Peter Roper is a student at the London School of Economics (LSE). He’s currently studying Syria as part of an undergraduate course called “Genocide”.
He read what you have been saying about the Syrian conflict, some of your questions have really made him think. Read his response here.
If the rebels are fighting for justice, why do they destroy monuments and murder innocent lives?
Girl Online, Graveney School
Hi Girl Online. One of the most important things to understand about the war in Syria is that there are many different groups fighting for many different aims.
There are lots of different sides within Syria fighting against the Assad government but many of them are also fighting each other. On top of this there’s a lot of people from outside of Syria taking part in the fighting, some on the side President Assad and others against him.
Some of the rebel groups are fighting to have a new country for their people who have not been fairly represented by their governments in the past. Some of the other rebel groups want to impose their religion and way of life on all other people in Syria and nearby Iraq. This goes to show that just because a group is fighting against the Assad government, which has done lots of terrible things, it does not mean that they are fighting for justice; they might also want to do horrible things.
Another point to think about is that there are so many different objectives for the many groups fighting in Syria. Syrian people do not always know who is on their side and who is an enemy. In these very difficult situations sometimes people mistake civilians for enemies and attack them.
Could President Putin be using his power to manipulate President Asaad to start another world war?
JD, Chiltern Way Academy
Hi JD. You are right to be suspicious of President Putin’s support for President Assad and this raises an important question, what are the objectives of all the other countries playing a role in the Syrian war?
Russia, Iran, Turkey, America and other countries have all used their militaries to try and influence the outcome of the fighting in different directions. Syria is just one country in a part of the world that has lots of natural resources. The outcome of this war will affect who calls Syria an ally and allies will hold a stronger position in the region.
It is important to think about why any other country might want to get involved in the fighting, including the United Kingdom and America. Any country can say that they are getting involved to try and help the Syrian people, but this may not actually be the case.
I don’t think that President Putin wants to start a world war but the interests of different countries could lead to more conflict in places outside of Syria. So, it is important to consider how other countries might react to any kind of intervention by the UK, to avoid escalation.
How far is Britain willing to help, are they going to physically involve themselves by bombing others or are they going to help in ways of humanity, such as taking in more refugees?
An Inspired Vision, Barnhill Community High School
Hi An Inspired Vision, this is an important question. There are a number of different ways Britain could intervene in Syria. So far, Britain has provided equipment to some opposition groups and bombed ISIL fighters.
One of the problems with bombing Syria is that a lot of the fighting taking place happens in and around innocent people’s homes which are then destroyed. This, in turn, increases the number of refugees. I believe Britain should make greater efforts to take in refugees. The number of refugees in mainland Europe is much higher than in Britain and many countries are struggling to cope. Many refugees live in horrendous conditions. If they were more evenly spread between countries the conditions could be improved, even if only a little bit.
Should we really put our country in danger?
Familylovedrl, Barnhill Community High School
Hi Familylovedrl. Before any intervention, it is important to look into the risks and possible effects in a lot of detail so that you can have an idea of what might happen. Rushing into military action without proper consideration of the consequences can cause very bad outcomes.
It is also important to think about what might happen if we do not act. There are powerful groups in Syria who would like to hurt our country, by not taking any action we might allow them to grow stronger and face a different kind of danger further down the line.
Due to the amount of conflict and tension around the world caused by the conflict in Syria it’s very difficult to try to take action there, resulting in the right solution. How can we ever find a solution to a problem which is so subjective?
Grace Academy Coventry
Hi Burnet News Club Members. The conflict in Syria is indeed very complicated, with powerful countries like Turkey, Russia and America all wanting different things. I think for any solution to be successful it will require those three countries to compromise on their objectives in Syria.
There have been positive signs recently, just before the new year Turkey and Russia (who are supporting different sides) managed to secure a ceasefire deal. This has been quite successful so far. Turkey has also just announced that the Americans will be invited to the next round of peace talks which is another good sign. However, even if these talks are successful it will not completely stop the fighting in Syria as the deals do not cover powerful terrorist groups like ISIL.
Turkey just announced that the Americans will be invited to the next round of peace talks which is another good sign. However, even if these talks are successful it will not completely stop the fighting in Syria as the deals do not cover powerful terrorist groups like ISIL.
Hi VulneraSanetur4. That’s some interesting thoughts you have on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in wars.
You are right that in wars people always see their own side as the ‘good’ side but I would say that whether a side is actually fighting for good or bad depends on their objectives. For example if people are fighting to protect others then I would consider them to be fighting for good.
In reality most people fighting often have a legitimate reason to be angry, and wars are never really as simple as good guys and bad guys. Also sometimes a side that I would consider to be fighting for ‘good’ reasons can do very bad things. For example, during World War 2 the allies bombed the German city of Dresden killing thousands of civilians. Dresden didn’t have any significant military or industrial targets meaning that the bombing wasn’t directly helping the war effort.
Hi Burnet News Club Members. That’s a good summary of how the Syrian conflict started. Since the war began, about 6 years ago, things have a got a lot more complicated in Syria. It’s no longer just anti-government rebels fighting the Assad government.
The main groups involved are:
- the Assad government, which controls areas with about 66% of the Syrian population
- the Syrian Opposition, which does not control as much of Syria
- an extremist group called ISIL, which controls a lot of land
- the Syrian Democratic Forces, who are based in Northern Syria and control more people than ISIL controls.
The Syrian Democratic Forces are mainly fighting against ISIL but are also fighting the government and they have received support from countries like the UK and America.
The Syrian Opposition is actually made up of lots of smaller groups but they are fighting against ISIL and the government. Some members of the Syrian Opposition are helped by Turkey. To make things more complicated, the Russian and Iranian governments have also been helping the Assad government.
Personally, we have mixed opinions on this crucial matter of intervention. Firstly, we believe Britain should enforce no-fly-zones in critically targeted and main cities to protect and save Syrian Citizens. This will shield citizens and children from bombs and danger. However, we also believe that sending weapons and supplies could end up in the wrong hands: Islamic State or the Syrian Government. If this occurred it would strengthen terrorists and other forces on the opposite side, provoking more disastrous dangers and killing.
William Tyndale Primary School
Hi Burnet News Club Members. No fly zones are one option for trying to help the Syrian people, but they might actually lead to more conflict. The problem with no fly zones is that there are lots of Russian warplanes in the area, to effectively enforce a no-fly zone Britain would have to be willing to shoot down any Russian planes that entered the zone.
The Russians are very unlikely to stop what they are doing just because the British and Americans tell them to, meaning they would continue to fly in the zones. If a Russian plane was shot down by Britain or America it would cause a lot of tension and could lead to an escalation in the conflict.
You are right about the risks when sending weapons. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in the 1980s the Americans gave weapons to groups in Afghanistan. Later, those weapons were used against them during the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. It’s a very difficult situation and deciding on the best method of helping is not easy.
My opinion about this is that the UK is not at its strongest point- from leaving the EU to giving money to fund wars. Thus, making our country bankrupt soon. Therefore, I believe that that the UK should not be giving money to fund wars. Wars are overall a negative thing and shouldn’t have money put towards them. However, the UK are doing a good thing if you look at it as people can fight against the other side. But, overall I still think that war is a horrible thing, that takes innocent lives. Therefore, we should not fund for war and get our country drawn into other problems.
By AK & SN – Villiers High School
Hi AK & SN. The UK is indeed facing a period of uncertainty following the EU referendum and you could be right, maybe it isn’t the right time to get involved in fighting wars far away.
That said, there are ways we can help the Syrian people without funding the war, such as taking in more refugees and sending supplies.
Whether or not it is right for the UK to intervene militarily is also a complex question, we can’t just think about the dangers of getting involved in the conflict, we must also think about the risks of not getting involved. How the Syrian conflict is resolved will have impacts that are felt much wider than just Syria.
The peace process, however long it takes, will involve lots of different countries and it will shape the future of the region. Depending on how this happens it could lead to different problems for the UK further down the line. I don’t know if military intervention is the right thing to do, but there are risks either way that need to be considered.