On Aug. 21, 2013, in and around the agricultural belt of the Ghouta, near the Syrian capital of Damascus, an attack on civilians involving the “massive use of chemical agents” was carried out by the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to a report from the government of France. Although precise fatality figures are difficult to confirm, the chemical attack is believed to have killed hundreds of people and has heightened calls for international intervention in the increasingly brutal Syrian conflict.
In March 2011, as part of the Arab Spring sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, peaceful protests began to swell in Syria over issues such as rural poverty, corruption, freedom of expression, democratic rights and the release of political prisoners.
Assad responded to protests with brutal military force and blamed foreign elements and armed groups for fomenting the uprising. Nevertheless, Assad offered a few concessions, including dropping the 48-year-old state of emergency, but he refused to consider stepping down. By April 2011, 1,000 people had been killed. The Free Syrian Army, made up of defectors from the Syrian security forces, formed and began to launch offensives against the regime’s forces. By year’s end the number of dead had reached 5,000.
More than two years later, an estimated 100,000 people are thought to have been killed and, according to the Pentagon, the conflict now involves some 800 to 1,200 fighting groups.
The complex questions raised about how to resolve the conflict in Syria and what role or responsibility the international community has in this effort underscore the changing nature of armed conflict in the 21st century.
Since 1987, Project Ploughshares has been tracking global armed conflicts
and issuing an annual Armed Conflicts Report.
With 24 years of monitoring wars, we now have enough data to add to our collective understanding of the nature, costs and roots of modern warfare.
What our research has demonstrated is that any attempt to break the cycle of war and alleviate the suffering of human beings cannot be a military exercise alone. It must include attention to and funding for: development, democracy, disarmament, diplomacy as well as defence. What we call the 5Ds.
We are working to break the cycle of war by pushing for policies that approach human security more comprehensively and thereby ensure a solid chance at peace.
Learn more about the conflict in Syria.
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