[Syria] British aid to Syrian Rebels, Geneva-II conference, India’s Stakes

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  1. Syrian Crisis: Background
  2. Main rebels against Prez. Assad
  3. Why UK stopped giving Aid?
  4. Why UK resumed giving aid?
  5. India’s stakes in Syria
  6. Geneva II conference

Syrian Crisis: Background

  • Syrian Civil war has its roots in Arab Spring movement against corrupt/ ineffective regimes.
  • Nowadays, it has turned into sectarian war between Shia Prez. Bashar Al Assad (Alawite) vs Sunni Rebels.
  • Both sides getting foreign support
Two factions
Syrian Govt.Anti-Syrian Govt (Rebels)
  1. Russia (because of its diaspora & Naval base)
  2. Iran, Iraq, Lebanon’s Hezbollah (Shia support)
  3. China- has economic ties. Stays away from voting against Syria in UN.
  1. USA, UK, Israel, EU
  2. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey (Sunni Support)
  3. Al Qaida
  • 1 lakh+ killed, 20 lakh+ fled the country. Latest reports show traces of Chlorine Gas attack in streets.
  • Nobel Peace prize 2014 winner Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has started new investigation.

Main rebels against President Bashar Al-Assad

Syrian Crisis explained

Moderate/SecularExtremist/Non-Secular
  1. Free Syrian Army (FSA)
  2. Syrian National Coalition (SNC)
  1. Al-Nusra
  2. Islamic Front.
mostly ex-soldiersAffiliated with Al-Qaeda.
US, UK etc. support them with non-lethal aid: food, tent, and medicines.They get funding from Sunni-extremist groups in Middle east. But When they run out of diesel/ammo, they loot the godowns of “secular” rebels. After all they’re “Extremists”!

Why UK stopped giving Aid?

  • USA, UK, France etc. have formed a group “Friends of Syria” (FOS, total 11 nations)
  • They help Free Syrian Army (FSA) AND Syrian National Coalition (SNC). Because these rebels are secular / moderate / believe in democracy.
  • December 2013: Islamic Front (“non-secular”) looted arms depot of Free Syrian Army (“secular” rebels). They took away 2000 AK rifles, rocket launchers, at least 200 tons of ammunition and 100 military vehicles.
  • USA, UK fear their supplies will reach Al-Qaeda, Hence stopped giving aid to Free Syrian army (FSA).

Why UK resumed giving aid?

  • 2014: @the recent meeting, (Secular) Syrian rebels requested the FOS to supply weapons to fight against Prez.Basar-al-Assad’s forces, else victory impossible.
  • While FOS (Those 11 countries) agreed to help but unlike Salman Khan, none made any “commitment” because they fear weapons may reach Al-Qaeda terrorists. (Same reason why India doesn’t directly give weapons to Afghanistan troops. click me)
  • But UK has decided take some measure, especially after reports of Assad’s chemical weapon attacks on Children:
  1. We’ll resume atleast non-lethal aid to those moderate/secular rebels. (30 million pounds worth)
  2. We’ll also give “diplomatic mission status” to Syrian National Coalition.
  3. We’ll send aid to areas where UN cannot reach.

Examples of Non-lethal aid

  1. Laptops
  2. Satellite phones
  3. Pickup trucks, diesel
  4. Portable generators
  5. Clothing, ration, tents and Medicine.

USA also planning to do same, send aid via NGOs instead of UN.

India’s stakes in Syria

  1. Unlike Russia, We don’t have much diaspora or any military base in Syria.
  2. We hardly import any oil/ gas from Syria
  3. Assad supports India’s claim for permanent seat @UNSC.
  4. We’ve have invested millions in Syrian power & steel sector to keep him in good humor.
  5. Experts believe Rebels will control 2/3rd of Syria’s territory & energy resources- if status quo maintained. Then India can say goodbye to money invested/loaned to Assad.
  6. As such our stand similar to China: We don’t support military intervention (by UN/USA) in Syria.
  7. For energy security we want both Iran (Shia) and Saudi Arab (Sunni). Since both are against each other on Syria issue, we have to talk “neutral”.
  8. We want both Assad and Rebels to renounce violence.
  9. We Want Peaceful resolution through dialogue, at Geneva-II conference (‘International Conference on Syria’).

Geneva II conference

  • UN sponsored
  • @ Monteux, Switzerland
  • Started from January 2014.
  • Aims to bring both Syrian government and rebel forces on negotiation table.
  • Overall, their plan is to get Assad resign, setup a “transitional government” with representatives from both sides, and then hold fresh elections. (At least this is USA’s plan, but Russia opposes.)
  • India participating but doesn’t articulate a clear stand except the usual “peaceful dialogue between stakeholders”.
  • Iran not invited (actually invited then UN withdrew invitation)

Mock Questions

Q1. Correct statement(s) related to Shia and Sunni.

  1. Their main difference is: after the death of Prophet, Shia chose Abu Bakr as the Caliph while Sunni chose Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law Ali as Caliph.
  2. The Mughal kings were Shia Muslims.
  3. Both A and B
  4. Neither A nor B

Q2. Which of the following don’t share border with Syria?

  1. Israel
  2. Iraq
  3. Iran
  4. Saudi Arabia

Correct choices

  1. only 2 and 4
  2. only 3 and 4
  3. only 1, 2 and 4
  4. only 1, 3 and 4

Correct Answers:

  1. Both Wrong.
    • Sunni: Prophet’s companion Abu Bakr; Shia = Prophet’s Son in Law Ali.
    • Mughals were Sunni Muslims:Two separate google books confirm this. Ref1 and Ref2
    • Point is, you’re not required to tick 100/100. So don’t go by gut feeling else dig grave through negative marking.
  2. B-Iran and Saudi donot share border with Syria.

Visit Mrunal.org/Diplomacy for entire list articles on Diplomacy & International relations (IR) for Mains GS2 paper of UPSC Civil service Exam.

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