Major Players in Syria Civil War


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The Syrian civil war, now in its fifth year, involves multiple countries with overlapping and at times conflicting agendas. Competing visions of how to manage the conflict, which has led to a major global refugee crisis as well as the rise of the Islamic State, dominated discussions at the United Nations General Assembly last month. But despite days of meetings and diplomatic maneuvering, the crisis only intensified. Here is where some of the main foreign actors stand.

United States
BACKS: More moderate elements among the rebel forces in Syria.
OPPOSES: The government of President Bashar al-Assad, as well as the Islamic State and other Islamic extremist groups.

HOW IT IS FIGHTING: The United States leads a coalition conducting airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State and other extremist groups. It has been carrying out a covert program to train and equip Syrian rebels and a separate Pentagon program to train the moderate Syrian opposition to fight the Islamic State. The Pentagon program has drawn few recruits.

Russia
BACKS: Mr. Assad, the leader of Syria, which has been Russia’s only persistent ally in the Middle East for decades.
OPPOSES: Russia says it opposes the Islamic State, but most of its airstrikes have instead targeted rebels trying to topple Mr. Assad, Russia’s ally. Many of Russia’s early attacks have struck at an Islamist coalition called Army of Conquest, which opposes the Islamic State and had been making gains against Mr. Assad in recent months. The group includes Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate as well as more moderate rebel factions that have received covert arms support from the United States.
HOW IT IS FIGHTING: Russia has coordinated with Syria to begin acoordinated assault by land, air and sea on insurgents opposed to the Assad government. Russia said it fired 26 cruise missiles at Syrian targets from naval vessels in the Caspian Sea on Wednesday. Russia has long supplied arms to Syria, and Russian pilots carried out their first airstrikesin the country in late September. Before the airstrikes began, Russia had been deploying military equipment — including 32 warplanes — and soldiers to a Syrian airfield near Latakia for weeks, according to the United States, and Russian drones had been conducting reconnaissance flightsover areas controlled by opponents of Mr. Assad.

Turkey
BACKS: The United States-backed coalition and, tacitly, rebel forces in Syria.
OPPOSES: Principally the Assad government and Kurdish groups allied with the P.K.K., an insurgent group active in Turkey; nominally, also the Islamic State.
HOW IT IS FIGHTING: Turkey began a campaign of airstrikes and military incursions in July, mainly in northern Iraq against the P.K.K. It has also allowed the American-led coalition to use Turkish air bases. Since early in the conflict, Turkey has permitted fighters and supplies to flow across its territory to Syrian rebel groups and allowed some rebels to take refuge on its soil.

Iran
BACKS: Mr. Assad and the Syrian government.
OPPOSES: Sunni insurgents, the Islamic State and other Sunni extremists.
HOW IT IS FIGHTING: Iran is Syria’s staunchest ally, and has been providing military support, weapons, supplies and financial aid since the start of the civil war in 2011. In 2012, Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese proxy, joined the fight on the government side. The next year, Iran sent hundreds of military advisers to assist Mr. Assad’s army, and Hezbollah committed to an all-out battle to defeat the rebels. But recent seizures of territory by Sunni insurgents and the Islamic State have weakened the Syrian Army, and there are signs that Iran is conserving its resources to defend government strongholds, including the capital, Damascus, and areas along the Lebanese border and the Mediterranean coast.

Saudi Arabia
BACKS: A number of rebel groups fighting the Syrian government.
OPPOSES: Mr. Assad and the Syrian government.
HOW IT IS FIGHTING: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, reiterated in New York on Tuesday that there were no circumstances in which his country would accept a Russian effort to keep Mr. Assad in power. Mr. Jubeir warned that if a deal to remove the Syrian leader was not reached, the shipment of weapons and other support to Syrian rebels would be increased — and a military option to remove him remained on the table. In addition to funding and arming rebels on the ground, Saudi Arabia began conducting airstrikes with the United States-led coalition against the Islamic State in Syria a year ago.

Qatar
BACKS: A number of rebel groups fighting the Syrian government.
OPPOSES: Mr. Assad and the Syrian government.
HOW IT IS FIGHTING: Qatar and other Persian Gulf countries havebankrolled rebels fighting Mr. Assad. Qatar has also supplied the rebels fighting the Assad government with weapons and training. In 2013, it provided the rebels with heat-seeking shoulder-fired missiles, ignoring American officials’ warning that the missiles could one day be used by terrorist groups. Qatar is also home to the military coalition’s major air headquarters, at Al Udeid Air Base, from which the American-led air campaign against the Islamic State is being run.

Britain
BACKS: More moderate elements among the rebel forces in Syria.
OPPOSES: The Assad government, the Islamic State and other Islamic extremist groups.
HOW IT IS FIGHTING: Because of strong opposition in Parliament to military intervention in Syria, Britain has so far focused mainly on coalition airstrikes in Iraq. However, it recently conducted a drone strike in Syria that killed two British citizens it said had joined the Islamic State.

France
BACKS: More moderate elements among the rebel forces in Syria.
OPPOSES: The Assad government, the Islamic State and other Islamic extremist groups.
HOW IT IS FIGHTING: Facing a refugee crisis and stepped-up jihadist recruiting in Europe, France recently expanded its participation in coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State and other extremist groups to targets in Syria as well as Iraq. But it has ruled out any ground intervention.



Categories: Civil War, Syria

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