Nearly everyone is in agreement that the ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) are incredibly bad people and should be handled with one way or another. But then why after all these vows of different countries to do so, and all these bombs dropped in Syria and the likes, don’t we hear more about success? Sadly, the truth is that of varying political interests in this world.
You see, the people in Turkey who make all the decisions support a certain group in Syria called the Free Syrian Army, which are defectors of the regular Syrian Army, and condemn the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. Whereas the people in Russia do support the president of Syria due to previous involvement with Assad’s father in the 1960’s, because of many commercial interests and military exports which started off with the Soviet Union supplying 90% of all arms sales to Syria (Pollard, 2015 a). Russia is the number two in arms exports in the world, with $13.2 billion worth of export in 2013 alone. According to the Moscow Times, Russia and Syria arms contracts were worth over $4 billion in 2011. From an economic standpoint, Russia has a huge interest in keeping Assad as the president to keep up the arms sales and active contracts.
To complicate this even further, the allies of the Western world, such as the US and EU, have trouble finding a group of people to support which can hopefully promote stability and peace in a region which has been plagued by civil unrest. And there is a group they would support, the Kurds, if it wasn’t for the Turks not especially liking the Kurds. And since relations between the US and Turkey haven’t always been the greatest, they’ve made a conscious choice to not support the Kurds directly (Pollard, 2015 b).
When ISIL terrorized the French with shootings in Paris, every one of these countries agreed to try and make life as hard as possible for them with more air attacks. Russia took this opportunity to strike the Free Syrian Army in favour of Assad gaining more ground in the central and north-western areas of Syria, where his strongholds are positioned, and striking ISIL along with the rest of the countries. The Western countries, especially the US, condemned these actions, as they have no interest in the authoritarian president Assad regaining position in Syria, but didn’t take any actions in the form of sanctions. However, Turkey did have a problem with this, as they do support the Free Syrian Army. Speculation is that for this reason Turkey very recently shot down a Russian fighter jet as a show of force and retaliation, which Russia responded to by laying down sanctions on Turkey by form of limitations on export and tourism and accusing Turkey of importing oil from ISIL (Jenkins, 2015). Sanctions like these are often used to address problems until significant political reforms happen (Ravenhill, 2014). It seems when it comes to oil, everyone turns a blind eye and wants a piece of the highly profitable pie, including the Syrian, the Kurdish, and the Turkish (Masi, 2015).
What seems to some as a country filled with terrorists who are out to hurt everyone and anyone who doesn’t share their ideology, is actually much more than that. It is a country stricken by geopolitics and economics, with multiple countries protecting their assets to maximize profits, and some even taking advantage of the situation on a whole other level. The world isn’t as black as white as it seems on the media, good versus evil. There are many faces of evil, but some just don’t appear as frequently in the public due to media control, rhetoric, and propaganda.
As with all conflicts, the real victims of this war are the people stuck in the middle of this political, bloody mess who have to leave their country and hope they are taken in by willing countries. Germany’s broadcast to the Middle-East that everyone is welcome to come resonated deeply and many refugees made their way over to Europe in the hope of prosperity. However, Germany is starting to reconsider their welcoming position and plans by Eastern European countries to put up fences to refrain refugees from entering are very real to control the flow of refugees.
Mario van der Meer
Word count: 718
Jenkins, L. (2015). “Vladimir Putin announces Russian sanctions against Turkey”. The Guardian, 28 November.
Masi, A. (2015). “Turkey, Russia, Iraq And Syria: The Black Market Oil Trade That’s Fueling ISIS And Dividing The Terrorist Group’s Opponents”. International Business Times, 15 December.
Pollard, R. (2015 a). “Syrian war: Russia’s support for Bashar al-Assad explained”. The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 September.
Pollard, R. (2015 b). “Syrians crushed to death between Turkish and Russian armed camps”. The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 November.
Ravenhill, J. (2014). Global Political Economy. Oxford University Press 2014. Oxford, pp. 126.