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Syria Revolution

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After three years of struggle, the civil war in Syria increasinlgy resembles the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s, the bloody struggle that provided a preview of the larger war the came in 1939. In Spain, Fascist forces were backed by Italy and Germany, pitted against leftist forces, some backed by the Soviet Union. The anti-fascist forces were divided into Stalinist, Trotskyite and Anarchist factions, which battled each other as well as the fascists. In Syria, Shia Iran is backing the Alawite [quasi co-religionist] Assad regime, while Sunni monarchies - Saudi Arabia and Qatar - backed some opposition militias. The situation is far more complex, but this framework is a good place to start.

Syrian rebel groups were fighting each other, with more than 1,000 people killed in the first two weeks of January 2014 in clashes among armed opposition groups. The infighting appeared to be benefiting the government in Damascus. It was the worst rebel-on-rebel violence since Syrias civil war began nearly three years earlier. Opposition fighters targeted the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/Levant [ISIS/ISIL], which had been terrorizing civilians. The battles among rebels appeared to be boosting the Syrian government. Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gained ground in the chaos of rebel-on-rebel fighting.

By mid-2014 the Government's military campaigns had been largely successful, whether in the Qalamoun region in shutting off the Lebanese back door to rebels, in retaking Homs, surrounding neighborhoods in Damascus and Aleppo. By mid-year, Assad was well on his way to retaking Aleppo, Syria's northern capital. But a large chunk of the country remained out his control, and that he was in virtual isolation. More than half of the Syria electorate did not even have the chance to vote in the June election.

A United Nations-backed report detailed the economic and societal devastation of the four-year war in Syria, where the violence of a multiparty civil conflict became further inflamed by a multinational battle against Islamic State militants. The report, released 10 March 2015y, said the war had cost the Syrian economy over $200 billion dollars and brought "drastic levels of inequality and inequity" to people across the country who struggle to find food. The result was a spike in unemployment, which shot from about 15 percent at the start of the war in 2011 to nearly 58 percent by the end of 2014. That left almost 4 million people out of work in a country where the population has also dropped from about 21 million to 17.5 million since the fighting began. The fighting killed 220,000 people, sent 3.8 million refugees into neighboring countries and forced another 6.8 million to flee their homes within Syria.

The Course of Combat

Syria may be heading toward a break-up that would see the formation of at least three new mini-states. One such mini-state would be an enclave for Syrian President Bashar al-Assads government in the west and northwest that would be populated by members of the Alawi sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam, Shiites and Christians. Another would be a Sunni-majority state in the center and south of the country and the third would be a separate entity in the northeast for Syrias two million Kurds.

In 2012 Syrias Orthodox Christian Church claimed that Islamist rebels were carrying out ethnic cleansing of Christians in Homs. The Vatican news agency, Fides, said most of the 50,000 Christians living in the city left when Islamists went door to door in the neighborhoods of Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan telling Christians they would be shot if they did not leave. Militants Islamists have sometimes used the slogan, the Alawites to the grave and the Christians to Beirut.

By mid-2013, as Syria continued its sectarian civil war, some argued that state-based nationalism was declining and something larger and older was taking over. The Syrian war seemed to mark the beginning of the end for the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which divided the Ottoman Empire after World War I and created the modern Middle East. Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese army general and now the director of a political think tank in Beirut, believes the likely outcome of the civil war is the breakup of Syria. He foresees Alawites, members of an offshoot sect of Shia Islam, and Christians cleaving together along Syrias coast, and Kurds and Sunni Muslims establishing separate states of their own.

Ben Caspit wrote February 11, 2014 that "... Israel Defense Forces top brass believe that the struggle in Syria could last as long as a decade. Wording this cautiously, a very high-ranking Israeli defense official told me: Were facing a decade of struggle in the Syrian environs. Either way, Israel believes that the Syria we had come to know over the past few decades is gone. ... a senior IDF official commented... the concentration of all the global jihad madmen in Damascus and the Golan Heights is also a disconcerting development. So as far as were concerned, the alternatives are bad either way. And theres also the possibility that these alternatives would coexist, which means that the current situation could last for many more years. Assad will keep his grip in Damascus and the Alawite strongholds, while jihadist forces will grow stronger and take control of all the other areas."

Syria's fractured rebel movement faced a series of setback in the the Spring of 2014, with regime forces capitalizing on infighting to claw back territory from opposition factions. With the Iranian-backed Assad regime making steady progress, western states are reportedly warming to the idea of upping the level of aid in order to force him to the negotiating table. The fall of the city of Homs - formerly the epicenter of the revolt against Assad - in early May, was one of the most serious blows yet to the rebel movement.

In the latest in a series of setbacks for rebel forces, Government troops ended a year-long siege of Aleppo's main prison on 22 May 2014. Syrian forces entered the complex in the key northern city, days after launching a push to dislodge opposition fighters. The rebels surrounding the site had repeatedly attacked the prison hoping to free the detainees being held inside by government forces. Assads forces and rebels have been fighting for two years in Aleppo, Syrias largest city before the start of the three-year civil war, and the countryside around it.

French Mandate - 1924 Possible Successor States Possible Successor States Areas of Control - January 2014

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