The Crisis In The Middle East

The Crisis In The Middle East

[op-ed snap]The U.S. is weakened by Soleimani’s killingop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper2 - International relations


Targeted killing of powerful Iranian Major-General could have done more bad than good for the U.S.

Series of events after the assassination

  • The Iraqi parliament voted to expel the U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and deny them access to its airspace, land or water.
  • Pro-Iranian groups could attack across the region where thousands of U.S. troops and official personnel are stationed.
  • Soleimani’s assassination has awakened the deep strain of Iranian patriotism.
  • And Iran is not alone.
  • In Beirut, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called Soleimani the “glue that held the Resistance Axis together”.
  • The U.S threat of striking “52 Iranian sites” did not win the U.S. any support on the international stage.
  • Even the Europeans, otherwise steadfast with the U.S. in these sorts of adventures, hesitated.
  • Arab League’s Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit expressed concern over the situation and asked for calm.
  • This is the same man who had, only a few weeks ago, accused Iran of sowing chaos in the region.
  • It is likely that China and Russia will table a resolution at the UN that calls for calm as well as criticises the U.S.
  • This will certainly be vetoed by the U.S.

Desperate and irrational policy

  • Till now the U.S. has not been able to extricate itself from its illegal war against Iraq.
  • That war provided a massive advantage to Iran not only in Iraq but also across the region.
  • This is what terrified two of the U.S.’s allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of whom pressured Washington to increase its threats against Iran.
  • S. create the conditions for the rise of the worst kind of violence in Iraq, and later Syria
  • It also weakened the strategic position of its allies.
  • No attempt by the U.S. to regain its authority has worked.
  • The U.S. policy against Iran and Iraq appear desperate and irrational.


  • The U.S recklessness has isolated it further and deepened anxieties amongst its increasingly isolated regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The Crisis In The Middle East

[op-ed of the day]Bracing for global impact after Soleimani’s assassinationop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much.

Mains level : Paper 2- International relations


The recent targeted killing of Commander of Quds Forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) by the US raised the tension in the region to a new high level. The imminent blowback from Iran could have several consequences for the rest of the world including India.

Different from past killings

  • Though the U.S. has carried out many such targeted killings in the past but this case bears two important differences to the past killings.
  • Unlike Osama bin Laden or Abu Bakr, Gen. Soleimani was a state actor.
  • Unlike the above mentioned two, he was not past his prime.

Roles played by Gen. Soleimani

  • He was the founder-commander of Iran’s Quds Force-formed for extra-territorial operations.
  • He enhanced Iran’s influence in the Arab countries by leveraging the disarray in the region.
  • Arab countries with a significant Shia population such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen came under Iranian influence.

What could be the fallouts

  • Tit-for-tat between Iran and the U.S. could easily go out of hand and precipitate into a major confrontation.
  • Both countries have domestic compulsions- there are elections due in both countries.
  • These compulsions limit options for both countries to low-intensity skirmishes.
  • The fact that the killing was carried on the Iraqi soil also assumes significance.
  • The incident could increase the problems in Iraq which is rocked by three months of youth protests against undue foreign interference by both Iran and the U.S.
  • The event is also likely to re-polarise the Iraqi society along sectarian lines.
  • In the worst-case scenario Iraq could turn into the new Syria.

Potential fallout for India

  • Global oil prices have already seen a 4% rise in within hours of the incident.
  • India has already faced difficulty in maintaining relations with both countries because of the U.S.-Iran cold war.
  • While we want to be on the right side of the U.S., our ties with Iran apart from being civilisational have their own geostrategic logic.
  • With conflict turning hot, its adverse impact on India could magnify.
  • High oil prices will definitely increase our import bill and increase difficulties in supplies.
  • Safety of an estimated 8 million expatriates in the Gulf may be affected.
  • Iran could influence the U.S.-Taliban peace process in Afghanistan which in turn increases India’s woes.
  • After Iran, India has a large number of Shia population and some of them could be radicalised due to the event.


The event, if turn into a wider conflict between the two countries, could have many consequences for India from soaring oil prices and maintaining the balance between the two countries to the safety of expatriates in the Gulf.

The Crisis In The Middle East

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
The Crisis In The Middle East

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
The Crisis In The Middle East

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
The Crisis In The Middle East

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?

The Crisis In The Middle East

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
The Crisis In The Middle East

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
The Crisis In The Middle East

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
The Crisis In The Middle East

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

The Crisis In The Middle East

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
The Crisis In The Middle East

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
The Crisis In The Middle East

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
The Crisis In The Middle East

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
The Crisis In The Middle East

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
The Crisis In The Middle East

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.
The Crisis In The Middle East

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.
The Crisis In The Middle East

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.
The Crisis In The Middle East

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.
The Crisis In The Middle East

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.
The Crisis In The Middle East

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.
The Crisis In The Middle East

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.
The Crisis In The Middle East

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.
The Crisis In The Middle East

Turkey’s complicated warop-ed snap

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.
The Crisis In The Middle East

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.

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.


Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
Notify of