dag hammarsjkold wrote:Ah, got it. Thanks for clarifying.
You said...The Iraq war was part of the mix, but is not solely or even primarily responsible for the chaos in Syria.
The Iraq war was one of the first major dominoes to fall. Of course we're talking about a multifaceted series of events. I don't deny that or want to sideline that point. But the connection to the Arab Spring is there and without it, history would have played out very differently and history inside Syria would have played out very differently.
The other connection is that before the invasion of Iraq, Al Qaeda and other Sunni extremist groups were not really a presence in Syria or Iraq. Where they existed they were having to hide from the hostile Ba'athist regimes in both nations. The invasion of Iraq and the subsequent situation led to a hardening of Arab Sunni attitudes in Iraq. It also drew Islamists in from elsewhere and indirectly led to Islamists gaining recruits and influence across the Middle East.
In particular, ISIS grew out of Sunni Arab groups who were resisting the occupation and the Shia majority government, and who fell in with Al Qaeda. They were supposedly put down by the "surge", but actually hid in Jordan and Syria, and in the latter they initially hooked up with the Syrian Al Qaeda affiliate, Al Nusra (a key player in the current anti-Assad forces, if not aligned to the FSA factions).
The other factor relating to Iraq is the Kurds. The invasion of Iraq led to a cementing and increase in Kurdish autonomy in Iraq. The Kurds in Turkey and Syria saw this and it has served to increase their activity toward autonomy and independence. In Turkey there is now again a resurgence in PKK v government violence. In Syria the Kurds are again a key player in the anti-Assad forces as well as being a part of the anti-ISIS loose alliance.
Another aspect is that the Assads and Hussein were relatively aligned together, both having risen to power out of Arab Nationalist Ba'athist revolutions. And they had similar internal issues in terms of how the regimes would used divide-and-rule, and favouring certain ethnic groups in order to hold and consolidate power. The fall of Iraq will have had an impact in Syria, partly as such a regime will become more paranoid when a neighbour has their leadership defenestrated, and partly as a shift in the positions of internal factions in Syria takes place as they respond to events in Iraq. Above I mention the Kurds, but also the Sunnis, Shia and Christians will have not been unaware of how their close counterparts were doing next door and whether they were moving towards or away from other ethnic groups who
Not to mention that the border between Syria and Iraq is pretty porous (and was especially so during and just after the invasion) and so people and organisations will have moved through and influenced Syria - not just ISIS and Kurds, either.
Maybe the invasion of Iraq was not the main cause of the conflicts in Syria, but it certainly had a significant impact, and not one that can be easily handwaved away.