Landis: On Syria Anniversary, Very Little To Be Optimistic About

Mar 14, 2014

A crowd gathers outside London's National Gallery in Trafalgar Square Thursday for a vigil to mark the third anniversary of the start of Syria's civil war.
Credit Andy Armstrong / Flickr Creative Commons

This weekend marks three years since the first mass protests in Damascus, Aleppo, and Daraa lit kindling of unrest in Syria that eventually ignited a full-scale civil war.

Joshua Landis, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, and the author of the widely-read blog Syria Comment, says countries in the region and the United States now view the Syrian crisis as a counterterrorism problem.

“Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian Army are stronger today than they have been at any time in the last two years,” Landis says. “He's a brutal force that has devastated his country, but everybody's throwing up their hands.”

Months ago, Saudi Arabia promised money, arms, and aid to Syria’s rebels, but Landis says the country has now banned its citizens from going to fight in Syria, the thousands of Saudis already there will be jailed if they don’t come back within a short amnesty window.

“Fifty-something nationalities have gone to fight this holy war in Syria,” Landis says. “So the whole world is very anxious that they’re going to come home and be radicalized.”

However, Landis still maintains there’s little the United States can do to help solve Syria’s problems.

“It shows you what humanitarian disaster this has turned in to, and partly because there aren't any superpowers that are willing to step up and take responsibility,” Landis says. “So small countries like Syria that don't have patrons can get into a lot of trouble.”

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