The Question of the - Security Council

Hello, I’m Max and I’m one of your Presidents of Security Council for ShrewsMUN I. I look forward to a weekend of fruitful debate, and if I can be of any assistance to you during your preparations please feel free to email me at [email protected].


Syria – formally known as the Syrian Arab Republic – is a state of 18 million people on the Mediterranean coast on the Middle Eastern Region, bordering Turkey to the North, Iraq to the East, Jordan to the South, to the West, and Israel to the Southeast. The nation is comprised of 75% Syrian Arabs, 10% Kurds – residing in semi-autonomy in the Northeast – 5% Syrian Turks, and smaller groups of Assyrians, Circassians, and Armenians. Three quarters of Syrians are Sunni Muslims, 13% are Shi’ite (the religion of the ruling elites), 10% are Christian, and 3% are Druze. As recently as 2010 the economy was reliant on oil revenues for revenues for 40% of export earnings, however the Civil War has resulted in substantially reduced output.

The state of Syria as we know it was formed as part of the French zone stipulated by the Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916). The borders were then formalized in the present form by the League of Nations in 1920. The French legally invaded Syria – now a “mandate” – in 1920, according to terms of the San Remo Conference. Various revolts occurred over the next 20 years, but France and then Vichy France retained control. In 1941 the British and Free French took control of the nation. It was given its independence in 1946 when allied troops withdrew. Initially a republic, a series of military coups and internal power struggles resulted in Hafez al Assad coming to power in 1970 after the imprisonment of then president Salah Jadid and his political allies. Assad was a member of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party in Syria. In 1973 Syria launched the Yom Kippur war against Israel, however they were quickly defeated by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and driven back. As an extension of this conflict, Syria invaded and occupied Lebanon in 1976. The resulted in a fifteen year civil war; the occupation lasted until 2005. In 1990-91 the Syrian government – still ruled by Assad – participated in the Gulf War against Iraq and in negotiations with Israel throughout the 90s. Hafez al Assad died in 2000 and handed the regime to his son – the current president – Bashar al Assad. Assad ran unopposed in the elections of that year. By autumn of 2001 al Assad had suppressed a reform movement termed the Spring and jailed its intellectual leaders. Assad has won further elections in 2007 and 2014, the latter of which he won 88.7% of the vote in Ba’athist Syria’s first contested election.


The of 2011 led to peaceful protests against the regime in Damascus and calls for democratic reform in March of that year. Syrian security forces responded by opening

fire on protestors. On the 15th protestors burnt down the Ba’athist Party’s headquarters. By April 8th the protests had spread from Damascus to most major cities, including Aleppo, Homs, and Palmyra. The tone had by then changed to call for the overthrow of the Assad regime. On the 25th the began major military operations against civilians, killing thousands. The first violent rebellion began on June 4th in Jisr al-Shugur and soon spread throughout the country. By July the (FSA) had formed out of defectors from the Syrian army. A coalition of rebels called the (SNC) was formed in August. In 2015 Islamist militants supported by Saudi Arabia formed a group called the has conducted operations and taken territory in Idlib, and in the Northwest, as well as the Daraa and Quneitra provinces in the Southwest .The leading member of the group is the Al-Nusra Front, also known as al-Qaeda in the Levant. The Kurds in northern Syria formed the moderate de facto autonomous region named Rojava in November 2013. In July 2012 fighting reached the city of Aleppo. ISIS – also known as Da’esh—captured the border town of Azaz in 2013 and has fought both against the government forces and opposition, with the Kurdish forces in particular effectively defending their territory from ISIS forces. To date up there have been approximately 400,000 deaths of combatants in addition to as many as 98,000 civilian deaths. THE UNCHR estimates that 7.6 million people have been displaced and 4 million are refugees.

In May of 2014 the draft resolution S/2014/348 was submitted by sixty-nine member states—including P5 members US, UK, and France—that would have reaffirmed condemnation of human rights abuses by the Syrian government and non-state militias in Syria, called for cooperation of all parties involved in the Syrian Conflict in providing evidence, and referred such violations of human rights to the ICC. Only China and Russia vetoed this resolution, citing concerns over the need for ICC involvement in light of previous SC resolutions 2118 on chemical weapons and 2139 on humanitarian issues. It may be worth reconsidering the role of the ICC or other bodies in investigating and prosecuting human rights abusing arising from the conflict.

In August 2013 rockets containing sarin gas attacked the suburban area of Damascus known as . The UN confirmed in a report published on September 16th 2013 that the rockets were manufactured in Russia and that they contained sarin gas, without attributing blame to either side. UN SC Resolution 2118 (2013) was passed unanimously on September 27th and established a framework for the elimination of the Syrian government’s stock of chemical weapons by mid-2014. However, a report authorized by the Security Council in Security Council Resolution 2235 (2015) and conducted by the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) concluded in August of 2016 that there was “sufficient evidence” that both ISIS and the Syrian Air Force had used chemical weapons against both combatants and civilians between 2014-15 . There is potentially a need for further action Security Council in order to prevent further use of chemical weapons in this conflict, as well as to provide humanitarian aid to those affected.

The Russian government began military intervention in Syria in September 2015 at the official request of the Syrian government. The Russian air force has launched air strikes against both ISIS and the moderate opposition consisting of the FSA and the Army of Conquest. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has stated that Russian air strikes have killed up to 3,000 civilians through September 2016, although the UN has not confirmed these figures. An offensive launched by the Syrian army to recapture rebel-held territory in Eastern Aleppo lasted from September 22nd to October 16th 2016. The US has protested against alleged Russian shelling of civilians, saying that Russia has committed “flagrant violations of international law” in Syria and called for investigations into war crimes. Russia maintains that there is no proof of any such violations or shelling of civilians. On October 8th Russia vetoed a Resolution that would have called for a cessation to the bombing of Aleppo. However, Russia informed the UN on October 20th that they will cease bombing for eleven hours a day in order to allow the safe passage of humanitarian supplies. Given Russia’s claims that there is insufficient evidence of war crimes, this is an issue of contention between the West and Russia.


 What steps can be taken to alleviate humanitarian issues on the ground?  What steps can be taken to secure a lasting peace?  Should borders in the region be redrawn, perhaps to account for the possibility of a Kurdish state?  Is the government of Assad to be part of a solution to this issue? Or is regime change a more viable option?  What should be done about the allegations of war crimes?  What should be done about current foreign intervention in Syria and the surrounding area? Does this help or hinder the situation?