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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. President Trump late March-early April plunged U.S. Syria policy into confusion, making clear he wants to seize territory still controlled by Islamic State (ISIS) and then withdraw in next several months; top military officials pushed back, highlighting risks of hasty withdrawal. Regime forces by mid-April had taken complete control of Eastern Ghouta, last significant rebel stronghold in greater Damascus; as talks over surrender deal stalled between govt and Jaish al-Islam, only rebel group still controlling part of Eastern Ghouta, regime 7 April allegedly conducted chemical weapons attack on rebel-held Douma, killing at least 42 people. In following hours, Jaish al-Islam accepted deal to evacuate thousands of fighters and civilians to Turkish-dominated territory north of Aleppo and release captives. U.S. and allies accused regime of conducting chemical attack, regime and Russia denied, with contradictory explanations. U.S., UK and France 14 April launched coordinated missile and airstrikes on three sites in Syria allegedly associated with regime’s chemical weapons program, informing Russia beforehand. Israel 9 April attacked air base in centre, which it had identified as command-and-control site for Iranian drone that entered Israeli airspace in Feb, killing seven Iranians; Iran promised retaliation. Strikes on army bases in north 29-30 April, described by Syrian opposition as Israeli and by pro-Syrian govt website as Western, reportedly killed 38 Syrian soldiers in Hama and eighteen Iranian fighters. In north, Turkey established two more observation posts 3 and 7 April along front line between rebel-held Idlib province and regime-controlled territory, bringing total to nine and consolidating Russian-Turkish efforts to pacify north west. Infighting continued between rebel alliances Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and Jabhat Tahrir al-Sham (JTS): parties 7 April agreed on ceasefire for mediation, which failed and fighting resumed 15 April; HTS took several towns in southern Idlib province, but lost several in western Aleppo province. Regime forces late April bombed areas in south Damascus held by jihadists and other rebels, and prepared for expected offensive against besieged rebel enclave north of Homs.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

26 Apr 2018
Les Russes sont surtout en train de redéfinir les règles du face-à-face entre Israéliens et Iraniens en Syrie. Le Figaro

Ofer Zalzberg

Senior Analyst, Israel/Palestine
18 Apr 2018
La Russie exprime de plus en plus son insatisfaction au sujet du conflit entre l’Iran et Israël en Syrie. Les Russes suggèrent à l’Iran, s’ils veulent agir contre Israël, de le faire ailleurs qu’en Syrie. Le Monde

Ofer Zalzberg

Senior Analyst, Israel/Palestine
17 Apr 2018
The Syrian regime is gaining militarily. It has little interest in negotiating at the national level. So there isn't a pathway right now for a sustainable political solution in Syria. Voice of America

Noah Bonsey

Senior Analyst, Syria
16 Apr 2018
Even if [U.S.-led strikes in Syria are] a chemical weapons deterrent, that leaves a whole arsenal of conventional means with which people can be killed with few real repercussions. The New York Times

Sam Heller

Senior Analyst, Non-state Armed Groups
12 Apr 2018
Normalement, ces avertissements servent à minimiser les risques d’escalade, par exemple, si les forces russes sont frappées par inadvertance. Mais le tweet était une provocation. Il jette de l’huile sur le feu. Le Temps

Stephen Pomper

Program Director, United States
9 Apr 2018
Moscow decided to be judge and jury [following Monday's airstrike on Iranian assets in Syria] — to side with Assad and Hezbollah, which were saying it was an Israeli attack, rather than siding with Israel. The New York Times

Ofer Zalzberg

Senior Analyst, Israel/Palestine

Latest Updates

Trigger List: Crisis Group raises Syria threat level to critical

With the U.S. threatening a retaliatory response to apparent chemical attacks in Syria and escalating tensions between Israel and Iran, Crisis Group has raised the threat of confrontation to the highest possible level in its early-warning platform the Iran-U.S. Trigger List

Video: Israel, Hizbollah and Iran: Preventing Another War in Syria

Joost Hiltermann, Crisis Group's Program Director for the Middle East and North Africa talks about a new phase in Syria’s war that augurs escalation with Israel.

Integrating Syrian Refugees in Istanbul’s “District of Victimhood”

Sultangazi is home to a mix of religious and ethnic groups – as well as 50,000 Syrian refugees. The district received the refugees warmly. But resentment is rising, as public services suffer and opposition forces suspect the ruling party of using refugees to exacerbate social divisions.

Tackling the MENA Region’s Intersecting Conflicts

How can the dizzying changes, intersecting crises and multiplying conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa since the 2011 Arab uprisings be best understood, let alone responded to? This long-form commentary by MENA Program Director Joost Hiltermann and our team steps back for a better look and proposes new approaches.

Also available in العربية

Our People

Noah Bonsey

Senior Analyst, Syria

Sam Heller

Senior Analyst, Non-state Armed Groups