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.
Its self-declared caliphate is gone, but ISIS continues to stage attacks and intimidate the public in much of its former domain. The forces fighting the group need to hinder the militants’ movement between Syria’s regions – and, above all, to avoid debilitating conflicts with one another.
Clashes involving Turkish, regime and Kurdish-led forces continued, UN raised risks of cholera outbreak, and Israel conducted airstrikes on regime facilities.
In north, Turkish, regime and Kurdish-led forces clashed, and Idlib ceasefire held. Turkish drone 16 Sept reportedly killed five militants near checkpoint in Ain Issa, Raqqa province. Turkish airstrikes 18 Sept killed three regime soldiers in raid near Kobane, Aleppo province, following cross-border shelling targeting Turkish forces. IED attack by Kurdish militants 22 Sept reportedly killed one and injured three civilians in Afrin city, Aleppo province. Turkish and Kurdish-led forces 27 Sept exchanged shelling in northern Hasakah province, killing two according to state media. Idlib province’s March 2020 ceasefire held despite violations: notably, al-leged Russian airstrikes 8 Sept killed seven civilians near Hafsarja town; Russian strike 29 Sept killed seven and wounded 15.
UN sounded alarm over cholera. UN 13 Sept warned that first cholera outbreak in years was serious threat to region, as dozens were killed from hundreds of suspected cases primarily in Aleppo (north) and Deir ez-Zor (north east) provinces; rising temperatures, and reduced upstream flow in Euphrates river, combined with dam-age to supply and sewage infrastructure, has left Syrians dependent on shrinking un-safe water sources.
Low-scale Islamic State (ISIS) attacks continued, Israel targeted Aleppo and Damascus airports. In al-Hol camp in Hasakah province, clashes between Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and alleged ISIS militants 8 Sept reportedly killed one ISIS militant and two SDF members. ISIS 11 Sept reportedly killed six SDF members near Ruwaished village in Deir ez-Zor province. SDF 17 Sept announced end of three-week anti-ISIS operation in al-Hol camp, arresting over 200 people. Mean-while, state media 6 Sept reported Israeli airstrike on Aleppo airport in second strike in one week. Defence ministry 17 Sept said Israeli airstrike hit targets near capital Damascus, including Damascus International Airport, killing five soldiers.
In other important developments. U.S. Central Command reported that rocket attack 18 Sept targeted U.S. military base Green Village in Deir ez-Zor province.
Renewed conflict [in northern Syria] will inevitably lead to mass displacement and suffering.
Jailbreaks and prison riots were a central component of IS resurgence in Iraq and are a serious threat in Syria today.
I wouldn’t expect that Turkey would like to expand the zone it occupies in the northeast [of Syria]. A move like this will require a difficult conversation with the Russi...
Putting the lifeline of three million Syrians up for negotiations every six to 12 months, is an unsustainable situation. And Syrian civilians end up paying the price.
La direction du mouvement [HTC en Syrie] s’efforce désormais de régler ces problèmes. La manière dont elle se comporte vis-à-vis des minorités est en train de changer.
La meilleure des pires options qui se posent aujourd'hui [en Syrie], c'est une impasse prolongée.
To prevent ISIS from resurging, forces fighting the group should stop it from moving across regions and avoid conflict with one another. This timeline catalogues some of the major ISIS attacks and counter-ISIS operations from 2017 to February 2022.
The UN Security Council is considering renewing an understanding whereby UN agencies transport aid to Idlib, an area held by Syrian rebels. In this Q&A, Crisis Group experts Richard Gowan, Dareen Khalifa and Ashish Pradhan explain why the arrangement remains essential.
This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood talks to experts Dareen Khalifa and Jerome Drevon about ISIS in Syria after the death of its leader Abdullah Qardash, the precarious calm that prevails across the country and the evolution of al-Qaeda’s former affiliate in the north west, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.
Aleppo was devastated by bombing and shelling during the Syrian war. It remains unsafe, with residents subject to shakedowns by the regime’s security forces and various militias. Damascus and its outside backers should curb this predation as a crucial first step toward the city’s recovery.
Turkey is increasingly relying on airpower in its fight against the PKK. New parties have been drawn into the conflict as it spreads to new theatres in Iraq and Syria, which, for now at least, complicates potential efforts to settle things down.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood talks to Crisis Group’s Turkey expert, Nigar Göksel, about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent trip to Ukrainian capital Kyiv, Turkey’s involvement in conflicts in Syria, Libya and the Caucasus, and its wider foreign relations.
On 3 February, U.S. commandos raided a house in Syria’s Idlib province, killing Abdullah Qardash, head of the Islamic State’s core group in the Levant. In this Q&A, Crisis Group experts Jerome Drevon and Dareen Khalifa explore the implications of the ISIS leader’s demise.
After suffering grievously under ISIS, and during the battles to defeat it, Raqqa is being rebuilt. The calm is tenuous, however. The U.S. and partners should work toward long-term stability in Syria’s north east, through investment and talks about sustainable governance and security arrangements.