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.

Does Trump Realize That His New Iran Strategy Could Suffer a Fatal Blow in Syria?

8th November 2017 – Foreign Policy

Does Trump Realize That His New Iran Strategy Could Suffer a Fatal Blow in Syria?

John Hannah

Note to President Trump: The new Iran strategy that you announced just three weeks ago is hanging by a thread. Its fate will likely be decided in the next few months on the Syria-Iraq border. more...

Analysis & Commentary

6th December 2017 – Quoted by Daniel Byman - Lawfare

An al-Qaeda Setback in Syria?

Thomas Joscelyn

Unheralded amid the recent political chaos in Washington and upheavals in the Middle East was a potential bit of good news: revelations that the al-Qaeda core’s split from its Syrian affiliate did not resemble a gentle parting but rather an acrimonious divorce. The revelations, which emerged from a statement by a senior Syrian jihadist, a public chastisement from Ayman Zawahiri, and then and a back-and-forth involving various jihadists in Syria, suggests that al-Qaeda wields less influence than previously feared and that U.S. efforts to isolate al-Qaeda in Syria are bearing some fruit. more...

6th December 2017 – Quoted by Eleena Frisco - Tribu Magazine

Damascus accuses Israel of coordinating airstrikes with ‘terrorists’

David Adesnik

Arab media reported that Israeli warplanes struck the Jamarya military installation and research center on the outskirts of Damascus overnight; this, just days after the destruction of an Iranian weapons facility near the Syrian capital was attributed to Israel. more...

25th November 2017 – Quoted by Natalie Johnson - The Washington Free Beacon

Experts: Trump Must Detail a Clear Syria Strategy to Block Iranian Influence Post-ISIS

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross

As the Trump administration winds down the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Iran is gearing up to expand its territorial gains in the region, stoking concern among U.S. allies and partners. more...

13th November 2017 – Quoted by Mosaic Magazine

Has Donald Trump Lost Syria to Iran?

John Hannah

Three weeks ago, the White House released an official strategy for checking the Islamic Republic’s growing influence in the Middle East. more...

From the Hill: