sunni extremists to ensure destabilization of the Shia states (Moris 2014). Large amounts of money are said to have been sent to the extremists in Syria and Iraq and the disciples from the groups would later form ISIS.
The western world can also be said to have contributed to the situation. After the installation of Maliki as the president, the West supplied him with sophistical weapons for fighting al-Qaida. As the ISIS troops invaded Iraq, the Iraqi forces escaped and left all the weapons at the disposal of the ISIS. The occurrence made them get all that they wanted to fight a successful war (Morris 2014).
The emergence of the ISIS is based on various factors. In fact, the origins of the conflicts and growth of extremism in Syria and Iraq are deep rooted. Thus, the real issues being demanded by the citizens have to be met or else bringing a solution to the situations will be almost impossible.
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