The 6 year Syrian war explained in 5 minutes
Syria’s war is being fought between 4 sides who are backed by different foreign powers:
1) Bashar Al Assad- Backed by Iran, Russia and the Hezbollah
3) Kurds- Backed by the US
4) Rebels- Backed by Jordan, Turkey ,the Gulf states and the US
The Arab Spring
Failing economies and oppressive governments led to a wave of revolutionary protests called the across the Middle East, even leading to regime changes in some countries. This was called the Arab Spring.
The Arab Spring reaches Syria, Assad attacks the protestors
Bashar Al Assad violently cracks down on peaceful demonstrations calling for democracy and greater freedom of citizens.
A Civil War breaks out in Syria
The protesters arm themselves and fight Assad’s army. Some members of Assad’s army defect and join the rebels, calling themselves the Free Syrian Army. This marks the beginning of the Syrian Civil War. Terrorists from around the world join the Syrian rebels. Fearing western support for the rebels, Assad actually encourages more jihadists to join the rebellion, thinking it would make it harder for the foreign powers to back them.
Kurds take over Northern Syria, Iran and the Gulf States intervene
Al Qaeda forms a new group in Syria called the Jabhat al-Nusra. At the same time, Syrian Kurds who had been fighting for autonomy for long take up arms and informally secede from the Assad regime in the North. Iran being a Shia state is Assad’s biggest ally intervenes by sending its army and resources to help him. To counter Iran’s influence Gulf States which happen to follow Sunni Islam, send weapons and money to the rebels.
Iran helps Assad, Gulf States help the rebels
Iran steps up its role by sending in the Hezbollah- the militia backed by them to fight alongside Assad. The Gulf States led by Saudi Arabia continue to send a lot of resources to the rebels through Jordan that is also Anti- Assad.
The war becomes a clash between Sunni and Shia Muslims
The Middle East is divided between the Sunni Powers represented by the rebels and the Shia powers represented by Assad.
US plans to help the rebels
Claiming to be horrified by the Assad regime’s atrocities, the US planned to launch a covert CIA operation to train and arm the Syrian rebels. However this plan was later stalled. The US also appealed to its Middle Eastern allies- the Gulf nations to stop funding terrorist organizations in Syria. However, no one heeded to this request.
The stage is set for a power struggle between the US and Russia
Assad carries out chemical attacks on innocent civilians, killing over 1500 people. This attack is condemned around the world. The US threatens Syria with military strikes but later backs down after Russia convinces Syria to dismantle its chemical weapons in order to prevent a US military intervention. This sets the stage for US- Russia power struggle in Syria with Russia backing Assad and the US backing the rebels. The US provides the rebels with training and weapons under its previously aborted CIA mission.
ISIS is formed
An Al Qaeda affiliate based out of Iraq, breaks away from the group over internal disagreements and calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It fights Assad, the Kurds and the rebels and forms its own mini state called the Caliphate, seizing large parts of Syria and Iraq.
US bombs ISIS
The US along with some of its Western and Middle Eastern allies (who are also Anti-Assad) starts bombing ISIS.
US focusses on fighting ISIS but its allies do not cooperate
The US now shifts focus from fighting Assad to fighting ISIS. The Pentagon launches a programme to train and fund rebels who fight ISIS and not Assad. However, this programme fails since it cannot find rebels who are willing to do that.
The complications between US and its allies continue
Turkey bombs Kurdish forces in Turkey and Iraq even as the Kurds fight ISIS in Syria. This further complicates alliances in the Middle East as it showed that the US’s key allies like Turkey(which is a member of the NATO) and the Gulf States had other priorities and did not have any intentions of fighting ISIS.
Russia helps Assad, casualties rise to an unprecedented level
Russia intervenes on behalf of Assad and sends a few dozen military aircrafts to a Russian airbase in the country. Though it claims to attack only ISIS, it lands up bombing both ISIS and the anti-Assad rebels who are backed by the US. According to the UN, the war had killed 250,000 people and displaced 6.5 million. Aleppo was bombarded by 200 air strikes in a single weekend, leading to one of the most heart wrenching pictures of the war, of a bloddy faced Syrian child sitting in an ambulance.
Assad regains Aleppo
Donald Trump becomes the President of the US and vows to stay out of Syria. He says that Assad should be allowed to take control of the state. By the end of 2016, Assad helped by the Iranians and Russians takes over the city of Aleppo- knocking the rebels out of their last remaining urban stronghold.
Following Assad’s chemical attack on civilians, the US launches military strikes on Syria
Assad launches a chemical attack on civilians again, killing 85 people including 20 children. Donald Trump claims that the chemical attacks have changed his attitude towards Syria and Assad “very much” and vows to take action against Syria. He launches missile strikes targeting a Syrian airbase. This is the first time that the US had directly attacked Assad’s regime.
Syria is in ruins. Many people have fled the country and all attempts at a ceasefire have failed. Though Assad is recapturing land, the rebellion still stays on and there is no solution in sight.