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Dorothea Sawyer HIST 101-01 Global Literacy Project December 2, 2013 Syria: A Proxy War between the United

States and Russia Within the last two years, and more increasingly in September 2013, the Syrian civil war has been a hot topic among media outlets around the world, not only because of the turmoil in Syria, but also because of foreign relations between the U.S. and Russia. To understand this issue, one must understand Syrias government and why Russia and the U.S have interests in Syria. One can gain insight into these issues by comparing and contrasting the newspaper The New York Times, an American paper, and the Russian newspaper, Pravda, but it is also beneficial to look a little further into these issues by spanning further back into the histories of Syria, Russia, and the U.S. to understand the full scope of why the Syrian civil war is of great importance to the U.S. and Russia. After clearly analyzing these sources it can be concluded that it was a wise decision for the U.S. to compromise with the Russians to have the Syrian government give up its stock pile of chemical weapons instead of pursuing a U.S. lead military strike against Syria. To start, one must have some background information on Syria to be able to understand the articles about the Syrian civil war that were reported in these two newspapers during September of 2013. Syria has had a torrid history spanning back to its complete independence from France in 1946 at a time when many countries were gaining their independence from their imperialist nations after WWII. And like so many other countries at that time, Syria too had to come to terms with establishing its own government which eventually became governed by socialist ideologies. These socialist ideologies were realized once the Bathist party took a firm
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political hold of the country in the 1950s and 1960s.1 In 1963, martial law was declared and multi-party politicswas [also] suspended.2 This stance still is implemented today. A prominent figure in the party was President Haifz al-Assad, who was once Syrias military leader, formed a coup and seized power. He was officially elected president in 1971. Once Haifz al-Assad assumed power he began to establish an authoritarian regime and was able to maintain control through his power in the military.3 A constitution was established on March 13, 1973 that gave the president nearly all governing power. The constitution was also designed to ensure that the president and the Baath Party would remain in power and currently the military dominates the government and political life4 Haifz al-Assads son, Basher al-Assad, is now the current president. Today, Syria is engulfed in a civil war between the Syrian government and forces known as the opposition Syrian Coalition made up of civilian rebels; which, has been going on for about two and a half years. This civil war was brought about as a response to the Baathist governments repressive hold on its people and there want for democratic representation and was catapulted by revolutionary protests known as The Arab Spring that have spanned the Arab world since 2010. In early 2013 news reports started circulating that made reference to Sarin nerve gas being used on civilians. Then on August 21, 2013, an attack outside the Syrian capital of
Damascus involving the use of nerve gas was confirmed by U.N. inspectors in September of 2013; however, who deployed the gas is one of the greatest debates that is being played out
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Sullivan, Anne Marie, Syria, 2004, pages 51-53 Tabler, Andrew, Democracy to the Rescue, Institute of Current World Affairs, March 2006, http://www.ou.edu/mideast/Tabler_Opposition2006.pdf 3 Sullivan, Anne Marie, Syria, 2004, page 57 4 Sullivan, Anne Marie, Syria, 2004, pages 57-58

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between the U.S. and Russia.5 This debate has been one of the main topics that have been reported in the New York Times and Pravda during August of 2013 through September of 2013; as well as a whether the U.S. should pursue a military strike against Syria as a result of this action.

Each newspaper reports that there is a debate in which the U.S. firmly asserts that it was the Syrian government who deployed this attack; while Russia proclaims that it was the act of Syrian rebels, but Pravda seems to report this issue in a somewhat biased way proclaiming that the U.S. is acting on murky intelligence and that Washington does not burden itself with looking for evidence.6 On another occasion the U.S. government was referred to as the Obama regime in a condescending tone in Pravda; however it is important to note that the author of this article used non credible sources like YouTube in writing this article; which, also makes one question the credibility of Pravda as a whole.7 The New York Times seems to avoid any tone of disdain towards Russia; unlike the newspaper Pravda. For instance it politely reported President Putins viewpoints on the situation when it published an article titled A Plea of Caution From Russia. In that article Putin proclaimed that: No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces.It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has

Chivers, C.J. and Gladstone, Rick, Forensic Details in U.N. Report Point to Assads Use of Gas, The New York Time, September 16, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/17/world/europe/syria-united-nations.html. 6 Kuznersov, Ivan, Obama to step on Hitlers Path?, Pravda, September 5, 2013, english.pravda.ru/world/aisa/0509-2013/125572-obama_hitler-0 7 Bancroft-Hinchey, Timothy, Syria: The legal issue, Pravda, English.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/05/09/2013/125570-syria_legal_issue-0

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become commonplace for the United States.In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat past mistakes.civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the [U.S.] strikes are meant to protect.8 This article seems to describe a somewhat caring and diplomatic President Putin. Nowhere in the articles that were published in Pravda at this time was an article that portrayed President Obama as a caring person. This is probably due to left over feelings that stem from the Cold War. Now looking at each of these newspapers one can also clearly see that there are differences of opinions as to whether or not the U.S. should be intervening in Syria at all. In The New York Times, there is not much opposition to the U.S. intervening, but some reports state that the U.S. should not go to war on this issue without taking other factors into consideration. For one, taking Assad out of power could open Syria up to be governed by terrorist factions. For example it was reported in the New York Times that many in the U.S. saw Mr. Assadas the devil you know, and therefore preferable to the rebels, some of whom were aligned with Al Qaeda or Sunni militants. 9 For quite some time, keeping the Baath party in power was the lesser of two evils; much like the U.S.s position to other dictators who were in human and were allowed to remain in power because they were the lesser of two evils as compared to a communist regime.

Putin, Vladimir V., A Plea for Caution From Russia, The New York Times, September 11, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/009/12/opinion/putin-plea-for-caution-from-russia-on-syria.html. 9 Rudoren, Jodi, Israel Backs Limited Strike Against Syria, The New York Times, September 5, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/06/world/middleeast/israel-backs-limited-strike-against-syria.html

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In Pravda it has been reported that U.S. is already supplying the terrorists with weapons by aiding the Syrian rebels, but it is reported in a way that glamorizes the Syrian Army and portrays the West as promoting terrorism. For instance, one report states that the Syrian Arab Army [is] heroically fighting against al-Qaeda terrorists, [who are] sponsored by the West and that Washington and the FUKUS axis (France-UK-US) ups the aid toIslamist terrorist groups. This report also goes on to say that the wests interests in Syria is nothing but a demonic plan.10 Also, as time has passed more accounts have come to light that showcase some of the brutality that is being perpetrated by the rebels. An article in the New York Times made reference to a video that was shot from 2012 that shows rebels executing Syrian soldiers.11 In this same article, it is stated that any military action could inadvertently strengthen Islamic extremists and criminals and that even prominent U.S. politicians debate on what percentage of the opposition are extremists or not.12 This is a stark contrast to the article in Pravda that was previously mentioned. Also, one of the biggest concerns that were reported in the both The New York Times and Pravda, was that a military strike on Syria could put the U.S. at war with Russia. It was hinted in the New York Times that as of September 6, 2013 that at least four warships [were dispatched] to the Mediterranean Sea; however, the New York Times reported that Russia stated that they were sent there as a precautionary measure to evacuate Russian citizens from

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Belov, Timofei, Syria: Western-backed terrorists confined to suicide attacks, Pravda, August 14, 2013, english.pravda.ru/hotspots/conflicts/14-08-2013/125380-syria_terrorists-0 11 Chivers, C.J., Brutality of Syrian Rebels Posing Dilemma in West, The New York Times, September 5, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/05/world/middleeast/brutality-of-syrian-rebels-pose-dilemma-in-west.html. 12 Chivers, C.J., Brutality of Syrian Rebels Posing Dilemma in West, The New York Times, September 5, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/05/world/middleeast/brutality-of-syrian-rebels-pose-dilemma-in-west.html.

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Syria.13 In contrast to this it is noted in Pravda that Russia has deployed several warships to Syrias defense, preventing surprise attacks by the U.S. Navy.14 These two opinions are different entirely. In all, the New York Times portrays the U.S. as not taking sides on this debate; whereas, Pravda seems to proclaim the notion that the U.S. has other motives in Syria and that it has already decided on a military strike against Syria. It was reported in Pravda that it is known that the real goal of the U.S. imperial wars are precisely Russia and China and that Syria, is included in the famous list of Arab and Middle East Nations to invade at any cost. A list of more than ten years old.15 This statement references the U.S.s war on terror as a mere attempt to assert its influence in the Middle East. This also implies that the U.S. may be interfering where it should not. In the mist of these debates, negotiations between the U.S. and Russia resulted in an agreement with Syria to give up its stock pile of chemical weapons. In light of what has been previously mentioned, and with the reported hostility form the Russian newspaper Pravda, this was probably a wise decision for the U.S. because pursuing an attack on Syria would have further strained relations with Russia, but it is still not fully clear what the motives are on each opposing side of this issue. From reading these articles it is not entirely clear why the U.S, and Russia have such an interest in Syria. In further research some of their motives have come to light that reflect their

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Baker, Peter and Myers, Steven Lee, Obama Falls Short on Wider Backing for Syria Attack, The New York Times, September 6, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/07/world/middleeast/obama-syria-strike.html. 14 Ceoldo, Constantino, The price of dignity (the end): the attack on Syria, Pravda, September 9, 2013, English.pravda.ru/world/asia/09-09-2013/125606-price_dignity_three-0 15 Ceoldo, Constantino, The price of dignity (the end): the attack on Syria, Pravda, September 9, 2013, English.pravda.ru/world/asia/09-09-2013/125606-price_dignity_three-0

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relations stemming from the Cold War. During the Cold War, the U.S. and Russia fought on opposing sides of a mass of proxy wars such as the Korean, Vietnam, and Afghan-Soviet wars. Syria too has turned into a proxy war. During the 1950s, Syria began establishing political ties with Egypt; which thus aligned themselves together against a shared enemy; Israel who had and still has a political alliance with the U.S. The U.S.s interests in Syria stem from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011 and its resulting war on terrorism, but mostly from its relations with Israel who Syria despises. Syria has a national security concern of the United States primarily because of its relevance to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.16 The U.S. has also intervened on multiple occasions in Syria since its formation in 1949 due to its goal of promoting pro-Western dictators and its goal of limiting the Soviet Unions influence.17 Syria also at this time began to rely on the Soviet Union for military aid and later in the 1960s began to accept economic aid as well.18 Further dependence on the Soviet Union came in the 1970s when at this time arms sales reached $1 billion as of 1978 and in 1979 when Russia forgave about a large portion of Syrias debt.19 Later, as Russia began to reclaim its former glory, Russia once again forgave $10 billion of Syrias former debts as an attempt to reestablish arms transactions with Syria in the 2000s.20

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Moyar, Mark, U.S. Interests in Syria, Past and Present, Stanford Junior University, 2013, http://www.hoover.org/related-materials/144801. 17 Gerges, Fawaz A., Obama and the Middle East: The End of Americas Moment?, 2012 18 Sullivan, Anne Marie, Syria, 2004, page 54 19 Rubin, Barry, The Truth About Syria, 2007, page 55 20 Rubin, Barry, The Truth About Syria, 2007, page 55

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Today, Syria is [also] Russias only remaining ally and port of call in the Middle East, and Moscow clearly sees the Assad regime as its way back into the political influence game.21 The last remaining naval base on the Mediterranean is in Tartus, Syria. Also according to Daniel Treisman, a prominent professor of political science at UCLA, states that: Russia has real commercial interests in Syria. Contracts to sell arms to Damascus both those signed and under negotiation total $5 billion. Having lost $13 billion due to international sanctions on Iran and $4.5 billion in canceled contracts to Libya, Russia's defense industry is already reeling. Besides arms exports, Russian companies have major investments in Syria's infrastructure, energy and tourism sectors, worth $19.4 billion in 2009.22 It would seem that Russia does have some motives of their own to keeping Assad in power because if the government were overthrown, what would happen to all of Russias contracts? Syria, as stated before, is a hot topic of news in the world today with constant debates on whether the U.S. should intervene and on how Syria is caught in the middle of a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia. It is hard to determine what the fate of Syria is considering all the hands that are involved in its domestic issues, but it is certain that a comprise between the U.S. and Russia is a very good stepping off point to hopefully lesson these two countries personal motives from negatively affecting Syria, and the world, as a whole..

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Kitfield, James. "Arm Syrian Rebels Now, Pay Consequences Later." National Journal, 2013, Academic OneFile, http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA334609320&v=2.1&u=nysl_ca_scp&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w. 22 Treisman, Daniel, Why Russia supports Syria's Assad, UCLA Today: Faculty and Staff News. 2013, http://today.ucla.edu/portal/ut/PRN-russia-s-support-for-assad-regime-228392.aspx.

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Bibliography Baker, Peter and Myers, Steven Lee, Obama Falls Short on Wider Backing for Syria Attack, The New York Times, September 6, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/07/world/middleeast/obama-syria-strike.html. Belov, Timofei, Syria: Western-backed terrorists confined to suicide attacks, Pravda, August 14, 2013, english.pravda.ru/hotspots/conflicts/14-08-2013/125380-syria_terrorists-0 Bancroft-Hinchey, Timothy, Syria: The legal issue, Pravda, English.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/05/09/2013/125570-syria_legal_issue-0 Ceoldo, Constantino, The price of dignity (the end): the attack on Syria, Pravda, September 9, 2013, english.pravda.ru/world/asia/09-09-2013/125606-price_dignity_three-0 Chivers, C.J., Brutality of Syrian Rebels Posing Dilemma in West, The New York Times, September 5, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/05/world/middleeast/brutality-ofsyrian-rebels-pose-dilemma-in-west.html. Chivers, C.J. and Gladstone, Rick, Forensic Details in U.N. Report Point to Assads Use of Gas, The New York Times, September 16, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/17/world/europe/syria-united-nations.html. Gerges, Fawaz A., Obama and the Middle East: The End of Americas Moment?, 2012 Kuznersov, Ivan, Obama to step on Hitlers Path?, Pravda, September 5, 2013, english.pravda.ru/world/aisa/05-09-2013/125572-obama_hitler-0 Moyar, Mark, U.S. Interests in Syria, Past and Present, Stanford Junior University, 2013, http://www.hoover.org/related-materials/144801. Putin, Vladimir V., A Plea for Caution From Russia, The New York Times, September 11, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/009/12/opinion/putin-plea-for-caution-from-russiaon-syria.html. Rubin, Barry, The Truth About Syria, 2007.

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Rudoren, Jodi, Israel Backs Limited Strike Against Syria, The New York Times, September 5, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/06/world/middleeast/israel-backs-limited-strikeagainst-syria.html Sullivan, Anne Marie, Syria, 2004 Tabler, Andrew, Democracy to the Rescue, Institute of Current World Affairs, March 2006, http://www.ou.edu/mideast/Tabler_Opposition2006.pdf. Treisman, Daniel, Why Russia supports Syria's Assad, UCLA Today: Faculty and Staff News. 2013, http://today.ucla.edu/portal/ut/PRN-russia-s-support-for-assad-regime228392.aspx.

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