The Syrian civil war, including the Syrian conflict, is an armed conflict with numerous participants from 2011 in Syria.
The Arab Spring protests in Tunisia and Egypt also spread to Syria. At the beginning of 2011, the population demonstrated for the rule of law and democratic reforms as well as against corruption and the arrests of opposition politicians by the Assad regime. In March 2011, security forces violently put down demonstrations in the cities of Dara (in the southwest on the border with Jordan), Homs and Hama (in the west). Hundreds of people died and more were arrested. The peaceful protest movement split in summer 2011. Opposition groups formed and armed themselves. A civil war broke out. By early 2012, the violence spread to other parts of the country. The Syrian government got on the defensive. Their troops withdrew. Assad’s core areas remained the capital Damascus and the Alawi-inhabited region in the far west. The power elite of his regime comes from this small Islamic religious community, which is close to the Shiites.
In 2013, the opposition formed a counter-government abroad: the National Coalition. It took over Syria’s seat in the Arab League and was supported by the USA, European countries, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, among others. The armed arm of the National Coalition was the Free Syrian Army (FSA). It arose in 2011 from deserters from the Syrian army and mainly comprised Arab-Sunni combat brigades.
In addition, radical Islamic groups intervened in the struggles against Assad. These included B. the Al-Nusra Front and the ” Islamic State ” (IS). The extremist group IS came from the war country Iraq. Since then, the conflict has also had religious features. By 2015, IS took possession of large parts of Syria. He declared Raqqa on the Euphrates the capital of a new “caliphate” (caliph). In the oasis city of Palmyra, IS destroyed ruins from Roman times that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Kurdish minority strengthened its position in the north and northeast of Syria. Starting in 2016, it built up its own state community with elected political representatives in a strip along the border with Turkey: the Democratic Federation of Northern and Eastern Syria, also known as »Rojava«. The Kurds’ armed formation was the People’s Defense Units (YPG). In 2015 they formed the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) with Arab and Turkmen groups – Sunnis and Christians. The USA supported them, among other things, with military equipment.
In 2014, a military coalition of Western and Arab states led by the USA intervened in Syria and Iraq against IS, which carried out terrorist attacks around the world. The military coalition supported the SDF with fighter planes, missiles and guided missiles from warships as well as special forces, which carried the brunt of the fight against IS in Syria on the ground. By the end of 2017, IS was distributed almost everywhere. The last bases in Syria fell in early 2019. Thousands of captured IS fighters and their relatives were locked up in large camps in eastern Syria. The Euphrates now formed an informal border between the anti-IS alliance and the Kurdish SDF on the eastern side and the Syrian government and its allies on the western side.
Because the Assad regime had repeatedly used poison gas, the USA and France in particular carried out several heavy air strikes. In 2013, Syria made an international commitment to destroy all chemical weapons. However, the regime continued to use chemical weapons.
In September 2015, Russia intervened on the side of the Assad regime in the civil war. To this end, Syria provided the Russian military with an air base at Latakia and the Mediterranean port of Tartus. With Russian support and with the participation of Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Shiite allies, the Assad regime recaptured cities and regions from the insurgents, including Aleppo (2016), Homs (2017), Eastern Ghouta near Damascus and the Dara province (both 2018). The rebels’ last refuge was the northwestern province of Idlib. Radical Islamic groups were the strongest there.
According to bridgat, Turkey launched military operations against the autonomous Kurdish region in February 2016, January 2018 and October 2019. The Turkish government accused the Kurds of cooperating with the extremist »Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK), which is banned in many countries. In the north, the Turkish army and its Syrian-Arab allies captured several border regions. They took advantage of the extensive withdrawal of the USA (from the end of 2018).
The Assad regime and its allies controlled most of the country at the end of 2019. Insurgent Sunnis were largely pushed back to the province of Idlib in the northwest. Radical Islamists were the strongest among them. The Kurds and their allies have been weakened following the withdrawal of the anti-IS alliance in Syria and the Turkish attack in autumn 2019. Assad continued to rely on a full military retake. With Russia and Iran, he had the strongest foreign powers at his side in the Syria conflict.
Politically, there was a small step forward at the end of 2019: On October 31, 2019, a committee made up of representatives of the Assad regime, the opposition and civil society met for the first time with the mediation of the United Nations to draft a new constitution for Syria. However, the Kurds were not allowed to take part due to Turkish pressure.
The IS “caliphate” has been militarily defeated. However, IS is still considered a powerful terrorist organization. Another problem arises for many foreign states: How should they deal with their citizens who fought for IS?