Syria: playing into their hands

In Saferworld’s latest study, David Keen explores how both the Syrian regime and international actors fuelled violence and fundamentalism in the Syrian war.

Military engagement, diplomacy, aid policy, and sanctions – all increasingly shaped by the ongoing ‘war on terror’ – have interacted damagingly with Syria’s civil war – a war in which manipulating disorder and colluding with ‘enemies’ has taken precedence over winning.

Although the conflict continues to evolve, the conditions that fuelled militant fundamentalism in Syria – and the regime that nurtured it – endure. To address the challenges ahead, it is vital to understand how we got to this point.

Syria: playing into their hands describes how:

  • the regime nourished not only rebellion but also fundamentalism;
  • fundamentalist groups came to the fore by offering ‘protection’ from scarcity and state collapse;
  • scarcity – compounded by lack of aid, failure to get aid through, and sweeping sanctions – strengthened the regime’s hand and fed support for violent groups; and
  • prioritising ‘war on terror’ has negatively impacted the conflict system in multiple ways.

The report challenges international actors to rethink their assumptions and their future engagement, and recommends:

  • moving from a ‘war on terror’ framework to a more comprehensive strategy;
  • revisiting the role of aid and sanctions
  • redoubling the search for a political solution, and;
  • supporting the emergence of new governance arrangements to address conflict drivers and enable reconciliation.

Read ‘Syria: playing into their hands’.

Read the executive summary.

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