The Syrian Civil War: Missed Opportunities?

The Syrian civil war has lingered since 2011, with the inauguration of President Trump, it is worthwhile examining what effect the new president’s foreign policy will have upon the quagmire in Syria. Whilst on its surface the conflict in Syria is a “civil war”, it has descended into an intricate web of complexity, a crucible for the Middle Eastern interests of various international powers. This has created a Russian doll comprised of layers of actors and interests that must all be appeased before peace within Syria is attainable.

America has been unable to take any direct action in Syria, as it missed a small window of time for which to implement policies. This resulted from deliberation over action and hesitation over clear policies to follow. This delay allowed Russia to enter the Syrian conflict, supporting Assad and protecting interests in the Middle East.

I propose that any inroads to peace in Syria will stem from improved American – Russian relations. Whilst the Obama administration had a strained relationship with Russia, Trump could thaw this association. Undoubtedly Russia has committed atrocities though it’s use of indiscriminate air strikes in Aleppo and elsewhere as documented by Human Rights Watch. Whilst these actions should not go condoned or without judicial review in the International Court of Justice. It appears the only way in which to arrive at a peaceful solution in Syria is through America’s increased communication and cooperation with Russia.

This is left as the only possible solution, as Russia’s involvement has removed potential options that were previously open to America, including “no fly-zones” as proposed by Hilary Clinton. These policies are off the table lest adverse action embroils America into direct conflict with Russia.

I argue that complete peace, the implementation of Syrian democracy and the removal of ISIS will take more than just improved diplomatic relations. However, I believe the first policy of the United States in steps to a peaceful solution should be to protect civilians and stop what the UN has labelled the “humanitarian calamity” of the century. This can be achieved through the following steps: Firstly, America can use its diplomatic muscle and power in international organizations to force Russia into preventing civilian casualties during air strikes, though penalization of indiscriminate tactics and weaponry. Secondly, president Trump has repeatedly called for implementing safe zones to protect civilians from the fighting. This seems to be one of the only options left open to America without causing catastrophic damage to itself through unintended consequences. These safe zones would require large funding and leadership by America, however, this would be shared by the international community (specifically Europe) as these safe zones would provide a common good in helping to stem the flow of refugees.

However, many Syrian civilians would be reluctant to travel to these safe zone, as in the past Russia has bombed UN aid convoys and buses evacuating civilians were attacked. To convince civilians to relocate to these safe zones, it will require fully implementing and protecting these safe zones. To avoid a repetition of the UN’s experience of the Srebrenica massacre, America may have to be willing to deploy ground forces to protect these safe zones and provide direct aid.


The Organization for World Peace