John Beck writes: The conflict in Syria has entered its fifth year, a grim anniversary in what has become the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.
It began on March 15, 2011 when the Syrian government met mostly peaceful protests in several towns and cities with gunfire, beatings and arrest. Eventually, the opposition acquired weapons, soldiers defected, and the uprising transformed into a grinding civil war with ugly sectarian dimensions that sucked in countries across the region and further afield. An estimated 220,000 people have now been killed and life expectancy has dropped two decades to 55 years, according to the United Nations. 3.9 million people have fled the country, and a further 7.6 million have been internally displaced.
Syria’s economy has collapsed and 80 percent of the country now lives in poverty. Half of all school-aged children haven’t attended school in three years. The country has literally gone dark, with 83 percent of electricity supplies now cut.
A peaceful solution to the conflict now seems further away than ever, and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions aimed at pushing President Bashar al-Assad to step down or cease attacking his own people are consistently vetoed by his longtime allies Russia and China. Moderate rebel factions fighting for a democratic system have lost out to Islamist-linked groups and the chaos has allowed extremist militants such as the so-called Islamic State (IS) to seize territory and power. [Continue reading…]