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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

After ceasefire agreed late Dec, violence declined in NW but regime continued offensives against rebels outside Damascus as jihadist and non-jihadist rebel factions continued to clash. Russia and Turkey organised talks in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana 23-24 Jan; regime and non-jihadist opposition groups, with notable exception of Ahrar al-Sham, attended; Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed to form trilateral commission to monitor and enforce ceasefire, details and prospects for accomplishing that remain unclear; neither regime nor any opposition group endorsed agreement. Regime forces 29 Jan said they had recaptured Wadi Barada valley near Damascus including source of most of city’s water. U.S. bombed training camp of al-Qaeda-linked Fath al-Sham in Idlib province 19 Jan killing over 100 alleged militants. Fath al-Sham Salafi-jihadist group, previously called Nusra Front, and Ahrar al-Sham rebels clashed in Idlib province in NW 18-20 Jan. Fath al-Sham attacked non-jihadist rebel faction Jaish al-Mujahideen west of Aleppo 23-24 Jan; following attack six rebel factions joined Ahrar al-Sham. Fath al-Sham and four other jihadist factions 28 Jan formed new alliance Tahrir al-Sham. Islamic State (IS) 16 Jan broke through regime lines in eastern city Deir al-Zour after months of stalemate, surrounding military airport; Russian planes 30 Jan conducted airstrikes on IS positions in Deir al-Zour area. Rebels, backed by Turkish forces, continued efforts to push IS out of al-Bab, north of Aleppo. Turkey and Russia conducted joint airstrikes on IS positions near al-Bab mid-late Jan. Russian aircraft carrier deployed off Syrian coast in Oct began journey home mid-Jan; over 30 Russian fighter jets and helicopter gunships reportedly remained in Syria. U.S. 29 Jan said Saudi Arabia’s King Salman at President Trump’s request agreed to support safe zones for displaced people in Syria; regime 30 Jan said establishing safe zones without its consent would be “unsafe”; Trump’s commitment to safe zone remains unclear.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

16 Feb 2017
I think it's fair to assume that Turkish reluctance to get further involved in the Aleppo fight was linked to its understanding with Russia regarding [Operation] Euphrates Shield. Al Jazeera

Noah Bonsey

Senior Analyst, Syria
9 Feb 2017
Have the [Syrian] rebels failed tremendously? Absolutely. Have the supporting states been just as factious as the rebels? Absolutely. Financial Times

Noah Bonsey

Senior Analyst, Syria
1 Feb 2017
The Russian government understands very well the condition of the Syrian army and their capacity to really govern in [the Sunni areas]. They need to maintain what they have already gained. The Wall Street Journal

Ekaterina Sokirianskaia

Project Director, Russia & North Caucasus
29 Jan 2017
The U.S. alliance with the YPG [People’s Protection Units] in Syria is purely tactical. It’s using the YPG as if it’s a security contractor. The Arc Mag

Joost Hiltermann

Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
23 Jan 2017
We’re in uncharted territory [with Moscow-led Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan]. We’re here in Russia’s back yard, and the ball is in their court. The Washington Post

Noah Bonsey

Senior Analyst, Syria
19 Jan 2017
Russia doesn't appear to share Iran's key priorities in Syria. Not only does Assad appear more dispensable to Russia, but Russian officials also appear more comfortable with the concept of federalism. AFP

Ali Vaez

Senior Analyst, Iran

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Noah Bonsey

Senior Analyst, Syria