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Idean Salehyan Associate Professor of Political Science University of North Texas.

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Presentation on theme: "Idean Salehyan Associate Professor of Political Science University of North Texas."— Presentation transcript:

1 Idean Salehyan Associate Professor of Political Science University of North Texas

2  Background  Understanding the Syrian war  US responses and policy options

3  Demography:  22.5 Million people  Ethnicity: 90% Arab, 9% Kurdish  Religion: 74% Sunni Islam; 16% Alawi & Shia; 10% Christian  History:  Ottoman Empire  WWI, French Mandate  Independence in 1946

4  1963 Ba’athist coup  Hafez al-Assad rise to power, 1971  Involvement in Lebanon  Relationship with Hezbollah  Muslim Brotherhood Challenge  1982 Hama Massacre Hafez al-Assad

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6  Born September 11, 1965  Studied medicine in the UK  Groomed to be president after death of brother  Assumes office, 2000 after father’s death  Remains close to Iran, Hezbollah  Shia ‘revival’

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9  Peaceful “revolutions”  Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen (partial)  Successful repression  Bahrain  Violent revolution  Libya  Civil war  Syria  Sectarian nature of the conflict

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11  15 March, Protests in Damascus, Aleppo, and Daraa.  Repression/imprisonment  Promises of some reform  Failure of Arab League and UN peace plans  25 April, 2011, Siege of Daraa. Hundreds killed  Military desertions.  Armed clashes begin in June.

12  Free Syrian Army. Military defectors, led by Colonel Riad al-Asaad  Estimates between 10,000-25,000 troops  Not a unified movement  Local defense groups  Al-Nusra Front  Foreign Jihadists  Kurdish Militias  Syrian National Council  Syrian National Coalition

13  Conflict has taken increasingly sectarian tone  Assad loyalists include Alawites and Christians  Fighting for survival  Opposition forces largely Sunni Arab  Secular/moderate forces  Radical Jihadists  Kurdish militias

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17  1.3 Million refugees  Jordan: 420,000  Lebanon: 200,000  Turkey: 300,000  Iraq: 100,000

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20  “For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.”  President Obama, August 18,  “Military intervention at this point could hinder humanitarian operations… embroil the United States in a significant, lengthy and uncertain military commitment… bringing the United States into a broader regional conflict or proxy war.”  -Chuck Hegel, US Sec of Defense. April 13, 2013

21  Policy debate over arming the rebels  Strategic ambivalence: “Assad must go, but…”  Humanitarian and non-lethal aid only  Working through US allies in region  No military action  Difficulties of identification  Uncertain outcome

22  Scenario 1 (best case)  Assad steps aside, opposition forces agree on a democratic constitution. UNLIKELY

23  Scenario 2  Assad’s forces gain the upper hand, crush the insurgency. UNLIKELY

24  Scenario 3 (worst case)  Assad removed from power by force  Fighting between opposition militias, widespread retaliation/cleansing against Alawites  Regional forces drawn in POSSIBLE

25  Scenario 4  Conflict hits a “stalemate”  Negotiated settlement including a UN force, security guarantees, eventual elections NOT ON THE AGENDA BUT SHOULD BE

26  Time to start thinking about peace plan.  Negotiations including Assad, opposition forces, regional actors, Russia, US.  Potential terms of a deal  Assad steps aside  Power-sharing constitution between Sunnis, Alawites, and Kurds  UN force provides security guarantees, esp for Alawites  Military reintegration

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