The Syrian civil war has been raging on for six years. Adding yet another complication to the tangled web of alliances in the war-torn country, US President Donald Trump launched airstrikes on an airbase controlled by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
This was an immediate response to a lethal chemical gas attack by the Assad regime, that killed over 80 civilians. The move is significant as this is the first time the United States has directly attacked the Assad regime. So far, their focus has only been on fighting ISIS.
To understand the complex gamut of parties and alliances involved in keeping the strife in Syria on, it’s important to go back in time.
Here’s a video from Vox to help you understand.
The war, as it stands today, is divided between four factions – Assad, ISIS, Kurds and the rebels.
All four factions have foreign backings with USA, Jordan, the Gulf states and Turkey forming the faction against President Assad, and Iran and Russia forming key allies for Assad’s regime.
The conflict begins in March 2011, with Assad targeting peaceful Arab spring demonstrators. By July 2011, the protesters start retaliating, and the uprising transitions into a civil war.
A year later, regional powers enter the conflict with Iran having its officers on foot in Syria and sending daily cargo flights. The oil-rich Gulf states begin to back the rebels, via Turkey.
The war – with participants from regional powers – is mostly divided between Sunni powers generally supporting the rebels and Shias generally supporting Assad.
In August 2013, after the Assad regime uses chemical weapons against civilians, the Obama-led US threatens to bomb Assad. Though the US eventually backs down, the power dynamic in the middle-east is clear, with Russia backing Assad and US opposing him.
In 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is formed that changes everything.
America’s focus in the war shifts to defeating ISIS. The Pentagon starts its own programme to train rebels to fight against ISIS, but it fails.
In September 2015, Russia directly enters the conflict by saying it is there to bomb ISIS, but only ends up bombing anti-Assad rebels, including some of them who were supported by the US.
In 2016, Assad reclaims the Syrian city of Aleppo, ousting the rebels from one of their last remaining bastions.
That brings us to April 2017. Syria is in the shambles, the United States has – for the first time – directly launched an attack on Assad and the war drones on with no visible end in sight.