There’s been a civil war in Syria for the last 8 years, with different groups trying to seize control of the country.
A timeline of the Syrian war:
- The beginning of the war (2011). The first shots in the war were fired by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad against peaceful Arab Spring demonstrators. Reminder. The Arab Spring was a series of anti-government protests against dictators that spread across much of the Arab world.
- The response. Defectors from Assad’s regime formed an organized militia called the Free Syrian Army to strike back at Assad. They are called THE REBELS.
- First countries to intervene. Iran, Assad’s main ally, sent Assad money and weapons to fight the rebels. In response, the Gulf States (Iran’s enemies and US’ allies) sent money to the rebels. I explain you here why they are enemies. These are the Gulf States:
- Chemical weapons. Bashar al-Assad regime used chemical weapons against civilians.
- The appearance of ISIS. In 2014, the group began to take over large areas of Iraq, next door to Syria. Then, they moved into eastern Syria and – in the chaos of the war – they were able to gain land and power there too. Reminder. ISIS is an al-Qaeda affiliate that separated from the group over internal disagreements. What do they want? Form their own state based on the radical interpretation of Islam (Islamic extremism).
- Barack Obama. The U.S attacks ISIS. To try to stop ISIS, the U.S used planes to attack ISIS fighters in Iraq. These attacks are known as airstrikes. Also, the U.S started training Syrian rebels and Kurds to fight ISIS.
- Turkey vs the Kurds. Turkey, a U.S ally, started bombing the Kurds in Iraq and Turkey (the Kurds are also a U.S ally). This got to one of the big problems in this conflict: the US saw ISIS as its main enemy, but the US’ allies like Turkey and other Middle Eastern states had other priorities.
- Why would Turkey bomb the Kurds? Turkey hates the Kurds. Kurds are an ethnic group that has been demanding separation from Turkey (to create an independent Kurdistan) since 1978. Turkey sees them as a terror threat.
- Where do they live? In a region not explicitly delimited. It is divided between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Reminder. To many people in the U.S, Europe and Australia, the Kurds of northern Syria are known for being the frontline fighters in the battle to defeat ISIS.
- This made for a lot of unclear and confusing alliances. Btw, in all of this, Russia intervened in behalf of Assad. Reminder. Russia’s ties to Syria go all the way back to the Cold War. Continued support for the Assad government gave the USSR its most reliable ally and proxy in the Middle East. Between 2006 and 2010, 48 % of Syrian arms imports came from Russia.
- Trump is here. In 2017, Trump became president and said he was staying out of Syria. However, Assad used chemical weapons again (killing 85 people including 20 children) and…
- Trump attacks. The U.S launched dozens of missiles that strike an airbase in Syria.
- Today. Syrian leader Al-Assad defeated the rebels, except in the north of the country (the province of Idlib), right on the border with Turkey. And the rebels are still there because Turkey protects them with weapons and soldiers. Why? He wants to make sure he has control over that territory so that no Kurds enter Turkey. Obviously, al-Assad is not happy about this and in the last few weeks, several attacks between Syria and Turkey left dozens of people dead. The situation became really tense. Russia is friends with al-Assad and there were fears that the fighting was going to lead to a direct conflict between Turkey and Russia. But Putin invited Turkish President Erdogan to sign a ceasefire. And he succeeded.
Map of the Middle East.
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