Although civil wars are mostly only infighting within countries, they also have an undeniable impact not just on the countries surrounding the warring nation, but also the entire world. The ongoing war in Syria is one of the most violent of our times, having caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands, leaving more than six million without a home and forcing yet another three million out of their home country.
Aside from the direct consequences of the war, the economy is also undoubtedly affected. While Syria definitely has it the worst, other countries have also been experiencing disruptions in their infrastructure and the closing of some jobs. Trade and investments with Syria have been cut down drastically. In some neighboring countries, the children are unable to go to school while small towns deal with the sudden influx of refugees.
Impact on Lebanon
Lebanon borders Syria and has the strongest links to Syria out of all its neighboring countries. The border the two countries share is the largest Lebanon has, and the countries have strong ties in terms of economy, history as well as social and political matters. For one, Lebanon’s merchandise and service exports did not appear to have been affected, according to data from 2014. The trade going both in and out of Lebanon was stable throughout the Syrian war, possibly due to an increased demand for goods both due to the Syrian refugees moving over and also the decreased production from Syria. Additionally, the Lebanese economy was actually less affected by the Syrian war than that of other neighboring countries.
However, that is not to say that there was no impact at all. It was found that exporters to Syria had lost around US $90,000 on average by 2012, about a quarter of the amount exported pre-war. Although this number is not small, it was the least of the drops for Syria’s neighbors. For example, Jordan suffered a much greater loss estimated to be around $340,000 – or three quarters of their pre-war exports.
Expansion of Isis
The conflict in Syria made it difficult to control the people, as the Syrian government was busy with its own fights. Free from scrutiny, part of al-Qaeda managed to branch out into the Islamic State group, forming one of the most feared terrorist groups in the world. Although Isis first conquered Raqqa in Syria, it soon moved on to Iraq and then to other places in the region.
The crimes of Isis include the massacres of minorities, sex slavery, opposing state armies and promoting spectacles of violent executions. Aside from destroying heritage sites in the ancient city of Palmyra, the group has also sparked anxiety in nations worldwide through its terror attacks, including France, Yemen and Libya. Additionally, the expansion of the state group has encouraged numerous young people from Europe to join it, even if they do not have any personal ties to Muslim or Islam.
These young Europeans made up the majority of the perpetrators behind the Islamic State attack on Paris in November 2015. However, with the association of the Islamic State, security became high and alarms went off, causing people to be wary of the Muslims in their communities. Many politicians responded in their own ways, including the then-United States Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who proposed banning all Muslims from entering the country. Additionally, xenophobia has become rampant in some communities, including those in France, Holland, Germany, Austria and Italy.
Even today, the threat of the Islamic State is still present in regions worldwide. Isis may have originated in Syria, but it is now up to the world to control it.
Migrants and Refugees of War
Trapped in the war zones, most of the Syrians had no choice but to flee their homes. Some traveled to neighboring countries such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, while others went across the sea to Europe due to its open border agreements.
In Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, around 4.4 million Syrian refugees reside in cramped spaces. The numbers of Syrian refugees living in Lebanon total more than a fifth of the population. Although some of the Syrian refugees are able to contribute labor to their host countries, others have difficulty finding jobs, bringing down the economy.
Over a million refugees came to Europe just within 2015, while thousands of others perished during the long journey. There have understandably been mixed reactions to the steady stream of refugees, where some people are willing to help them while others shun them. In some regions along the Balkan route from Greece to Germany, borders have been put up by Europeans to reduce the number of migrants coming through. Europe has also been considering an agreement to return all new migrants arriving in Greece to Turkey in exchange for admitting pre-selected refugees from Syria. All in all, the large population increase caused by new refugees has put a strain on Europe’s economy, resources and finances.
Sparking Violence Worldwide
The crossfire has spread outside Syria. In 2018, Turkey launched a military offensive in northwestern Syria with the approval of Russia, targeting Kurdish fighters that were believed to be terrorists. However, the United States saw these fighters as counterterrorism allies, and responded by killing numerous Russian mercenaries advancing on an American-Kurdish base in east Syria. The conflict took to the air when Israel intercepted an Iranian drone that crossed into their airspace and struct Iranian and Syrian military targets in Syria, provoking retaliation from Syria, which shot down an Israeli fighter jet. In an attempt to mediate the situation for the time being, Russia allegedly pressured Israel into temporarily holding their fire.
Although the war is still officially called the “Syrian Civil War”, it may be escalating into more than that due to each country’s ties with the affected. Almost every international player has picked a side in the Syrian war, putting their own interests at heart. For instance, the United States has troops in Syria to prevent any resurgence of terrorist groups, but Turkey has been opposed to the idea of a Kurdish militia reinforced by the American army. At the same time, the United States aims to counter Iran’s attempts to extend its territory across the Eastern Mediterranean and is backed by Israel, which has been at odds with Iran.
While Russia focuses on keeping both a friendly government in Damascus and a military presence on the Mediterranean, Iran is also trying to establish its military infrastructure in Syria, complete with missile-production facilities and precision-guided munitions. Naturally, these two countries are displeased with the United States’ military presence in Syria.
Currently, the conflicts in Syria involve each country’s interests, but is also still centered around the divided forces in Syria. It is unlikely that Turkey and Russia will be going to war with the United States over Syria, but the tension has been growing higher between the Iranians and the Israelis. Ultimately, the Syrian Civil War may be turning into the Syrian War.