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.

Mattis Warns Assad to “Wise Up” While Key Officials Signal Syria Policy Shift

13th September 2018 – FDD Policy Brief

Mattis Warns Assad to “Wise Up” While Key Officials Signal Syria Policy Shift

David Adesnik

Secretary of Defense James Mattis confirmed that the Assad regime is preparing to use chemical weapons as part of its impending offensive in Idlib province. Referring to Assad, Mattis told reporters, “He’s been warned,” and “we’ll see if he’s wised up” since previous rounds of U.S. airstrikes. The secretary’s comments follow similar remarks from the president, along with signals from key officials, that the U.S. will pursue a more assertive policy toward Syrian war crimes. more...

Analysis & Commentary

7th September 2018 – FDD's CSIF Policy Brief

Treasury Imposes Sanctions on Assad’s Oil Traders

Treasury Imposes Sanctions on Assad’s Oil Traders

David Adesnik

The U.S. Department of the Treasury struck yesterday at one of the most important lifelines of the Assad regime by imposing targeted financial sanctions on key figures responsible for the illicit import and export of oil products, long prohibited by U.S. and EU sanctions. more...

17th August 2018 – FDD Policy Brief

Assad Regime Restoring Economic Ties with Jordan and UAE

Assad Regime Restoring Economic Ties with Jordan and UAE

Tony Badran

Following the Assad regime’s recapture of opposition-held areas in southern Syria, pro-regime media have begun boasting the restoration of economic relations with Arab countries, namely Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Damascus is eager to show that its success on the battlefield will persuade regional governments – including those friendly to the U.S. – to stop treating it as a pariah state. more...

11th July 2018 – Co-authored by Matthew RJ Brodsky — FDD Press

FDD study: US Should Develop Syria Policy that Includes Syrian End State Devoid of Iran’s Influence

Jonathan Schanzer, Tony Badran

The Trump Administration should make it established U.S. policy to achieve an end state in Syria that is free of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces and officially support Israel’s campaign against Iran in Syria, according to a report issued today by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). more...

3rd July 2018 – Foreign Podicy

Podcast: Syria’s World War

Podcast: Syria’s World War

Clifford D. May, John Hannah, David Adesnik

Syria has been at war for seven long years. More than a half million people have been killed. More than 11 million – close to half Syria’s pre-war population – have been displaced either internally or as refugees in other countries. more...

From the Hill: