Syria – A Legacy of Failed Foreign Policy

Posted: 12 Dec 2016 Last revised: 21 Nov 2018

Date Written: October 10, 2016


War in Syria has been raging for more than five years. A popular uprising in March 2011 was hijacked by extremist elements and turned into a non-international armed conflict of savage proportions. This, in turn, has drawn in a number of countries to support one side or the other. Principally, it is Russian and Iranian forces, along with Hezbollah fighters, who support the government. In the case of those opposing the government, there are many different factions, most of which at this stage of the conflict are hardline extremists, such as Islamic State, which has captured (and has since been losing) large tracts of Syrian territory in its mission to set up an authoritarian world caliphate under Sharia law, and the al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group al-Nusra Front (re-branded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) whose vision of victory is a similar anti-Western society governed by Sharia law, where freedom of speech, freedom of religion and women's rights are severely curtailed. Numerous other factions, including the so-called Free Syrian Army, fight under the banner of more extremist groups, like Nusra.

A third distinct group is the Kurds, the largest ethnic minority in the country, who are fiercely anti-IS and anti-Turkish, and who hope to carve out their own autonomous region in Syria. Supporters of these groups, in varying degrees, are to be found among the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The lawfulness of outside intervention and the reliance on justifications such as "unwilling or unable" to mask a "might is right" foreign policy pose challenges to world peace and undermine the concept of the Responsibility to Protect. Nations often feel compelled to act by a "moral imperative", which in turn may have been aggravated by the media in its own particular coverage of a crisis and the emphasis it gives in its reporting. The use of deception, through misinformation, disinformation and propaganda makes it difficult for the public to know where the truth lies. As the saying goes, the first casualty of war is the truth.

This paper examines these and other questions in the context of the war in Syria and what the future holds for that country.

Keywords: Syria, R2P, Deception, Propaganda, Misinformation, Disinformation, Psy Ops, Unwilling or Unable, Nicaragua-V-USA, Terrorism, Self Defence

JEL Classification: F51, F59

Suggested Citation

Paphiti, Anthony, Syria – A Legacy of Failed Foreign Policy (October 10, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Anthony Paphiti (Contact Author)

Aspals Consultancy ( email )

37 Carnegie Crescent
Leicester, LE13 1RP
United Kingdom

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