Wednesday, 2 December 2015

1
A Civil War
 
2
A War Against ISIS
The two conflicts have cast the United States and Russia as enemies in one war and nominal allies in the other.

Civil War

Syrian government
Rebel groups
MAIN ADVERSARIES
SECONDARY
Russia, Iran, Hezbollah
and local militias
U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia
and some Arab nations
Islamic State
Foreign
fighters
Rebel groups supported by the United States are focused on toppling the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, not rooting out the Islamic State.
The United States is focused on defeating the Islamic State. While it has attacked 2,600 Islamic State targets, it has not directly attacked the Syrian government and it is backing rebel groups only with money, arms and some training.
Russia, Iran and the Lebanese group Hezbollah want to keep Mr. Assad in power, for now. Russia, in coordination with Syrian ground forces, has aimed the vast majority of its airstrikes at rebel positions.
The Islamic State, meanwhile, wants to both unseat Mr. Assad and create a caliphate stretching beyond Syria’s borders into Iraq and other countries.

Syria’s territory has been fragmented after four years of war.
The government now controls only a fraction of the country.

Rebel groups made major
gains in this area this year.
TURKEY
Hasaka
KURDISH CONTROL
Aleppo
ISIS
CONTROL
Raqqa
Idlib
IRAQ
REBEL
CONTROL
Latakia
Deir al-Zour
SYRIA
GOVERNMENT
CONTROL
Homs
Palmyra
Mediterranean
Sea
LEBANON
The government lost
Palmyra to ISIS in May.
Control as of Oct. 9
Government
Rebel
ISIS
Kurds
Damascus
Sparsely
populated areas
ISRAEL
JORDAN
50 MILES
Source: IHS Conflict Monitor
Russian airstrikes,
Sept. 30-Oct. 12
Aleppo
Raqqa
SYRIA
Government
areas
Damascus
Russian ground positions
Russia has bases and advisers in several government-controlled locations. It has mainly targeted rebels in areas where the government had been losing ground.
 
Aleppo
Raqqa
SYRIA
U.S.-made missiles spotted,
Oct. 7-12
Rebel
areas
Damascus
Rebels in areas targeted by Russian airstrikes have used antitank missiles made in the United States.
 
Aleppo
Raqqa
SYRIA
Government areas
Hezbollah presence
in 2015
Damascus
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corpsand Hezbollah have been advising and shoring up pro-Assad forces since 2012.
 
Aleppo
Raqqa
SYRIA
Front lines of the four
largest rebel groups
Rebel
areas
Damascus
Most rebel groups supported by theUnited StatesSaudi ArabiaQatarand Turkey are in western Syria.
Sources: IHS Conflict Monitor (control areas and Hezbollah incidents); Institute for the Study of War (Russian ground positions); Carter Center (rebel front lines)

War Against ISIS

Islamic State
United States
Kurds
MAIN ADVERSARIES
SECONDARY
Rebel fighters, Turkey, some
Arab nations and other allies.
Foreign
fighters
Syrian government, Russia, Iran
and Hezbollah
The United States has been joined by Turkey and several Arab nations in its fight against the Islamic State. They all believe ISIS poses a threat to them in their own countries.
“Most people are realizing now that the best way of dealing with the Islamic State is to contain them,” said Columb Strack, an analyst at IHS Janes, a defense research firm. “If you contain them and start hitting their economic sources, the idea is that in a few years they will collapse from within. That seems what the Americans are going for.”
But because the war against the Islamic State is just one among many, cutting off the group’s resources has been difficult. Porous Turkish borders and private Arab dollars have helped the Islamic State’s rise.
For Syria’s allies, especially Russia, the Islamic State is just one of many insurgent groups that they have called terrorists. While some Russian airstrikes have hit areas controlled by the Islamic State, most have targeted rebels groups.

Kurdish ground forces have been America’s main
partner in the war against ISIS in Syria. But the
partnership poses delicate problems for the United States.

Kurdish fighters
Islamic State
MAIN ADVERSARIES
ALLIES
TENSE RELATIONS
United
States
Rebel
fighters
CONCERN
ALLIES
Turkey
Syrian
government
Nearly 30 million Kurds live in territories divided across Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, and they want more autonomy in those countries, or even a state of their own. The conflict in Syria has given them an opening toward achieving those goals.
American airstrikes against the Islamic State, coordinated with Kurdish fighters, have helped the Kurds seize a broad stretch of territory along the Turkish border. Those gains have increased tensions with Turkey, a major American ally, which has been fighting a bitter war with Kurdish separatists for decades.

Kobani has been the focal point of the U.S.-Kurdish
battle with ISIS. American airstrikes have hit more than
1,000 targets there, almost half of all their strikes in
Syria, helping the Kurds push back ISIS in the north.

U.S. airstrike locations
Kurdish territorial
gains since January
Kobani
Hasaka
Aleppo
Raqqa
Latakia
Deir al-Zour
SYRIA
Homs
Palmyra
ISIS
areas
Damascus
Sources: IHS Conflict Monitor (control areas); U.S. Central Command (airstrikes)

In Overlapping Wars, the Danger of a Collision

As their offensives cross paths, all of these run the risk of their battles colliding. Experts say a misguided attack or an errant airstrike could escalate Syria’s two wars and lead to an even wider international conflict.
conflict-Artboard_1.png
United States vs. Russia
Russian airstrikes have hit rebel groups supported by the United States and its allies. Russian cruise missiles have crossed areas where American jets have been flying.
conflict-Artboard_2.png
Turkey vs. Kurds
Turkey has attempted to hinder Kurdish advances in Syria and is bombing Kurdish rebels in its own territory, despite saying that Turkey shares the American and Kurdish goal of defeating ISIS.
conflict-Artboard_3.png
Iran vs. Saudi Arabia
Iran and Hezbollah, Shiite allies of the Syrian government, are fighting rebel groups supported by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab nations.

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