The 2011 uprising
The civil war in Syria was triggered by the initially peaceful protests against the regime. People called for social reforms and political freedoms and the rule of law. However, the regime struggled with reforms and very soon responded with violence to protesters’ demands. There are riots. The uprising had meanwhile spread to all cities except Aleppo and Damascus. The reluctant reforms that followed could no longer calm the situation. The uprising in Syria quickly developed its own conflict dynamics. A war with a wide variety of actors and interests was the result. From a clash between the opposition and the government, the conflict has grown since then and developed into a struggle of countless militias and fronts.
According to neovideogames, the war in Syria is polarizing. The escalation of the conflict strengthened the radical forces in Syria. Numerous jihadist groups, some of which are close to Al Qaeda, controlled large parts of Syria. Since the massive expansion of radical Islamic groups such as Ahrar As-Sham, but especially the jihadist groups such as the Nusra Front, which is close to Al-Qaeda, and the proclamation of a caliphate by the Islamic State(IS) in large parts of northern Syria, the situation has become unpredictable, especially for foreigners. The terrorist militia “Islamic State” (IS) became strong in Syria – and called the international anti-IS coalition on the scene: The USA flew air strikes against the extremists. On the ground, America supported Syria’s democratic forces in their fight against IS, an alliance that is predominantly Kurdish and led by the Kurdish YPG / People’s Defense Units .
The Kurds in northern Syria grew strong with US support. There was a tacit mutual acceptance between you and Assad’s troops: Assad had largely allowed them to do their thing in their efforts to achieve autonomy, since in return the Kurds did not question Assad. Turkey could not accept the strengthening, as Erdogan sees the YPG as a terrorist organization close to the PKK.
In December 2018, US President Donald Trump declared the “historic victory” over IS and announced the withdrawal of US troops. The announced US troop withdrawal has triggered new uncertainties and dynamics in the region. Turkey used the announcement to launch an offensive against the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) in northern Syria. Ankara reinforced its troops along the Syrian border and concentrated its tanks and armored vehicles in the area near Manbij in northern Syria. The Kurds called Assad for help. The Syrian army has moved troops to the city of Manbij. France announced that it would maintain its military presence in Syria for the time being. Overall, it can be said that Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel in particular are ready to enforce their vital interests in Syria militarily. This harbors the risk of renewed military escalation. Russia sees a possible withdrawal of the USA as a point win and is expanding its power in the region.
Syria was excluded by the Arab League when the civil war broke out. Several Arab states imposed sanctions. The states of the Gulf Cooperation Council withdrew their ambassadors from Damascus in February 2012 to protest against the crackdown on the protest movement in Syria. The visit of the Sudanese ruler Omar al-Bashir to Damascus at the end of December 2018 represents a new development. For the first time since the beginning of the war, an incumbent Arab head of state came to Damascus, who invoked Syria’s role in the region as part of the Arab family. Al-Bashir’s visit corresponds with the reopening of the embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Damascus. The Emirates invoked Arab fraternity and emphasized the role of a sovereign Syria in the region. The diplomatic turnaround in the Emirates gives Assad further political impetus, especially since other Arab states should follow suit. Many observers assume that the opening of the embassy was coordinated with Saudi Arabia and see this as a step towards the rehabilitation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Arab world. The Emirates and Saudi Arabia have so far been seen as the main supporters of the rebels in Syria.
Around 400,000-500,000 people have died since the outbreak of the civil war. Most of the victims are civilians. The war also resulted in one of the largest flows of refugees since World War II. Almost five million Syrians have left the country. Millions of people are internally displaced. This means that more than half of the population is on the run. The education system has collapsed. Around two million school-age girls and boys do not attend school. Life expectancy has decreased by 15 years. Syria has lost around 250 billion euros in economic power. Experts put the cost of rebuilding at $ 1.2 trillion.
In Syria, hundreds of local actors are involved in the “civil” war, as well as regional and major powers.
The Assad regime
Assad and much of the leadership of the current regime remain in power and have no interest in losing it. Especially since they fear revenge attacks by their opponents if they fall. This also applies to varying degrees to the religious minorities. The Alawites benefited from the system for a long time, which can be explained by the fact that the Assad family belongs to the Alawi minority and that many important functions in the state are occupied by the Alawis. Druze and Christians are also more inclined to the regime. They see a victory of the opposition, which is increasingly Islamist in the meantime, as a great existential danger. Driven by the successes of the last few months, the Syrian military is currently relying on a military solution to the conflict and is determined to extend its authority over all of Syria again.