4 Years and Counting: the Long Road Ahead for Syria
May 7, 2014
President Ahmad Jarba, National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces
Despite the best efforts from politicians around the world, the civil war in Syria has continued to drag on – now into its fourth year – with no end in sight. Across the country cities and neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble, opposition leaders state that 200,000 people have been killed, and approximately 10 million citizens have been displaced both within the country and abroad. What started as a peaceful, organic, and domestically driven movement for democracy and human rights has now turned into a larger regional, conflict. With fighters continuing to come from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq, and even Western Europe, it is becoming clear that, left to its own devices, this conflict will sustain itself for the foreseeable future. So far, attempts to solve the conflict peacefully through diplomatic means, have failed. Although the government in Damascus has decided to go ahead with presidential elections in June, it is very apparent that this show of legitimacy will have little impact on the ground. Likewise, the U.S.’ recent recognition of the rebel led Syrian National Coalition (SNC), will likely have no direct impact on the conflict.
While speaking in Washington, DC, SNC President, Ahmad Jarba, called on Western leaders to play a more active role in aiding opposition forces in Syria, claiming that the crisis is now too much for Syrians to handle alone. Although he stated that he and the SNC were extremely grateful for the support and effort that the U.S. has exerted on its behalf – setting up talks in Geneva, providing aid to refugees, etc. – greater assistance is needed in order to produce changes on the ground.
Despite the recent news surround the rebel evacuation of Homs, President Jarba described rebel forces as making gains in Aleppo, Idlib, and along the Syrian coast. In these controlled areas, rebel forces are working to reestablish a sense of order, setting up schools and local governments; however, these efforts are constantly undermined by the regime’s air force. Videos of “barrel bomb” attacks carried out by regime forces fully convey the type of battle the civilians and SNC fighters are currently fighting. Currently the opposition lacks any effective means to combat the regime’s planes and helicopters, and therefore must endure them and live in fear. It is for this reason that President Jarba is now asking the U.S. and other Western countries for more advanced weaponry, so that the SNC can protect the territory that it has gained and continue to make further advances on the ground in hopes of building up further pressure on Assad to step down.
As the war in Syria has continued to go on, the battlefield has become increasingly complex. The SNC is no longer just fighting the Assad regime, but also Islamic militant groups, some with ties to Al Qaeda. As reports of opposition infighting continue to come out of Syria, President Jarba hopes that Western leaders will finally believe that the SNC is trustworthy and committed to opposing terrorist groups enough so that they will be granted the sophisticated weapons they desperately need. As President Jarba stated, he is not asking for weapons simply for the sake of war. The regime’s use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs, coupled with the stalled talks in Geneva, show that Assad will only negotiate through force. President Jarba and the SNC want to rebuild Syria, to reestablish it as an open, tolerant, and multi-ethnic society. Unfortunately, in order to achieve this vision, it seems that more blood will need to be shed.