Saturday 14 April 2018

Why is there a war in Syria?

Why is there a war in Syria?
A peaceful uprising against the president of Syria seven years ago has turned into a full-scale civil war. The conflict has left more than 350,000 people dead, devastated cities and drawn in other countries.

How did the Syrian war start?
Even before the conflict began, many Syrians were complaining about high unemployment, corruption and a lack of political freedom under President Bashar al-Assad, who succeeded his late father Hafez in 2000.
In March 2011, pro-democracy demonstrations erupted in the southern city of Deraa, inspired by the "Arab Spring" in neighbouring countries.
When the government used deadly force to crush the dissent, protests demanding the president's resignation erupted nationwide.
The unrest spread and the crackdown intensified. Opposition supporters took up arms, first to defend themselves and later to rid their areas of security forces. Mr Assad vowed to crush what he called "foreign-backed terrorism".
The violence rapidly escalated and the country descended into civil war.

How many people have died?

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group with a network of sources on the ground, had documented the deaths of 353,900 people by March 2018, including 106,000 civilians.
The figure did not include 56,900 people who it said were missing and presumed dead. The group also estimated 100,000 deaths had not been documented.

Meanwhile, the Violations Documentation Center, which relies on activists inside Syria, has recorded what it considers violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, including attacks on civilians.
It had documented 185,980 battle-related deaths, including 119,200 civilians, by February 2018.

What is the war about?
It is now more than a battle between those for or against Mr Assad.
Many groups and countries - each with their own agendas - are involved, making the situation far more complex and prolonging the fighting.
They have been accused of fostering hatred between Syria's religious groups, pitching the Sunni Muslim majority against the president's Shia Alawite sect.
Such divisions have led both sides to commit atrocities, torn communities apart and dimmed hopes of peace.
They have also allowed the jihadist groups Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda to flourish.
Syria's Kurds, who want the right of self-government but have not fought Mr Assad's forces, have added another dimension to the conflict.

Who's involved?

The government's key supporters are Russia and Iran, while the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia back the rebels.
Russia - which already had military bases in Syria - launched an air campaign in support of Mr Assad in 2015 that has been crucial in turning the tide of the war in the government's favour.
The Russian military says its strikes only target "terrorists" but activists say they regularly kill mainstream rebels and civilians.
Iran is believed to have deployed hundreds of troops and spent billions of dollars to help Mr Assad.
Thousands of Shia Muslim militiamen armed, trained and financed by Iran - mostly from Lebanon's Hezbollah movement, but also Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen - have also fought alongside the Syrian army.
The US, UK, France and other Western countries have provided varying degrees of support for what they consider "moderate" rebels.
A global coalition they lead has also carried out air strikes on IS militants in Syria since 2014 and helped an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) capture territory from the jihadists.
Turkey has long supported the rebels but it has focused on using them to contain the Kurdish militia that dominates the SDF, accusing it of being an extension of a banned Kurdish rebel group in Turkey.
Saudi Arabia, which is keen to counter Iranian influence, has also armed and financed the rebels.
Israel, meanwhile, has been so concerned by shipments of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Syria that it has conducted air strikes in an attempt to thwart them.
How has the country been affected?
Image copyrightAFP
As well as causing hundreds of thousands of deaths, the war has left 1.5 million people with permanent disabilities, including 86,000 who have lost limbs.
At least 6.1 million Syrians are internally displaced, while another 5.6 million have fled abroad.

Neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, where 92% of them now live, have struggled to cope with one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history.
The UN estimates 13.1 million people will require some form of humanitarian help in Syria in 2018.

The warring parties have made the problems worse by refusing aid agencies access to many of those in need. Almost 3 million people live in besieged or hard-to-reach areas.

Syrians also have limited access to healthcare.
Physicians for Human Rights had documented 492 attacks on 330 medical facilities by the end of December 2017, resulting in the deaths of 847 medical personnel.

Much of Syria's rich cultural heritage has also been destroyed. All six of the country's six Unesco World Heritage sites have been damaged significantly.
Entire neighbourhoods have been levelled across the country.

A recent UN assessment found 93% of buildings had been damaged or destroyed in one district of the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus.
How is the country divided?
Image copyrightREUTERS
The government has regained control of Syria's biggest cities but large parts of the country are still held by rebel groups and the Kurdish-led SDF alliance.
The largest opposition stronghold is the north-western province of Idlib, home to more than 2.6 million people.

Despite being designated a "de-escalation zone", Idlib is the target of an offensive by the government, which says it is targeting jihadists linked to al-Qaeda.
A ground assault is also under way in the Eastern Ghouta. Its 393,000 residents have been under siege by the government since 2013, and are facing intense bombardment as well as severe shortages of food and medical supplies.
The SDF meanwhile controls most territory east of the River Euphrates, including the city of Raqqa. Until 2017, it was the de facto capital of the "caliphate" proclaimed by IS, which now controls only a few pockets across Syria.

Will the war ever end?

It does not look like it will any time soon but everyone agrees a political solution is required.
The UN Security Council has called for the implementation of the 2012 Geneva Communique, which envisages a transitional governing body "formed on the basis of mutual consent."
But nine rounds of UN-mediated peace talks - known as the Geneva II process - since 2014 have shown little progress.
President Assad has appeared increasingly unwilling to negotiate with the opposition. The rebels still insist he must step down as part of any settlement.
Meanwhile, Western powers have accused Russia of undermining the peace talks by setting up a parallel political process.
The so-called Astana process saw Russia host a "Congress of National Dialogue" in January 2018. However, most opposition representatives refused to attend.

UK strikes in Homs

UK strikes in Homs
Gen Dunford said the US had specifically identified targets that would "mitigate" the risk of Russian casualties. But the Pentagon said that Russia - which has forces on the ground in Syria in support of the government - had not been given advance notice of the targets.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed British involvement, saying there was "no practicable alternative to the use of force".
But she also said the strikes were not about "regime change".

Media captionMay: 'We are acting together with our allies'
UK strikes carried out by four Tornado jets hit one of the targets mentioned by the Pentagon - a military site near the city of Homs which is believed to have housed precursor materials for chemical weapons, according to the UK ministry of defence.

French President Emmanuel Macron also confirmed his country's participation in the operation.
"Dozens of men, women and children were massacred with chemical weapons," he said of the Douma incident a week ago - adding that "the red line had been crossed".

Media captionUnverified video shows children being treated after the alleged gas attack

Analysis: Will this time be different?
Jonathan Marcus, defence correspondent
Image copyrightREUTERS
This attack was more significant than the US strike against a Syrian air base a little over a year ago, but at first sight seems more limited than President Trump's rhetoric may have suggested.
Last year some 59 missiles were fired. This time a little over double that number were used.
The strikes are over for now, but there was a clear warning that if the Assad regime resorts to chemical weapons again then further strikes may well follow.
Care was taken, say the Americans, to avoid both Syrian and "foreign" - for that read Russian - casualties.
But the fundamental questions remain. Will President Assad be deterred?
Last year's US strike failed to change his behaviour. This time, will it be any different?

Syria has denied carrying out the Douma attack and its ally, Russia, had warned that Western military strikes would risk starting a war.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has dispatched a fact-finding mission to the site of the alleged attack in Syria. Investigators were due to start their probe later on Saturday.
Sana, Syria's official state news agency, called the Western action "a flagrant violation of international law".
"The American, French and British aggression against Syria will fail," it said.
The Syrian presidency has tweeted a short video of Bashar al-Assad walking into his office at 09:00 local time with the caption: "Morning of steadfastness."
Double the missiles
A US official told Reuters news agency that Tomahawk cruise missiles were being used against multiple locations in Syria.
Secretary Mattis also said the scale of the strikes was about "double" what was launched in April 2017 after a chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed more than 80 people.

The strikes were ordered "on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities" of the Syrian government, Mr Trump said.
On Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, he said: "These are not the actions of a man, they are the crimes of a monster instead."
British-based monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, suggested that more targets than the three listed by the Pentagon had been hit.
It said western forces had struck "scientific research centres, several military bases, and the bases of the Republican Guard and Fourth Division in the capital Damascus and around it."
One Damascus resident told BBC News: "It was mayhem above us."
"I saw more than 20 anti-air missiles launched. They'd fly really high then start weaving across, like they were following their target.
"I didn't see the cruise missiles, but I saw some falling debris nearby."

Syrian War:The US, UK and France have bombed multiple government targets in Syria

The US, UK and France have bombed multiple government targets in Syria in an early morning operation targeting alleged chemical weapons sites.
The strikes are in response to a suspected chemical attack on the Syrian town of Douma last week.
Explosions hit the capital, Damascus, as well as two locations near the city of Homs, the Pentagon said.
Russia's ambassador to the US responded by saying the attack on its ally "will not be left without consequences".
"The nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshalled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality," President Trump said in an address to the nation from the White House at about 21:00 local time (02:00 BST).
"The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread, and use of chemical weapons," he added.

The wave of strikes is the most significant attack against President Bashar al-Assad's government by Western powers in seven years of Syria's civil war.
Follow live: Western powers strike Syria targets
A 'one-time shot'
At a Pentagon briefing shortly after Mr Trump's announcement, Gen Joseph Dunford listed three targets that had been struck:
A scientific research facility in Damascus, allegedly connected to the production of chemical and biological weapons
A chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs
A chemical weapons equipment storage site and an important command post, also near Homs
Syrian state television said government forces had shot down more than a dozen missiles, and claimed only the research facility in Damascus had been damaged.
Three civilians had been injured in Homs, it said.

US Secretary of Defence James Mattis told journalists there were no reports of US losses in the operation.
In his earlier address, President Trump had said: "We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents."
But Secretary Mattis said that "right now, this is a one-time shot". Gen Dunford confirmed the wave of strikes had ended.

Friday 16 February 2018

Golan Heights profile

The Golan Heights, a rocky plateau in south-western Syria, has a political and strategic significance which belies its size.
Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War. Most of the Syrian Arab inhabitants fled the area during the conflict.
An armistice line was established and the region came under Israeli military control. Almost immediately Israel began to settle the Golan.
Read more country profiles - Profiles by BBC Monitoring
Syria tried to retake the Golan Heights during the 1973 Middle East war. Despite inflicting heavy losses on Israeli forces, the surprise assault was thwarted. Both countries signed an armistice in 1974 and a UN observer force has been in place on the ceasefire line since 1974.
Israel unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. The move was not recognised internationally.
There are more than 30 Jewish settlements on the heights, with an estimated 20,000 settlers. There are some 20,000 Syrians in the area, most of them members of the Druze sect.
Strategic importance
Southern Syria and the capital Damascus, about 60 km (40 miles) north, are clearly visible from the top of the Heights while Syrian artillery regularly shelled the whole of northern Israel from 1948 to 1967 when Syria controlled the Heights.
The heights give Israel an excellent vantage point for monitoring Syrian movements. The topography provides a natural buffer against any military thrust from Syria.
The area is also a key source of water for an arid region. Rainwater from the Golan's catchment feeds into the Jordan River. The area provides a third of Israel's water supply.
The land is fertile, with the volcanic soil being used to cultivate vineyards and orchards and to raise cattle. The Golan is also home to Israel's only ski resort.
Stumbling blocks
Syria wants to secure the return of the Golan Heights as part of any peace deal. In late 2003, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he was ready to revive peace talks with Israel.
In Israel, the principle of returning the territory in return for peace is already established. During US-brokered peace talks in 1999-2000, then Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak had offered to return most of the Golan to Syria.
But the main sticking point during the 1999 talks is also likely to bedevil any future discussions. Syria wants a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 border. This would give Damascus control of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee - Israel's main source of fresh water..
Israel wishes to retain control of Galilee and says the border is located a few hundred metres to the east of the shore.
A deal with Syria would also involve the dismantling of Jewish settlements in the territory.
Public opinion in Israel appears not to favour withdrawal. Opponents say the heights are too strategically important to be returned.
On-off talks
Indirect talks between Israel and Syria resumed in 2008, through Turkish government intermediaries, but were suspended following the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over a corruption inquiry.
The Israeli government under Binyamin Netanyahu elected in February 2009 indicated that it was determined to take a tougher line over the Golan, and in June 2009, the Syrian leader said there was no partner for talks on the Israeli side.
Syrian civil war
The US administration of President Barack Obama - who took up office in January 2009 - declared the restarting of talks between Israel and Syria to be one of its main foreign policy goals, but the advent of civil war in Syria in 2011 put paid to any progress.
Syrian fighting reached the Golan ceasefire lines in 2013, when Israel returned fire after rebel shells landed in Golan. Israeli and Syrian Army troops exchanged fire across their lines in May.

Sunday 11 February 2018


The Arab Spring was a series of pro-democracy uprisings that enveloped several largely Muslim countries, including Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Bahrain. The events in these nations generally began in the spring of 2011, which led to the name. However, the political and social impact of these popular uprisings remains significant today, years after many of them ended.

The Arab Spring was a loosely related group of protests that ultimately resulted in regime changes in countries such as Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Not all of the movements, however, could be deemed successful—at least if the end goal was increased democracy and cultural freedom.

In fact, for many countries enveloped by the revolts of the Arab Spring, the period since has been hallmarked by increased instability and oppression.

Given the significant impact of the Arab Spring throughout northern Africa and the Middle East, it’s easy to forget the series of large-scale political and social movements arguably began with a single act of defiance.

Saturday 10 February 2018

Middle East

Middle East, the lands around the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, extending from Morocco to the Arabian Peninsula and Iran and, by some definitions, sometimes beyond. The central part of this general area was formerly called the Near East, a name given to it by some of the first modern Western geographers and historians, who tended to divide what they called the Orient into three regions. Near East applied to the region nearest Europe, extending from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf; Middle East, from the Persian Gulf to Southeast Asia; and Far East, those regions facing the Pacific Ocean.

The change in usage began to evolve prior to World War II and tended to be confirmed during that war, when the term Middle East was given to the British military command in Egypt. By the mid-20th century a common definition of the Middle East encompassed the states or territories of Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, and the various states and territories of Arabia proper (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, and the Trucial States, or Trucial Oman [now United Arab Emirates]). Subsequent events have tended, in loose usage, to enlarge the number of lands included in the definition. The three North African countries of Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco are closely connected in sentiment and foreign policy with the Arab states. In addition, geographic factors often require statesmen and others to take account of Afghanistan and Pakistan in connection with the affairs of the Middle East.

Occasionally, Greece is included in the compass of the Middle East because the Middle Eastern (then Near Eastern) question in its modern form first became apparent when the Greeks rose in rebellion to assert their independence of the Ottoman Empire in 1821 (see Eastern Question). Turkey and Greece, together with the predominantly Arabic-speaking lands around the eastern end of the Mediterranean, were also formerly known as the Levant.

Use of the term Middle East nonetheless remains unsettled, and some agencies (notably the United States State Department and certain bodies of the United Nations) still employ the term Near East.

Syria war: Israeli fighter jet crashes under S yria fire, military says

The Israeli F-16 jet crashed near a village in northern Israel.
An Israeli fighter jet has crashed amid Syrian anti-aircraft fire after an offensive against Iranian targets in Syria, the Israeli military says.
The two pilots ejected and parachuted to safety after the crash in northern Israel. They were taken to hospital.
Israel said its aircraft, an F-16 jet, was carrying out strikes in response to the launch of an Iranian drone into Israel. The drone was intercepted.
Syria opened fire after an Israeli act of "aggression", state media said.
Israel 'strikes Damascus military complex'
In a statement, the Israeli military said "a combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel".
It said the drone was identified quickly and was "under surveillance until the interception".

The military said that in response the IDF "targeted Iranian targets in Syria", adding that the mission was successfully completed.

Red alert sirens sounded in areas of northern Israel and the Golan Heights due to Syrian anti-aircraft fire.
Residents reported hearing a number of explosions and heavy aerial activity in the area near Israel's borders with Jordan and Syria.
Syrian state media quoted a military source as saying that the country's air defences opened fire in response to an Israeli act of "aggression" against a military base on Saturday, hitting "more than one plane".
What is the Iranian presence in Syria?
Iran - together with Russia - is a key supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose troops have been fighting rebel groups since 2011.
Last November, a Western intelligence source told the BBC that Tehran was establishing a permanent military base inside Syria.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that "Israel will not let that happen".
Iran has faced accusations that it is seeking to establish not just an arc of influence but a logistical land supply line from Iran through to the Shia Hezbollah movement in Lebanon.
Israeli strikes in Syria are not unusual, the BBC's Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman says. But he adds that the downing of an Israeli fighter jet marks one of the most serious escalations yet.

Öne Çıkan Yayın


ƏRƏB BAHARININ NƏTİCƏLƏRİ Yaxın Şərq və Şimali Afrika ölkələrinin tarixində xüsusi yer tutan Ərəb Baharının nəticələrinin araşdırılması...