One of today’s most complicated international conflicts, the Syrian Uprising has put a serious strain on international relations. Over 130,000 Syrians have died and 2.3 million others have fled the country as refugees. In response, the United Nations and other world
2012 Conflict Map via Freedom House- Creative Commons
powers have sponsored peace talks between rebel forces and the regime.
Quick history on conflict
Rebels vs. Assad
The rebel forces want a transitional regime change. At the peace talks in Geneva, the opposition is being led by the Syrian National Coalition.
The Syrian regime, led by President Bashar al-Assad, is fighting to remain in power. At the peace talks, the Assad administration’s focus is counterterrorism.
The X Factor
One group’s influence on the Syrian Conflict concerns America more than the civil war itself. ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, fights against the rebels to prop up the Assad regime. The U.S. concern? ISIS claims a connection to Al-Qaeda.
Advocates of strict Islam, the group has used the civil instability to grow their terrorist organization. Today, ISIS maintains 9 checkpoints on a main road from Syria’s Atnah to the Turkish border, compared to the 2 checkpoints they established last November.
However, as of February 4th Al Qaeda disassociated ISIS.
“ISIS is not a branch of the al-Qaeda group . . . does not have an organizational relationship with it and [al-Qaeda] is not the group responsible for their actions,” Al-Qaeda’s General Command
The statement is the first time Al Qaeda has officially denied an affiliation. Speculation says the split is due to tensions between group leaders and disapproval of ISIS’s willingness to harm civilians.
What this means for the terrorist group’s future role in Syria remains to be seen.
As one of the forefront investors in the peace talks in Geneva, the United States has tried influence both sides to reach an agreement without choosing sides. In reality, the U.S. stands to gain nothing by choosing to exclusively back Assad or the rebels. Neither profit U.S. national interests, and neither present a functioning democratic transitional government.
The first round of talks yielded little progress for either party. They failed to reach any sort of agreement, even the easing of the Syrian government blockade on the delivery of food and medicine to besieged communities was unachievable.
But involved parties remain hopeful for success in Geneva, as the second round of peace talks resume next week.
Further reading on Syria
Syria Live Blog