The Syrian conflict since 2011 is a constellation of overlapping crises. Each of its global, regional and sub-national dimensions demands a tailored response set within an overarching framework. Instead, chronic violence and worsening suffering have killed more than 250,000 people, fueling radicalisation, refugee flight and a self-sustaining war economy. Outside stakeholders must learn from the way the Syrian conflict has repeatedly dashed unrealistic expectations on all sides. Crisis Group pursues a comprehensive approach for achieving a sustainable decline in violence and, ultimately, a political settlement. We also seek to correct dominant narratives that focus on jihadism and migrant flows, which are the symptoms, rather than the causes, of the problem.

CrisisWatch Syria

Deteriorated Situation

Major battle erupted between Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and regime in northwest as Russia renewed airstrikes and Islamic State (ISIS) killed dozens in centre; collapsing currency triggered protests.

Hostilities escalated between HTS and regime, leading to fierce battle. In Idlib province, HTS 7 Aug launched raid 10km behind regime lines to destroy Russian-Syrian base, 11 Aug conducted raid on Latakia front, and 26 Aug detonated tunnel bomb beneath regime base in southern Idlib. As of 28 Aug, HTS continued to heavily shell regime forces around southern Idlib amid one of most intense battles in northwest since 2020 ceasefire, although fighting remained contained to artillery and sniper fire. Amid hostilities, Russian resumed airstrikes in Idlib: 21-22 Aug killed 15 HTS members and late Aug intensified deadly strikes across region.

ISIS attacks surged in centre. ISIS 7 Aug temporarily captured largest regime position near village of Shoula, Deir Ez Zor and two checkpoints along Raqqa-Deir Ez Zor highway. ISIS 8 Aug killed eight regime troops and pro-govt fighters in Raqqa province and 10 Aug killed at least 25 soldiers outside Mayadeen town. Upsurge in attacks may indicate group’s shift away from areas dominated by international coalition. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) 18 Aug killed group’s eastern region emir in Raqqa city.

Currency crisis sparked rare anti-govt rallies. Syrian pound 16 Aug fell to 15,500 to $1 USD, sparking general strike next day in Suwayda province, protests 18 Aug in Daraa city and rare protest in capital Damascus amid reports of increased social media criticism of govt among Alawites; protestors in Suwayda city 24 Aug raided ruling party’s office. Anti-regime protests persisted late month among Druze population of Suwayda and across opposition-held northern Syria.

Hostilities erupted in northeast, regime allowed aid in northwest. In eastern Deir Ez Zor in northeast, clashes beginning 28 Aug between SDF and Arab groups reportedly killed dozens after SDF 27 Aug arrested commander. After month-long pause, Damascus 8 Aug acquiesced to UN efforts to reopen Bab al-Hawa border crossing for humanitarian aid for six months; HTS-aligned authorities in Idlib, however, rejected aid sanctioned by Damascus.

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In The News

31 May 2023
Turkey is highly unlikely to compromise on troop withdrawal [from northern Syria]. Reuters

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Adviser for Dialogue Promotion
17 May 2023
It's important to remember that [Syrian president] Assad's return to the Arab League is a symbolic measure to begin the process of ending his regional isolation. AFP

Anna Jacobs

Senior Analyst, Gulf states
13 Apr 2023
The U.S. and Europe have made it clear that they do not agree with Arab states normalizing with the Assad regime, but there doesn’t seem to be much they can do about it. New York Times

Anna Jacobs

Senior Analyst, Gulf states
22 Feb 2023
The UAE has, since 2021, embarked on a policy of diminishing tensions with other countries in the region, and normalizing with Assad is part of that. Al Monitor

Dina Esfandiary

Senior Advisor, Middle East and North Africa
10 Feb 2023
If the UN fails to extend its operation [in Syria] via these [Turkish border] crossings, donor states should bypass the UN and do bilateral assistance themselves. The Guardian

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Adviser for Dialogue Promotion
16 Jan 2023
Whenever the American forces there [in Syria] are attacked, the question arises again: Why are they there? Globe Echo

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Adviser for Dialogue Promotion

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