By Dorothy Hazan
While other nations affected by the 2011 Arab Spring have by no means settled down, the humanitarian situation in Syria continues to make international headlines, drawing the attention of more and more countries and the UN.
Recently, the clashes between the Syrian government and its people have only escalated, with violence supposedly spilling over into border areas shared with Lebanon.
As the body count rises, the international community has begun to respond. France has started providing aid to the rebels, while Iran has continued to ship military supplies to the Syrian government using Iraqi airspace. Turkey continues to take in refugees.
Even the Obama administration announced that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would push the United States toward involvement in the conflict.
Within the UN, Russia and China have blocked the Security Council from taking any significant action against the Syrian government.
With the Bashar al-Assad regime showing no sign of wavering, many wonder what action (if any) can be taken to bring peace. To better understand the conflict, one must look back at Syria’s political history.
“In Syria, the population itself is complicated,” explained political science Lecturer Tom Lobe. “In the 1960s, Assad led a military coup, that eventually favored the Alawites in terms of privileged jobs and careers, and the Sunnis have had to eat it, because it’s a police state.”
Under this autocracy, Syria remained relatively quiet until March, 2011, when non-violent demonstrations broke out in Damascus and spread to other cities. The Syrian government responded with brutal force that harkened back to its iron-handed answer to the Hama uprising in the 1980s.
Lobe commented on how dangerous it is for the international community to give assistance to the people of Syria. Any assistance could be regarded as attempts at intervention, leading to even more violence.
Despite pressure from those in favor of aiding the rebels, Obama has been treading lightly. With Middle East politics so crucial to the U.S. in terms of the economy, voters have an opportunity to become informed about the situation in the Middle East before they vote in November.