Syrian civil war

ongoing multi-sided civil war in Syria since 2011

The Syrian civil war (Arabic: ٱلْحَرْبُ ٱلْأَهْلِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-ḥarb al-ʾahlīyah al-sūrīyah) is an ongoing multi-sided conflict in Syria involving various state-sponsored and non-state actors. In March 2011, popular discontent with the rule of Bashar al-Assad triggered large-scale protests and pro-democracy rallies across Syria, as part of the wider Arab Spring protests in the region. After months of crackdown by governments security apparatus, various armed rebel groups such as the Free Syrian Army began forming across the country, marking the beginning of the Syrian insurgency. By mid-2012, the crisis had escalated into a full-blown civil war.

By 2013, rebels had captured large parts of the country, including the provincial capitals of Raqqa and Idlib. The rebels were indirectly supported by the United States, Turkey, NATO, Qatar, Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. The Syrian government was supported by Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia. In 2014, the Islamic State captured large parts of eastern Syria and western Iraq, leading to a United States-led international intervention against the Islamic State. The coalition also provided ground support to the Kurdish-majority Syrian Democratic Forces. Russia directly intervened in 2015, and Turkey intervened in 2016. The Islamic State lost most of its territory by 2017, and the Syrian government recaptured most rebel strongholds by the end of 2018 with the support of Hezbollah, the Russian Armed Forces, and the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran. A 2020 ceasefire ended major large-scale combat, but small-scale skirmishes still continue.



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  • I moved many times in Syria starting from March 2011 until December 2012 when I left. The last six months were very difficult to live under the bombs all the time. At that time, we would hear three sounds. The first was the sound of the shell when it was launched. The second was the sound of the shell above us in the sky. The third sound was the sound the of the explosion on the ground, or in a building. I was drawing all the time, but when I heard that first sound, I would lift my pencil and wait, thinking: ‘maybe this is my last drawing’. If I heard the third sound, that meant I was still alive. I’m lucky because I always heard all three sounds, but many thousands of Syrian people around me never heard the third sound.
  • I am dreaming every day about going back to Syria … but I will never return before that criminal regime is toppled.
  • We are not against cooperation of any country, we will never be, we didn't started this conflict for the others. (but) they started, they supported the terrorists, they give them the umbrella. It's not about isolating Syria now, it's about embargo on the Syrian population, on the Syrian citizens. It's different from isolation, it's completely different...
  • The most important thing: if you take these photos to any court in your country, could they convict any criminal regarding this? Could they tell you what this crime is, who committed it? If you don’t have this full picture, you cannot make judgement, it’s just propaganda, it’s just fake news, they want to demonize the Syrian government. In every war, you can have any individual crime, it happened here, all over the world, anywhere, but it’s not a policy[.....]That’s an important example about the armament, it’s not about what bomb do you use, whether you call it barrel or any other name; it’s not about that. It’s about the way you use and your intentions. That’s why the state of the art drones with their missiles, the American ones, killed much more civilians than terrorists. So, it’s not about the drone, it’s not about the armaments; it’s about your intentions. In our case in Syria, of course we have to avoid the civilians, not only because they are our people and this is a moral issue; it’s actually because it’s going to play into the hands of the terrorists. If we kill the civilians intentionally, it means we are helping the terrorists. So, why would we do it, why we are defending the civilians and killing the civilians? It doesn’t work; this is contradiction. If we are killing the civilians, who are we defending in Syria? Against who and for who?
  • The sanctions on the Syrian people that made the situation much worse and this is another reason for the refugees that you have in Europe now. How do you don't want refugees at the same time you created all the situation or the atmosphere that will tell them: 'Go outside Syria, somewhere else'  ? and of course they'll go to Europe...
  • The governments of certain countries have denied us our right, under international law, and our national duty to combat terrorism and protect our people on our land and within our own borders. At the same time, these governments formed an illegitimate international coalition, led by the United States, on the pretext of combating terrorism in Syria. The so-called international coalition has done everything but fight terrorism. It has even become clear that the coalition's goals were in perfect alignment with those of terrorist groups; sowing chaos, death and destruction in their path. The coalition destroyed the Syrian city of Raqqa completely; it destroyed infrastructure and public services in the areas it targeted; it committed massacres against civilians, including children and women, which amount to war crimes under international law. The coalition has also provided direct military support to terrorists, on multiple occasions, as they fought against the Syrian army. It should have been more aptly named 'The Coalition to Support Terrorists and War Crimes'.
  • That was how his country was branded by the dictator: Souriyya al-Assad, the Syria of Assad, as though it were private property. Drilled into children’s heads at school, written on the walls and on banners hanging from bridges, the phrase made clear there was no escaping the Assads, father and son. Then came 2011 and the Arab uprisings. Timid yearnings for freedom became a flood of people on the streets of Syria demanding the fall of the dictator. Millions took to the street. Yassin glimpsed the contours of a more hopeful future. So how could it be that when he returned to his hometown of Raqqa, in the summer of 2013, he found himself at the epicenter of a conflict not his own, looking over the ruins of his life, having been robbed of his soul, his love, his family. Yassin and millions of Syrians were rebelling against tyranny, but their country found itself caught between the spiritual heirs of Ibn Abdelwahhab and the upholders of Khomeini’s legacy; between the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
    • Kim Ghattas, Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East (2020)
  • Throughout 2011 and 2012, Assad steadily lost his grip on large parts of the country. In Washington and European capitals, presidents and prime ministers believed his days were numbered. But they had underestimated the dictator with no conscience. He was the true heir of his father. He would make no concessions; his approach was “Assad, or we burn the country.” And he would do just that. The Syrian uprising and the subsequent brutal war have been characterized from many perspectives. Most cite big geopolitical events for saving Assad, like President Obama’s reluctance to intervene as he had done in Libya, or his backing down from a promise to punish Assad for using chemical weapons against his people in 2013. But the longer the outside world allowed Assad to kill, torture, and imprison with impunity, the more the revolution fractured. The Syrian battle for freedom was in a race against the inexorable radicalization and militarization of any revolution that drags on too long. As rage and despair built up, the revolutionaries picked up arms, rebel factions formed and splintered. The revolution was also in a race against those who saw an opportunity in the chaos—two very different groups of men in black, bearing different flags, enemies in fact, had been scouting the terrain. They weren’t even Syrians.
    • Kim Ghattas, Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East (2020)
  • Within a year of the uprising, Saudi Arabia had begun exploring how to arm the opposition: the Saudis wanted Assad gone so they could contain Iran’s ambitions in Syria. In private, Saudi officials began to describe Assad as an occupier, a man with no legitimacy who was oppressing the majority with help from outside forces. Few who watched the Syrian revolution rise and unfold thought back to 1979, but the echoes would be obvious in hindsight—except everything was worse, as though all the players picked up where they had left off after the jihad in Afghanistan, or the Iran-Iraq War, or the 2003 Iraq War. The son of Sa’id Hawwa, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood ideologue, was involved; Surur, author of the Magi book, was playing a key role rallying the Islamists; even the son of Arif Hussaini, the assassinated Pakistani allama, would show up in Damascus to meet Shia fighters.
    • Kim Ghattas, Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East (2020)
  • With appetites sharpened, everyone returned to the battle with renewed vengeance. There would be rivers of blood, millions displaced, millions of refugees. The war in Syria would break the Middle East. It would break the world. But first, it would destroy the lives of men like Yassin. In the fluid chaos of the revolution, he couldn’t know all the details about the forces lurking in the background. He focused on the possibilities, on the Syrianness of the revolution and the goodness in Syrians’ hearts; on the belief in the righteousness of their cause and their call for basic freedoms. He had always believed that the country’s Islamists had to be included in a future, democratic country. Their exclusion for decades under Assad had solved nothing—in fact, the exclusion of Islamists was a blanket exclusion of all diverse forces, from left to right. He knew it wouldn’t be easy to forge a common vision with Islamist parties, but he believed it possible. For two years, he had lived in hiding in Damascus, moving from neighborhood to neighborhood to escape capture. Hundreds of activists were being rounded up and thrown in jails, only to disappear. Evidence of torture and mass exterminations would emerge.
    • Kim Ghattas, Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East (2020)
  • When progressives remain silent and don’t talk about why the war in Syria is illegal, then into the void step in neocons like Lindsey Graham. Any wonder that our nation remains mired in endless war. Let’s have the guts to stand for responsible withdrawal.
  • Here’s something that the mainstream media has left out when talking about Trump’s plan to withdraw troops from Syria: Congress never authorized sending troops to Syria. In fact, the UN also never approved. Our troops in Syria are in violation of domestic and international law.
  • It's enough killing our children, killing civilians. They pretend to fight terrorism. In fact they don't fight terrorism because they bring terrorism there and Isis is spreading in many areas in Syria more than before because of these Russian strikes
  • I think that the only way that we deal with Syria is to join hands with Russia to diplomatically bring that at an end. But when we’ve aligned ourselves with — when we’ve supported the opposition of the Free Syrian Army — the Free Syrian Army is also coupled with the Islamists. And then the fact that we’re also supporting the Kurds and this is — it’s just — it’s just a mess. And that this is the result of regime change that we end up supporting. And, inevitably, these regime changes have led a less-safe world. ... That has to be the solution, is joining hands with Russia to bring — to bring this civil war to an end.
  • Nearly three years ago, as US-led coalition forces trapped a remnant of the Islamic State (IS) in a small enclave near the Syrian town of Baghuz, the US military committed a horrific atrocity. As Air Force officers watched the scene via drone cameras in real time, US warplanes murdered at least 80 unarmed women and children with 500- and 2,000-pound bombs. The officers who saw the attack urged that a war crimes investigation begin immediately.... The revelations of the act of mass murder in Syria come from Air Force officers at Al-Udeid airbase in Qatar, who were monitoring a high-resolution surveillance drone flying over Baghuz. That day, the (New York) Times writes, the “US military drone circled high overhead, hunting for military targets. But it saw only a large crowd of women and children huddled against a river bank... “We just dropped on 50 women and children,” said one officer monitoring the drone, though the US Central Command told the Times that 80 were killed, and the Times wrote that Air Force officers later saw a “shockingly high” death toll in another classified report.
  • A military lawyer, Lt. Colonel Dean Korsak, ordered drone operators and fighter aircrews to conserve footage of the atrocity for investigations. He then “reported the strike to his chain of command, saying it was a possible violation of the law of armed conflict—a war crime—and regulations required a thorough, independent investigation,” the Times reports. Korsak’s concerns were bolstered by reports from CIA officials “alarmed” about Task Force 9’s operations in Syria. What they encountered, however, was a cover-up orchestrated at top levels of the state, under both the Republican Trump and the Democratic Biden administrations. Coalition forces in Baghuz oversaw the hiding of the bodies. “Satellite images from four days later show the sheltered bank and area around it, which were in the control of the coalition, appeared to have been bulldozed,” the Times writes. It cites a former US Army Special Forces soldier, David Eubank, who arrived a week after the attack: “The place had been pulverized by airstrikes … There was a lot of freshly bulldozed earth and the stink of bodies underneath, a lot of bodies.”
  • I don’t really think there is any kind of a reasonable argument against intervention in Syria. Quite the opposite: There is a moral and a human imperative to act that is larger than any nation’s interests and larger than any strategic calculation. That is so obvious it is an embarrassment to have to say it. This is how I thought about intervention in Iraq 20 years ago and it is how I think about what needs to be done in Syria today.
    • Kanan Makiya, "Intervention In Syria is a Moral and Human Imperative", New Republican (February 24, 2012)
  • As we meet here today, men and women and children are being tortured, detained and murdered by the Syrian regime. Thousands have been killed, many during the holy time of Ramadan. Thousands more have poured across Syria’s borders. The Syrian people have shown dignity and courage in their pursuit of justice -- protesting peacefully, standing silently in the streets, dying for the same values that this institution is supposed to stand for. And the question for us is clear: Will we stand with the Syrian people, or with their oppressors?
  • The attack on Iraq, the attack on Libya, the attack on Syria happened because the leader in each of these countries was not a puppet of the West. The human rights record of a Saddam or a Gaddafi was irrelevant. They did not obey orders and surrender control of their country.... As WikLeaks has revealed, it was only when the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in 2009 rejected an oil pipeline, running through his country from Qatar to Europe, that he was attacked.... From that moment, the CIA planned to destroy the government of Syria with jihadist fanatics – the same fanatics currently holding the people of Mosul and eastern Aleppo hostage. Why is this not news? The former British Foreign Office official Carne Ross, who was responsible for operating sanctions against Iraq, told me: “We would feed journalists factoids of sanitised intelligence, or we would freeze them out. That is how it worked.”
  • In the last days of the battle against the Islamic State in Syria, when members of the once-fierce caliphate were cornered in a dirt field next to a town called Baghuz, a U.S. military drone circled high overhead, hunting for military targets. But it saw only a large crowd of women and children huddled against a river bank. Without warning, an American F-15E attack jet streaked across the drone’s high-definition field of vision and dropped a 500-pound bomb on the crowd, swallowing it in a shuddering blast. As the smoke cleared, a few people stumbled away in search of cover. Then a jet tracking them dropped one 2,000-pound bomb, then another, killing most of the survivors.... a legal officer flagged the strike as a possible war crime that required an investigation. But at nearly every step, the military made moves that concealed the catastrophic strike. The death toll was downplayed...Reports were delayed, sanitized and classified. The Defense Department’s independent inspector general began an inquiry, but the report containing its findings was stalled and stripped of any mention of the strike. United States-led coalition forces bulldozed the blast site... American-led coalition forces bulldozed the blast site. Civilian observers who came to the area of the strike the next day described finding piles of dead women and children.
  • The inhabitants are gradually coming back to Syrian cities and peaceful life is returning ... in this context, the implementation of humanitarian operations will be a new line of work for the Russian armed forces in Syria,
  • The US foreign policy establishment had rhetorically justified America’s presence in Syria as part of the war on the Islamic State (ISIS). With ISIS essentially defeated and dispersed, Trump called the establishment’s bluff. Yet suddenly, the establishment declared the actual reasons for the extended US presence. Trump’s move, it was charged, would hand geopolitical advantages to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and Iran’s Ali Khamenei, while imperiling Israel, betraying the Kurds, and causing other ills that are essentially unrelated to ISIS.
  • This shift had the benefit of unmasking America’s real purposes in the Middle East, which are not so obscure, after all, except for the fact that mainstream pundits, US establishment strategists, and members of Congress tend not to mention them in polite company. The United States has not been in Syria (or Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, Libya, and elsewhere in the region) because of ISIS. In fact, ISIS was more a consequence than a cause of the US presence. The real purposes have been US regional hegemony; and the real consequences have been disastrous.
  • The truth about the US presence in Syria has rarely been told. But one can be sure that the US has had no scruples about democracy in Syria or elsewhere in the region, as its warm embrace of Saudi Arabia amply demonstrates. The US decided to promote an insurgency to overthrow Bashar al-Assad in 2011 not because the US and allies like Saudi Arabia longed for Syrian democracy, but because they decided that Assad was a hindrance to US regional interests. Assad’s sins were clear: he allied with Russia, and he received support from Iran.
  • The foreign policy establishment opposes the US exit from Syria on the grounds that it would empower Iran and Russia, Syria’s allies... The [U.S.] security state typically tries to maintain military bases in those places where the United States has once intervened... This naive approach to foreign policy — overthrow the governments we don’t like and replace them with ones we do like — is the crux of the US foreign policy problem. As a result of this approach, the United States has been enmeshed in nonstop wars of regime change in the Middle East and North Africa, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya...
  • Since a direct US-led war on Syria would have been a violation of international law, Obama unleashed the CIA to operate covertly with Saudi Arabia and other countries. The CIA and Saudi Arabia teamed back anti-Assad Syrian forces and jihadists from outside Syria. There was, of course, no vote by Congress, no honest leveling with the American people, and no UN vote. After six years of war, destruction, and failure in Syria, it’s time for... ending US support for anti-Assad forces. Yet the security state remains fixated on the presence of Iran and Russia in Syria. End the war, and let diplomacy under a UN framework sort out the aftermath of a US-led war that never should have occurred.
  • The invasion of Iraq has resulted in the almost complete annihilation of that country’s Christian community, and the attempt to remove Bashar Assad from power in Syria has seen that country’s Christians mercilessly attacked by the agents of US power, radical Islamists. To be a Christian in the Middle East is to be in constant fear that the USA will set its sights on your country because wherever it arrives, Mujahideen are never that far away.
  • Syria isn’t so much a country as it is an exhibit for Dictatorship Inc., the main purpose of which is to show that resistance really is futile. That’s why Russia doesn’t shrink from bombing civilian hospitals, or Hezbollah from starving entire cities into submission, or Assad from using chemical weapons. They are showing their respective publics the lengths to which they are prepared to go to maintain their own grip on power.
  • The decision to overthrow the regime in Libya, then pushing for the overthrow of the regime in Syria, among other things, without plans for the day after, have created space for ISIS to expand and grow like nobody has ever seen before. These actions, along with our disastrous Iran deal, have also reduced our ability to work in partnership with our Muslim allies in the region. That is why our new goal must be to defeat Islamic terrorism not nation building. No more nation building. It's never going to work.
  • Veterans for Peace is pleased to hear that President Trump has ordered a total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, where they had no legal right to be in the first place. Whatever the reasoning, withdrawing U.S. troops is the right thing to do. It is incorrect to characterize the U.S. military intervention in Syria as “fighting terrorism,” as much of the media is doing... Veterans For Peace knows that the U.S. is a nation addicted to war. At this time of uncertainty, it is critically important that we, as veterans, continue to be clear and concise that our nation must turn from war to diplomacy and peace. It is high time to unwind all these tragic, failed and unnecessary wars of aggression, domination and plunder. It is time to turn a page in history and to build a new world based on human rights, equality and mutual respect for all. We must build momentum toward real and lasting peace. Nothing less than the survival of human civilization is at stake.
  • Since 1961, Syria has been ruled by the Ba'ath Party, the same party that ruled Iraq until the fall of Saddam Hussein. Bashar al-Assad inherited the leadership of Syria from his father Hafiz al-Assad, in 2000. Bashar is the balancing point among the various Syrian power forces, including the military, the intelligence service, the nation's ruling party, and the government bureaucracy. Meanwhile, the people of Syria are not free to express their political opinions, much less choose their leaders.
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