When I visited the Middle East earlier this year, people shared many opinions on the war in Syria. But they all agreed on one thing: the war is incredibly complex and it will be difficult to get to a resolution any time soon.
Why is the conflict in Syria (and now Iraq) so complex? There are many factors, including:
- There is big money to be made. Arms manufacturers are profiting handsomely from the conflict. Journalist Robert Fisk notes the profits of those making the bombs, missiles and aircraft used in the U.S. airstrike campaign against the so-called Islamic State (IS). Another article highlights the political contributions by defense companies to Members of Congress who voted in September in favor of training and equipping members of the Syrian opposition.
- The conflicts have gone far beyond internal civil wars. Regional and even global actors are deeply involved. The conflicts have exacerbated Sunni-Shia tensions in the region, including regional tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile global players, including Russia and the United States, have economic, political and military interests in the region that are driving their involvement.
- Underlying factors have not yet been meaningfully addressed. Columnist Rami Khouri gives a helpful overview of the various grievances that have led to the rise of numerous Islamist movements within the Middle East. These include poverty, corruption and a lack of voice within political structures. Until these economic, political, social and religious grievances have been addressed, there will always be new groups rising up to challenge the status quo.
While there are no easy answers to conflicts as complex as the ones in Syria and Iraq, Mennonite Central Committee wrote a letter to President Obama recommending that the U.S. government:
- Stop the widening campaign of airstrikes and move away from the current, militarized approach;
- Address the political and social grievances at the root of the conflicts within Syria and Iraq;
- Engage in sustained and energetic diplomacy with all regional actors, including Iran;
- Continue to provide generous funding for humanitarian needs throughout the region; and
- Provide support for religious leaders and civil society groups working to build relationships of peace and reconciliation across political, sectarian and religious divides.
Today, consider taking three actions for peace.
First, pray for the people of Syria and Iraq and for all those in positions of power related to the conflict, that the seemingly intractable roots of war will be uprooted.
Secondly, send a letter to your Members of Congress here.
And third, please give generously to MCC’s response to the Syria crisis, to help provide food, shelter, trauma healing and support for those building peace in the region.
Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach is the Director of the MCC Washington Office. Printed with permission from Peace Signs. Originally printed on October 30, 2014.