What exactly is this Syrian civil war?

  1. An ongoing armed conflict between the Syrian government and the rebel forces within Syria.
  2. It started in the spring of 2011 with the context of Arab spring.

To understand the conflict let us know the historical background of Syria. So, where is Syria?

    1. Syria is one of the Arab Nations which shares its borders with Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Iraq.
    2. Damascus – capital of Syria.
    3. Syria became independent in 1946.
    4. Democratic rule was ended by a military coup in 1949.
    5. The military rule ended in 1954.
    6. From 1958-1961 Syria and Egypt were part of a union called as ‘United Arab Republic’ with Cairo as capital and Gamal Abdel Nasser as President.
    7. In 1961, Syria seceded from the Union after the Syrian Coup d’êtat – uprising by the Syrian Army officers.
    8. The country was named as Syrian Arab Republic.
    9. But the government was weak. Why? Due to the influence of United Arab Republic and a military coup happened in 1963 and 1966.

That’s pretty complex! But UPSC is famous for asking about the details. What happened then? 

In 1970, in another coup General Hafez al -Assad, the Minister of Defence seized the power.

  1. He became the P.M of Syria.
  2. In 1971, he was declared the President of Syria (until his death in 2000).
  3. Syria was a single-party state.
  4. Syrians could approve the President by referendum until the government controlled multi party 2012 election.
  5. The Syrians could not vote in multiparty elections for the legislature.

The ascension of Bashar Al-Assad and the Shia-Sunni conflicts

  1. Son of Hafez al-Assad – Took over as the President of Syria after his Father’s death.
  2. The Syrians wanted democratic form of government but, ah well!
  3. The Assads belong to minority group Alawite (an offshoot of Shia which constitutes 12% of the total population).
  4. They controlled Syria’s security services which generated resentment among the Sunni Muslims (majority in Syria).

Phew! That is a very complex history. What happened next that finally led to the war? It is important to cover the story comprehensively for an IAS Aspirant.

    1. Well, the discontent was high against the government in poorer areas among Sunnis + High poverty and drought.
    2. Socio-economic inequality increased after free market policies initiated by Hafez al-Assad.
    3. Bashar continued those policies and only the minorities (Shias) and Sunni merchant class benefited through that.
    4. Standard of living deteriorated + High youth unemployment rates.

Then there were a few violation of human rights and eventually an uprising!

In 2010 the protests from Tunisia spread across the Arab world. In 2011 Tunisia and Egypt experienced revolution. Libya had its own civil war. The Tunisia and Egypt revolution inspired the Syrians to protest against their government.

Wow, that escalated quickly. So how did the protests turn into an armed rebellion?

  1. March 2011 – The initial protests were aimed at democratic reforms which started in Damascus.
  2. Till April 7, 2011, the protesters demanded democratic reforms, release of political prisoners, more freedom, abolition of emergency law and an end to corruption.
  3. On April 8, 2011, the protesters demanded Bashar’s resignation and protests spread across major cities in Syria.
  4. On 4th June, 2011, the Syrian security forces guarding on the roof of a post office fired at a funeral demonstration.
  5. The protesters set fire to the post office and killed the security officers and then seized weapons from a police station.
  6. The soldiers who refused to kill the protesters were executed and that led to the inclusion of soldiers into the protests to protect the protesters.

And that led to the formation of the Free Syrian Army

  1. Formed by 7 Syrian officers who defected the Syrian armed forces. The other soldiers joined them.
  2. The aim was to bring down Assad government.
  3. Then the fight started between Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Syrian Armed Forces.
  4. The people protested one side, the Syrian Kurds, FSA, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) started armed rebellion against the Syrian government.
  5. ISIL controlled a third of Syrian territory and most of its oil and gas production.
  6. This led to a major twist in the Syrian civil war.
  7. Due to the civil war in the country huge scores of people died and many were displaced.
  8. Many people fled from Syria to other nations as refugees.
  9. This led to a major migrant crisis in the Middle East.


UPSC will probably grill you down to your guts on how this issue will complicate situation in the middle east. These are the current themes doing rounds as the news evolves and you need to keep a tab on these developments for the IAS Mains.


Published with inputs from Vinoth.


Any doubts?

  1. Profile photo of Nishikant Tiwari Nishikant Tiwari

    Is it possible to get pdf version of articles published under under Op-eds

    1. Profile photo of Root Root

      Go to CD Online store – on left bar bottom – you can buy the current affairs mags and all these compilations will be there

  2. Profile photo of Nishikant Tiwari Nishikant Tiwari

    Good analysis

  3. Profile photo of Saurabh Mittal Saurabh Mittal

    how to get pdf file of aforementioned article

  4. Profile photo of Pranav Pandey Pranav Pandey

    Syrian crisis fully explained by some foreign news channel.found very elaborative

  5. Profile photo of vishnu hs vishnu hs

    Cd kindly explain the twin balance sheet problem…

    1. Profile photo of Pranav Pandey Pranav Pandey

      already explained in eco survey by Cd.

  6. Profile photo of steven suman steven suman

    Explicit !!! 🙂

  7. Profile photo of md ali md ali

    nice sir

  8. Profile photo of Shrishty Agarwal Shrishty Agarwal

    excellent work done

U.S. drops ‘mother of all bombs’ for first time in Afghanistan

  1. The United States dropped a massive GBU-43 bomb in eastern Afghanistan against a series of caves used by Islamic State militants
  2. It was dropped from a MC-130 aircraft in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, close to the border with Pakistan
  3. GBU-43: It is the largest non-nuclear bomb it has ever used in combat
  4. Also known as the mother of all bombs
  5. It is a 21,600 pound (9,797 kg) GPS-guided munition and was first tested in March 2003, just days before the start of the Iraq war


The continuation of the issue of pace in Afghanistan and the ethical issue of use of such weapons which also affect the innocent as seen in Syria.

Russia vetoes UN resolution to condemn Syria chemical attack

  1. Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution that would have condemned the reported use of chemical weapons in a town in northern Syria
  2. It demanded a speedy investigation, triggering clashes between Moscow and the measure’s Western backers
  3. The vote on the Security Council resolution drafted by Britain, France and the United States was 10 in favour, Russia and Bolivia against, and China, Kazakhstan and Ethiopia abstaining
  4. It was the eighth veto by Russia, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, on a Western-backed Syria resolution
  5. Conflict within UN: It reflects the deep division that has left the U.N.’s most powerful body struggling to tackle the use of banned chemical weapons and to help end the six-year Syrian conflict
  6. China has vetoed six resolutions


Just to keep track of the happenings. The conflict within UN can be used as a point to support the need for reform in UN/ UNSC.

Locate all the countries mentioned in here and also look at their surroundings in the atlas carefully. Look at both the political and physical maps.

[op-ed snap] US missile attack on Syria: A reckless intervention


  1. The U.S. missile attack on a Syrian airbase
  2. President Donald Trump ordered after civilians in the rebel-held Idlib province were hit with chemical weapons causing the deaths of at least 80 people
  3. This marks a departure in American policy towards the war-ravaged country

President Obama’s stand:

  1. President Barack Obama had repeatedly said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should go
  2. He resisted calls for military action in this regard, primarily for two reasons:
  • He wanted the U.S. to stay focussed on the campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria
  • And was wary of dragging the U.S. into a direct confrontation with Russia, which is backing the regime

Why this attack?

  1. Trump’s Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, had said that Mr. Assad’s future was up to the Syrians
  2. Then came the chemical attack on Khan Shaykhun, leading Mr. Trump to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles on the al-Shayrat airbase in Homs

Results of this:  

  1. On the face of it, it appears to be a bold move intended to take Mr. Assad to task for his action
  2. But in truth, the Trump administration has risked escalating the Syrian crisis to far more dangerous levels
  3. Once the brouhaha over the attack settles, Mr. Trump will face the question of what he really achieved from the missile strike

Question of legality:

  1. The strike also raises questions about its legality
  2. The UN Charter clearly states that any attack on another country needs Security Council approval unless it is an act in self-defence
  3. On the ground, the U.S. action seems to have cemented the alliance between Moscow and Damascus further, with the former sending a warship to the Mediterranean and threatening to halt a “deconfliction” channel, a hot line between the Russian and U.S. defence ministries to avoid direct confrontation in Syria

What could be done?

  1. Trump could have waited for the UN to complete its probe into the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun before initiating military action, while simultaneously working to build a consensus on Syria at the UN Security Council
  2. The U.S. and other countries could also have put more pressure on Moscow to rein in Mr. Assad, and offered support to the peace process backed by Russia and Turkey
  3. If the last six years of the deadly civil war in Syria offer a concrete lesson, it is that there are no quick fixes to this crisis that has political, sectarian and geopolitical dimensions
  4. Removing Mr. Assad forcibly may sound purposeful, but it risks a direct confrontation between the U.S. and Russia and could result in the deaths and displacement of many more Syrians, triggering another wave of refugees


The primary focus of the international community should be on ending this war, not on lighting new fires. Note down the highlighted points for Prelims and read the op-ed for a general understanding of the topic and how US-Russia ties could change with US’s involvement in Syrian conflict.

Sarin gas: what is it?

Context: The United States believes the Syrian government employed a sarin-like nerve agent in a recent deadly attack in the country’s northwest

Key facts about sarin:

  1. The name sarin comes from the chemists who discovered it by chance: Schrader, Ambros, Ruediger et Van der Linde
  2. The scientists had been trying to create stronger pesticides but the formula was then taken up by the Nazi military for chemical weapons
  3. Inhaled or absorbed through the skin, the gas kills by crippling the respiratory center of the central nervous system and paralysing the muscles around the lungs
  4. The combination results in death by suffocation, and sarin can contaminate food or water supplies
  5. Causes convulsions, breathing problems and foaming at the mouth
  6. Symptoms of exposure to the agent include nausea and violent headaches, blurred vision, drooling, muscle convulsions, respiratory arrest and loss of consciousness
  7. According to WHO: Sarin is 26 times more deadly than cyanide gas. Just a pinprick-sized droplet will kill a human
  8. Nerve agents are generally quick-acting and require only simple chemical techniques and inexpensive, readily available ingredients to manufacture
  9. According to OPCW: Inhalation of a high dose — say 200 milligrams of sarin — may cause death within a couple of minutes, with no time even for symptoms to develop
  10. Exposure through the skin takes longer to kill and the first symptoms may not occur for half an hour, followed by a quick progression
  11. Even when it does not kill, sarin’s effects can cause permanent harm —damaging a victim’s lungs, eyes and central nervous system
  12. Heavier than air, the gas can linger in an area for up to six hours, depending on weather conditions
  13. Instances of use: It was discovered in Nazi Germany
  14. Originally conceived as a pesticide, sarin was used by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime to gas thousands of Kurds in the northern town of Halabja in 1988
  15. The most notorious sarin attack occurred in the Kurdish city of Halabja in March 1988
  16. As many as 5,000 people were killed and 65,000 injured when the Iraqi military attacked using a combination of chemical agents that included sarin, mustard gas and possibly VX, a nerve agent 10 times more powerful than sarin
  17. It is thought to have been the worst-ever gas attack targeting civilians
  18. A cult also used the odorless, paralysing agent in two attacks in Japan in the 1990s
  19. The Aum Supreme Truth cult released it in the Tokyo subway in March 1995, killing 13 people and injuring 6,000 others
  20. The cult also used the nerve agent in an attack the year before in the Japanese city of Matsumoto, killing seven


Read about the use of chemical weapons and the international treaty here and also about the VX nerve agent mentioned in the card here. Important for prelims.

US launches missile strike against Syria after gas attack

The U.S launched a targeted missile strike on Syria to “prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons”


Just to be aware of the happenings- continuation of Syria crisis. Although India is involved, but still the event is important in some ways. First, chemical weapons have been used again by Syria. Unless the international community imposes some kind of cost on Syria, a message is being sent to the whole world that you can use weapons of mass destruction without any consequences. Second, although Russia earlier made a commitment that it would remove all chemical weapons from Syria, it has clearly failed. Third, with President Trump willing to anger Russia by attacking its ally (i.e. Syria), the anticipated rapprochement between US and Russia might not happen. This in turn has serious consequences for Russia’s relationship with India, since the Russia is moving closer to China and Pak to counter US sanctions.

Finally, use this opportunity to study the Asian, European and African areas in Syria’s vicinity. Look at all the seas, oceans, straits, countries and other physical features.

[op-ed snap] Never-ending tragedy


  1. The barbarism of Syria’s civil war was on display once again when at least 72 people were killed in a chemical attack in Idlib province
  2. The heartbreaking images of dead and injured children and desperate parents from Idlib’s Khan Sheikhoun have understandably triggered global outrage and calls for international action

Syrian sufferings:

  1. Syrians have suffered a lot over the past six years
  2. There have been multiple chemical attacks for which both the regime of Bashar al-Assad and the jihadists were held to blame
  3. More than 400,000 people are believed to have been killed and millions displaced since the crisis broke out
  4. With violence continuing unabated and the Assad regime not showing any real interest in settling the crisis, even hopes for peace and normal life look surreal
  5. The needle of suspicion for the Idlib attack points towards the regime whose murderous nature has been exposed several times in the past six years
  6. Idlib is a rebel-held province where the regime is currently carrying out air strikes

Violation of international agreement:

  1. Activists in the province and Western governments have claimed the regime used chemical agents in Khan Sheikhoun
  2. If they are right, Damascus has not only committed a war crime but also violated a major international agreement
  3. After the 2013 sarin attack in Ghouta in a Damascus suburb that killed hundreds — which was also blamed on the regime — the U.S. and Russia had agreed to remove Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles
  4. As part of the deal, 1,300 tonnes of chemical agents were shipped out of Syria and destroyed

Where did the latest chemical weapons come from?

  1. Syria had either hidden some of the stockpiles or clandestinely developed such weapons after the deal was reached — both serious violations
  2. This is a regime that neither respects the fundamental human rights of its people nor cares about the international agreements it has entered into
  3. Irrespective of its role in attack, the Syrian regime is primarily responsible for the country’s humanitarian catastrophe
  4. For years, it justified whatever it did in the war saying it was fighting terrorism
  5. The real crisis of Syria is that its regime is acting with a sense of impunity, thanks to the blank security cheque the Russians have issued to Mr. Assad
  6. The international community could not hold Mr. Assad to account for his actions at any point of the Syrian war, which worsened with the involvement of other regional powers


Syria has to be treated as an immediate priority, and in a way that transcends the narrow geopolitical interests of regional and global powers. There must be a coordinated effort to bring the war to an end, and to hold the perpetrators of war crimes accountable for their barbarism. Only then can Syria be rebuilt. Important for mains and the peace perspective vis-a-vis chemical weapons can be included in essay. Do refer this link for coverage of chemical weapons and related conventions.

Syrian group raises death toll in suspected gas attack to 58

  1. A suspected chemical attack in a town in Syria’s northern Idlib province killed dozens of people
  2. It is described as among the worst in the country’s six-year civil war


A reminder to revise about use of chemical in Syrian Civil War and the related international conventions. Read here; OPCW

[op-ed snap] Crimes of apartheid


  1. In a report released on March 15 in Beirut, Lebanon, the UN has proclaimed that Israel ‘is guilty of the crime of apartheid’
  2. This is a very significant judgment, one with important ramifications for the UN, for the International Court of Justice and for the international community

The Report:

  1. In 2015, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) was charged by its member-states – the eighteen Arab states in West Asia and North Africa – to study whether Israel has established an apartheid regime
  2. ESCWA asked two American academics — Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley — to undertake the study
  3. Falk had been the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories from 2008 through 2014
  4. Tilley had served as a Chief Research Specialist in South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council, which had produced a study in 2009 showing apartheid-like conditions in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territory
  5. The report that they have now produced makes the ‘grave charge’ that Israel is guilty of apartheid not only in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — the Occupied Territory — but also within its own boundaries and against the Palestinian refugees
  6. This is a very sharp report, which will be hard for Israel to ignore

End of two state consensus?

  1. At a recent meeting between Mr. Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump seemed to disregard the international consensus towards the creation of two states
  2. In fact, as this report and others show, the two-state solution has been long vitiated
  3. The Israeli government’s illegal Jewish settlement project in the West Bank and its virtual annexation of East Jerusalem makes it impossible to imagine the establishment of Palestine in that region
  4. What exists is a one-state, with Israel having exercised its dominion in the entire land west of the Jordan River, but a one-state with an apartheid system, with Israeli Jews in a dominant position over the Palestinians
  5. The new UN report speaks to this disturbing apartheid situation not only in the Occupied Territory of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, but in all of Israel
  6. One reason why the Israeli government is unwilling to consider a one-state solution with equal rights for all Israelis and Palestinians is what they call a ‘demographic threat’
  7. If the 12 million Palestinians — exiles and refugees included — would be citizens of this one-state, then they would dwarf the six million Jews in the country
  8. The UN report argues that Israel is a ‘racial regime’ because its institutions are premised on maintaining a Jewish nation by techniques of suppression and expulsion

Gross discrimination:

  1. Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship (ezrahut) do not have the right to nationality (le’um)
  2. This means that they can only access inferior social services, face restrictive zoning laws, and find themselves unable freely to buy land
  3. Palestinians in East Jerusalem are reduced to the status of permanent residents, who have to constantly prove that they live in the city and that they do not have any political ambitions
  4. Palestinians in the West Bank live ‘in ways consistent with apartheid’, write the authors of the UN report
  5. And those who are exiled to the refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan have absolutely no rights to their homeland
  6. All Palestinians – whether those who live in Haifa (Israel) or in Ain al-Hilweh (Lebanon) suffer the consequences of Israeli apartheid
  7. This indignity is punctuated with laws that humiliate the Palestinians
  8. The latest law — the Muezzin Bill — imposes limits on the Muslim call to prayer in Israel and East Jerusalem

What do the laws say?

  1. Matters would be less grave if the Israeli political system allowed Palestinians rights to make their case against apartheid-like conditions
  2. Article 7(a) of the Basic Law prohibits any political party from considering a challenge to the State’s Jewish character
  3. Since this description of the Israeli state renders Palestinians as second-class citizens, their voting rights are reduced to merely an affirmation of their subordination
  4. As the UN report suggests, ‘An analogy would be a system in which slaves have the right to vote but not against slavery’
  5. Palestinians inside Israel and in the Occupied Territories, as well as in enforced exile, are forbidden to fight to change the terms of politics in Israel
  6. This roadblock is the reason why the UN report appeals to the international community to live up to its commitments

Recommendations of the Report:

  1. Most of the world’s states have signed the Convention Against Apartheid and are now obliged to act to punish instances of apartheid
  2. Two recommendations from the report stand out
  3. First, the authors ask that the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigate the situation in Israel
  4. The ICC’s Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened an investigation on Israel’s 2014 bombing of Gaza and on the illegal settlements in the West Bank
  5. Second, the report asks that member states allow ‘criminal prosecutions of Israeli officials demonstrably connected with the practices of apartheid against the Palestinian people’

India’s reaction:

  1. To prepare the ground for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to Israel later this year, his Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar will soon go to Israel
  2. Word comes from the Ministry of External Affairs that it is likely that Mr. Modi will not visit the Occupied Territories, which will be a snub to Palestine
  3. India’s overall reaction to this report will define Mr. Modi’s attitude towards Israel


Will India take leadership in upholding international law as it did in the fight against South African apartheid? An important issue to follow for Mains exam.

2016 the worst year yet for Syria’s children

  1. Source: UNICEF report
  2. In Syria, last year was the worst yet for the country’s rising generation, with at least 652 children killed
  3. There was no let up to attacks on schools, hospitals, playgrounds, parks and homes as the Syrian government, its opponents and the allies of both sides showed callous disregard for the laws of war
  4. One of every three schools in Syria is unusable, some because armed groups occupy them
  5. An additional 2.3 million Syrian children are refugees elsewhere in the Middle East
  6. Report warns that for Syria’s young generation, coping mechanisms and medical care are eroding quickly, driving children into child labor, early marriage and combat
  7. Dozens of children are also dying from preventable diseases
  8. Syrian youngsters are showing signs of “toxic stress” that can lead to lifelong health problems, struggles with addiction and mental disorders lasting into adulthood
  9. The use of child soldiers is on the rise in Syria


Not very important but can be handy in case you need to quote something objectively in essay or mains answer.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is a United Nations (UN) programme headquartered in New York City that provides humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries.

To see international organisations and their reports – click here.

Syrian govt. used chlorine gas in Aleppo battle

  1. News: Syrian government forces carried out at least eight chemical attacks during the final weeks of the battle for Aleppo, killing nine people, among them four children, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW)
  2. The report detailed attacks on a playground, clinics, residential streets, and houses that left scores of people struggling to breathe, vomiting and unconscious
  3. The chemicals would affect the children most severely; they inhale these smells and they end up suffocating
  4. The use of chlorine gas as a weapon is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013 under pressure from Russia


Chemical weapons in warfare- do note for prelims as well as mains. Know about Chemical Weapons Convention in b2b.


The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC):

  1. CWC is an arms control treaty which outlaws the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons and their precursors
  2. The full name of the treaty is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction
  3. It is administered by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an intergovernmental organization based in The Hague, Netherlands
  4. The treaty entered into force in 1997
  5. The parties’ main obligation under the convention is to prohibit the use and production of chemical weapons, as well as the destruction of all current chemical weapons
  6. The destruction activities are verified by the OPCW
  7. As of April 2016, 192 states have given their consent to be bound by the CWC
  8. Israel has signed but not ratified the agreement, while three other UN member states (Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan) have neither signed nor acceded to the treaty
  9. Most recently, Angola deposited its instrument of accession to the CWC on 16 September 2015
  10. As of October 2016, about 93% of the world’s declared stockpile of chemical weapons had been destroyed
  11. The convention has provisions for systematic evaluation of chemical production facilities, as well as for investigations of allegations of use and production of chemical weapons based on intelligence of other state parties

[op-ed snap] Israel’s continuing land grab


  1. A legislation has been passed by Israel that would legalise nearly 4,000 Jewish settler homes on private Palestinian lands in the West Bank flies in the face of international law and norms
  2. This vote comes weeks after the UN Security Council demanded that Israel stop all settlement activity in the Occupied Territories
  3. This was demanded at an international conference attended by more than 70 countries
  4. It urged both sides in the conflict to resume talks and shows Israel’s disregard for international opinion and institutions

The legislation:

  1. The legislation allows the Israeli government to expropriate private Palestinian land if the land-owners are unknown
  2. If known, they will be compensated in cash or kind
  3. However, the legislation, which for the first time since the annexation of East Jerusalem seeks to extend Israeli law to the West Bank, can be overturned by the judiciary

Won’t defend the Bill:

  1. Israel’s Attorney-General has said he wouldn’t defend the bill in the high court as it is “unconstitutional and violates international law”
  2. This is unlikely to stop the ideology-driven settler movement and the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from taking more Palestinian land


  1. Since Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem five decades ago, about 140 settlements have been built in Palestinian territories that house more than 600,000 Jews
  2. Despite frequent international criticism, successive governments have thrown their weight behind the settlement lobby
  3. Netanyahu, who is dependent on the right-wing coalition parties for his government’s survival, has played along
  4. Last month, his government approved plans for 2,500 new settler homes in the West Bank

Committed to two-state solution:

  1. Israel still says it is committed to the two-state solution
  2. But how will the two-state solution stay relevant if it continues to grab Palestinian land where an independent Palestinian state is supposed to come up?
  3. The Netanyahu government has shown no particular interest in resuming negotiations
  4. Its right-wing allies are boasting of expanding Israeli sovereignty to “Judea and Samaria”, the biblical names for the West Bank

In Donald Trump’s Presidential times:

  1. Israeli authorities feel emboldened by the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President
  2. He has promised to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a disputed city
  3. He slammed the Obama administration for not using its veto powers in the UNSC over the settlement resolution in December 2016, and even praised the controversial security wall Israel has built through Palestinian lands
  4. Netanyahu, facing pressure from coalition partners, may be hoping to continue the status quo of occupation, provided Mr. Trump offers the protection to Tel Aviv that he promised during the campaign
  5. That would make peace yet more distant in West Asia


The op-ed is important for understanding the Israel-Palestine conflict. The Israel’s growing powers make West Asia more and more vulnerable. Watch out for more news on this issue, as West Asia is one of the favourite topics of UPSC.

[op-ed snap] Peace is a process


  1. Two days of talks over the war in Syria in Astana, Kazakhstan
  2. Iran, Russia and Turkey were the main powers at the table
  3. Kazakhstan was a perfect location for the talks, since it has close ties with both Turkey and Russia

Lack of external support:

  1. The major proxies of the armed opposition — Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the U.S. — have withdrawn, drawing towards ceasefire talks
  2. Turkey has decided that this war has spilled over into its territory, which could break the country apart
  3. Saudi Arabia, stuck in the Yemeni quagmire, finds that its proxies can no longer compete with Russian air power
  4. The U.S., which failed to create a moderate army, now understands that the most capable fighters on the ground against the Syrian government are not to be trusted
  5. This lack of external support brought most of the armed opposition to Astana, where they took their seats uncomfortably

Discussing ceasefire:

  1. The principal dispute at the table was how to define the ceasefire
  2. The armed opposition, led by Mohammed Alloush of Saudi Arabia’s proxy, Jaysh al-Islam, wanted a national ceasefire
  3. Syria’s government and the Iranians are keen to remain effectively at the local level
  4. The two parties that are outside the ceasefire are the Islamic State (IS) and the al-Qaeda proxy, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS)

JFS and IS:

  1. These groups have attempted to peel away fighters from those who went to Astana, saying that the negotiators shame the ‘revolution’
  2. The JFS has intensified its retaliatory war against the rebels, such as against Jaish al-Mujahideen and other Free Syrian Army (FSA) outfits in the region around Aleppo
  3. S. air strikes against the JFS have not stopped it, since the U.S., like the IS, sees itself in a fight to the end
  4. Whether the withdrawal of its external supporters or its political isolation will demoralise its fighters is to be seen
  5. Sources in these groups tell that they hope JFS fighters will strengthen their will in the fight against the FSA
  6. Turkey has made it clear that isolation of the JFS will allow other rebel groups to appeal to its members on patriotic grounds for an end to the bloodbath

A serious conundrum:

  1. The Syrian government, buoyed by the battlefield victories, notably in Aleppo, is nonetheless faced with a serious conundrum
  2. Its military is weakened, a fact demonstrated by the rapid advance of the IS into Palmyra and Deir ez-Zor, towns at the two ends of the Great Syrian Desert
  3. Apart from the IS and the JFS, the Syrian government will have to deal with two problems:
  4. The disgruntled Syrian Kurds (whose political aspirations have been suppressed as a cost for Turkish involvement), and
  5. The Islamist armed opposition who came to Astana but refused to describe Syria as a secular state


Peace is a process, not a state. From Astana the negotiations move back to Geneva, where the UN hopes that more progress will be made. The op-ed gives a very detailed analysis of the Astana talks and the existing geo-political scenario. A question may or may not be asked in exam on this but it is an important information that UPSC aspirants ought to know.


Astana is the capital of Kazakhstan. It is located on the Ishim River in the north portion of Kazakhstan.

[op-ed snap] Water as a force for peace


  1. Ban Ki-Moon and his predecessor, Kofi Annan, have argued for some two decades that protecting and sharing natural resources, particularly water, is critical to peace and security
  2. It was not until last November that the issue gained widespread acknowledgement, UN holding its first-ever official debate on water, peace and security
  3. Representatives of 69 governments together called for water to be transformed from a potential source of crisis into an instrument of peace and cooperation

Threats to water:

  1. The growing recognition of water’s strategic relevance reflects global developments
  2. In the last three years, the Islamic State (IS) captured the Tabqa, Tishrin, Mosul, and Fallujah dams on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers
  3. IS subsequently lost control of all of them, but not before using them to flood or starve downstream populations, to pressure them to surrender
  4. Extremist groups in South Asia have also threatened to attack water infrastructure

Oil or Water- what is more important?

  1. The importance of water in the 21st century—comparable to that of oil in the 20th—can hardly be overstated
  2. The reality is that oil has alternatives like natural gas, wind, solar, and nuclear energy
  3. By contrast, for industry and agriculture as much as for drinking and sanitation, the only alternative to water, is water
  4. The same is true for trade. In the event of a security crisis, water bodies could be taken over by rogue forces. The impact on the global economy would be enormous

Water needs to be declared a “strategic resource of humanity”

  1. The International Committee of the Red Cross negotiates safe passage for technicians to inspect and repair damage to water pipes and storage systems in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine
  2. Each passage needs to be negotiated with governments in conflict and rebel commanders—a long and cumbersome process
  3. A better approach would be for great powers, with their considerable influence, to negotiate short-term ceasefires in areas experiencing protracted conflict, specifically to repair and restore water systems
  4. To pave the way for such an approach, the UNSC will have to declare water a “strategic resource of humanity” and adopt a resolution to protect water resources and installations, similar to Resolution 2286
  5. In the longer term, countries that share riparian systems will need to establish regional security arrangements to preserve and protect their resources


With collaborative management underpinning collective protection, water, often a source of competition and conflict, could become a facilitator of peace and cooperation. Holding back of water and not allowing it for use in downstream areas has been seen since time immemorial. However, when such an activity is done by rogues, it is difficult to find solutions to this. Owing to the importance of waterways, in mains a question can be asked on this issue. You need to focus on measures to solve this problem.


  1. Rio Chagres feeds the Panama Canal, through which 50% of the trade between Asia and the Americas flows. There is no risk of the natural depletion of the river flow for the next 100 years, but for the extremist groups
  2. Resolution 2286 was adopted to protect medical facilities in armed conflicts
  3. Denis Sassou-Nguesso, president of the Republic of the Congo, is leading a group of eight governments towards the establishment of the Blue Fund for the Congo Basin. If successful, the Fund will help to mitigate climate change, create new avenues of river-based employment, and promote collective security in an unstable region
  4. 263 river basins and lakes of the world are shared

[op-ed snap] A Middle East peace agenda for 2017

  1. Context: In 2016, conflicts in the Middle East continued to proliferate far beyond the Israel-Palestine issue
  2. Heading into 2017, four key countries—Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen—are tearing themselves apart in civil wars
  3. These conflicts are directly or indirectly affecting the rest of the world, by exporting terrorism and refugees
  4. For starters, reviving the Israel-Palestine peace process must be a top priority
  5. It is important to bring the occupation of Palestinian territories and the attendant humanitarian crisis to an end
  6. To advance the peacemaking process in 2017, the international community should embrace the Arab Peace Initiative (API), which the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia presented in 2002
  7. The API has already been well received by all parties in the conflict, and has been endorsed by the Arab League
  8. With respect to Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, the international community must continue to coordinate joint military campaigns against terrorist strongholds in each country
  9. While proposals to partition these states have already been made, they cannot be implemented until all parties have agreed to them
  10. Lesson from Iraq war: Splitting countries up can have far-reaching, unpredictable geopolitical consequences
  11. The ongoing proxy wars: in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen are often described as sectarian conflicts between Shia and Sunni Muslims
  12. But a major factor underpinning sectarian fighting is the distrust between Iran and Saudi Arabia
  13. Sectarian conflicts should be resolved through high-level political efforts that embrace conciliatory models such as the “Islamic Proximity Initiative” put forward by Turkey and Kazakhstan
  14. Trade, industry, and transportation have come to a standstill in much of Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, hurting the wider regional economy
  15. A recent IMF report describes how armed conflicts are hindering growth and driving up inflation across the region
  16. The Middle East’s conflicts are also laying waste to health-care systems, education services, cultural heritage sites, and many other social institutions
  17. According to an alarming UNICEF report, millions of displaced children and youths have been left uneducated and idle


Any successful effort in the coming year to end the Middle East’s conflicts will have to be accompanied by a large-scale reconstruction project—based on the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II—to prevent countries from backsliding into war.


Arab Peace Initiative:

  1. The Arab Peace Initiative, also known as the “Saudi Initiative”, is a proposal for an end to the Arab–Israeli conflict
  2. The initiative calls for normalizing relations between the Arab region and Israel, in exchange for a full withdrawal by Israel from the occupied territories (including East Jerusalem)
  3. And a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee problem based on UN Resolution

[op-ed snap] Indictment by abstention

  1. Context: UN Security Council passed a resolution with a 14-0 majority urging Israel to halt its illegal settlements programme in the occupied Palestinian territories
  2. The vote is notable as Israel’s pre-eminent backer, the U.S., chose to abstain
  3. S. President-elect Donald Trump promises a different response once his tenure commences
  4. However, it will be difficult for the Trump administration to have this resolution overturned, passed as it was without a veto
  5. The international law offers hope for the Palestinians who have filed a suit against Israel in the International Criminal Court
  6. Israel’s reaction: It has refused to comply with the terms of the resolution
  7. It has repeatedly sought to create “new facts on the ground” by continuing to build settlements,
  8. Imposing a blockade on Gaza, forcing international censure to only keep apace with its latest violations
  9. This outrageous behaviour has been made possible by the unrelenting support provided by the U.S. in the past
  10. While Mr. Obama has had a testy relationship with Israeli Prime Minister, his administration continued to fund and arm Israel despite, for example, the atrocities in Gaza
  11. The U.S. recently worked out a deal that provides $38 billion in military aid over 10 years to Israel, cementing long-established strategic ties


Russia, Turkey and the crisis in Syria

  1. Event: On Tuesday, the Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov was assassinated at a photo gallery in Ankara. The gunman was heard shouting “Don’t forget Aleppo” in Turkish
  2. Russia entered Syria in late 2015 in support of the Bashar al-Assad government, while Turkey has been supporting the rebels
  3. Russian planes began bombing the Turkey-backed rebels, and in November 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian plane
  4. The incident could have had catastrophic consequences for Turkey if Russia had chosen to retaliate
  5. But after this event, Turkey adopted a strategy more in line with Russia’s interests in Syria
  6. They opposed the entry of Syrian Kurdish militias in the border towns, bringing them closer to Moscow’s position
  7. Even after the assassination of its ambassador, Moscow’s response has been carefully worded. They have thanked Turkey for their quick response to the killing of the assassin


Locate Ankara on the map. Look at the geography of the region closely – the surrounding water bodies, countries etc. Also see how Russia can send its forces to Syria, i.e. what path would they have to take?

Russian interest in Syria

  1. Russia intervened on behalf of its close ally Syria on Sept. 30 2015
  2. It joined Assad’s bombardment of both anti-Assad rebel groups and militant groups such as the Islamic State and Fatah al-Sham Front, an al-Qaeda spinoff formerly known as the Nusra Front
  3. Russia is interested in propping up Assad in part because Russia’s only naval facility outside the former Soviet Union is on the Syrian coast

Russia cancels plutonium disposal deal

  1. Russia: Put a hold on a plutonium disposal deal with Washington; this was hours before US’ decision to suspend contacts with Russia on Syrian civil war
  2. Impact: Already chilly relations are turning even frostier
  3. The two decisions are ostensibly unrelated but underscore deep mistrust and rising tensions between the former Cold War foes
  4. They are increasingly at odds on a number of issues, particularly Syria and Ukraine

Syria peace efforts plunge as US suspends talks with Russia

  1. US: Has suspended direct contacts with Russia on halting the Syrian civil war
  2. Why? Because Russia has not lived up to the terms of last month’s agreement to restore a tattered cease-fire
  3. And also not ensured sustained deliveries of humanitarian aid to besieged cities, such as Aleppo, which has been under bombardment from Russian and Syrian forces
  4. Impact: International efforts to end the fighting in Syria have been dealt a serious blow

Russia vows to continue Syria strikes

  1. Russia said it would press on with a bombing campaign in Syria, ignoring US threats
  2. Moscow is backing up a ferocious assault by the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to seize the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo, which has sparked accusations over possible war crimes
  3. US has threatened to pull the plug on any more talks with Russia if it does not halt the attack on Aleppo as acrimony seethes between the two powers after the collapse of a truce deal
  4. Russia blamed the surge in violence on Washington’s failure to control rebel groups fighting in Aleppo and insisted that Syrian forces were battling terrorists
  5. United Nations: Has pleaded for medical evacuations from the war-ravaged city of Aleppo
  6. Aleppo has now descended into a ‘merciless abyss of humanitarian catastrophe unlike any we have witnessed in Syria’

Discuss: Remember the truce deal was signed between US & Russia?

Iran welcomes Syria deal, urges political solution

  1. News: Iran, a close ally and military backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, welcomed a U.S.-Russian deal for a truce in Syria
  2. Iran: Has always believed that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis and that it should be resolved through peaceful political means
  3. Background: Russia and Iran are both providing crucial military support to President Assad against rebels and jihadi fighters in Syria’s civil war
  4. Iran has sent what it said were military advisers to help Assad and allowed Russian fighter-bombers to use an Iranian base to launch operations in Syria in August

Syrian government approves US-Russia truce deal, reports state media

  1. The deal calls for a halt to fighting across the country and increased humanitarian aid for the battered city of Aleppo
  2. It also calls for joint military targeting of hardline Islamist groups

Iran hangs spy nuclear scientist

  1. Reason: The scientist (Shahram Amiri) was convicted for handing over confidential and vital information to the United States
  2. Controversy: His whereabouts were kept hidden by Iran & father believes that he was held in a secret detention centre

Israel will never withdraw from Golan

  1. Context: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on occupying of Golan heights
  2. The Golan Heights will remain in the hands of Israel forever
  3. Israel will never withdraw from the Golan Heights
  4. Netanyahu also urged the international community to recognise Israel’s claim on the territory

Libya aftermath worst mistake of presidency, admits Obama

  1. News: Obama said that the biggest mistake of his presidency was the lack of planning for the aftermath of the fall of Muammar Qadhafi
  2. Reason: The country is under chaos and grappling with violent extremists
  3. Challenge: Libya descended into near-anarchy, ruled by rival militias vying for power

Main Syrian opposition groups to attend Geneva peace talks

  1. News: Western-backed Syrian opposition groups will attend U.N.-sponsored peace talks with the Syrian govt in Geneva
  2. Reason: Sincere international efforts to end Syria’s 5-year civil war
  3. The opposition groups have assembled under an umbrella known as the High Negotiations Committee
  4. Challenge: It will press for a transitional governing body with full executive powers and a pluralist regime without any role for Assad and his associates

Number of EU asylum seekers doubled in 2015

  1. News: About 1.26 million people applied for asylum in EU countries in 2015, which is more than doubled as compared to last year
  2. Challenge: EU has asked member countries to agree on plans to redistribute asylum seekers around Europe
  3. Future: The meeting between EU leaders & Turkish PM to get a promise on decisive action to reduce number of asylum seekers
  4. Statistics: Syrians accounted for almost a third of total asylum seekers, followed by Afghans and Iraqis

Read our blog on Understanding the refugee crisis and lessons for India & Syrian Civil War and The Refugee Crisis

Putin takes charge of Syria peace plan

  1. News: Russian President spoke to various leaders in the region to garner support for the ceasefire
  2. Putin has setup a coordination centre to which the warring parties can send complaints of specific breaches of the truce
  3. Some armed groups in Syria have already signed up to the truce
  4. Challenge: The opposition parties, under Saudi-sponsored negotiating committee, have not given a definitive endorsement of the agreement
  5. It is doubtful that whether all Syrian opposition groups will sign up to those terms threatening the ceasefire’s credibility

Syrian ceasefire is unlikely to hold: expert

  1. News: Experts point that after almost 5 years of conflict, the parties in Syria have come to a loose agreement to cease violence
  2. Reasons: Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s core interests are removal of Assad regime
  3. But, Saudi Arabia is particularly concerned about the growing transnational political dynamism of Shia populations in the Arab world
  4. Turkey is more concerned about the growing autonomy and political dynamics of the region’s Kurdish populations
  5. The potential ceasefire could mean something, if Syrian govt has decisive advantage in the region

Assad regime agrees to Syria peace deal

  1. Context: World powers had agreed towards a temporary “cessation of hostilities” in Syria’s civil war
  2. News: Syria agreed to a ceasefire deal announced by the US and Russia
  3. The Syrian govt would continue to fight IS group and the al-Nusra Front as well as other terrorists
  4. Challenge: As the agreement does not apply to jihadists such as the IS group and the al-Nusra Front, it will be difficult to implement on Syria’s complex battlefiel

US scrambles to contain IS in Libya

  1. Context: The IS’s branch in Libya is deepening its reach across a wide area of Africa
  2. News: Western countries have increased their efforts to combat this threat
  3. Measures: US along with its western allies like Britain, Italy and France are trying to create a unity govt in Libya
  4. US will train and equip the armies and security forces of North and West African countries
  5. Report: US intelligence agencies reported that there is drop in the IS fighter’s in Iraq and Syria partly because of the US-led air campaign

Thunder of the North

  1. Context: Armed forces from around 20 countries gathered in northern Saudi Arabia
  2. Importance: “the most important” military manoeuvre ever staged in the region
  3. Participation: involved ground, air and naval forces
  4. Clear Message: Riyadh and its allies “stand united in confronting all challenges and preserving peace and stability in the region “

U.S., Russia agree on Syria ceasefire plan

  1. Context: To bring a ceasefire among world powers in the civil-war torn Syria
  2. The News: World powers agree to immediately start delivering humanitarian aid to besieged communities
  3. They will work towards a temporary “cessation of hostilities” in Syria’s civil war
  4. Challenge: The failure to agree on a ceasefire leaves the most critical step to resuming peace talks unresolved
  5. Future Ahead: Whether or not all the parties honour those commitments and implement them

Kerry calls for 30% hike in international aid for refugees

  1. U.S. Secretary of State called for a 30% increase in humanitarian funding from the United Nations for refugees.
  2. This would increase international humanitarian aid for refugees from $10 billion in 2015 to $13 billion in 2016.
  3. Barack Obama would host a summit on refugees at the UN General Assembly in New York later this year.
  4. This summit will be the culmination of a sustained, rigorous effort to rally the world community on several fronts.

3,500 slaves held by Islamic State in Iraq: UN

Report says group committing abuses that may amount to war crimes, and possibly genocide.

  1. An estimated 3,500 people, mainly women and children, are believed to be held as slaves in Iraq by Islamic State militants.
  2. The U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq and the U.N. human rights office estimated that 3,500 people were “currently being held in slavery by ISIL”.
  3. Those being held are predominantly women and children and come primarily from the Yazidi community.
  4. U.N. had information about the murder of child soldiers and had verified reports suggesting between 800 and 900 children in Mosul had been abducted for military and religious training.
  5. The devastating civil war in Iraq that began in 2014 has internally displaced at least 3.2 million people.

Syria transition should not cause collapse of the state: U.S.

  1. There is a gradual refinement of U.S.’s position on Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
  2. US said that it would not push for a transition that might cause the collapse of the state.
  3. A multilateral mechanism on political transition in Syria is expected to kick off by January end.
  4. The U.S has so far maintained that the role of Mr. Assad in the transition process remained a matter of disagreement among the members of the International Syria Support Group.

Syria ready for Geneva peace talks

This hopes the dialogue will help the country form a national unity govt.

  1. The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution endorsing an international road map for a Syrian peace process.
  2. Government will have a constitutional committee to look for a new Constitution with a new law of election.
  3. The major powers are bitterly divided on who may represent the opposition as well as on the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
  4. While relying on the region for oil supplies, China tends to leave West Asian diplomacy to the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

UN resolution to curb Islamic State revenue flows

  1. UNSC will bring a resolution to ramp up sanctions against the Islamic State and cut off its revenue flows.
  2. The draft resolution is expected to win unanimous backing from the 15-member council.
  3. It calls on governments to adopt laws that make the financing of IS and of foreign fighters who join its ranks a serious criminal offense.
  4. It seeks vigorous and decisive cut in the flow of funds, and other financial assets and economic resources including oil and antiquities to the IS group.

Ready to fight IS under U.N.: Parrikar

  1. India is willing to participate in military operations against the IS if it is a UN-sanctioned operation carried out under the UN flag.
  2. Mr. Parrikar stressed that India joining the fight against IS, depends on whether the UN takes a resolution.
  3. India is one of the most active participants in UN peace-keeping operations around the world.
  4. Experts say that India is under pressure from the U.S. to join the western coalition already battling the group.

Saudi Arabia forms anti-terror bloc

  1. Saudi Arabia announced the formation of a military coalition of 34 Muslim-majority countries to fight “terrorism”.
  2. It is a latest sign of a more assertive foreign policy by the kingdom.
  3. The move comes with Saudi Arabia nearly 9 months into a costly war in Yemen.

Obama, Hollande seek shift in Russian strategy before joint action

  1. U.S. and France would like Russia to be part of their joint efforts to fight the IS.
  2. But, they wants Russia to prove its credentials by giving up its support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
  3. They acknowledge that Russia’s military capabilities and their influence on Assad, can help the fight against IS.
  4. Mr. Obama defended the Turkish strike that brought down the Russian plane, saying every country has a right to protect its territory and its airspace.

ISIS reported to have blown up ancient temple in Palmyra


Turkey’s complicated war

Turkey’s decision to join the war against IS is based on the realization of IS threat on the backdrop of IS bombing of Turkish city, last month.

  1. IS had almost reached Turkish border, a region occupied by Kurdish militias. But, Kurds posed a strong resistance to IS driving them away from the region.
  2. Kurds were provided cover fire by US’ Air Force, which was a major cause of worry for Turkey.
  3. However, Ankara’s strategy seems a little misdirected as it started bombing the areas occupied by both Kurdish militants and IS.
  4. This will lead to weakening of of Kurds, the major force on ground to tackle IS, thereby strengthening IS.
  5. Turkey should work on sustainable peace plan by taking forward its ceasefire with Kurds and focusing on military operation against IS.

ISIS militants take control of Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra

Islamic State might be prosecuted by International Criminal Court

  1. ICC is the permanent, treaty-based (Rome Statute) court of last resort for handling charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
  2. ICC has 4 principal divisions – Presidency, Judicial Div., Office of Prosecutor & Registry.
  3. As for Islamic State, its brutality and ruthless killings in Iraq and Syria has led to voices in support of resolution of such cases through ICC.

:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.

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