CONCEPTUAL DISCOURSE, LITERATURE REVIEW AND THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
This section provides background knowledge and understanding on previous research studies on the Syrian Conflict and the actions and impacts of the United Nations in the crisis. However, it should be noted here that a lot of studies have been carried out on the Syrian conflict but there are still some gaps that need to be filled. Moreover, in the conduct of any good research work, the clarification of concepts is very important. Concepts have various meanings and as such be explained appropriately in order to better understand them contextually. For enough clarity and effective communication, the researcher would reduce the section to the following sub-categories:
2.1 Conceptual Discourse
2.1.1 The Nature of Conflict
2.1.2 The International Body: The United Nations
2.1.3 History of the Syrian Arab Republic
2.2 Literature Review
2.3 Theoretical Framework
2.3.1 Conflict Theory
2.3.2 Frustration and Aggression Theory
2.1 Conceptual Discourse
2.1.1 The Nature of Conflict
Firstly, the term ‘conflict’ comes from the Latin word ‘conflictus’ which can be interpreted as ‘collision’ or ‘clash’. It is important to address the concept of conflict before any other thing. The first part is to understand what makes up a conflict. According to Swanstorm and Summer (2005), conflict can be defined as the result of opposing interests involving scarce resources, goal divergence and frustration. This definition suggests that conflict is not defined only in terms of violence behaviour or hostility. It also involves differences in issue position and incompatibility. However, C.R. Mitchell’s The Structure of International Conflict (1981) points out that conflict has a structure, and this structure is divided into three parts : attitudes, behaviour and situations. This conflict model is relevant to this study because it was created for political and military conflicts.
However, Jeong (2007) states that conflict stands for persistent and pervasive nature of inter-group and international competition among disparate interests and values that underlies the dynamics of power. According to him, conflict is a basic experience and its negative effects often diffuses to many aspects of community life. This is the situation of the Syria. The roots of adversarial relationships are not restrained to the control of power or tangible economic interests. They include the value of identity differences. Boulding (1965) puts this in other words, “Conflict is most popularly described as ‘a struggle over values and claims to scarce status, power and resources.” The frictions described may stem from interpersonal tensions between the leaders of government, disagreements between states on foreign policy directions, issues revolving around labour management that deal with multinational corporations and manual workers.
The structure of people’s expectations may take another shape in response to a shift in their social or economic environment. Mark and Snyder (1971) posits, if the norms that govern a people appear too rigid to be adjusted to fresh demands and expectations, resentments for the mobilisation of discontent groups would be bred from such inflexibility. It is such inflexibility that creates tensions and frictions in a state. Azar (1986) points out that long term grievances over economic and social inequalities are derived from a failure to make the quality of life of a particular group better. We shall explore the works of some analysts who agree with Azar (1986) that it is indeed the economic woes and social inequality that made Syria’s Sunni majority revolt against the Assad regime.
Moreover, the essential nature of a conflict situation can be easily comprehended in terms of the constraints and difficulties that are involved in meeting everyone’s aspirations simultaneously (Pruitt and Kim, 2004). Everybody’s needs cannot be met simultaneously, and this alone causes tensions. It is because of the pursuit of different outcomes that tensions emerge. However, to Jeong (2008), the roots of misunderstanding and misperception may be as diverse as a lack of information, inadequate knowledge, and different interpretations of data or legal principles.
Interestingly, Goodman (2005) and Waltz (2007) argue that the absence of a world authority, in conjunction with a feeble and powerless international legal system has been one of the major obstacles in regulating the clashing interests and differences in values that are commonly displayed in an international conflict. The question is whether the Syrian conflict has metamorphosed into an international conflict or not? Nicholas (1992) defined conflict as an existing state of disagreement or hostility between two or more people. What he implies here is simple. Two or more parties have failed to reach a compromise and are on two different sides of a coin as regards the same issue. What is indisputable is that from 2011, the Syrian Arab Republic has been in a political upheaval that has revealed and birthed factions.
For the purpose of clarity and communication as regards the Syrian Conflict and the United Nations, we’ll look at relevant works on the types and forms of conflict.
Types of Conflict
Categorising conflicts into types can help to truly comprehend the nature of the conflict we are dealing with – in this case the Syrian conflict. Since the end of the second World War in 1945, the world has only seen just 26 days without war. Interestingly, there are only two European Countries which have remained peaceful for close to two centuries. Sweden has maintained peace since 1814, and Switzerland since 1815.
According to Lamb (2008), interpersonal conflict can be described as ‘man against self’. Here man in a struggle, contends with his own mind and habits he dislikes. In other words, this kind of conflict occurs when an individual feels frustration within himself/herself as regards personal goals and ambitions. Ross (1993) puts it differently. Ross (1993) considers interpersonal conflict as a state of implosion in an individual shaped by the state of his mind, but it is pertinent to know that such human state is largely dictated or influenced by circumstances around him. Moreover, such are anger, depression, confusion, and frustration, could result into aggression, erratic behavior, addiction and in extreme cases, suicide (Ross, 1993). According to Folarin (2015), there are several sub-types of intrapersonal conflict. Intrapersonal conflict manifests itself when a person is not able to make a decision (motivational), as an inner struggle between good and evil (moral), or as the divide between reality and ambition (unrealised desire or unbalanced self appraisal). This implies that Intrapersonal conflicts are not necessarily negative. The inward conflicts could be a sign that a person is already going through some sort of personal growth. A persons inner struggle shows that a process of reflection is taking place. Smoking, drug use, alcoholism, as well as lying are some addictive habits that man may continually contend with; even when he desires to stop, he may find himself continuing it. This is intra-personal conflict or man against self (Lamb 2003).
To Folarin (2015), this kind of conflict is what has been described as man against man in the micro sense. These are conflicts that emerge between two individuals, which reoccur on a regular basis during the course of their relationship. Examples of this type of conflict include conflicts between couples in relationships, between superiors and subordinates in a work context, between students and teachers or professors, or between representatives of two or more cultural groups. Interpersonal conflict has been described by Nikolajeva (2005) as a situation in which one or both persons in a relationship are going through difficulty in working or living with each other. This takes place as a result of different or incompatible needs, goals or styles. Conflicts of this kind just like some others, are usually associated with negative personal feelings such as hate, betrayal, distrust or anger. Interpersonal conflict may just be ordinarily direct opposition, as in exchange of blows, a gunfight or a robbery, or it may be a more cunning conflict between the desires of two or more persons (Nikolajeva, 2005). Conflict in this sense is a fight between two persons. Just as Nikolajeva (2005) posited , interpersonal conflict does not always translate to physical exchange of blows. The behaviour of malice or cold attitude to each other already underscores conflict. This implies that conflict also means implicit hostility. Interestingly, this hostility may not be obvious to the third party, but the disagreeing or unfriendly parties already are aware and understand that there is a state of discontent between them.
According to Folarin (2005), Intergroup conflicts occur between various formal and non-formal groups. It is the kind of disagreement or feud that emerges between two or more sectarian or religious groups, ethnic groups, communities, or interest groups. For example, intergroup conflicts take place between the government and trade unions, between groups that form one class (for example, different elements within the working class), between departments within an organisation, or between cultural groups in a community. These interactions can be quite prone to conflict because members of the different groups value their particular subculture strongly and feel opposition towards the subculture of the others. In some cases, where ideology is a strong factor, such as, among right and left-wing radical youth (for example, skinheads and anarchists), such intergroup conflicts have been known to lead to violence. While these groups identities are not established on the basis of being against the others, they see themselves as natural enemies because their ideological positions are diametrically opposed (Folarin 2015).
Intrasociety conflicts or social conflicts most often refer to conflicts of a larger scale that have a strong public resonance. For example, these include confrontations between the ruling political elite and the opposition. Another common example, can be said for a conflict between a student group such as a students’ union and the administration of a university over access to some decision making in the university. However, these kinds of conflicts have serious consequences for the wider society because they raise important debates. These are issues that many people in society find of great importance and want to take a stand on. The conflict can be considered an intrasociety conflict rather than an intergroup conflict when this happens. Intrasociety conflict is linked with power and competition.
According to Folarin (2015), International/global conflicts include conflicts between nation states, global and regional competition over available natural resources, conflicts in various international organisations/bodies over tough political issues, armed interventions involving significant loss of life, ethnic or religious conflicts, wars for self-determination and/or the creation of new nation states. A distinction is made between armed conflicts and international conflicts. This is because international conflicts can be monetary/economic and/or political, but are not necessarily armed, even if the public perception of international conflicts often involves violence or terrorism. An important aspect of international conflicts is that they can become intractable. Intractable conflicts are long-standing conflicts that take place between individuals, groups, communities or nation states that resist all attempts at management, and continue escalating towards ever-higher levels of hostility and intensity. There are many contemporary intractable conflicts. Some of these conflicts take place within states and some take place between states. There is no doubt that they are amongst the most dangerous conflicts in the world today. They threaten not only their immediate environment, but entire regions and large parts of the world too. These conflicts have dominated the international arena and have spawned much of the violence and terrorism that we witness today.
International and global conflicts are also considered to be macro-level conflicts. In other words, they have significance that goes beyond the individuals concerned, having consequences for the wider society, for example. In contrast, so-called micro-level conflicts do not have important consequences for people beyond those directly involved. Interpersonal conflicts are well-classified as micro-level conflicts, because even though they have important effects on the individuals taking part, these effects do not influence the course of the development of the wider society. Intergroup conflicts, especially those that involve groups of different sizes with different levels of power, may be classified as either micro- or macro-level conflicts, because their outcomes will have effects on the individuals, but might also have longer-lasting consequences in terms of how those groups are perceived or treated in a society. This distinction is important when it comes to deciding on how to intervene, and which methods to use when intervening. We will, therefore, make more frequent reference to the distinction between macro- and micro-level conflict.
According to Nicogossian and Gonzalez (2017), authoritarianism may be defined as any political system that concentrates power in the hands of a leader or a small elite that is not constitutionally responsible to the body of the people. This concept is essential to our study on the Syrian conflict. Authoritarian leaders often exercise power arbitrarily and without regard to existing bodies of law, and they usually cannot be replaced by citizens choosing freely among various competitors in elections. The freedom to create opposition political parties or other alternative political groupings with which to compete for power with the ruling group is either limited or nonexistent in authoritarian regimes. It stands in fundamental contrast to democracy (Nicogossian and Gonzalez, 2017).
Syria: The ethnic and religious groups of Syria
For the purpose of this study, the religion of the Syrian peoples is crucial, especially as since the conflict broke out in 2011, there have been the mention of the Sunni Muslims and the Alawites. The official language and mother tongue of about 90 percent of the population is Arabic. So one can say that Arabic is the predominant language. However, it is surprising that both English and French are widely understood, especially by educated elites in major urban areas.
Sunni Muslims: Many scholars agree that Sunni Muslims have a high population in Syria. According to Nicogossian and Gonzalez (2017), the biggest ethnic/religious group in Syria are the Sunni Muslim Arabs, making up around 70% of the countrys population. Sunni Islam is most popular sect of Islam in the world, and is being supported and spread mostly by Saudi Arabian efforts. The Sunni Arabs in Syria are the biggest supporters of the rebel forces. The majority of Syrians are Sunni Muslims, and they comprise about 74 percent of the population.
Shia Muslims/Alawites: Shia Islam is the second biggest sect in Syria after Sunni Islam, to which about 12% of Syrians adhere to. (Nicogossian and Gonzalez, 2017). The majority of these followers are Alawites, as is President Assad. Although the Alawites are a minority in the country, they have held control over almost all aspects of the government since 1971 when the father of Bashar al-Assad took power. The Shiites around the world are mainly supported and funded by Iran, as a counterweight to Saudi Arabia.
Both Sunni and Shia Muslims agree on the fundamentals of Islam and share the same Holy Book (The Qur’an), but there are differences mostly derived from their different historical experiences, political and social developments, as well as ethnic composition. These differences originate from the question of who would succeed the Prophet Muhammad as leader of the emerging Muslim community after his death. Sunnis argue that the Prophet chose Abu Bakr to lead the congregational prayers, therefore naming him as the next leader. The Shias evidence is that Muhammad stood up in front of his Companions on the way back from his last Hajj, and proclaimed Ali the spiritual guide and master of all believers. This disagreement was the root to this division of the Islam and led to what we know today as Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims.
Kurds: The Kurds have also being prominent in the Syrian conflict. The Syrian Kurds are rarely featured in the media. This is also true of academic research dedicated to Syria, even research on the Kurdish question. Most works concentrate on the Kurdish regions of Turkey, Iraq, and to a lesser degree, Iran. This is not only true for a specific period. The Kurdish factor in Syria has also been a marginal issue in classic works about the French Mandate (Longrigg 1958; Khoury 1987) and the period of independence (Raymond 1980) in the Levant. The only exceptions are the works of Ismet Sharif Vanly, which are generally biased in favor of the Kurds (Vanly 1968, 1978, 1992). According to Nicogossian and Gonzalez (2017), the Kurds are a different ethnic group located in Syria and Iraq making up about between 7-10% of Syrias population. The Kurds have long sought autonomy, if not independence and the Syrian civil war provided an opportunity to finally make those dreams true.
Turkmen: The Syrian Turkmen are essentially ethnic Turks who have lived in the region since around the 11th century. They speak Turkish and are heavily funded and armed by Turkey itself. Although only making up around 1% of the population, they have been mentioned quite a lot in the news recently, as they were the group that captured and later killed one of the Russian pilots that were shot down by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet. The main groups have positioned themselves against Assad and ISIS.
Assyrians: The Assyrians are descendants of one of the oldest civilizations in the world, and see themselves as the original natives of the land they inhabit. They make up around 4% of the population. Assyrians are Christians and as such have been heavily discriminated against by extremist Islamist groups during the war. As a result, many Assyrians have taken up arms to defend themselves from the chaos.
Druze: The Druze are followers of a 10th century off-shoot of Shia Islam. They make up around 3% of the population. Although they consider themselves Muslims, most of the Sunni Islamists do not agree. Small numbers of other Muslim sects including some Jews have small communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo, and Yazidis a tiny religious group whose religion contains elements of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.
2.1.2 THE UNITED NATIONS
According to John Heywood, in the American Society of International Law Journal, 2013), the United Nations is an international framework formed after the Second World War in 1945 to promote international peace, security, and cooperation under the terms of the Charter of the United Nations. This Charter was originally signed by 51 founding members. Interestingly, there are currently 193 member states to the Charter (Heywood, 2013).
The United Nations Charter set up six main organs (Nicogossian and Gonzalez, 2017). And this organs include: The General Assembly, The Security Council, The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), The Trusteeship Council, The International Court of Justice, and The Secretariat. However, it is important to note here, that a similar organisation like the United Nations called The League of Nations was formed in 1919 after the First World War. It was established mainly to keep world peace. However, it failed, as not every country joined the league. For instance, the United States of America was never a member of the organisation.
And those that had become its members later quit. The league did not take actions on so many issues. However, it aroused a longing for the birthing of a universal organisation. And this is why the United Nations came into existence (Nicogossian and Gonzalez, 2017).
The United Nations comprises of independent countries that have come together to work towards world peace and social progress. Formally, it was established on the 24th of October, 1945 with 51 countries which are considered Founding Members. Interestingly, there has never been the expulsion of any of its members since the inception of the body (Nicogossian and Gonzalez, 2017).
As we will consider later in this study, many scholars and individuals have questioned the existence and usefulness of the United Nations. One of the reasons for this is the Syrian conflict which has entered its eighth year (Since 2011). The devastation in Syria is enormous and has attracted criticism by many towards the United Nations. However, Nicogossian and Gonzalez (2017) argue that United Nations has some achievements. According to them, the United Nations was a promoter of the great movement of decolonisation which successfully led to the independence of over 80 nations. Also, the United Nations system is a major purchaser of $6.4 billion worth of goods annually. UNICEF purchases half the vaccines produced globally to combat sicknesses and diseases. In addition, United Nations has relief agencies that provide aid and protection to more than 2.3 million refugees and displaced persons worldwide (Nicogossian and Gonzalez, 2017).
It is worthy of note that inside the UN, members of the permanent five of the Security Council such as Russia have blocked efforts to use the United Nations to resolve hard problems like Syria (Knapp 2013). The United Nations Security Council comprises of 5 permanent members which are France, Russia, China, the United States and the United Kingdom. The Security Council also comprises of 10 non permanent members. They are elected by the General Assembly through majority vote to take on a two-year term
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the principal organs of the United Nations. According to article 24 of the UN Charter, which is the foundational treaty of the United Nations, the 193 member states of the United Nations have conferred the primary responsibility of maintenance of international peace and security to the Security Council and have agreed that this organ, in order to carry on this duty, acts on their behalf. The Member States have agreed to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council through article 25 of the Charter. It is important to acknowledge here that other organs of the United Nations can only make recommendations to governments, the UNSC is the only organ capable of issuing resolutions that are legally binding on all Member States (Okhovat 2011).
Moreover, Article 27 of the UN Charter gives power to the permanent members of the Security Council to quash any non-procedural draft resolution with their negative votes, irrespective of its level of international advocacy and popularity. This power is known as the veto power of the Permanent Five although the word veto is never mentioned in the Charter. The initial reason for the inclusion of this power in the Charter was to prevent the UN to take direct actions against any of its principal founding members. The issue of the use of veto power has been raised by many scholars and analysts. This study will explore some of these issues.
2.1.3 History of the Syrian Arab Republic
Present day Syria is located in southwestern Asia, at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, with Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel and Lebanon to the west (Library of Congress, Federal Research Division, Country profile 2005). It is only a small portion of the ancient geographical Syrian landmass, a region that was situated at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea from which Western powers created the contemporary states of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel in the post-Ottoman era of the early twentieth century. Syria’s size is about the size of North Dakota, with a total land area of 185,180 square kilometers (184,050 square kilometers of land and 1,130 square kilometers of water), and it includes 1,295 square kilometers of Israeli-occupied territory (Library of Congress, Federal Research Division 2005).
Political scientists and historians often refer to the area of Syria as Greater Syria (Humud et al, 2018). The area is a region that links three continents, and serves as crossroads for commerce and a battleground for the political destinies of dynasties and empires. Greater Syria also has enjoyed so much from the cultural diversity of the people who came to claim parts or all of it, and who remained to contribute to the remarkable spiritual and intellectual flowering that made up Greater Syria’s cultures in the ancient and medieval periods. Throughout history, Greater Syria has been the focal point of a continual dialectic, both intellectual and bellicose, between the Middle East and the West. Today, sadly, Syria remains an active participant in the trials and tribulations of a troubled and volatile region.
According to the Library of Congress, Federal Research Division’s country’s profile on Syria (2005), Syria’s early history include the impact made by such dominant powers as the Phoenicians, Armaeans, Greeks, Romans, and the popular Byzantine Empires. Interestingly, the region of Syria has been an indispensable part of or the seat of government of very powerful old empires since before 2000BC. For instance, an ancient city called Ebla used to exist at the center of an expansive empire around 2400BC. The Ebla culture stands gallantly as a rival to the popular Egyptian and Mesopotamia culture. However, Ebla was destroyed by the King of Akkad. The Amorites took control afterwards. They ruled the region until their reign was overshadowed in 1600 B.C. by the Egyptians. The following centuries saw Syria ruled by a succession of Canaanites, Phoenicians, Hebrews, Aramaeans, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Seleucids, Romans, Nabataeans, Byzantines, Muslim Arabs, European Christian Crusaders, Ottoman Turks, Western Allied forces, and the French. All the legacies of these many foreign powers and varied cultures that Syria retained shaped its existence (Library of Congress, Federal Research Division, Country Profile, 2005).
Modern Syria was once controlled by France. The era between the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 and when the France Mandate over Syria was granted by the League of Nations in 1922 witnessed a complicated series of events which gave way for Syrians to enjoy a brief period of independence (1919-1920). However, power sharing between France, Britain and the Jewish Interest in Palestine were three forces that stood strongly against Arab nationalism. France was resolute about remaining a power in the Middle East. The British wanted to keep Mesopotamia under their control in order to deter the Russians and they had oil interests to protect. The Jews were interested in Palestine. In the end, Syria and Lebanon were placed under French influence, while Transjordan and Iraq where placed under British mandate. Consequently, the termination of Syria’s short experience with independence left a lasting bitterness against the West and a deep-seated determination to reunite Arabs into a single formidable state. One can say that this quest was the primary basis for modern Arab nationalism.
Moreover, the period of French Mandate brought almost every characteristics of Syrian life under French control. This caused some conflict. The oppressive atmosphere mobilized educated wealthy Muslims to fight the French. They laid out some complaints against them, some of which were the suppression of newspapers, political activity, and civil rights; the splitting of Greater Syria into multiple political units; and French strong reluctance to construct a constitution for Syria that would provide for sovereignty eventually, which the League of Nations had mandated. It was only in the wake of a widespread revolt which was started by the Druze in 1925 did the French military government begin to move toward Syrian autonomy. In spite of French opposition, the Soviet Union and the United States took great steps and successfully granted Syria and Lebanon recognition as sovereign states in 1944. The British did their own recognition in 1945. These Allied nations pressured France to give Syria her freedom. However, Syria’s occupation remained until a United Nations resolution in February 1946 commander France to evacuate that Syrians finally attained sovereignty. Consequently, by April 15, 1946, the French had left Syria for good.
According to Humud et al (2018), however, Syria had to bear decades of strife and disorder as competing factions wrestled over control of the country’s government following the independence of the French in 1946. This period was tough. It contained coups, countercoups, and intermittent civilian rule in which the army maintained a watchful presence in the background. Interestingly, with all these internal frictions, from February 1958 to September 1961, Syria was merged with Egypt in the United Arab Republic (UAR). This did not play out well as growing Syrian dissatisfaction with Egyptian domination led to another military coup in Damascus, and Syria seceded from the UAR. Syria witnessed another era of instability developed, with frequent changes of government. The Arab Socialist Resurrection (Baath) Party (hereafter, Baath Party), which had a secular, socialist, Arab nationalist orientation, took over power in a March 1963 coup (Library of Congress, Federal Research Division, 2005).
This became known as the Baath Revolution. It is worthy of note that the Baath Party had been popular and functional throughout the Middle East since the late 1940s, and a Baath coup had occurred in Iraq one month before the Baath take-over in Syria. Unfortunately, factionalism continued to thrive within the Baathist regime until the then Minister of Defense Lieutenant General Hafiz al Assad came into power following a bloodless military coup in November 1970. Internal conflict between the Baath Party’s more moderate military wing and more extremist civilian wing had been exacerbated by external events, including Israel’s defeat of the Syrians and Egyptians in the June 1967 war, which led to Syria losing some of its territory in the Golan Heights (Library of Congress, Federal Research Division, 2005).
As soon as Hafiz al Assad, was approved as President by popular referendum in March 1971. He swiftly took steps to establish an authoritarian regime with power concentrated in his own hands. His thirty-year presidency was made up of a cult of personality, established so as to maintain control over a potentially restive population and to enable cohesion and stability in government. However, the control of the Baath Party; the government’s social structure and economy; the military underpinning of the regime; the supremacy of members of the Alawi sect, to which Asad belonged, in influential military and security positions; and the state of emergency which was imposed because of the ongoing conflict with Israel ensured the regime’s stability. However, this method of rule was costly. According to Humud et al (2018), there was brutal suppression in February 1982 of the Muslim Brotherhood which was against the state’s secularism and the supremacy of the heretical Alawi sect. He also noted that economy of Syria also was in a deplorable state and was run by an overstaffed and incompetent public sector ruled by the Baath Party.
Eventually, Bashar al Assad succeeded his father after his death in 2000 shortly when the constitution was amended to bring down the mandatory minimum age of the president from 40 to 34. (Library of Congress, Federal Research Division, 2005). The Baath Party was instrumental in this process as they were responsible for nominating him. He was elected president in a popular referendum in which he ran unopposed. In the beginning of his rule, Bashar al-Assad actually made economic and political reform a focus and a priority of his presidency. However, since 2011 protests threatening his grip on power have led to devastation in the country (Humud et al, 2018).
2.2 LITERATURE REVIEW
The conflict in Syria and the United Nations are linked as the Syrian crisis has become more than just a war between people who are for or against President Basher al-Assad (Nicogossian and Gonzalez, 2017). However, whatever it is, the crisis has led to the death of over 450,000 people, displaced more than half of the Syrian population, and has facilitated the growth of The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Undeniably, security challenges are thorns in the flesh of many Third World nations culminating into paucity in their developmental drive (Olanibi, 2014). On the 18th of December, 2015, the United Nations Security Council adopted UN Resolution 2254 which comprised of a roadmap to a peaceful process in Syria. This also set up a route for talks between all the parties involved in the conflict (Pfeifer et al, 2016).
While some studies trace the issue of the Syrian conflict to French colonialism, and long term grievances between the Alawi sect and the Sunni majority, other scholars have argued that it is adverse climatic conditions, especially drought that have greatly caused devastation in Syria. Jordi Tejel (2009), for instance argued that, it is necessary to remember that the politics of the Syrian regimes has inadvertently but nevertheless directly contributed to the ethnicization of relations between the Kurds and the other populations (Jordi Tejel 2009).
The various security challenges in Syria which have stagnated the development of the state socially, economically and politically has engaged the attention of many other scholars. Randall Salm (2009), in his paper, addressed the transformation of ethnic conflict and identity in Syria. He argued that the fear of Sunni extremists and the regime support/opposition dynamics are deepply rooted and affect core values and beliefs of the various ethnic groups. In other words, group identities are central in the Syrian crisis. He believed that future relations between the groups will be tensed for considerable time to come. Peace prospects are very unlikely, since there are few options to resolve the core issues underlying these conflicts. Moreover, civil wars often break out as a result of shucks to the relative power of political groups that have strong, pre-existing policy disagreements War then unfolds as an effort to lock in… or forestall the other side’s temporary advantage (Stanford James Fearon 2009).
Knapp (2012) addressed the crisis in Syria, the case for UN Peacekeepers. In his paper, he affirmed that the crisis in Syria has reached a level that requires rethinking its possible resolution. He noted that the recent efforts ranging from French operational and Saudi light arms support for the Free Syrian Army to Iranian operational and Russian military support for the Assad regime have not resolved the conflict. He argued that all these have even worsened the situation by fanning the flames of sectarian hatred and violence resulting in a bloody stalemate on the ground. He suggested that a more humble but effective action would be a robust UN intervention in the form of peacekeepers that would be placed along the Syrian border in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. This would be to create havens for all Syrian citizens and not ensure victory of one side over the other. This is will be an active way of the United Nations resolving the crisis (Knapp 2012).
Adams (2015) examined the failure to protect the people of Syria and the United Nations Security Council. He argued that there is a Responsibility to Protect, and it is an international norm and a global commitment adopted at the 2005 United Nations (UN) World Summit. However, the R2P is not an independent agency of its own. To Adams, the failure to end atrocities and protect civilian lives in Syria is not a failure of the R2P, but of the imperfect actors and institutions that have been bestowed the roles of upholding it. The responsibility of resolving the Syrian conflict rests on one body – The United Nations Security Council. This organ has been empowered by the 193 members of the United Nations with the maintenance of international peace and security. The United Nations Security Council has not only failed to fulfill its basic function which is the maintenance of international peace and security. It has also dismally failed to uphold its Responsibility to Protect (R2P) the Syrian people (Adams 2015). Shameful political divisions and partisan interests within the organ of the Security Council have stood as an insurmountable obstacle to confronting the Syrian crisis headlong. Adams (2015) affirmed that Russia and China have on four different occasions employed the use of their vetoes to block actions in response to the mass atrocities committed in Syria.
However, Gleick (2015) addressed water, drought, climatic conditions and change as related to the conflict in Syria. According to him, the devastating civil war that began in Syria in March 2011 is the result of complex interrelated factors. Although the chief focus of the conflict is on regime change, but the triggers include a broad set of religious and sociopolitical factors, the erosion of the economic health of the country, a wave of political reform sweeping over the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Levant region, and challenges associated with climate variability and change and the availability and use of freshwater. Moreover, this is not the first time that water and other environmental and resource factors have influenced or played a significant role in contributing to violent conflict in the MENA or Levant regions, as well reviewed elsewhere (Gleick 1993, 1994; Homer-Dixon 1999; Gleditsch et al.2006; Wolf 2007).
Gleick (2015) noted that, in modern times, there have been similar political tensions connected to water and examples where water has been a target or tool of conflicts. Pressures on Syrian water resources have been growing for a nearly a quarter century. Water is a scarce resource in the areaone of the driest in the world. On an average, the entire Syrian region receives less than 250 mm of rainfall annually and is considered water scarce in assessments of water availability by several different research groups (Falkenmark 1986; UNEP 2008; Reiget al. 2013).
However, in the current civil war, some analysts have argued that factors related to drought, including agricultural failure, water shortages, and water mismanagement, have played an important role in contributing to the deterioration of social structures and spurring violence (Femia and Werrell 2013; FAO 2012; Mhanna 2013). In particular, the combination of very severe drought, persistent multiyear crop failures, and the related economic deterioration led to very significant dislocation and migration of rural communities to the cities. All of these factors further contributed to urban unemployment and economic dislocations and social unrest.
According to Sutherlin (2013), Syria has flirted with danger for years. Consider the massacre of the Muslim Brotherhood by Bashars father Hafiz in 1982. There, tens of thousands of people were killed as Syrian regular forces used artillery on civilians (Tabler 2011). Fast-forward to today, the present regime has shown no hesitation in slaughtering its citizens struggling for democratic reforms. So it is safe to argue that Hafiz Assad handed over a fragile government to his son. And he failed to right the wrongs. Sutherlin (2013), argued in his paper on the Syrian dilemma that for there to be peace in Syria, there should be regime change in Syria, reduction in Hezbollah’s presence and influence in Lebanon and Syria; elimination of Iran’s stronghold in Syria; Turkish commitment to be a regional partner and help with Syrian refugees, normalization of EU, US and Arab relations with Syria post-regime change; and Commitment to restart Palestinian-Israeli peace talks that include Syria as a partner (along with Jordan and Egypt). Sutherlin’s paper reveals some of the political actors in the Syrian conflict which would be considered later in this study.
Mariwala (2014) revealed more about the Syrian Civil War and the regime of Basher al-Assad. For him, Russia has been so equivocal its support for the Syrian regime, while the US and the EU have been relentless in their support for the rebels. He argued that there’s a lot at stake between the European Union and Russia. He revealed that a quarter of Europe’s natural gas consumption is provided by Russia, and this gives Russia an advantage or breakdown in relations. And the Syrian situation stands as an avenue to begin such a breakdown. However, Mariwala (2014) addresses this by suggesting that the European Union would need another competitive gas supplier, and this would be Qatar. Unfortunately, as a result of Syria’s long standing energy commitment to Russia, President Assad blocked Qatar’s attempt to build a pipeline through Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria.
As a result of this, Qatar has had to move its gas through sea via the Iran-controlled Straits of Hormuz, making its gas cost more. This explains why Mariwala (2014) suggested that the fall of President Assads government to a Sunni regime would create a Syria that is more friendly to Qatar; this also explains why Qatar has been vocal in its support for the rebels. Furthermore, a Sunni Syria would cut off Iran even more, and therefore remove another competitor from the European gas market. Iran signed an agreement to transport gas via a pipeline to the Mediterranean with Iraq and Syria, giving it access to the European market. A hostile Sunni Syria would forestall these plans and isolate Iran from the west even further, while allowing Qatar to deplete more gas from their shared gas field. The Syrian situation , therefore, is a focal point in this struggle for the European natural gas market, giving the conflict much wider implications than other regional conflict (Mariwala 2014).
Jerkins (2014), arguing about the dynamics of the Syrian war, posits that for all foreseeable future, no government will be able to rule over all of what was the modern state of Syria. To him, Assad’s forces in coalition with external support appear to have stalemated a fragmented rebel movement. However, Assad will not be able to exert his authority over all the peoples of the Syrian Arab Republic. Jerkins (2014) opined that civil wars are devastating. Both sides of conflict destroy infrastructure and wage economic warfare, causing devastation and dislocation socially, economically and politically. To him, however, beyond the casualties of war, human capital is destroyed by the lack of health services and education as investment shifts to weapons. Sectarian conflicts, which Syrias civil war has become further shred the countrys social fabric, and threatens its very existence. They last a long time. He believes that Syrias civil war is grinding down the countrys national institutions while creating the conditions for continuing local conflict. Brutal government counterinsurgent tactics, the pervasive lawlessness that comes with the breakdown of authority, and the imposition of harsh Islamic rule in some rebel zones are displacing a large portion of the population. It is not yet clear which side in the contest will be able to offer protection to those who wish to escape Islamist tyranny but can no longer survive in sectarian enclaves loyal to the regime. For many Syrians, flight abroad with slender prospect of return is the only option, but these same Syrian refugees will add to existing sectarian tensions in neighboring countries and will become the recruiting grounds for new cohorts of extremists and the targets of their enemies, furnishing new generations of fighters and criminals for employment in Syria and elsewhere. We will be dealing with the effluent of Syrias conflict for years to come.
As observed by Steenkamp (2017), there is a strong relationship between organised crime and civil war. He revealed that more than 1000 different groups are thought to be involved in the conflict (Al-Abdeh 2013). These include the indomitable government of President Bashar al Assad which is supported by Hezbollah in Lebanon; ISIS (the Salafist jihadist group who supports a conservative version of Islamic rule); the Sunni Jihadist Jabhat al Nusra (the Front for the Defence of the Syrian People, which used to be allied with Al Qaeda, but since its split with Al Qaeda in 2016, is now referred to as Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham); the YPG (the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units); the Islamist groups Ahrar Al-Sham and Jaysh Al-Islam and the Free Syrian Army (Al Jazeera 2016; Crowcroft 2015). Moreover, in addition to all these high-profile groups, there are a myriad of smaller groups who appear and fold up, and who exist in varying degrees of cooperation with the larger groups (Sorenson 2016). Steenkamp (2017) argued that insurgent groups leave behind formal and informal institutions that could become an obstacle to the new post-war states efforts to provide centralized governance. For her, it is unlikely that the future Syrian state will look like the centralised version that existed before the inception of the war because of the way that the conflict has fragmented authority, territorial control and governance in the country.
However, Herwig (2017) addressed the experiences of Syrian female refugees in Turkey. Herwig(2017) noted that the lives of these women are characterised by a multifaceted quality of violence, which intersects with discrimination and other difficulties stemming from a lack of education, a lack of financial means, ethnicity, and the precarious situation of being a guest in Turkey. Nicogossian and Gonzalez (2015) posits that The United Nations (U.N.) has been at the forefront of the international debates about who to support in the Syrian conflict since its inception in March 2011. It has attempted to address the conflict’s deep roots and devastating impact. To them, organisation’s humanitarian and other efforts are saving lives and reducing suffering. But their fundamental objective — an end to the conflict remains unmet due to the overwhelming opposition between the strong five permanent members of the Security Council.
Scholars like Katz and Fairfax (2015) identified perceptions about Russia’s continuous support in the Syrian conflict. To them, the Civil War is not only about Syria itself. It is about Russia’s standing in world politics – about its identity as a global player. Syria is a test field on which Russia’s relations with the West can be shaped. However, for Kavlick et al (2015), by working with Russia, the U.S. has a chance to achieve a political solution that would prevent Syria from becoming a failed state. They argue that the cooperation and the image of a U.S.Russian united front is essential to resolve the conflict.
2.3 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
Many scholars have used a plethora of theories to explain the endemic issue of conflict and its implications. Some of the frequently used theories include the globalization theory, aggression theory, conflict theory, elite theory and so on (Aloejewa, 2012; Ogege, 2013). It is likely that each of the theories gives a persuasive explanation on the matter been discussed, however, frustration and aggression theory which is affiliated to the psychological aspect of aggression theories and conflict theory has been found as the most appropriate theoretical frameworks to explain the Syrian situation.
2.3.1 Conflict Theory
The origin of the conflict theory can be traced as far as back to 1848 and it argues that conflict is inherent in human nature. The theory arose from concerns relating to the unequal ownership and distribution of the means of production that split society into two antagonistic classes the class of haves and have-nots, the pauperized and the wealthy, the working class/proletariat and the bourgeoisie (Usman, 2015). The classical founders of Social Science conflict theory are most commonly Karl Marx and Friedrich Engel, and their theory have so far inspired and has been reinforced by other scholars particularly the Underdevelopment and Dependency theorists like Frantz Fanon, Walter Rodney, Samir Amin, Andre Gunder Frank, Immanuel Wallenstein, etc.
However, the Marxist theory is centered on dialectical materialist account of history. Marxist argue that the capitalist system, like previous socio-economic systems, would inevitably produce internal tensions leading to its on destruction. Marx and Engels in, The Communist Manifesto (1848) wrote that the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Apparently, the mode of production of material life in every given society conditions the general process of social, political, and intellectual life. Capitalism’s socio-economic dynamism was explained by the logic of its reproduction. This logic required the continuous extraction of surplus value from production. Essentially, the production process transformed nature into commodities for sale. The efficacy of such transformation depended on the technical means at the disposal of the capitalist. More important, it depended on the relations of production, since production also required the use of labor power. Indeed, to Marx, the labor input was the source of value. Marx saw the extraction of surplus and the impoverishment of wage labor as the basis for class conflict (Parthasarathy, 1994).
Therefore according to this theory, conflict, insecurity and instability that depicts the features of the Syrian Arab Republic is as a result of the struggle between two socio-economic dominant classes, on the one hand is those who control the means of production through the state power and on the other, those who rely on their labor for survival the bourgeoisie and the proletariat or poor masses (Usman, 2015). That is, all forms of conflict whether political, communal, religious, economic, or ethnic are particularly influenced by the disparity rather than the similarity among people especially unequal ones. This theory focuses on the identities that people attribute to themselves as a result of their social standing in society as in the case of Syria where several minority groups are driven to arms because they feel exploited by other groups in the country. However fetching the conflict theory may be in explaining the Syrian conflict situation, it cannot fully comprehend it. That is why the more fitting theory that will be used to truly understand the reasons why the situation is existent and thriving is the frustration-aggression theory.
2.3.2 Frustration and Aggression Theory
The frustration-aggression theory is a theoretical framework which was developed by Dollard, Doob, Miller, Mowrer and Sears in 1939 (Usman, 2015). Fromm the psychological basis of motivation and behavior, this theoretical framework provides explanation for violent behavioral disposition that results from the inability of a group of people to fulfill their human needs. It is based on the general premise that every human being has basic needs which he/she seeks to meet and that any obstacle to the fulfillment of these needs by individuals or groups elicit violent responses (Ogege, 2013). The Frustration-aggression hypothesis also known as the frustration-aggression-displacement theory is a theory of aggression (Dollard et al, 2013), which tries to explain why people scapegoat. That is, it attempts to give an explanation as to the cause of aggression, which is given as manifesting as a result of blocking or frustrating a person’s striving to attain a goal (Friedman and Schustack, 1999).
As to the principal hypothesis, Dollard et al. (1939) positedthat the occurrence of aggressive behavior always presupposes the existence of frustration and, contrariwise, that the existence of frustration always leads to some form of aggression (Geen, and Donnerstein, 1998). First the principal hypothesis is uncomplicated and easy to grasp. The theory is generally well structured and clearly articulated, a fact that again facilitates comprehension. Second, the theory does not involve overly abstract concepts or elaborate procedures. It is rather very simplistic and can be regarded as common sense (Geen, and Donnerstein, 1998). Frustration-aggression theory emphasizes that the difference between what people feel they want and the discrepancy however, marginal, between what is sought and what they get, the greater the violent reaction. In the face of these frustrated expectations, a group is most vulnerable to embark on violent destructive behavior or be a ready army to be used to cause crisis. Central to this explanation is that aggression is the natural outcome of frustration. In a situation where the legitimate desires of an individual or group is denied either directly or by the indirect consequence of the way a society is structured, the feeling of frustration can compel such persons or group to express their anger through violence that is directed at those perceived to be responsible for their misfortune or others who are indirectly related to those frustrating their expectations (Ogege, 2013).
The theory tends to provide a justification for behaving aggressively: Being frustrated made me do it! Like the aggression amnesty provided by instinct notions (It cant be helped because were built that way), although not as strong, this kind of justification can be drawn upon as a ready-made excuse for uncontrolled (or premeditated) hostile or aggressive actions (Zillmann, 1979). Accordingly, what this theory tries to explain is that the occurring events of terrorist attacks and the wave of violent extremism in Syria as clearly, the country is not just engulfed in a civil war, but is quickly becoming a sectarian battleground of many forces and countries inside and outside of Syria indicating that it is now a powder keg on the verge of exploding totally and irrevocably (Knapp 2013).
Although the frustration and aggression theory was popular and widely accepted, it was further developed by Miller et al (1941) and Berkowitz (1969) who used to be early critics of the universal claims it expressed. However, it is an offshoot of relative deprivation theory that also seeks to explain why men perpetuate violent and destructive acts. Ted Robert Gurr in his book, Why Men Rebel (Gurr, 1970) opines that rather than an absolute standard of deprivation, a void between expected and achieved welfare leads men to discontent and eventual violence. It also applies to individuals who find their own welfare to be inferior to that of others whom they compare themselves. He further argues that relative deprivation is a term used to denote the tension that develops from a discrepancy between the ought and the is of collective value satisfaction, and that disposes men to violence. This gap between an individuals expected and achieved welfare results in collective discontent (Gurr, 1970 in Usman, 2015). The concept of relative deprivation can be traced back to ancient Greece, Aristotle articulated the idea that revolution and other acts of terrorism are driven by a relative sense or feeling of inequality, rather than a natural instinct as posited by Sigmund Freud which asserts that human behavior is motivated by sexual and instinctive drives and these instincts when repressed are displayed as aggression (Freud, 1961). Hence, Usman (2015) illustrates relative deprivation this way: For instance, Mr. B feels deprived of object Y. Mr. B. does not have Y but wants it. Mr. B knows of other people who have object Yand believes obtaining object Y is realistic only that he or she was deprived of it by a person or group of persons. This deprivation engenders frustration that eventually leads to aggression in form of terrorism and violent conflicts. Conflict manifests from these occurrences and in turn affects growth and development in all ramifications