This essay aims to delineate and elucidate the Syrian conflict using the framework of two theories: realism and constructivism. Particular attention will be paid to the origin of the Syrian Civil War, along with the major actors involved in this regional, and now international, conflict.
“The people want to topple the regime” was the anti- government graffiti on the wall of a local school in Daraa city painted by a group of Syrian children on March 2011. Those children were arrested and tortured by the local security authorities (Diehl, 2012: 7). This act eventually led to an anti- governmental uprising due to the outrageous reaction of community over children’s mistreatment after incarceration by the local security authorities. The uprising demanded release of children, justice, freedom as well as equality for all people. At the core, these peaceful demonstrations were considered to be against the sectarian and family dictatorship because the political power was mainly held by the Alawite elite (Diehl, 2012). In response to these demonstrations, the Syrian government planned to enforce security forces for the protestors to suppress them. The deadly aggression used by the government to oppose dissent led to protests across the country calling for the president to resign. Violence soon escalated as the government battled hundreds of rebel brigades. This rebellion further turned into a full- fledged civil war between the Free Syrian army and the Syrian regime (Thompson, 2016). The main allegation that the Syrian regime associated with the protestors was that they were Islamic Al- Qaeda’s extremist terrorist gangs who were supported and funded by the various countries such as Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia as well as the USA that tries to seek peace with Israel (Sommier, 2014). Similarly, the same Syrian regime who was supported by Russia, China and Iran, was present in the front fire line with Israel (Fisher, 2012). Since then, the regional and international intervention has proven to be a key factor in the power struggle as the government and opposition have received financial, political and military support. This has directly intensified the fighting and allowed it to continue; Syria is effectively being used as a proxy battlefield (Wimmen and Asseburg, 2012).
As of February 2016, the Syrian Centre for Policy Research places the death toll at 470,000. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has claimed that the conflict has created a critical humanitarian crisis, internally displacing 6.1 million people. An additional 4.8 million Syrians have fled abroad to seek asylum. The Syrian Network for Human Rights has also reported that more than 117,000 Syrians have been detained or have disappeared since the start of the conflict. These detention facilities, most of which are administered by government forces, have seen thousands of detainees die after torture and ill-treatment. The introduction of the ISIS to the conflict in 2013 added several unbounded violations, including a blockade on humanitarian aid from reaching civilians in the ISIS-controlled territory, heedless artillery attacks and the use of child soldiers (Human Rights Watch, 2016).
The study of international relations provides a comprehensive understanding of the significant issues that our globalised world faces. In his book ‘International Relations Theories’, Steve Smith proposes that “theories are like different coloured lenses: if you put one of them in front of your eyes, you will see things differently” (Smith, Kurki and Dunne, 2016: 11). In light of this, various currents in international relations offer different perspectives about the Syrian conflict. Realism approaches a dissimilar view than constructivism.