Declaring Civil War in Syria Is No Longer an Overstatement

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The conflict in Syria isn't officially labeled a civil war but the denomination gained new validity in the last 24 hours following a series of developments on the ground including land grabs and weapons buildups. Here's are some of the latest reasons why at least one United Nations official is already using the term. 

Heavy Weapons. In today's New York Times, Mark Landler and Neil MacFarquhar report that new powerful weapons are flowing into opposition groups and the government, causing a sharp escalation of the conflict. The most sophisticated are attack helicopters allegedly sent from Russia to the Assad regime, but rebels are arming up as well. "The fierce government assaults from the air are partly a response to improved tactics and weaponry among the opposition forces, which have recently received more powerful antitank missiles from Turkey, with the financial support of Saudi Arabia and Qatar," they report. "The increased ferocity of the attacks and the more lethal weapons on both sides threatened to overwhelm diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis."

Land grabs. U.N. under-secretary Herve Ladsous was the first U.N. official to classify the conflict as a civil war yesterday, noting that the government lost control of "large chunks" of urban areas, reports The BBC. "Clearly what is happening is that the government of Syria lost some large chunks of territory, several cities to the opposition, and wants to retake control, " he said. When asked if Syria was now embroiled in a civil war, he said "Yes, I think we can say that." The rebels' primary opposition stronghold is the city of Homs, which has been under barrage from government forces for months. 

Economic collapse. Reuters' Suleiman Al-Khalidi has a scoop today that the Syrian regime, desperate to finance its fiscal deficit, has released new cash into circulation. That's teetering the currency dangerously toward inflation. "Four Damascus-based bankers told Reuters that new banknotes printed in Russia were circulating in trial amounts in the capital and Aleppo, the first such step since a popular revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011," reads the report. "The four bankers said the new notes were being used not just to replace worn out currency but to ensure that salaries and other government expenses were paid, a step economists say could increase inflation and worsen the economic crisis." The violence coupled with international sanctions have erased the government's revenues leading to "severe economic contractions," according to Al-Khalidi.
Forest Fires. In a strange development, News 24 reports that Syrian forces have begun torching wooded areas to hamper the efforts of rebels to move refugees into Turkey. "The deliberate fires appear to be a new tactic by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to flush out hiding rebels and stop civilians escaping. Syrian troops began laying mines along the same border months earlier," reads the report. "Some wounded die before they can reach medical treatment in Turkey because it can now take up to three times longer to cross the border, rebels inside Turkey said."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.