NEW YORK – Syria is currently the world’s greatest humanitarian catastrophe and most dangerous geopolitical hotspot. The Syrian people are caught in a bloodbath, with more than 400,000 dead and ten million displaced.
Violent jihadist groups backed by outside patrons mercilessly ravage the country and prey on the population. All parties to the conflict – President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the anti-Assad forces supported by the United States and its allies, and the Islamic State – have committed, and continue to commit, serious war crimes.
It is time for a solution. But such a solution must be based on a transparent and realistic account of what caused the war in the first place.
The chronology is as follows. In February 2011, peaceful protests were staged in Syria’s major cities, amid the region-wide phenomenon dubbed the “Arab Spring.” The Assad regime reacted with a shifting mix of violent repression (shooting at demonstrators) and offers of reform. Soon, the violence escalated. Assad’s opponents accused the regime of using force against civilians without restraint, while the government pointed to the deaths of soldiers and policeman as evidence of violent jihadists among the protestors.