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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

U.S. and Russia 11 Nov announced details of ceasefire in south west, first agreed between them and Jordan 7 July, and reiterated commitment to resolving conflict through UN-led Geneva process. Under deal, non-jihadist opposition to maintain control of currently held areas and work with U.S. and Jordan to expel foreign fighters; Russia to work with regime to end presence of non-Syrian, Iran-backed forces in 5km-wide belt along Jordanian border and opposition-held areas. Russia 16 Nov vetoed UN Security Council resolution to extend mandate of UN investigative mechanism into use of chemical weapons, which late Oct found Syrian regime responsible for gas attack in April; mandate expired next day. In Deir el-Zour province in east, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and govt-aligned forces continued race to seize territory from Islamic State (ISIS) on opposite sides of Euphrates River, mostly meeting little resistance: pro-regime forces 20 Nov completed capture from ISIS of al-Bukamal on border with Iraq, after offensive reportedly coordinated with Iraqi govt forces on Iraqi side. In capital Damascus, rebel offensive by groups not party to Eastern Ghouta de-escalation deal made initial gains against pro-regime forces mid-Nov, and spurred major increase in regime strikes against rebel-held areas. In Idlib province in north west, Islamist group Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) early Nov facilitated formation of “salvation govt”, to which it delegated administration of areas it controls. Russian airstrikes increased in Idlib as govt-aligned forces pushed against rebel positions from east and south. Islamist group Noureddine al-Zenki 10 Nov declared “defensive war” against HTS; truce mediated between sides mid-Nov. Russian President Putin met Assad in Sochi, Russia, 20 Nov. Putin hosted Iranian President Rouhani and Turkish President Erdoğan at summit on Syrian conflict in Sochi 22 Nov; presidents jointly invited Syrian govt and moderate opposition to attend future congress in Sochi, without specifying date. Ahead of eighth round of UN-backed Geneva talks, opposition appointed new chief negotiator during summit in Saudi capital, Riyadh 24 Nov; talks began 28 Nov amid low expectations.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

21 Nov 2017
[For the heads of state attending the Sochi summit], one of the principal [questions] is what form the Kurdish participation in Geneva will take. I do not see the Turks making progress on this point. AFP

Noah Bonsey

Senior Analyst, Syria
11 Nov 2017
For months now, [Israel] has been sounding alarm bells about Hezbollah’s and Iran’s growing footprint in Syria, and about the Lebanese capacity to produce precision-guided missiles. Business Insider

Robert Malley

Vice President for Policy
23 Oct 2017
Over the last year, Israel ended its policy of ambiguity regarding attacks it perpetrates in Syria - among other things to underline there are steps it would not tolerate. Al Jazeera

Ofer Zalzberg

Senior Analyst, Israel/Palestine
19 Oct 2017
Geneva hasn’t been effective at all in shaping [Syria’s] events on the ground. [It can’t achieve a negotiated agreement without] political will from the conflict’s internal and external players. The Christian Science Monitor

Noah Bonsey

Senior Analyst, Syria
17 Oct 2017
We’ve seen aspects of governance [in Syria] managed by cadres within the [People's Protection Units (YPG)] and the [Democratic Union Party (PYD)]. That has been a source of tension in some areas. Al Jazeera

Noah Bonsey

Senior Analyst, Syria
17 Oct 2017
IS sleeper cells and the Syrian regime may see an interest in using loyalist networks to destabilise things. Either of those dynamics could heighten ethnic tension. Reuters

Noah Bonsey

Senior Analyst, Syria

Latest Updates

A Likely Story

Originally published in The New York Review of Books

Also available in العربية

What are the challenges to stabilising Syria's post-ISIS areas?

As Raqqa and its surrounding areas fall into the control of Kurdish governing authorities, providing security and effective governance will be key to preventing the return of the jihadist insurgency. In this video our Senior Analyst for Syria Noah Bonsey echoes the concerns shared with him by local authorities and people on the street.

Syria's War Post-ISIS: A Race for Resources

Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for Syria Noah Bonsey talks about the race for resources taking place along the Euphrates river as different sides of Syria's conflict continue to capture territory from ISIS.

Syria’s Fractured Future

Despite recent successes in Syria for the regime, Iran, Russia and Syria’s Kurds, deeper polarisation than ever points to a future in which the country remains chronically divided.

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Noah Bonsey

Senior Analyst, Syria