UN: Syria conflict 'proliferating in scope and extent'

UN: Syria conflict 'proliferating in scope and extent'
The UN says the Syrian conflict is being driven by world powers, and is no closer to resolution after four years of bitter fighting.
3 min read
04 September, 2015
Many attacks have indiscriminately targeted the civilian population [Getty]

No party in the bitter four-year conflict raging in Syria appears either close to collapse or in a position to win the war, which appears to be expanding "in its scope and extent", the UN has said.

Though the war is largely being fought by Syrians, the conflict is "increasingly driven by international and regional powers, primarily in accordance with their respective geostrategic interests", the report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic reported.

"Syrian stakeholders, on all sides of the conflict, have gradually lost control over the course of events."

War crimes

The report noted the parties to the conflict had demonstrated little regard for the laws of war, especially those relating to the protection of civilians.

Syrian stakeholders, on all sides of the conflict, have gradually lost control over the course of events
- UN report

The brutality of the war and the large number of seemingly indiscriminate attacks on Syrian civilians has been a major factor in driving more than four million people to seek refuge outside their country, while forcing around 7.6 million from homes inside Syria.

The number of refugees and displaced amounts to around half of the country's pre-war population.

The UN said that at least 240,000 had lost their lives in the Syrian conflict. Other sources put the total at more than 300,000.

The report said all parties to the conflict were responsible for war crimes.

The report also called for immediate action to protect civilians, noting their lives were made increasingly more difficult by "the increasingly internationalised nature of this non-international armed conflict".

Islamic State group 'desperate'

At a press conference to launch the report on Thursday, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the chair of the committee that wrote the report, said that the Islamic State group appeared to be "desperate", as it was being pounded by the air raids of the international coalition and was losing ground to Kurdish forces.

He said suicide bombings as well as the hit-and-run tactics the IS group were using were a sign of its desperation.

However, he noted, while the IS is under pressure militarily, it is winning in "psychological terms", and is still able to attract disaffected youth from countries around the world.

US intelligence officials recently admitted that almost a year of coalition airstrikes had not demonstrably weakened the IS.

Some current and former US figures said the rules of engagement for the coalition's aircraft were overly restrictive.

A New York Times article said in May that there were only and average of 15 airstrikes a day against the IS in Syria and Iraq, noting that by comparison, the 2003 Iraq war saw more than 800 per day.

Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain, said in May that only one in four missions actually resulted in a target being attacked.