October 18, 2019
This blog piece is an attempt to analyze Syrian civil war ( or crisis ) from the perspective of humanitarian intervention debate. Like my previous piece, this piece has a format of an essay paper that aims to provide some terminology before the short analysis.
*Terminology:Definition of Humanitarian Intervention: Such intervention refers to actions undertaken by an organization or organizations (usually a state or a coalition of states or international organizations- like UN-) that are intended to alleviate extensive human suffering within the borders of a state. Such suffering tends to be the result of a government instigating, facilitating, or ignoring the abuse of groups falling within its jurisdiction.
Definition of State Sovereignty: State sovereignty is the concept that stress that states are in complete and exclusive control of all the people and property within their territory. State sovereignty also includes the idea that all states are equal as states. In other words, despite their different land masses, population sizes, or financial capabilities, all states, ranging from tiny islands of Micronesia to vast expanse of Russia, have an equal right to function as a state and make decisions about what occurs within their own borders. The idea of soveriegnty dates back to Westphalia Treaty in 1648. Also, today as stated in a book, it is noteworthy to say that globalization poses a certian degree of threat to national sovereignty. Global problems like climate change need common action and policies and states cannot act on their own freely to solve such problems.
*Syrian War: In 2011, just after the Arab Spring, uprisings began in Syria mostly the protests were not secterian first. The protests first begun in March 2011 with a reform demand from the Assad regime and turned to public and widesparead uprisings that spread to all of the country which demanded Basher al-Assad to resign. Assad used violence against the protesters. The majority of Syria has Sunni belief while Assad family belonged to that of Shia sect.
It should be noted that, the geopolitical struggle restarted between the great powers including the United States, Russia and China particularly over the Syria crisis. Iran and Hezbollah joined the war in 2013 next to the Assad forces. Iran provided the Assad regime with military and finance support. It is important to state that, the dimension of the crisis turned from regional to global with the inclusion of great powers in addition to the regional powers in the Syria crisis.
*Key actors in current Syrian deadlock: It should be said that, neither regional nor global powers have well-defined projections regarding Syria’s future. Russia has been supporting Assad regime since the onset of the war. Russia doesnt want Iran to be effective in Syria. Arab regimes follow the US line in the war scene.
*Humanitarian intervention discussions and state sovereignty perspective:
It is known that the Syrian crisis paved the way for a serious humanitarian crisis and caused the death of many. Almost half of the Syrian population has been displaced since the onset of the civil war in 2012. It should be stressed that, the human suffering in the Syrian crisis is a tragedy for the Syrian people, but also demonstrably a crisis of international intervention. However, The international community has failed to protect the civilians. According to the UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, “the appalling suffering inflicted on ordinary women, children, and men by this conflict is completely unacceptable… words, despite their ability to shock, cannot really paint a picture of the grim and gruesome reality of Syria today.”  So I think humanitarian intervention is needed.
There is also confirmed evidence of the targeting of civilians and humanitarian workers. These constitute war crimes and Syrian case needs humanitarian intervention. A global instiution like United Nations (today it is only UN and maybe NATO) must interfere into the situation. Of course such an intervention needs negotiation only with the aim to provide peace.
It is a controversial issue:the relationship between state sovereignty and human rights. This is evident in the UN Charter. On the one hand, it says all members should protect their territorial integrity and independence /sovereignty in general terms; on the other hand, it underlines the value of human rights.
In the Syrian civil war, the UN failed to protect the civilians as noted earlier, through attaching importance to Syrian state’s sovereignty the UN should have put an end to civilian murders.
Lastly, it should be noted that, the advocates of humanitarian intervention see no reason why sovereignty should be absolute. Factors like globalization, free trade and economic interdependence support that idea as well. I think in such war like that of Syrian case, humanitarian intervention is a must to protect civilians.
 K. L. Shimko, International Relations: Perspectives and Controversies, pp.198-200
 K. L. Shimko, International Relations: Perspectives and Controversies, pp.248.Author : Begum Burak