• Arwa Hanin Elrayess

Russia and Iran's Benefits From The Syrian War: Explained

Since 2011, the Syrian civil war has become the worst humanitarian crisis of this century.

Ever weeks brings forth a pattern of bombings and military clashes that leave hundreds, if not thousands, dead.

Yet, despite the urgency and inhumanity of this conflict, no organization has been able to find a suitable fix, leaving Syrian citizens in the hands of rebels, terrorist groups and dictators.

Many hold these terrorist and rebel groups responsible for the severity of the conflict, whilst others blame international powers, who continuously interfere to please their personal interests.

So, perhaps by learning what these personal interests were, and why they drove countries like Russia and Iran to intervene in the ways they did, we may be able to piece a clearer picture of the whole dispute and finally pinpoint who is causing the most damage.

A Quick Break-Down of the Syrian Civil War:

The Assad family have been in command of Syria since 1971, modernizing the country at the expense of civilian repression.

This brutal repression caused the protests in 2011, where citizens demanded a governmental reform.

The Syrian government reacted to these protests violently, committing many crimes against humanity.

This, in turn, escalated the protests into armed uprisings led by various rebel groups, mostly made up of former Syrian soldiers and civilian volunteers.

Despite not following the same ideology, these rebel groups shared a common hate for the government and slowly acquired more weapons from neighboring countries.

However, these weapons were not enough to topple the government, who began receiving military and political aid from countries like Iran and Russia.

To further assist the Syrian government against these protests, Russia began vetoing any attempts made against the Assad regime. They utilized their international importance and stopped other countries from taking any drastic steps towards change in Syria.

Since then, the Syrian war has been a constant uphill battle, resurfacing many international frictions and causing the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.

Why Is Russia Interfering In The Syrian War?

The development of the Russian-Syrian political bond can be linked to the cold war, where Syria was an ally of the Soviet Union against Western powers.

Since then, Russia has shown unwavering support for the Syrian government who, in turn, allowed the Soviet Union to open a Russian naval facility in Syria.

This base is especially important for Russia as it is the only naval facility in the Mediterranean region.

But Russia’s intervention in Syria can be blamed on more than just military benefit: surprisingly, fear has also played a critical role.

When protests became threatening to the Syrian government’s regime, Russia deployed an estimated 63,000 Russian military personnel to keep things under control.

However, over the years, many of these Russian volunteers defected, fighting against the government of Bashar Al Assad, alongside rebel and even terrorist groups.

Moscow was concerned about such fighters returning to Russia after having picked up militant contacts in Syria and estimated that 2500 Russian nationals were fighting alongside ISIL.

President Putin then declared that the return of these soldiers to Russia would be a threat, and that it would be better to fight them on Syrian ground.

Additionally, the Syrian war has helped Moscow boost its status as a major arms producer.

Many of Russia’s most advanced weaponry have been tested in Syria, acting as an advertisement for future arm deals, and have boosted Russia’s arm sales by up to $7bn.

Why is Iran interfering in the Syrian civil war?

Unlike Russia, Iran’s interference is mostly out of social benefit.

Iran has long wanted to expand their Shia religious lobbies across the Arab world, and so far, have succeeded.

One of their main lobbies can be found in the Syrian government, who belong to a Shia religious branch called the Alawites.

Even though the Alawites only make up 12% of the population, they have controlled Syria for the past 3 decades, and if they were to be overthrown, Iran would lose one of its closest religious allies.

So, despite Iran’s already unstable economy, they have pumped billions of dollars into the survival of Bashar Al Assad’s Shia-supporting regime.

Additionally, Iran’s interference can also be linked to their need to fight back extremist groups, who have emerged as part of the anti-governmental forces in Syria.

These extremist groups are mostly Sunni, targeting Iranians due to their differing religious beliefs.

If Syria were to fall to these extremist groups, Iran would have to face them within their borders.

So, in order to push back the influence of these anti-Shia factions, and to maintain their regional control, Iran has provided funding and militias from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Lebanon to add thousands to the ranks fighting alongside Assad.

Final Message:

Although many nations and organizations claim that human rights are the most important pillars of justice, their decisions can easily be swayed by personal interests.

At the end of the day, we must remember that national affairs should not be held at a higher importance than conflicts as severe as the Syrian civil war.

How dare we pride ourselves on our “advancing society” when the governments we elect, and the organizations we support fail to place their own international benefits aside, in order to settle a war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives?

It’s heart-breaking to see how quickly people tend to lose interest and turn a blind eye on other nations’ catastrophes when they last longer than the world’s attention span.

And this is precisely what dictators and their allies count on.

Despite what many believe, there is a way out of the Syrian conflict.

And it begins by forcing our governments to re-open their eyes and to finally place others above themselves.

If we give the Syrian civil war the attention it deserves, no “personal interests” will stand in the way.

So, we must speak up and we must educate those around us, because our words hold much more power than we have been taught to believe.

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