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BACKGROUND Who is fighting whom in the Syrian conflict

Europe
19.02.2018
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Istanbul/Beirut (dpa) - Syria has been stuck in a multi-sided civil war since 2011. The main actors - both domestic and foreign - share little common ground in the conflict:

THE SYRIAN GOVERNMENT: President Bashar al-Assad‘s forces control most of the heavily populated areas of the country, including the capital Damascus, the former economic hub Aleppo in the north and the coastal region. Al-Assad‘s forces and allies are increasing their areas of control, in part thanks to a heavy Russian intervention and Iranian support.

REBELS: The rebels are on the back foot. The only province under their control is Idlib, where Islamist forces, including militants linked to al-Qaeda, are the main power brokers. They also control small areas in the south of the country, near the border with Jordan. An enclave near Damascus is under heavy assault. The rebels have largely lost their Western backers and, in the north, are heavily reliant on Turkey.

ISLAMIC STATE: The extremist group has suffered heavy territorial losses and is left with a patch near the border with Iraq, as well as small areas in the south-western part of the country, near Israeli-controlled territory. The US, which is leading the campaign against the extremists along with its Kurdish-led allied ground force, warns the group could still re-emerge.

KURDS: They control most of the border with Turkey, but are currently under attack by Turkey in the north-western area of Afrin. The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its fighters are the most effective ground force beating back Islamic State. They are allied with the United States. However, the party is largely excluded from political negotiations because the PYD has links to the armed Kurdistan Workers‘ Party (PKK), which is banned in Turkey.

UNITED STATES: Washington leads an international coalition against Islamic State and supports the Kurdish-controlled territory in the north-east of the country, a sticking point in the relationship with Turkey. The US is seen has having limited leverage outside of the Kurdish-held area.

RUSSIA: A main backer of al-Assad, Russia has been flying bombing campaigns to support the government since September 2015, a key factor in al-Assad‘s military comeback. The attacks target Islamic State as well as other rebel groups. Moscow has recently tried to pivot to a peacemaker role in Syria, as it looks to wind down its active military role. But managing the many sides to the conflict, while still flying missions to support al-Assad, is a tricky objective.

IRAN: Tehran is a loyal supporter of the Syrian government. Iranians are fighting alongside Syrian soldiers. Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite movement financed by Iran, also fights along with al-Assad‘s troops. Tehran

TURKEY: Turkey is a key backer of the Syrian opposition, but it lately has turned its focus to tackling the Kurds, shifting away from its previous concentration on ousting al-Assad, though it maintains strong links with Idlib province. Turkey recently launched an offensive on the northern Afrin region in a bid to contain Kurdish gains near its borders.

ASTANA PROCESS: The forum in which Iran, Russia and Turkey negotiate ceasefires. The deals have been under pressure.

 

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