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    This Nov. 20, 2014 photo shows an area controlled by the Islamic State group, past the Qada Azadi roundabout, foreground, in Kobani, Syria.

    From Arming Rebels to Air Strikes: How the West Destabilized Syria

    © AP Photo / Jake Simkin
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    With clashes between army forces, rebel groups and the spread of jihadists, it's no surprise that Syria was recently ranked as the world's most dangerous country. Despite Syria's internal problems, many argue that the West must bear some responsibility for the situation after years of intervention.

    Following US claims of Syrian chemical weapon use, there was talk of air strikes being used to further weaken Bashar al-Assad's forces.

    During the debate over carrying out air strikes against the Assad government, some, such as Richard Haass, president of the Washington-based Council of Foreign Relations, advocated bombing, saying that the US should "do something that is both meaningful and visible."

    In this Monday, Nov. 17, 2014 file photo, smoke rises from the Syrian city of Kobani, following an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition, seen from a hilltop outside Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border.
    In this Monday, Nov. 17, 2014 file photo, smoke rises from the Syrian city of Kobani, following an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition, seen from a hilltop outside Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border.

    Arguing that the West needed to send a message to the world through the use of highly dangerous airstrikes, he said:

    "I would be in favor of a fairly heavy use of cruise missiles against targets… Any strike has to be large enough to inflict enough pain and cost on Syrians so they would be discouraged from resorting to chemical weapons again."

    However, others were vehemently opposed to the idea of air strikes, with former NATO secretary generals Javier Solana and Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, writing an op-ed in June 2013, urging governments not to take military action for fear of the after-effects.

    "Rather than secure humanitarian space and empower a political transition, western military engagement in Syria is likely to provoke further escalation on all sides, deepening the civil war and strengthening the forces of extremism, sectarianism and criminality gaining strength across the country. The idea that the West can empower and remotely control moderate forces is optimistic at best."

    Still wary of the devastating impacts that followed the Iraq invasion, the British parliament in 2013 voted against carrying out air strikes in Syria, with MPs raising concerns about such actions.

    However, the reality of western air strikes was confirmed in 2014, when the US led a 7 nation coalition on a campaign to bomb strategic ISIL targets in Syria, as reports of the group's brutality and expansion in the region increased.

    Many have said the western approach to fighting ISIL is ultimately flawed, with the air strikes, combined with arming and supporting groups of 'moderate' Islamist rebels, exacerbating Syria's existing problems, as well as prolonging the conflict.

    Despite these efforts, the fighting continues, with reports of civilians and fighters on all sides being killed on an almost daily basis. The dire situation in Syria, highlighted by the recent GPI, has also inadvertently raised questions about the impact of Western intervention, with suggestions that the West must take some responsibility for today's disastrous situation.

    Syria: A History of Violence

    It would be inadequate to blame Syria's current situation on any single cause, with various sectarian, ethnic and historical factors all contributing to the country's four-year long, ongoing civil war between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and various rebel groups, such as ISIL and the western-backed Free Syrian Army.

    The country has suffered horrific losses as a result of the conflict, with some estimates suggesting the death toll stands at 300,000 — while 4 million Syrians have been forced to leave the country as a result of fighting.

    Syrian refugees wait behind the border fences to cross into Turkey at Akcakale border gate in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, June 15, 2015
    © REUTERS / Umit Bektas
    Syrian refugees wait behind the border fences to cross into Turkey at Akcakale border gate in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, June 15, 2015

    The severity of the fighting and alarming nature of the conflict has led western countries, fronted by the US, plus a number of other regional players to involve themselves in Syria's conflict — with devastating results.

    Early in the Syrian civil war, US authorities began supplying various Syrian rebel groups with aid, following 2013 reports that Syrian government forces were using chemical weapons to suppress rebel fighters.

    Despite Bashar al-Assad's government denying the accusations, the US continued to support rebel groups, with many analysts arguing that such actions were harmful to the prospect of peace in Syria as it would further splinter the conflict and prolong the war.

    Russia was among the most vocal critics of Washington's policy, arguing that instead of supporting rebel groups, the US should support the Assad government, as it would be far more effective in bringing the conflict to an end, and giving the country a better chance at securing long-term peace.

    The World's Most Dangerous Country

    The Global Peace Index (GPI) — a ranking of the world's most peaceful and dangerous countries, carried out by Sydney-based think tank, the Institute for Economics and Peace — named Syria as the world's most dangerous country in the release of their 2015 report, citing the ongoing civil war and the spread of various jihadist groups, like ISIL, as major reasons behind their decision.

    The report placed Syria 162 out of 162 countries in the peace stakes, falling dramatically from the country's ranking as the world's 88 most peaceful back in 2008.

    The GPI bases its overall figures and rankings on 23 different variables such as murder levels, perceptions of criminality and terrorism.

    And while the report has attracted some criticism over its methodologies and rankings, many agree that Syria is one of the most unstable and dangerous countries in the world.

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    Tags:
    Middle East, NATO, Daesh, airstrike, military action, militants, terrorism, jihad, Islamic extremism, conflict, war, humanitarian crisis, boots on ground, intervention, western medling, The Syrian war, Syrian crisis, US Army, David Cameron, Bashar al-Assad, United States, West, Syria
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