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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

Ceasefire between regime and some armed opposition groups in place since 30 Dec nominally remained in effect but violence continued in several areas in run-up to Geneva talks late month. Following clashes between non-jihadist and Salafi-jihadist rebel groups late Jan, Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), new alliance dominated by Salafi-jihadist Fath al-Sham, early Feb took territory and materiel from rival rebels west of Aleppo. Turkey-backed rebels and pro-regime forces (both advancing toward al-Bab, NE of Aleppo) clashed early Feb. After lull since start of ceasefire, regime early Feb resumed airstrikes in parts of Homs and Idlib provinces and efforts to gain ground in Eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus. Non-jihadist rebel umbrella group Ahrar al-Sham and allies mid-month launched raids in rural areas around Lattakia and Hama, and diverse rebel groups including Ahrar al-Sham, HTS and local factions 12 Feb launched offensive in Daraa city in south next to Jordan border. Islamic State (IS)-linked group 20 Feb expanded territory seizing several towns in south near borders with Israel and Jordan. Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and fellow members of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took territory around IS-held Raqqa in NE during month to cut IS supply lines in run-up to attack on city. Turkey-backed rebels 23 Feb took complete control of al-Bab in north from IS, 26 Feb clashed with govt forces south of al-Bab. UN-led talks between govt and opposition groups opened in Geneva 23 Feb, ongoing end-month. Gunmen and suicide bombers 25 Feb attacked two security services bases in Homs city killing at least 30, HTS claimed attacks; govt launched airstrikes on various rebel-held areas including al-Waer, last rebel enclave in Homs. Govt advances in north late month opened route between Aleppo and SDF-controlled Manbij. Russia and China 28 Feb vetoed UNSC resolution drafted by France, UK and U.S. to ban supply of helicopters to govt and blacklist Syrian military commanders over accusations of toxic gas attacks.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

16 Mar 2017
The [Syrian] regime refused to discuss a meaningful political transition even when it appeared to be losing ground militarily, so there is no prospect of it choosing to do so now that it has momentum. Al Jazeera

Noah Bonsey

Senior Analyst, Syria
11 Mar 2017
Turkey has always set the Euphrates as a red line [for Kurdish forces in Syria]. The problem is it will be a huge gamble to really do that with US, Russia and YPG, who are a proficient fighting force. AP

Noah Bonsey

Senior Analyst, Syria
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

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Noah Bonsey

Senior Analyst, Syria