Essay,Pages 5 (1148 words)
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Traces of Syrian political unrest were detectible in early 2011, and officially came into being on March 15, 2011 with wide-scale uprisings in the southern town of Daraa and districts of the capital, Damascus. The administration, headed by President Bashar al-Assad, quickly responded by detaining protesters while ceding minor reforms, including liftung the 48-year State of Emergency, in an attempt to mollity unrest and prevent the “Arab Spring’ from spreading to Syria. However, unrest continued to grow and in late spring 2011 President Assad deploys troop and armored regiments to crush opposition.
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The opposition begins to organize by fall 2011 via the Syrian National Council.
This is accompanied by increasing international pressure via the United Nations and Arab League for Assad to step down and a new government to form; the majority of resolutions or initiatives supporting this are blocked by Russia and China. By the close of 2012 the United States, EBritain, France, Turkey and Gulf states formally recognize the Syrian National Council as the representative of the Syrian people.
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Meanwhile the situation continues to deteriorate into wide-spread violence reaching a head in fall 2013 with a confirmation by UN weapons inspectors that the Assad regime deployed Sarin gas chemical weapons. Following condemnation and likely military action by international powers, the Assad regime agrees to an UN-moderated chemical weapons disposal. Most recently, short-term cease- fires have been arranged to allow civilians to evacuate towns and for humanitarian aid to be transported in.
Cultural and Ethnic Divides
The ruling party in Syria is composed primarily of a sect of Shia Islam known as Alawites who seized power in the early 1970’s via a Ba’ath party coup led by Gen.
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Hafez al- Assad, father of Bashar al-Assad. This power grab was incredibly unexpected as Alawites comprise less than 10% of the Syrian population, which is vastly Sunni (approximately 746).
The result of this backwards balance of power is that Alawites, who hold most key government and military positions, desperately hold onto power for fear that if they cede to the Sunni majority, they will be severely persecuted. Opposition militias as a result are nearly exclusively comprised of Sunni’s. In fact, many foreign Sunni’s have traveled into Syria to aid their religious brothers. The Sunni militias span an incredibly wide variety of ideologies ranging from nearly secular to extremist. In fact, one militia group, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), was recently disavowed by al-Qaeda on grounds that it was damaging to the resistance effort.
Multiple attempts have been made to reach a peaceful settlement between the Syrian National Council and President Bashar al-Assad. However, each attempt has either been blocked by foreign powers (Russia or China) or deteriorated; as exemplified in the breakdown of a recent summit held in Geneva. Indeed UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi summarized the second round of talks by saying, “we haven’t done very much. There is little hope for the two sides to reach agreement as their fundamental goals are at odds. The Syrian National Council has stated that an unconditional requirement for any peace settlement requires the removal of President Assad.
The Assad regime however fully rejects any settlement with such a provision. As a result, it is clear that the resolution of the Syrian Civil war by diplomatic means is highly unlikely due to the entrenched positions of all parties. It is based upon this recognition of futile diplomatic means that this organization submits a proposal for identifying non-extremist militia groups for funding and armament in an effort to overthrow the Assad regime. The task of simply identitying which groups to aid is an immense task given the multitude of militias and their ideologies in equal numbers. The Syrian National Coalition alone has 114 representatives from different groups, each with varying ideologies. While the organizations represented in the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) largely have moderate ideologies, there are countless others that refused membership in the SNC or were not invited due to extremist ideologies.
Indeed some organizations have ideologies so extreme that all other parties distance themselves from any association. In fact, the most prominent extremist militia, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is so ultra-extremist that al-Qaeda formally disassociated itself with the organization, comprised largely of Iraqi’s.” Thus, it is vital that among the myriad of militias and opposition groups that those with moderate and democratic ideologies are chosen to prevent the Assad regime from being replaced by and equally brutal, or worse, power
To identify organizations to support, we will take a “boots on the ground’ approach; seeking out actors on the ground who can serve as reference points and guides to the militias. We will also work extensively with the Syrian Observatory for lHuman Rights (SOHR), a UK-based human rights organization that has been cited by virtually every news outlet, as well as the Syrian National Coalition, the Syrian National Council, UN officials and independent experts based in Turkey.
The timeline of our operation can be divided into two phases. Phase one will take approximately a year and will solely consist of identifying organizations to aid. Phase two, the following two years, will follow the armament of the opposition groups and will consist of monitoring these groups to ensure their ideologies do not become more extreme or they are engaged in acts of human rights abuses.
Costs and Expenses
A breakdown of the budget follows. The budget changes between year one and years two and three according to the two different phases of the project and their differing labor intensities. Translators will be hired locally and the office space will be rented in Istanbul, Turkey.
The project supervisors will lead the operations of the project. More specific tasks of making travel arrangements, coordinating with contractors, coordinating translators, and all other operational tasks of the organization will be delegated to the Operations Coordinator. The research division of the project will be supervised by the researches with expertise in Middle Eastern Studies, International Security, and Counterterrorism. They will be tasked with overseeing the research within the office and in the field.
- Data for research will come from a variety of resources. Among them are the United
- States Department of State list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO), reports from the United
- Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) and data from the National
- Counterterrorism Center. Several data points will also be pulled from the Inter-University
- Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), specifically ICPSR 7452, Conflict and
- Society. The data points used will be as follows:
- Domestic initiators in conflict (CLASSUM)
- Foreign initiators in conflict (ALIENS)
- Capacity in which initiators are acting (GROUP)
- Internal War events (IWAR)
- Summary type of event occurring (TYPESUM)
These data sets will generate several questions. Chief among them are the following:
- In internal wars, are conflicts initiated by foreign or domestic actors?
- What conflicts are these initiators causing?
- What capacity or group association are initiators acting in?