For almost 30 years, Iraq and Afghanistan have been flashpoints for modern global conflict. U.S.-led coalitions have spent decades in hostile lands, harassed by shepherds and day-laborers cooped up in mountain hideouts with nothing more than a rifle and a few rounds of ammunition. Since 2003, bands of insurgents have negated western military operations to deny them of leadership, arms and recruiting bases, and have succeeded at almost every turn. But now, even with the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan ongoing, global attention has turned to a new Middle Eastern hotspot: Syria.
Last Friday, Feb. 21, Turkish officials revealed that between 29 and 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in an airstrike by the Syrian government. Turkish forces quickly responded by ramping up operations in the region, specifically intensifying artillery fire against government positions in the region. This is just the beginning of an extremely convoluted conflict, one that draws in the United States, multiple European nations, Turkey, and Russia, each cooperating with or opposing a variety of Syrian civil forces in the region.
Turkish involvement in Syria recently made headlines with President Trump’s decision to abandon the Kurdish freedom fighters in the region. Kurdish forces had been indirectly supported by American military intelligence and training up until this point, and were quickly left without a safety net. They stood little to no chance against the well-organized and well-funded Turkish military, but have managed to scratch and claw their way so far.
However, the Syrian attack on Turkish forces has drawn more global players into the mix. With Turkey’s attacks on Syrian government forces, Russia, who supports the reign of Bashar Al-Assad, has been forced to consider Turkish operations hostile to its own interests. With the U.S., Russia and Turkey all involved and all considering each other hostile to one degree or another, Syria is quickly rising to stardom in the role of the globe’s next major conflict.
Fears have been exacerbated by Turkey’s position in NATO, which threatens to draw the international organization into conflict with Russia. Steps need to be taken to minimize the tensions in Syria, but exactly what this might entail is still unclear. American involvement is being minimized, but whether this is beneficial or detrimental to either side of the Syrian conflict is debatable. Russian involvement is decidedly detrimental, as the country supports the Al-Assad administration through military equipment and intelligence. Turkey’s part in the conflict is largely in self-defense, though the exact steps Turkish military officials have taken can be a little confusing. Turkey is decidedly against Al-Assad, but Turkish forces have attacked Kurdish freedom fighters in the past as part of a discriminatory military campaign designed to eliminate Kurdish presence in the area.
Syria has the potential to become a major conflict zone at a time when global powers could not be more engaged in other matters. With the rise of COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus, technological warfare and international tensions, steps must be taken to resolve the conflict in Syria before it explodes into a global conflict.