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

Unchanged Situation

Arab League readmitted Syria after 12-year suspension, Islamic State (ISIS) claimed first attack in capital Damascus since Sept 2021, and Jordan’s first airstrikes since 2015 killed drug kingpin and family.

Arab League welcomed President Assad’s return. Arab League 7 May reinstated Syria’s membership, following 12-year suspension, after Damascus promised to end captagon trafficking. Syria and Saudi Arabia 9 May announced they would each reopen diplomatic mission in the other’s capital. Assad 18 May arrived in Jeddah in first visit to Saudi Arabia since start of war and next day attended Arab League summit, amid reports of limited refugee return policy being hammered out at gathering. Meanwhile, Turkish, Russian, Syrian and Iranian FMs 10 May met in Russian capital Moscow in highest-level talks since 2011 war.

ISIS activity slowed despite deadly attack in Damascus. ISIS activity in central Syria decreased following high-intensity attacks during truffle harvesting season; regime stepped up anti-ISIS operations in Suwayda province but ceased major operations in eastern Homs. ISIS 10 May claimed IED attack in Damascus, however, killing two police officers, and in first killing of senior officer in a year, ISIS 17 May killed army colonel and several others in Raqqa province.

Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) killed Russian colonel in north west. Idlib’s dominant rebel group HTS continued harassing regime forces along north-western front with near-daily lethal sniper attacks, while regime conducted deadly artillery strikes, mainly in Idlib’s Jabal al-Zawiyah area. HTS 26 May struck regime headquarters along Latakia front, killing Russian colonel – highest-ranking Russian officer killed by rebel forces since 2016; Russia responded with bombing runs in southern Idlib, first such attacks in six months.

Jordan, Israel, Türkiye and U.S. launched airstrikes. In its first-ever airstrikes on regime-affiliated positions, Jordan 8 May bombed abandoned drug facility in southern Deraa province and killed drug kingpin and his seven-member family in Suwayda province. Israeli missiles 1 May targeted Aleppo airport, killing one soldier (see Israel-Palestine). Türkiye continued drone strikes targeting Kurdistan Workers’ Party (see Türkiye). U.S. military 3 May launched airstrike, killing man reportedly mistakenly identified as al-Qaeda member in Idlib province.

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In The News

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 Analyst, Syria
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 Analyst, Syria
14 Nov 2022
Moscow also has leverage over Türkiye in other conflict zones such as Syria and the South Caucasus, as well as a vested interest in driving a wedge between Turkey and its... Bloomberg

Nigar Göksel

Project Director, Türkiye

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