Syrian Conflict

The Syrian War started in 2011 as an uprising and protests against the government of Syria led by Bashar al-Assad. Originally, the rebel forces were known as the Free Syrian Army but later splintered into several different groups, one of which is ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). The conflict is complex, with several internal and external groups and nations fighting for control of Syria and Northern Iraq.

This conflict has grown in complexity with more groups and nations being pulled into it since the beginning in 2011, and all have participated in varying degrees. The major world players are Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Lebanon, Russia and the United States. Some of the major non-state groups involved are; The Free Syrian Army, ISIL, the Kurds, and various other rebel groups.

Developments: The current state of the conflict is positive for Bashar Al Assad and pro-government forces which have retaken much of the southern part of the country, while the U.S.-backed Kurds hold a large portion in the North. Small pockets of resistance continue in the south as well, but most of the current focus is on the city of Idlib, which is in the north near the Syrian/Turkish border. The Idlib city itself is roughly just over 150,000 people, but the problem for the government forces is that the region has around 2 million people. The Syrian government has been dropping leaflets urging residents not to fight, and the Russian military is helping the pro-Syrian forces as well. Some artillery has been reported already being used in the Southern part of Idlib province.

What to watch: Watch for the invasion of Idlib by pro-government Syrian and Russian forces. The Syrian forces are turning their attention from the South to the North, and this may take some time to move artillery, troops, and tanks from the South to the North. The Turkish lira has been falling in response to actions taken by the United States for Turkey’s detention of an American pastor, which is not good for the rebel groups inside Idlib as they rely on help from Turkey, which is why it is important to keep a watch on the developments with the lira.

Analysis: Hopefully this will not be a humanitarian disaster with so many people in the area they would have no place to go but to Turkey, which is suffering from their falling currency, the lira. With so much resistance and rebel forces it will be unclear as to what will happen but it is difficult to see them resist when they have the backing of Russian forces and support and no backing from a major power unlike the Kurds who are in talks with a reconciliation of sorts with the Syrian government to be reintegrated back into Syria but with some self autonomy.

Reconstruction is already a big topic amongst all sides of the conflict. Who gets to rebuild Syria? Russia, China, and Iran want a stake in rebuilding Syria, as well as Turkey and the United States which. However, the State Department has redirected a little over 200 million in funds meant to rebuild Syria to other foreign policy projects. The rebuilding is a topic because Russia, Iran, and China all want to have more Middle East influence, contracts, and deals with a rebuilt Syria and the rebuilding effort was meant to counter these countries influence in the region. The 200 million was said to be made up with more contributions to rebuild by Saudi Arabia and other countries according to U.S. officials.

War in Donbass, Ukraine, Ukrainian/Russian conflict

This conflict started in March of 2014 when pro-Russian rebels in the Donbass (Eastern Ukraine) took control of government buildings after the successful annexation of the Crimea near the Black Sea by Russia. This conflict is complex with both Russian and Ukrainian forces involved as well as pro-Russian rebel groups and separatists as well as Ukrainian militia groups involved. The Russian government is also thought to have played a major role in large-scale election meddling and cyber attacks on Ukrainian power grids and infrastructure during this conflict.

Developments: Angela Merkel met with Russian President Vladimir Putin outside of Berlin and discussed a range of topics including Syria, Ukraine, and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline which the United States opposes.