Syria

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

Conflict Risk Alert

Hostilities escalated as Iran-backed groups traded blows with U.S. forces, Israel killed Hamas and Iranian commanders, and Türkiye intensified attacks in north; killing of U.S. soldiers in Jordan could provoke retaliatory strikes in Syria.

In east, Iran-backed groups and U.S. exchanged tit-for-tat attacks. Iran-backed militias launched nearly 30 attacks on U.S. bases during Jan: notably, Islamic Resistance in Iraq 2 Jan announced attacks on Al-Shaddadi, Al-Rumaylan, Al-Malikiyah bases housing U.S. personnel in Hasakah province; 14 Jan attacked U.S. Kharab Al-Jir base in Hasakah province and Conoco base in Deir ez-Zor province. U.S. retaliatory attacks on 7, 8 and 14 Jan targeted Iran-backed groups in Al-Bukamal, Al-Mayadeen, and Deir ez-Zor cities. In major escalation marking first fatal strike on U.S. forces since Gaza war, Iran-aligned Iraqi militants – likely operating in Syria – 28 Jan killed three U.S. personnel in Jordanian base on Syrian-Iraqi border (see Jordan), raising prospect of imminent U.S. retaliation in Syria.

In south, Israel targeted Hamas and Iran, Jordan continued airstrikes. Iran-backed fighters 1 Jan reportedly launched rockets at Israeli-occupied Golan Heights; Israel next day struck Kanaker village in southern Damascus countryside. Israel 8 Jan killed Hamas commander Hassan Akasha in Beit Jinn village, Rif Dimashq. Israeli airstrike 20 Jan struck capital Damascus, killing five Iranian military personnel, including Iran’s head of intelligence in Syria, and several civilians; Iran vowed to respond. Presumed Israeli missile targeting IRGC base in Damascus 29 Jan killed seven, including three IRGC members and civilians. Israel 31 Jan struck army positions in Deraa city. In Suwayda province, Jordan continued airstrikes targeting trafficking.

In north, Türkiye intensified shelling as part of strikes on Kurdish militants. In response to killing of over a dozen Turkish soldiers in Iraq (see Iraq), Turkish military announced it 12-16 Jan conducted 114 airstrikes targeting Kurdish forces in Syria and northern Iraq; notably, Turkish drone 14 Jan killed three regime soldiers in Qamishli, Hasakah province. In north east, intensified Turkish shelling cut over 1mn off from electricity. 

In north west, hostilities persisted between regime and opposition. Deadly clashes between regime forces and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)/National Liberation Front 3, 9, 10, 18 and 19 Jan erupted along frontlines in southern Idlib province; shelling 1 Jan killed eleven civilians near Aleppo city. Meanwhile, Iran 15 Jan launched direct attack on alleged ISIS target in Idlib, in retaliation for deadly bombing (see Iran). 

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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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Nanar Hawach

Senior Analyst, Syria

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