THE EXPANDING NATURE OF THE SYRIAN CIVIL WAR: FROM POOR POLICY TO REGIONAL CONFLICT
Davis, Kristen Leigh
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This research examines the way by which domestic management issues in Syria have expanded to become a violent, regional sectarian battle that has the potential to reshape the Middle East. By focusing on three unique topics that are each central to the development of the Syrian Civil War and to the exploits of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), this collection of papers shows the devolution to civil war and then to a larger conflict that may ultimately embroil the entire Arab world. Each of the three chapters within this paper focus on a unique issue related to the Syrian Civil War that demonstrate the cascading set of consequences that have snowballed from issues that, in large part, originated in Syria starting with end of colonization and the Sykes-Picot Agreement that drew artificial borders grouping together peoples who would prefer to be independent. The resulting sectarian conflict has characterized the Middle East to this day. The first chapter focuses on Syria’s water crisis and determining which factor had a more significant impact on the start of the civil war: drought or failures in water management policy. Using a combination of qualitative and quantitative data, this chapter concludes that the impact of the Assad regime’s failed policy far outweighs dry weather conditions. The second chapter looks at external effects of Syria’s conflict by examining the impact of refugees upon Syria’s neighbor states, concluding that the secondary and tertiary effects of housing refugees poses a greater threat to state stability than does the actual presence of refugees. Finally, the third chapter focuses on ISIS’ ability to establish an independent Islamic state. The results of this analysis suggest that ISIS will be unable to overcome sectarian issues to unite disparate Arab groups. These three topics demonstrate the way by which Syria’s domestic conflict has grown to impact not only the surrounding region, but also the larger international community. Water scarcity, refugee crisis, and sectarian conflict are all issues of significant global issues that are relevant in every part of the world. This work may guide the international community in understanding what issues must be addressed when Syria emerges from conflict, and the individual chapters may be used as case studies to inform the analysis of water, humanitarian, and sectarian crisis outside of the Levant. Syria will require a significant amount of support from external actors to overcome its humanitarian crisis, recover from ISIS’ exploits, and establish sustainable water policy once the conflict comes to and end. However, the war shows no signs of slowing, and the conflict only continues to expand.