News, On Campus

Krause Discusses Syrian Civil War

“Gulf States are pro-U.S., but Turkey is with Gulf States against Assad, yet Turkey is pro-Muslim Brotherhood against General Sisi, and General Sisi is being backed by the Gulf States. Welcome to the Middle East and have a nice day.”

A wave of laughter filled Gasson 305 on Tuesday when assistant professor of political science Peter Krause opened his talk with a comically confusing but accurate quote from a letter published in a British newspaper. Acknowledging the confusion behind the frustratingly intertwined relations and conflicts among Arab countries, Krause introduced five key questions regarding the civil war in Syria before he presented an extensive outlook on the ongoing issue of the Syrian crisis. Each dealt with the causes and progress of the civil war, along with the possibilities of U.S. intervention and its impacts.

Following the end of World War I, after revolting against the Ottomans, Syria and other Arab countries fell victim to great power politics as France and Britain decided to carve up the Middle East according to their own interests. “In many ways, this was kind of the colonial legacy of the British and French,” Krause said. “The important thing to understand is Syria didn’t become an independent state until pretty well into the 20th century. Under the agreement of the League of Nations at the end of World War I, these states were kind of divided up between the British and French in terms of influence.”

Soon enough, an Arab nationalist Ba’ath party was founded and the authoritarian, coup-proofed Assad regime took over the country until 2011, when the Syrian uprising began to appear in the political scene as an organized, peaceful protest movement. “This did not start as a civil war,” Krause said. “In 2011, when there were uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, etc., where is the place this is perhaps unlikely to happen? One of the first places we would have said was Syria, because Syria has been run as a very repressive police state for quite a while.”

Despite a prevalent fear of against the government, Syrian protestors pushed for freedom and economic concessions but were tortured and killed as the upheaval intensified. In face of the civil war, the rebel groups shared a goal of fighting against the Assad administration, yet had different ideas about the future of the country after the oppressive leader was dethroned. Fragmentation among the anti-Assad allies and infighting among Al-Qaeda-affiliated rebel groups led to tortures of the criminals, over two million casualties, refugees and IDPs dispersed throughout the Arab countries including Jordan and Lebanon.

In the matter of Syria’s chemical weapons, Syria began to work with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations to attain legitimacy and secure a favorable impression from the international community. In addition, following the recent disinvitation of Iran to Geneva talks, the relationship between the U.S. and Iran has become more uncertain and resulted in a stalemate. “That’s one of the most difficult things about this conflict and why it’s been going on so long,” Krause said. “It’s that neither side has lost but neither side has won, and both sides realize that they can pretty much prevent the other side from winning.”

Krause closed his lecture by listing different possibilities for U.S. intervention not only in Syria but also in the Arab region, ranging from complete indifference to forceful demand for a negotiated deal, and predicting both the positive and negative outcomes of each action.

January 23, 2014