The Syria Project

The Syria Project

Syria

The Syrian Civil War began in March 2011. Years later, with hundreds of thousands dead, no end appears in sight. Multiple diplomatic conferences and ceasefire agreements have failed to achieve a resolution or anything more than a temporary lull in the fighting.

In its first two years, the conflict was a relatively straightforward contest between Bashar al-Assad’s regime and opposition forces under the banner of the Free Syrian Army. As the war continued, outside actors interested in either propping up or toppling the Syrian ruler entered the fray, transforming the country into a battlefield for larger international conflicts.

Hezbollah openly declared its military presence in 2013, intent on swinging the tide of battle in Assad’s favor. It was joined by a host of other Iranian proxy militias – Iraqis, Afghanis, Pakistanis and others – and then by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. A host of Sunni Islamist militias appeared in response, either splintering off from the FSA or coming from abroad.

The most important of these is Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra), an al-Qaeda affiliated group. The Islamic State, formerly confined to Iraq, entered Syria in 2014 and seized large swathes of territory, establishing its de facto capital in Raqqa and declaring war on both rebels and regime loyalists. Russia entered the fight in late 2015, assuring the momentum remained with the regime-led alliance.

Despite predictions of his downfall, the Syrian president has proved surprisingly resilient. The late 2016 conquest of Aleppo was a turning point that definitively swung the tide of battle in his favor. Regime gains, however, have come at huge cost: the Syrian Arab Army is shattered, and Assad’s Syria is a pariah in the Arab world. In the long run, Assad’s dependence on Iran and its proxy militias – which have declared their intent to permanently remain in the country – will serve to erode Syrian sovereignty, perhaps transforming Damascus into another puppet of Tehran.

Treasury Sanctions Airline Ferrying Fighters for Assad

23rd December 2016 – FDD Policy Brief

Treasury Sanctions Airline Ferrying Fighters for Assad

Emanuele Ottolenghi, David Daoud

The U.S. Treasury announced new Syria sanctions on Friday, including on Cham Wings, Syria’s second-largest carrier. Privately owned by businessman Issam Shammout, Cham Wings has been blacklisted by the Department of Commerce since 2011. more...

Analysis & Commentary

19th January 2017 – Quoted by Benoit Faucon, Ahmed Al Omran - The Wall Street Journal

Islamic State Steps Up Oil and Gas Sales to Assad Regime

Jonathan Schanzer

Islamic State has ramped up sales of oil and gas to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, U.S. and European officials said, providing vital fuel to the government in return for desperately needed cash. more...

17th January 2017 – Quoted by Lee Smith - Tablet Magazine

What Obama Owes Putin—and Why Donald Trump Is Left Holding the Bag

Tony Badran

Is Donald Trump a Russian secret agent? Did he pay FSB hookers to pee on the bed the Obamas slept in at the Ritz in Moscow, overlooking the Kremlin? It’s silly season, so any drunk on a fat oppo-research expense account can write down any crazy foolishness they want and Buzzfeed will let you decide if it’s true because that, as Buzzfeed’s editor, Ben Smith, solemnly explained to The New York Times, is where American journalism is at in 2017. more...

12th January 2017 – Quoted by Middle East Online

As Caliphate Shrinks, ISIS Expected to Head for the Hills

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross

In Syria, where ISIS is still a fighting force to be reckoned with,the thinking is the jihadists will retreat into the country’s vast eastern desert around oil-rich Deir ez-Zor province where it is strongly entrenched, says James Bruce. more...

21st December 2016 – Quoted by Barbara Opall-Rome - Defense News

Israel Claims Suggest Lebanese Violation of US Export Law

Tony Badran

A senior Israeli defense official on Wednesday confirmed what US experts had been questioning for more than a month: that US troop carriers provided by Washington to Beirut are being operated by Hizbollah in Syria in support of the Bashar Assad regime, which experts note as a violation of export controls. more...

From the Hill: