Syria’s war has been a humanitarian catastrophe, with serious consequences for its people, surrounding states, and others around the world. Around 500,000 people have died during the war and more than 13 million have fled their homes. Factions and forces have competed for control, triggering tensions—geographic, communal, social, religious, and ethnic—among Syrians. Since 2015, the U.S. Institute of Peace has helped local leaders engage in outcome-oriented dialogues to promote peace in their communities. USIP has also helped civil society organizations, informed policymakers, worked to reduce refugee-host tensions in states near Syria, and cooperated with proponents of peace.
After nearly a decade of civil war and strife, Syria’s long-troubled economy is in tatters with spiraling hyperinflation, food shortages, and widespread unemployment. The Syrian pound has less than a fifth of the currency’s value from this time last year. These economic woes have led to new protests in areas long controlled by the regime. Amid this economic turmoil, the U.S. Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act comes into force today, targeted at key internal and external pillars of support for the Assad regime. USIP’s Mona Yacoubian looks at what led to the economic collapse, how the regime is responding to the protests, and the implications of the new U.S. sanctions.
Protests during the 2011 Arab uprisings triggered one of the deadliest wars of the early 21st century. It produced one of the gravest humanitarian crises, as hundreds of thousands were killed, millions fled their homes, and more than half the population relied on aid for daily sustenance.
It was just over a year ago, in March of 2019, that the United States and coalition forces declared the territorial defeat of ISIS following the fall of its last stronghold in Baghouz, Syria. Male fighters over 15 were placed in Kurdish run detention centers throughout northeast Syria, while tens of thousands of women and children who were living among the terrorist organization streamed into the al-Hol camp, giving rise to an unprecedented mix of humanitarian and security challenges. If left unaddressed, the camp could easily serve as the breeding ground for the next generation of ISIS, which is already beginning to reemerge in parts of Syria and Iraq.
The Syria Study Group (SSG) was established by Congress with the purpose of examining and making recommendations on the military and diplomatic strategy of the United States with respect to the conflict in Syria. The SSG is a bi-partisan working group composed of 12 participants each appointed by a member of Congress for the duration of the study.