Since the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, about 400,000 Syrians have been killed, more than 11 million have been displaced and the war has become one of the biggest humanitarian crises of the 21st century.
After five years of fighting, is there hope for the war to end? Not anytime soon, according to Dr. Djene Bajalan, assistant professor of history at Missouri State University.
Too many players
“When you have a civil war with two sides, it’s perhaps easier to negotiate a peace between the two sides. But when you have different rebel groups with different agendas, it’s really hard to get all of them to sit down at the table and agree to an end to the conflict,” said Bajalan, who has lived and worked in the Middle East. “This chaotic situation is made worse as other countries become involved.”
History has shown that civil wars can last a long time and Bajalan believes this one will go on a while more, especially if Russia continues supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the United States and Saudi Arabia continue backing Syria’s main opposition alliance and rebel groups.
“People have been hoping the sides will fight each other until a standstill and then agree to some kind of terms, but that just hasn’t happened,” said Bajalan. “I think the only solution is for the United States, Russia, the Arab countries, Turkey and all the different groups in Syria to get together and try to find some pathway to do this. But at the moment, it doesn’t seem realistic to expect that in the short term.”
The refugee crisis
As the conflict has continued, millions of Syrians have fled the country, seeking refuge not only in neighboring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, but also Europe.
While the United States recently met its goal of granting asylum to 10,000 Syrians this year, this number is small when compared to resettlement programs by Canada, Germany, France and other Western countries.
“The humanitarian disaster has just gotten worse,” said Bajalan. “America needs to take leadership on the issue, and if people are going to respect what America says, it has got to take its share of the refugees like other countries are doing. It’s not just a moral thing to do, but it’s also the smart thing to do.”