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Will Syria & Iraq Ever Be Stable Again?

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Dan J Broadley

Will Syria and Iraq ever be stable? These were one of the many questions discussed at Manchester Metropolitan University yesterday as Dr Steve Hurst – who specialises in American foreign policy post-1945 – hosted a talk on ISIS in Syria, which was followed by an open discussion and talk on human rights.

The talk covered the rise and presence of extreme Islamist group the Islamic State, who now control territory across Syria and Iraq. It was said that there are in fact multiple wars going on within one war; the Syrian Civil War in particular. This civil war left a huge power vacuum in Syria, which was filled by extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda and IS. Similarly in Iraq, the Iraqi army (trained by the US and UK and other Western nations) struggled to contain the spread of IS. And, as all this is going, we were reminded that the West still want to remove President Assad from office in Syria.

Dr Hurst said he doesn’t believe that Assad’s regime will be toppled in Syria, as the opposition is too fragmented and no Western nation is likely to commit military forces to do so. He did say, however, that IS will be a more difficult problem to remove from Syria than Iraq, due to the sheer size of the American air force and organised Iraqi army versus the disorganised IS forces. A member of the discussion pointed out that this may be due to the US and UK’s history in Iraq, a country they may feel more committed to than Syria, after toppling Saddam Hussein.

The debate as to whether the West should commit troops on the ground to Syria was widely discussed, but to no clear conclusion. Dr Hurst had this to say on the subject:

“I’m, on the whole, sceptical on military action in Syria. The opposition is a mess. If we intervened it’d be Iraq all over again.”

However, another member of the discussion raised an interesting point by saying that the US and UK have already committed military advisors and trainers to the region. Surely, this means the West have already committed some military forces? Not infantry, perhaps. But still ‘boots on the ground’, all the same.

The discussion moved to President Assad and whether not the West should work with the tyrannical dictator to quash IS or not. After all, the West worked with Joseph Stalin in WWII to defeat the Nazis. Surely he was just as much of an evil tyrant that Assad is now? Does the phrase ‘your enemy’s enemy is your friend’ still apply to the complex modern world?

The importance of humanitarian aid was one of the final subjects to be discussed. The discussion went through whether the West is paying enough attention to the humanitarian crisis in the region, in Syria in particular. Surely this deserves as much focus as the military efforts? Syria, after all, has been torn by civil war and now being taken over by IS and other extremist groups. Thousands of civilians have been killed and countless more displaced from their homes. Is it not the duty of the world’s wealthiest nations to send aid and give refuge?

Clearly, the crisis in Iraq and Syria is one that isn’t going away any time soon. It is one of such complexity – dating back as far as the 80s when the US argubly propped up the groups they noe refer to as ‘extremists’ in Afghanistan to help repel the USSR’s invasion – and it seems no simple or quick solution will arise anytime soon.

Anarcho-libertarian, Dan J Broadley, is a creative writing student at MMU and has hopes to become a novelist.

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