Civil war in Syria since 2011

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The civil war in Syria has been an ongoing armed conflict between different groups since March 15, 2011, which as time goes on is increasingly involving third countries, which are also pursuing their own interests. Syrian armed forces under the command of President Bashar al-Assad are facing opposition armed groups . The trigger for the conflict was a peaceful protest against Assad's authoritarian regime during the Arab Spring in early 2011. The Muslim Brotherhood began to exercise increasing influence, other radical Sunni groups and foreign interest groups. In addition to the influx of arms, there were also increasing numbers of foreign volunteers and mercenaries fighting in Syria . During this war , the opposition's desire to achieve the democratization of Syria gradually faded into the background, instead the struggle of various organizations on religious and ethnic grounds came to the fore.

The country was divided into areas ruled either by Assad's government , by opposition groups, by the Kurdish People's Defense Units , or by Islamists . The direct involvement of Assad’s allies – Iran with its Revolutionary Guards , the Lebanese Hezbollah militia and Russia with its military operation  – as well as the formation of an international alliance led by the United States against the Sunni terrorist group “ Islamic State ” (IS) made the fight a regional proxy war within Syria: Shiite Iran , among others, is fighting Sunni Saudi Arabia and Qatar , as well as Russia and the USA for supremacy in the region. Turkey also intervened significantly in the conflict with its military offensives in northern Syria at least since 2016 , particularly with regard to its own Kurds and to prevent Kurdish autonomous areas.

The United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura , estimated in April 2016 that 400,000 people had been killed since the war began; in April 2018, experts put the number at 500,000. The United Nations' 2016 figures were based in part on 2014 data. Other organizations had given up counting. Around 12.9 million Syrians were displaced in 2018, 6.2 million of them within Syria. 6.7 million people left Syria. In 2021, UNICEF estimated the number of dead at almost 500,000.

The UN described the refugee crisis triggered by the war as the worst since the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s. The involvement of several foreign powers makes ending the civil war more difficult.

As of February 13, 2021
  • Location dot red.svgControlled by Syrian Armed Forces or other pro-Assad forces
  • Dot yellow ff4.svgControlled by Kurdish forces or the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
  • Location dot black.svgControlled by the " Islamic State " (IS).
  • Contested Territory
  • Dot green 0d0.svgControlled by opposition forces or Turkish armed forces
  • Map-dot-grey-68a.svgControlled by Haiʾat Tahrir al-Sham
  • LACMTA Circle Purple Line.svgEqual control between government and opposition forces or ceasefire
  • Map-ctl2-red+yellow.svgjoint control of government and SDF
  • In the respective colors:
    Map-ctl2-lime+grey.svg Equal control
    4x4dot-red.svgTroops in the outskirts of towns or villages
    80x80-yellow-black-anim.giffought over
    Map-peak-black.svgStrategic high
    Gota01.svgground Oil or gas field
    Dim-grey-icon.pngMilitary base or checkpoint
    Fighter-jet-lime-icon.svgAirport or air force base
    Helicopter-black-icon.svgHeliport or heliport
    Anchor pictogram red.svgImportant port or naval base
    Mountain pass 12x12 n.svgBorder post
    Arch dam 12x12 w.svgDam
    Icon NuclearPowerPlant-yellow.svgIndustrial complex


    Since a military coup in 1963 , the nationalist " Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party " has ruled Syria in the form of a one-party rule . Hafiz al-Assad has ruled as president since the coup d'état known as the " corrective movement " in 1970 . Real opposition parties are not allowed. In 1970 the military wing of the Ba'ath Party seized power. After Hafiz' death in 2000, his son Bashar took over; he initiated a brief opening policy from 2000/2001, the Damascus Spring .

    socio-economic situation

    Between the 1960s and 1980s, Syria had one of the highest population growth rates among Middle Eastern and North African countries. The peak was reached in the 1970s with an average birth rate of 7.6 children per woman. In combination with a continuously falling mortality rate over the same period , this led to a population increase from 4.5 to 13.8 million people between 1960 and 1994. Growth has slowed since then. In 2010, around 22.5 million people lived in Syria.

    In the 1970s and 1980s, the Syrian state was able to support the Syrian economy to the extent that a high economic growth and sufficient jobs were generated. With the collapse of foreign support and the fall in oil prices in the 1980s, population growth significantly outpaced that of the now stagnant economy. The crisis was exacerbated by the Syrian government's high military budget; high unemployment and massive inflation were the consequences. One attempt to stop these developments was to halve the military budget from 1985 to 1995. In 1987, additional support for families with particularly large children was also stopped. The high foreign debt of the Soviet Union and its successor Russia and various Western industrial nations in combination with a renewed drop in oil prices in the mid-1990s dampened economic growth. The liberalization of the economy appeared necessary, with the aim of reducing state involvement and promoting the private sector in order to get as large a part of the employable population as possible into paid employment that would not be dependent on permanent subsidies from the tight state finances. Such reforms were recognized early on by the Syrian leadership and the goal of a stronger private sector was formulated in 1985 by the sole governing Ba'ath Party, but the government's cumbersome, highly centralized administrative system, in which almost every third Syrian had paid work, did , was busy, was unable to implement such initiatives.

    After the death of President Hafiz al-Assad in 2000, his son and successor initially tried to implement parts of these economic reforms; However, he did not permit any lasting democratic reforms in the one-party or administrative system, and the economic situation hardly changed. Increased private sector demand, generated primarily by refugees from Iraq and investment from the Gulf region, temporarily generated 4% economic growth in 2004-2007, but this development did not last. While the government put the unemployment rate at 10%, other estimates put much higher figures, ranging up to 50% for the under-30s before the civil war broke out.

    Harvest failures since 2007 exacerbated the crisis situation. Due to the rapid population growth, the demand for water increased. Many illegal wells were created, oversized and water-intensive agricultural projects did the rest to overexploit land and water reservoirs. In the years 2006-2010 there was also a pronounced drought - an event which according to various researchers has become much more likely due to global warming . The Syrian government did not adequately alleviate the plight of the people affected. The consequences were additional unemployment, price increases, food insecurity and mass exodus of up to 1.5 million people from rural areas. Between 2003 and 2007, Syria also took in around 1.2-1.5 million refugees from Iraq, so that in 2010 around 20% of the urban population were refugees.

    As early as 2011, Syria was confronted with a sharp increase in prices for everyday products and a significant deterioration in the standard of living.

    population groups

    The reasons why different factions formed in the civil war include the heterogeneity of the Syrian state and Syrian society, which provides potential for conflict at several points:

    The population of Syria is ethnically composed of Syrian Arabs , Kurds , Assyrians - Arameans , Turkmens , Armenians , Circassians and Palestinians . These are divided among various religious communities, of which the Sunnis are the most numerous with over 70% of the population. The country's religious minorities include the Shiites ( Alawites , Druze ), Yazidis and Christians .

    The Syrian state saw itself as a laicist and secular state with its program of the ruling Baath party, which was based on nationalism and European socialism , following Michel Aflaq and prohibited the open political influence of religious groups. Religiously motivated uprisings such as that of the Muslim Brotherhood , which wanted to use violence to ensure that the Sunni denomination should be legally anchored as the state religion, were put down with great severity as early as the 1980s. B. in the massacre of Hama .

    Smaller religious communities in Syria felt more supported by the separation of church and state because it prevented the radical elements from the ranks of the Sunnis from exercising political influence. The fear of oppression and persecution by religious fanatics therefore also led to expressions of support from the ranks of the minorities for the government in the civil war.

    In its report published on December 20, 2012, the UN Human Rights Commission responsible for Syria stated that the conflict is increasingly being conducted along ethno-religious lines. Sunni civilians were attacked by government forces, while Islamist insurgents attacked Alawites and other minorities supposedly pro-government, such as Catholic and Armenian Orthodox Christians and Druze. Minorities such as the Christians, Kurds and Turkmens have now formed their own militias to protect their areas from attacks.


    The mostly Shafi'i Sunnis made up the largest part of the population of Syria. They have been underrepresented in many areas of the state apparatus since the founding of the ruling Ba'ath Party. This had attracted many religious minorities who had hoped that this would improve their social position. After the government increasingly turned to Iran, Sunni religious groups, with support from Saudi Arabia , used their influence and stylized Shia influence as a threat to the Sunni faith. Impoverished Sunni rural refugees moved to slums around the big cities, where the thesis of the danger to the Sunni faith found particularly many supporters.

    According to Kristin Helberg , the Assad government wants to "punish" the Sunnis, who are often rural refugees in informal settlements and a hotbed of resistance. Decree number 10 of April 2018, according to which all property had to be registered and all unregistered property fell to the state, allows the state to make room – presumably for people loyal to the regime. Daniel Steinvorth wrote in the NZZ: "Anyone who is poor and Sunni is potentially standing in the way of the demographic reorganization of the country", relating this to a quote by Assad from the summer of 2017, in which he spoke "in a good mood" of a "healthier and more homogeneous Society in Syria spoke.

    The terrorist organization Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front are considered Sunni militias. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is considered a Sunni militia in that it is supported by part of Syria's Sunni population.


    Similar to Iraq, where Saddam Hussein occupied positions of power with representatives of his Tikrit clientele , there is a Qardaha clientele in Syria . Qardaha is a predominantly Alawite village in northern Syria, of the Matawira tribe, where Hafez al-Assad, the father of current Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was born. The Matawira tribe is one of four Alawite tribes. So far, the Syrian Baath government has secured its stability with the help of the Qardaha clientele . Historically, the Alawites (also called " Nusairians ") are a religious minority who have been repeatedly persecuted for their beliefs. Since the 19th century, their religious community has been assigned to the party of Ali (Shiat Ali) and thus generally to the Shiites. For the orthodox Sunnis, the majority denomination within Syria, the Alawites are considered heretics . In Syria, Alawites make up 12 to 13 percent of the population . Alawites participating in the uprisings against Assad's government are isolated within their community. As of 2016, at least 70,000 of the 2 million Syrian Alawites have died.


    Representatives of the Shiite minority in Syria, which includes some Twelver Shiites after the Alawites , who are considered Shiites , but mainly Mustali - and Nizari - Ismailis , mostly do not see the insurgents as "freedom fighters" but as "terrorists". In areas no longer controlled by the Syrian army, Shiites fear for their lives as "infidels". As a result, they tend to tolerate the government troops' brutal crackdown on insurgents and members of the opposition, and are therefore perceived as supporting Assad. The same contradiction is also dividing some of Syria's neighboring countries, which is why there are warnings of regional spillover if the conflict escalates. In addition to Iraq , Lebanon is usually mentioned here .


    Christianity in Syria has a long history that goes back to the conversion of Paul outside Damascus. Around 60% of Christians belong to the Syrian Orthodox Church . In November 2011, during a visit by Patriarch Cyril to Damascus, Patriarch Ignatius thanked the Russian Patriarch and all the citizens of Russia for their sympathy and support.

    In a March 2012 statement, the Syrian Orthodox Church denounced " ethnic cleansing against Christians" in the city of Homs by members of the Free Syrian Army 's Faruq Brigades . According to this account, militant armed Islamists had already expelled 90% of the Christians from Homs. The Faruq Brigades gave an interview to Der Spiegel in April 2012 in which they firmly denied the allegations. Their spokesman, Abdel-Razaq Tlas, nephew of former Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas , accused reports in Der Spiegel of “dragging our revolution in the mud”. In view of the fighting in the governorate of al-Hasakah , Syrian Christians warned of a massive wave of refugees from the Christian faith community if the province fell into the hands of Islamist rebels. Assyrian / Aramaic Christians then also founded their first own militias such as the Sutoro and the Assyrian Military Council , which are close to the Assyrian Union Party and fight with the Kurdish YPG on the front lines.


    Kurds form the largest non-Arab population group in Syria and, at around 1.7 million, make up almost 10% of its population. They mostly settle in the northeast of the country, along the almost 1000 km long Syrian-Turkish border and the Syrian-Iraqi border in the governorate of al-Hasakah and in the governorate of Aleppo . In 1965 the creation of an Arab Belt along the Syrian-Turkish border was announced by the Syrian government and implemented in 1973, with Bedouin Arabs being settled within the belt. In addition, 20 percent of Syrian Kurds in the 1962 census in al-Hasakah had their Syrian citizenship revoked because they immigrated to Syria illegally from Turkey. Kurds were largely excluded from participation in the body politic.

    In March 2011, the Syrian Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs announced that Kurds who do not have Syrian citizenship have the right to work with immediate effect. On the second weekend of April 2011, it was announced that those Kurds within Syria who do not have any citizenship should receive Syrian citizenship. However, this only applies to registered stateless persons (adschanib) . Unregistered stateless persons (maktumin) are not considered, and they continue to be denied Syrian citizenship.

    The most important Kurdish organizations are the Kurdish National Council , which consists of 15 parties, and the PYD . They have been working together in the High Kurdish Committee since July 2012 . The PYD and other Kurdish parties maintain armed units that are active in the regions inhabited by Kurds.

    The three predominantly Kurdish cantons of Afrin , Kobanê and Cizîrê proclaimed the de-facto autonomous federation of Northern Syria – Rojava in early 2016 .

    centers of protest

    "Down with Bashar". Anti-government graffiti from the early days of the uprising (2011)

    Anti-government protests initially involved groups from different sections of the population, but foreign support, participation and influence became increasingly important factors as the civil war progressed.

    In the north-east of the country, the protests were apparently initially concentrated in the areas inhabited by Kurds.

    Another focus of the protest movement was in the city of Darʿā , a poor region dominated by tribes and agriculture, which was economically devastated after years of drought . As in the Damascus Spring of 2001 , the participants demanded an end to corrupt economic policies and the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad 's Baath government . There it was mainly Sunni Arabs who took part in the protests. The al-Omari Mosque is mentioned as an important meeting place for the local opposition . As is not uncommon in some other states in the Arab world, an institution such as the al-Omari Mosque appears as a site of opposition. According to the Turkish Middle East expert Oytun Orhan from the Center for Strategic Middle East Studies (Orsam), this gives the demonstrations in Syria, and especially in Darʿā, a clearly more Islamic component. He points out that demonstrators have often uttered the slogan: "We want Muslims who believe in God". The Syrian interior ministry blamed radical Salafists for the protests in Homs and Banias .


    Course of the conflict from October 2011 to March 2019 as an animation

    More generally, the events of the Arab Spring in other countries in the region can be cited as a reason for demonstrations in Syria. The starting point of the civil war is the use of force against peaceful demonstrators who were protesting against the arrest of children in the southern Syrian city of Darʿā in March 2011. Several people were killed. Protests over the next three days resulted in more deaths, including some police officers. From April 2011, the government used the regular army against the demonstrators. Several hundred people were killed around demonstrations in the first few months of the wave of protests. According to human rights activists, the majority of these dead fell victim to actions by the Syrian secret services.

    From July 2011, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) was organized from members of the army and civilians who had deserted. It put the government troops under military pressure and drove them out of more and more areas. By mid-2012, the regular Syrian army had lost around 20% of its estimated 2011 strength, with around 60,000 soldiers deserting , while at the same time being forced to maintain a constant presence with the remaining forces in large parts of the country in order to prevent the insurgency from spreading. After significant setbacks for the government troops, such as the loss of large parts of the economic metropolis Aleppo around the end of 2012, observers predicted the imminent fall of President Assad's government.

    However, the FSA failed to maintain law and order and provide for the population in the areas from which it had driven government forces. This vacuum was increasingly filled by Sunni-leaning aid organizations funded from the Gulf region. As the conflict progressed, representatives of these organizations armed themselves, took part in the fighting and soon bore the brunt of the fighting, supported by the supply of religiously motivated volunteers and battle-hardened veterans from various conflict regions of the world, as well as weapons from abroad. It was Islamist fighters who carried out the coup d'état on the provincial capital ar-Raqqa in spring 2013 .

    More and more fighters from various rebel units joined such religiously colored groups because, in addition to military strength and social commitment, they also seemed more attractive because of the monthly salaries they paid. However, the actions of the Islamist groups, which in many places brutally enforced their ideas of religious legislation, desecrated sites of other religions, often used suicide bombers as part of their fight against government troops and took action against journalists and members of aid organizations, indirectly strengthened the position of the Syrian government around Assad in in the eyes of world public opinion and prevented a broad base of foreign support for the opposition from forming.

    In early to mid-2013, contrary to forecasts, the Syrian government began to stabilize again. With a smaller area to defend, an end to mass desertions and reliance on the Luftwaffe , and the increasing use of indiscriminately killing weapons - such as artillery and bombing - government forces were able to hold their positions and achieve localized successes. Attempts to have the Security Council condemn this procedure, which resulted in numerous civilian casualties, failed several times due to the veto of Russia and China.

    The situation changed again in May 2013, when large numbers of militias from the Shiite Hezbollah crossed the Syrian border from Lebanon and joined forces with Assad's government troops. Observers estimated that this military engagement came at the direct orders of Iran, which wanted to defend its influence in Syria against activities from the Gulf states of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. With the combination of Hezbollah units, tried and tested in guerrilla warfare, and the heavy weapons of the government troops, President Assad's units succeeded in defeating the rebels in several places and in the summer of 2013, in the summer of 2013, in the city of Kusseir , which was a key location for rebel supplies, they captured areas that attracted media attention . Kusseir was subsequently declared a restricted area and has since served as a site for drug production in order to obtain foreign currency from the export and subsequent sale via Latakia , which international sanctions made difficult for the Syrian state to obtain.

    Another important event was the Ghouta poison gas attacks in August 2013, which claimed numerous civilian lives and triggered an international wave of outrage. However, a NATO intervention was rejected by the population of the member states. An American military strike against targets in Syria was eventually averted by Russian intervention, convincing the government in Damascus to end its chemical weapons program and allow its chemical weapons arsenal to be destroyed under international supervision.

    In mid to late 2013 there was increased fighting between Islamist rebels and members of the Kurdish ethnic minority, who had opposed the government to a limited extent in the conflict, but remained largely neutral as far as their settlement areas in north-eastern Syria were not affected was. Attempts by al-Qaeda-affiliated rebel groups to link the occupied areas of Syria with areas of Iraq where like-minded fighters had risen up against Iraq's Shiite-leaning government further aggravated the conflict. Fighting between the ISIL fighters associated with al-Qaeda on the one hand and an alliance of other strongly religious Sunni groups, whose main supporter is Saudi Arabia, and remnants of the FSA on the other, dominated the turn of the year 2013 –2014. Government forces made their appearance at the time with bombing raids on rebel areas in Aleppo and limited territorial gains as a result of internal rebel fighting. In May 2014, several agreements were reached between insurgents and government troops, which among other things led to the evacuation of the city of Homs by rebel troops without a fight.

    With the emergence of the Islamic State (formerly "ISIS") in mid-2014, fighting broke out between the Kurds and the Islamist militia. The brutal actions of the Islamists led to mass exodus. Islamic State offensives on the strategic city of Kobane led to bitter fighting for Kobanê . As a result, the West, especially the USA, was forced to intervene and fight the Islamists from the air. Since then, a coalition has been flying airstrikes on IS. At the end of January 2015, the IS militias were expelled from Kobane. Government troops withdrew in early 2015, mainly from the south along the Jordanian border and in the north-west from the Idlib region. At the end of May 2015, the IS launched an offensive on the strategically important city of Palmyra and took it. At this point, the terrorist militia controlled 50% of Syrian territory for the first time.

    In mid-August 2015, Russia began building a base in Latakia that would allow the air force to support government forces. A short time later, in September 2015, Russian warplanes began to attack other opposition groups from the air alongside IS. Shortly thereafter, 41 armed opposition groups issued a publication calling for a fight against Russia and Iran. The Al-Nusra Front was not among the signatories.

    The turn of the year 2015/2016 was marked by the advance of pro-government forces from Iran, Lebanon and Afghanistan, which, under the cover of Russian air strikes in northern Syria, drove fighters from various rebel groups from areas north of Aleppo. Routes that had been used for supplies to the rebel fighters in the city as well as for supplies to the civilians there were cut off in the summer. After a long attempt to defend areas bordering Turkey, the terrorist organization changed tactics after losing to the Kurdish-dominated SDF in early August 2016 after the Manbij Offensive , and gave up the areas on the Turkish border largely without a fight. As a result, IS lost ar-Raqqa, the largest city under its control, in November 2017 and was occupied by ground troops of the SDF and Syrian government troops and militias allied with them by the end of 2017, with the exception of a few insignificant areas along the Syrian-Iraqi border ousted from Syrian territory. At the same time, Iraqi troops managed to liberate the entire Iraqi territory from IS. From mid-November to the end of December 2016, government troops and pro-government forces managed to overrun the besieged districts of Aleppo and force the remaining rebels to withdraw to the Idlib region . There, in January and February 2017, there were costly internal fighting between various Islamist rebel groups.

    In the summer of 2017, a race developed between forces loyal to Assad and those controlled by the US coalition. Both sides tried to be the first to seize key Islamic State holdings on the border with Iraq before the other side could get ahead of them. The US is relying on SDF fighters advancing south from northern Syria in the Raqqa area and fighters advancing north from the border region with Jordan. The pro-government troops, in turn, received reinforcements from Shiite militias who crossed the border after taking part in the fighting for Iraq's Mosul . At the same time, in the Idlib region, the Islamists of the HTS prevailed against other insurgents and became the dominant force. In late summer and autumn 2017, the Islamic State terrorist organization was driven out of the core areas it had conquered on the Euphrates , and on October 17, 2017, the IS organization was completely driven out of its stronghold of Raqqa after the Raqqa battle . In October 2017, the IS terrorist organization's last areas of retreat were still on the Euphrates south-east of Deir ez-Zor in the border area with Iraq. With a few exceptions, they were taken up to the end of 2017.

    At the turn of the year 2017/2018, the Syrian army launched an offensive that journalists assume was aimed at clearing a more direct road from Damascus to Aleppo, which was the southwestern part of the province still occupied by the terrorist organization Haiʾat Tahrir al-Sham would split off and include Aleppo. According to the UN in mid-January 2018, around 100,000 civilians were forced to flee as a result of the new offensive. The reasons for the offensive remained controversial: while the Syrian government justified it with the presence of various terrorist groups in the area, the Turkish government criticized it as a pretext to act against moderate rebels and civilians. For its part, Turkey launched a military offensive against the Kurdish region around Afrin from mid-January, while Syrian government troops and allies continued to attack the areas previously designated as “de- escalation zones” on the grounds that they were fighting jihadist terrorist groups .

    Only with the announcement at the end of December 2018 that he wanted to withdraw his troops from Syria did US President Donald Trump revive the Islamist movements in Syria again - the IS felt morally strengthened in its remaining areas near Deir ez-Zor and started a series of Offensive actions as Turkey prepared to fight ISIS's main enemy, the Kurdish YPG/SDF, after the US left. To achieve this, however, the Turks withdrew pro-Turkey militia auxiliaries from the rebel-held region of Idlib, prompting the former al-Qaeda supporters, now under the banner of Haiʾat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), to launch an offensive against more moderate rebel-held areas in Idlib and expanded their influence there.

    Finally, on March 23, 2019, IS lost its last officially controlled territory with al-Baghuz Fawqani . The remaining relatives of IS fighters fled mainly to al-Haul . Thus, at that time, during the Battle of Baghuz , this refugee town grew from less than 10,000 to about 72,000 people. The remaining IS fighters from the Battle of Baghuz have retreated to the Syrian desert and the Syrian-Iraqi border region. In Syria, IS fighters operate primarily in the desert west of the Euphrates in the provinces of Deir ez-Zor and Homs , where the Assad regime is in control. In early April 2020, IS fighters attacked the small town of al-Sukhna on the road from Deir ez-Zor to Homs and Damascus , killing several Syrian Armed Forces soldiers .

    In late April 2019, pro -government troops and the Russian air force began an offensive in Idlib governorate , which was mostly occupied by rebels. According to activists, civilian infrastructure in particular, such as hospitals, was systematically destroyed. According to the refugee agency, the fighting had forced 300,000 people to flee. Three million people, two-thirds of them dependent on humanitarian aid, were in Idlib's agreed de-escalation zone when the fighting began.

    On October 9, 2019, after the surprising withdrawal of the USA from the Kurdish region near the Turkish border, the Turkish offensive in northern Syria took place . At the request of the Kurds, the Syrian government then sent troops to stop the Turkish advance. Fighting died down and on October 22, the Russian and Turkish presidents agreed on a future distribution of power in northern Syria. American troops remained only around the Syrian oil fields in the Deir el-Zour region.

    Shortly before the turn of the year 2019/2020, Syrian government troops and allied Shia militias with Russian air support began an offensive into the last insurgent area in Idlib. By mid-February 2020, one million of the estimated 3 million residents of the area had fled towards the border with Turkey. The Turkish government, no longer willing or able to take in more refugees, had accommodation built on Syrian territory and tried to stop the Syrian government troops through diplomacy and, increasingly, through military intervention. Several thousand Turkish soldiers were deployed across the border into the province in February 2020.

    The Covid-19 pandemic ( in Syria ) helped food prices increase by 250 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year.

    Although money transfers to Syria for humanitarian aid are not affected by the sanctions, many aid organizations and banks are reluctant to transfer money to Syria because the Syrian state around Bashar al-Assad is only bringing little aid to particularly devastated areas and is also misusing the aid funds. This would result in the sanctioning of the aid organizations and banks themselves, since the transfer of the aid funds constitutes support for the Syrian regime, which is punished by the Caesar Act (law) enacted by the US government. In addition, the European states and the USA will not release their own aid funds for the reconstruction of the infrastructure in Syria as long as the regime around Bashar al-Assad is not willing to implement reforms that lead to free and fair elections. 90% of the aid money that reached Syria up to and including September 2020 and was mostly paid to UN aid organizations in Syria comes from the USA and Europe. Russia, which contributed significantly to the destruction of the country through its military action in Syria , is not one of the European countries that finances 90% of humanitarian aid to Syria.

    In 2020, shipments (a total of around 27 tons or 162 million Captagon pills, four tons of hashish and other shipments of amphetamine ) of drugs exported via the seaport of Latakia were intercepted several times, the production of which (e.g. in the city of Kusseir) was controlled by members of the al-Assad family was organized. Through the subsequent sale, foreign currency can be obtained that has become difficult to obtain for the Syrian state or its government due to the international sanctions.

    Those directly involved in the military


    reforms in the crisis

    As a reaction to the uprising in Syria, Assad announced reforms from April 2011 and implemented some of them. At the same time, three amnesties for members of the opposition were announced, in May and June 2011 and in January 2012.

    Around 4,000 people were released in the amnesties between November 2011 and January 2012. The later rebel leader Zahran Allusch was among those who were amnestied . By May 2012, the leading role of the Ba'ath Party was removed from the constitution, although the President was given more powers. In the elections to the Syrian parliament on May 7, 2012, candidates from nine different parties competed for seats in parliament.

    Bashar al-Assad (2010)
    attitude of President Bashar al-Assad

    In an interview with President Bashar al-Assad broadcast by Rossiya 24 on May 11, 2012 , he spoke about the further implementation of the reforms. All articles of legislation passed during the crisis should be discussed under the auspices of the government within the framework of the national dialogue to be launched between the different political currents. It is also possible that there will be a discussion about the Syrian constitution . He identified the various parties and political leaders in Syria as participants in the dialogue. When asked about the criticism that reforms were progressing too slowly, he replied that the new Syrian constitution had been adopted in just four months. The expectation that all the laws would be gone through in such a short time is unrealistic. Such an operation usually takes between six months and a year.

    Because many foreign journalists were expelled soon after the uprising began, coverage of the uprising relied heavily on local activists and international organizations. Since the protests began, the Syrian government has said that the uprisings were instigated by Islamist extremists, foreign conspirators and terrorists.

    Bashar al-Assad repeatedly expressed to the opposition, most recently at the end of July 2013, his willingness to negotiate peace, which was always rejected after the outbreak of the civil war. Opposition figures demanded that Assad announce his resignation before negotiations began, or expressed that they would only negotiate once they had gained the military upper hand. At the beginning of August 2013, Assad finally withdrew his offer and in a television speech ruled out that reliable agreements could still be reached with the divided opposition, and instead the uprising would have to be crushed with military force.

    political opposition

    Flag of the Syrian Republic used by the opposition (state flag 1932–1958/1961–1963)

    There are various state-tolerated parties and alliances that are allowed to take part in the elections. Some existed before the uprising, others arose in the wake of the protests and were then re-established as legal parties. In the run -up to the parliamentary elections , nine parties had been founded by early April 2012, but they were led by largely unknown people. The opposition alliance then represented in the Syrian parliament was the Popular Front for Change and Freedom . It included many who had been in opposition for years and were often in prison. The Popular Front saw itself as a bridge between the government and the streets and was therefore considered by many to be close to the government. She refused to take part in violent demonstrations.

    The Syrian National Council was formed in October 2011 in Istanbul as an umbrella organization. As a goal, he stated that he wanted to unite the Syrian opposition at the time. In his founding declaration, he spoke out against foreign military intervention in Syria. Later, however, he then called for a “ no- fly zone ” and in November 2011 even a so-called “protection zone” on Syrian territory bordering on Turkey, although an international mandate would be required to set this up. The National Council is made up mostly of members who live outside Syria, including Burhan Ghaliun , who lives in France, and Haitham Maleh . The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is also represented in the National Council.

    The National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces replaced the Syrian National Council as the umbrella organization when it was founded in November 2012; want to enforce an Islamic state.

    In the course of the preparations for the peace conference organized by Russia and the USA, which was scheduled for June 2013, essentially two blocs formed in the opposition. On July 5, Ahmed Jarba was elected President of the opposition government. Hadi el-Bahreh became president in July 2014, and was succeeded by Khaled Khoja in January 2015 .

    The National Coordinating Committee for Democratic Change (NCC), which was founded in September 2011, is anchored in the country itself . The coordination committee pursued some common positions with the Syrian National Council , but accused it of being influenced by Western states. It follows a secular course and consists of left-wing and Kurdish groups, among others. Chairman is Hussein Abdel Azim , another prominent member is Haitham Manna .

    Activists who organize local protests are represented in the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) or in the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution . These groups are often linked to the National Council or the National Coordinating Committee.

    Development of the armed opposition

    In the second half of 2011, those opposed to the government began to arm themselves and fight against the regular armed forces. Former soldiers of the Syrian army founded the Free Syrian Army ( FSA), which sees itself as the armed wing of the Syrian opposition. The volunteers united in it are heterogeneously composed.

    While in the first year of the civil war the Western media mostly only accused President Bashar al-Assad's troops of human rights violations, in March 2012 the human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) also made accusations against the armed Syrian opposition, especially against FSA fighters. An HRW report accused insurgents of torturing and executing captured government security forces and, in other cases, kidnapping government supporters or their families for ransom. Dozens of small, independent militias had formed in the provinces, and their actions were beyond any control.

    According to the New York Times and other sources , SNC and FSA are largely supported financially by Saudi Arabia , Qatar and the United Arab Emirates , as well as militarily via Turkey with the help of the Turkish secret service MIT. Both SNC and FSA are based in Turkey. The leader was initially the Sunni Riad al-Asaad , who was replaced by Selim Idriss in 2012 , who in turn was replaced by al-Bashir in 2014 .

    The US initially supported the establishment of military councils to maintain order in areas from which government troops had previously been expelled, but these constructs soon fell apart and by early 2013 had splintered into numerous micro-organizations, among which after US information also found numerous criminals who harassed the civilian population. These signs of dissolution of the FSA in turn helped religiously motivated groups to gain more respect from the rebels because they did not take part in looting.

    In November 2013, seven Islamist rebel groups united and formed the Islamic Front , which, with an estimated 45,000 fighters, is the largest armed opposition alliance and, like Islamist extremists in general and even before the Syrian conflict, is funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar . Analysts see the founding, which calls for an Islamic “ theocracy ” in Syria, as a further decrease in Western influence on the course of the conflict and assume that the civil war fronts will harden. In early December, one of its subgroups, the Ahrar al-Sham , seized US-backed FSA headquarters near the Turkish border and captured substantial stockpiles of weapons; since then, the secular opposition has been seen as severely weakened and divided.

    According to a report by the Washington Post in mid-June 2013, the fragmentation of the armed opposition is being fueled further because private sponsors from the Gulf region have begun to specifically support militias in the civil war who most closely correspond to their personal, mostly radical religious views. This development eludes any control. In July 2013, for example, the US Defense Intelligence Agency counted around 1,200 opposition groups – from small, local communities that had formed, for example, to secure the water supply of a place, to extremist terrorist organizations operating across borders. A representative of the World Food Program (WFP) also announced at the end of April 2013 that the chain of command on the part of the rebels had apparently been significantly loosened in the past year and that negotiations now had to be carried out individually with many of their associations in order to allow aid deliveries through their area transport.

    In October 2015, the Kurdish YPG united with the Syrian-Arab militias of the FSA and with the Christian-Aramaic Assyrian military council to form the Syrian Democratic Forces ( SDF ), which are committed to Syria as a multi-ethnic state and launched offensives in northern Syria against the perform IS.

    al-Qaeda and Islamic State

    The al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front , which had temporarily established itself as the second largest opposition group next to the Free Syrian Army, was noticed more clearly in early 2012. By February 2012 at the latest, it had become clear that al-Qaeda was massively involved in the conflict, after individual attacks had already bore al-Qaeda's signature in December 2011. There was a suspicion of infiltration and a loss of confidence in the opposition. In the summer of 2012, Western media voices increasingly argued that Sunni Islamists were carrying out most of the armed clashes with government troops. It is therefore not improbable that these groups will gain political influence after Assad is forced to leave. On August 12, 2012, a partially still censored DIA intelligence report noted that the Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda in Iraq were the driving forces behind the insurgency in Syria. "The West, the Gulf States and Turkey support the opposition, while Russia, China and Iran support the government."

    Al-Qaeda was credited with the heavy bombings in Aleppo and Damascus and the capture of some Syrian army bases, killing dozens. Since the beginning of the protests against Assad in summer 2011, al-Qaeda leader Aiman ​​al-Zawahiri has tried to stylize his organization as part of the movement against the Syrian government by glorifying the conflict as a conflict with the states of Israel and the USA, whom he said supported the Assad government. Opposition groups have been infiltrated by al-Qaeda, possibly without their knowledge. The assessment was confirmed when the al-Nusra Front declared its solidarity with az-Zawahiri and announced his aim in April 2013 to support the establishment of an Islamic regime in Syria.

    The flow of jihadist fighters to various rebel groups has increased significantly as the conflict has progressed. At the end of May 2013, British Foreign Secretary William Hague admitted that Syria had become the "first stop" for jihadists from all over the world. In October 2013, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution estimated the number of people from Germany who were in or on the way to the Syrian war zone at 200 – and the trend was rising. In January 2014, Hague and French President François Hollande put the number of jihadist fighters from their countries at “hundreds” and 700, respectively. At the same time, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad announced that Western intelligence agencies had expressed interest in security cooperation with Syrian authorities .

    An Israeli study published in early 2014 estimates the number of foreign jihadists at 6,000-7,000, 4,500 of them from the Arab world and 1,000 from Europe, mostly young second- or third-generation Muslim immigrants. Most have joined al-Qaeda rebel groups and are committed to global jihad. An estimated 8-10% have now died in the conflict. The speed at which fighters from around the world are being mobilized for jihad in Syria is even faster than recruitment rates in the Afghan and Iraq wars . The volunteers seep into the country mainly via the 900 km long Turkish-Syrian border, aided by the passivity of the Turkish authorities and the rebels' control of the border crossings. The return of radicalized and battle-hardened mujahideen to their countries of origin is viewed as a potential threat to international security, following the experience of Afghanistan; An increased risk situation is assumed, particularly for Western Europe. Unlike in previous civil wars, not only Sunnis but also, for the first time, large numbers of Shiite volunteers intervened in the fighting. An estimated 7,000-8,000 foreign Shiites are fighting on the government side, mainly soldiers from the Lebanese Hezbollah , but also Iraqi militiamen , both of whom are supported by Iran . The approximate quantitative balance shows the religious dimension of the conflict and its aggravation by the Sunni-Shia antagonism.

    By the fall of 2013, the main military burden had largely passed to the Islamist insurgents, who were also reorganizing themselves. In September, Jane's estimated that the 100,000 opposition fighters were made up of 10,000 al-Qaeda jihadists, some international, 30,000 to 35,000 radical Syrian Islamists and 30,000 "moderate" Islamists. Secular and nationalist combat groups, on the other hand, only form a minority. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) group, part of az-Zawahiri's organization, established itself as the dominant military presence in northern Syria in 2013, according to observers.

    After months of tension in the opposition camp, in January 2014 an Islamist rebel coalition led by the Islamic Front launched an offensive against the al-Qaeda offshoot ISIS, which is accused of ruthlessly implementing Sharia law in the areas it occupies. Almost a thousand gunmen on both sides were killed in heavy fighting in northern and eastern Syria. The al-Nusra Front, which is also assigned to al-Qaeda but is more firmly anchored in the Syrian population, has so far been largely neutral in the internal power struggle.

    International influence

    According to political scientists, external influence is based on geostrategic and economic interests. Werner Ruf describes how the war in Syria "shows the tangled tangle of political and geostrategic interests of the major and regional powers like in a magnifying glass". For this, religious questions would only be instrumentalized by the actors. He comments on the consequences: "The regime change in Iraq and the attempted overthrow in Syria using violent subcontractors are proving to be explosive devices that seem to be directly threatening those who invented them." criticized as a naive misjudgment of the basic geopolitical problems.

    For the French political scientists Adam Baczko, Gilles Dorronsoro and Arthur Quesnay, there are several lines of conflict in the civil war. On the one hand, there is the United States (allied with Europe) and Russia (allied with Iran and China). Both sides have different ideas about the international order, especially when it comes to overthrowing authoritarian regimes. On the other hand, Iran and Saudi Arabia are vying for regional dominance. The two states have long had hostile relations .

    In an interview with the FAZ, Günter Meyer pointed out that years before the conflict, the United States had formed an alliance with Israel and Saudi Arabia to overthrow Assad. Meyer referred to leaked cables from the US embassy in Damascus in 2006, published by Wikileaks, "according to which the United States was developing strategies to overthrow Syria based on a vulnerability analysis of the Assad regime [sic]." Meyer supported his statements also to the investigations of the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh , who in 2007 uncovered the alliance between the three states to overthrow the Syrian rulers and proved that terrorist fighters were trained here for a change of power in Syria, to the statements of General Wesley Clark about the wars planned by the USA, statements by French Foreign Minister Dumas and the former head of the DIA , Michael Flynn , and secret documents of the DIA.

    Haaretz and Washington Post also interpreted Wikileaks documents as evidence of secret funding of the opposition in Syria since 2005 for the purpose of changing the government.

    For the time after the outbreak of the conflict, there have been reports of support measures that individual secret services, such as the German and British, are said to have provided for parts of the opposition.

    On a blog set up by the British Guardian in 2013-2014, Nafeez Ahmed published his assessment that one factor may have been Assad's refusal to sign a gas pipeline deal with Qatar in Russia's interest. Michael Lüders also considers the economic background to be important.

    For the journalist Daniel Steinvorth, however, this theory is implausible. Reports of Syrian rejection of the pipeline project only surfaced years after the outbreak of war. Syrian state media, on the other hand, were still reporting favorably on the project in 2009.


    A unit of Afghan Liwa Fatemiyun Shia near Palmyra in December 2016

    Iran is the third-largest force in the Assad government, alongside the Syrian army and Hezbollah, while Russia deploys fewer ground troops of its own. The Iranian Revolutionary Brigades and a large number of Shiite mercenaries from Iraq are used in particular . In addition, mercenaries from Afghanistan, mainly from the Hazara ethnic group , are used.

    Shortly after the beginning of the civil war, three high-ranking commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard , Qasem Soleimani , Mohammad Ali Jafari and Hossein Taeb , were sanctioned by the European Union on June 24, 2011 because of their involvement in the violent suppression of the protests in Syria.

    As a longtime regional ally of the Syrian leadership, the government of Iran officially reacted with restraint to the events, arguing against any "interference in Syria's internal affairs". While the uprisings against the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain were widely and favorably reported, the protests in Syria initially escaped the attention of the state-controlled media, before later adopting accounts of the Assad government and, in particular, incitement of the conflict by the Archenemies USA and Israel was subordinated.

    In September 2012, the Iranian side officially confirmed for the first time that members of the Revolutionary Guard were in Syria to support the government troops. However, this does not yet represent a military presence and no active intervention by Iran, which is reserved in the event of an attack on Syria from outside. Pro- government paramilitaries are to be trained in Iran, according to an April 2013 report. From 2012, under the supervision of Hossein Hamadani , an Iranian commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Iran built the Syrian National Defense Forces (قوات الدفاع الوطني) along the lines of the Basij militia . According to Iranian state media, the rebels were closing in on the presidential palace and could only be stopped by armed paramilitaries, who formed the core of the NDF. Iran has been associated in Syria with Shia militias Liwa Abu 'l-Fadl al-Abbas , Liwa al-Fatimiyyun , Asaib Ahl al-Haqq and those of Hezbollah as of 2014. First reports noted the emergence of Shiite militias from Afghanistan in 2012.

    With the demise of IS in Iraq, Iran began sending Shia militias across the border along the Euphrates into Syria in the summer of 2017. This, in turn, blocked US attempts to march north along the Iraqi border with allied fighters from positions near at-Tanaf in southern Syria.

    According to Human Rights Watch estimates in 2017/2018 , the Afghan auxiliaries recruited by Iran, grouped together in Syria in the Fatimid Brigade , number around 15,000 fighters. A unit made up of Pakistanis, which was also used, is said to have no more than 1,000 fighters. The exact numbers are being kept secret by Iran. In May 2018, Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer estimated the force under Iran's control at 80,000 including Hezbollah.

    The deployment of an Iranian drone in Israeli airspace, launched and piloted from Syria, led to a heavy Israeli airstrike on targets in Syria in February 2018. In the same month, a top Iranian political adviser also announced that US troops in the Kurdish areas of Syria would be forced to withdraw. A first attempt to attack SDF positions involving Iranian militias was crushed a day later by the US Air Force on the Euphrates near Deir ez-Zor .

    In mid-February 2018, following a threat by the Israeli prime minister of a possible attack on Iran, Mohsen Rezai threatened that Tel Aviv would be destroyed if Israel made even the slightest unwise move against Iran.

    The day after US President Donald Trump announced his withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran , the conflict between Iranian troops on Syrian territory and Israel escalated. Israeli troops said they were fired at by Iranian Quds Forces from Syria with 20 rockets in the Golan Heights, after which the Israeli military attacked dozens of targets in Syria on the night of May 10, 2018, which the Israelis claim to be Iranians . In 2020, press reports quoted intelligence sources as saying the increasing number of Israeli airstrikes on Iranian troops and facilities in Syria were a result of US support for these attacks. In this way, the US could proceed against Iran in a “shadow war” without triggering a sustained escalation.


    The Islamist organization Hezbollah was late in entering the open armed struggle alongside the government. The Shiite-dominated organization, which is based in Lebanon, has repeatedly been involved in battles with Israeli troops in recent years and is primarily supported by Iran. It is logistically dependent on the help of the Syrian government. Leader Hassan Nasrallah spoke up on May 25, 2013 and announced that his organization would fight to the end alongside the Syrian government, regardless of the casualties. He promised thousands of his organization's fighters victory over what he called "radical Sunni Islamist rebels" in Syria. These extremists, Nasrallah said, backed by the US and Israel, would also turn against Lebanon if not stopped. The US strongly condemns the interference of the Lebanese Hezbollah.


    Russian Su-34 bomber in November 2015 in Syria

    The Russian Federation is linked to the Syrian government by decades of cooperation that began in Soviet times . The then Syrian government of the Soviet Union had approved the use of the Syrian port city of Tartus as a naval base for military and economic aid. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and changes in other states in the region, Tartus is the only remaining base that Russia has left in the Mediterranean. To avoid incidents involving Russian army personnel in the civil war, Russia withdrew its remaining maintenance personnel from Tartus in late June 2013.

    Another factor in the Russian government's considerations are the Islamist fighters, some of whom are recruited in Syria from extremists who come from Russia's southern republics. For example, extremists in the civil war identified Russia as a possible target for attacks, and the planned 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi in particular were named as a target for attacks by Islamist leaders.

    Together with representatives of the People's Republic of China, Russia twice voted in the United Nations Security Council against resolutions that would punish the Syrian government with sanctions for its crackdown on the opposition and send observer missions to the country. Russia considered the resolutions' demands, such as the withdrawal of government troops from towns and villages, to be interference in Syria's internal affairs and stressed the risk of military interference from third parties.

    Evidence presented by US intelligence to the US government, but not to the public, that compelled the US government to testify on June 13, 2013 regarding several limited government chemical weapons uses was described by the head of the Russian House of Commons the next day as "just as fabricated as the lies about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction". On July 9, Russia said it believed chemical weapons had been used by rebels near Khan al-Assal in Syria.

    Russian goals for a peace settlement were outlined by President Putin in May 2013 as ending violence and maintaining Syria as a sovereign state with territorial integrity. A peace conference for Syria did not take place despite the willingness of the Syrian government to participate, mediated by Russia. At the end of October 2013 , the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the State Duma, Pushkov , did not blame the 19 rebel organizations for the blockade of the planned peace negotiations, which had been called Geneva II . who refused to participate, but the foreign financiers of these financially dependent groups.

    Russian soldiers in Aleppo in December 2016

    According to activists, up to 3,000 Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group helped stabilize the Assad government militarily from 2015 onwards. Since late summer 2015, Russia has also been present with an official expeditionary force in Latakia , Syria . According to Russian sources, these were initially trainers. However, it was not until September 30, 2015 that President Putin received permission for a combat mission from the Federation Council . Russia had already deployed Su-30 fighter planes , Su-24 bombers, Su-34 bombers, Su-25 ground attack aircraft and unmanned reconnaissance drones to Syria. After the first attacks in early October 2015, the USA, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Germany, France, Turkey and Great Britain immediately expressed their deep concern that the Russian airstrikes in Syria had resulted in civilian casualties instead of hitting IS targets .

    After the insurgents in Aleppo gave up, Russia sent military police and engineers into the city to help clear mines and booby traps. In early March 2017, American media reported that Russian ground forces had escorted a Syrian government aid convoy moving east of Aleppo to the Manbij region .

    On June 18, 2017, a US warplane shot down a Syrian plane near ath-Thaura . Russia then announced that from now on it would target all US aircraft west of the Euphrates with radar.

    On December 11, 2017, Vladimir Putin announced that IS had been defeated and that he wanted to withdraw some Russian troops from Syria.

    In February 2018, American journalists described Russia as the power controlling the balance in Syria while acting as both a combatant and a peace broker. However, following an incident between Iranian forces in Syria and Israel in the first week of February, observers have wondered whether Russia has enough control over the Iranians to prevent further escalation with Israel.

    According to press reports, in February 2018 Russia lost a large number of Russian mercenaries who were said to have been involved in an attempt to attack the Syrian Democratic Forces at Deir ez-Zor before their formation was crushed by the US air force. Moscow denied that Russian citizens were involved. A Russian analyst estimated in a Washington Post article that the officials' reluctance was due to the fact that they did not want to let the anti-American emotions, which are served daily on Russian state television, get out of hand before the Russian presidential election. The story should disappear as soon as possible.

    At the end of September 2019, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated that around 19,000 people, including 8,300 civilians, had died in Syria since September 2015 as a result of Russian airstrikes.

    In 2019, President Vladimir Putin increasingly appeared in the role of patron saint for religious minorities in Syria and advocated for Christian and Jewish communities. According to a Haaretz analyst, this policy is reminiscent of the Ottoman Empire, when great powers acted in exactly this way in order to create an excuse to intervene militarily to protect their respective protégés if necessary.

    United States

    In response to a request, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated in April 2011 that a military operation in Syria was initially ruled out. On April 29, 2011, US President Obama issued additional Executive Orders 13338 (May 2004), 13399 (April 2006) and 13460 (February 2008) and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) of 1977 relating to Syria Sanctions against senior Syrian officials and other Syrian and Iranian government entities responsible for human rights abuses, including the use of force against civilians and the commission of other ill-treatment. On May 18, 2011, Executive Order 13573 also followed against members of the Syrian government and for the blocking of Syrian real estate in the USA.

    On August 4, 2011, the USA extended the sanctions to the Syrian businessman Muhammad Hamsho and his company Hamsho International Group , which the EU had already approved in June 2011. On August 5, 2011, the US State Department called on all US citizens to leave Syria.

    In July 2012, the US television station CNN and the news agency Reuters reported that the US had provided around US$ 25 million in funding for the rebels. In addition, the government allows the secret service CIA (Operation Timber Sycamore ) and other authorities to secretly support the insurgents. However, support for the Syrian rebels was only sporadic and selective. Concerned that military goods might end up at Al-Nusra, the CIA refrained from delivering lethal goods and only cooperated with certain brigades. As a result, individual factions of the Free Syrian Army formed alliances of convenience for larger military operations with the better-equipped Al-Nusra Front, which was classified as a terrorist organization by the United Nations Security Council in 2013 .

    On September 28, 2012, the US increased financial support for the unarmed Syrian opposition movement from US$30 million to US$45 million. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also announced an increase in humanitarian aid to the people by US$30 million to a total of US$130 million.

    At the end of March 2013 it became known that the American secret service CIA had been massively supporting the procurement of weapons, their transport and distribution to the rebels through Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan since November 2012. Based on the capacities of the transport aircraft used and the number of flights observed, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimated the amount of arms and equipment delivered at at least 3,500 tons.

    In late April 2013, the White House announced that it had evidence of limited chemical weapons use in Syria that it would investigate further. However, observers considered any kind of military intervention by the USA to be unlikely. If the camps for chemical weapons are bombed, the civilian population could be affected by the warfare agents released, but the stocks are too large to be able to simply transport them away. If the camp facilities were captured by American special forces and secured for the longer term, this could attract counterattacks from the government and Islamic fanatics alike.

    In June 2013, the US government joined France and Britain in the view that the Syrian government had used nerve gas . Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham said the president's "red line" had been crossed . White House National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes pledged military support to the insurgents.

    In mid-July 2013, the government's Senate and House of Representatives gave the go-ahead for arms deliveries to the rebels, despite strong concerns from several MPs. Chief of Staff Dempsey outlined to politicians the various US military options in Syria, explaining both the need for troops and the cost of each action. Rebels expected the first arms shipments from the US to be carried out by the CIA as covert operations in August 2013.

    In mid-December 2013, the US and UK suspended support for the rebels with non-lethal equipment after FSA storage facilities in northern Syria were occupied by Islamist forces and the FSA commander-in-chief, General Idriss, fled the attackers to Turkey. As early as January 2014, however, it became known that the USA was supplying "moderate rebels" with light weapons. The funding of the program was decided by the US Congress in a secret ballot. The scope of delivery also included man-portable anti-aircraft missiles.

    On June 26, 2014 it was announced that President Obama had asked the US Congress for approval of a budget for the equipment and training of "moderate" rebels worth $500 million annually for the next three years, on September 18, 2014 approved these funds. 5,400 Syrian rebels should be trained in Saudi Arabia and equipped with modern weapons to fight the jihadist militia IS. The project went bankrupt: General Lloyd Austin , head of US Central Command, had to admit before the Senate Military Commission that only 60 rebels had been trained. Two months later, only a small number of those 60 were still fighting: "We're talking about 4 to 5." Another group of 75 fighters was sent to Syria from Turkey in September 2015, presumably to fight IS in the Raqqa area . Senior Pentagon officials have also been accused of manipulating and embellishing intelligence reports on the situation in Syria and US success in the fight against IS and other militias. More than 50 intelligence analysts provided relevant information. The Pentagon Inspector General then launched an investigation.

    Since the night of September 22-23, US warplanes, together with planes from the Gulf States, have been flying attacks against IS militia positions in Syria. There was no UN mandate for this. Conflict researcher Musa al-Gharbi criticized in Al Jazeera America that the goals of the military operation were poorly defined. The legitimacy of the IS is increased by the confrontation. Both a reduction in the offensive, an expansion at the expense of increased civilian casualties, and the deployment of US ground troops would entail high risks and strengthen IS. The fundamental sociological problem of fundamentalism and terrorism is only exacerbated by military means. Instead, non-state actors should be deprived of support, foreign arms and money flows and the influx of fighters should be stopped, and cooperation with Israel and dictators and monarchs in the Middle East should be reduced. Then the states of the region and the local populations could cope with the difficult but exaggerated challenge posed by the IS.

    The United States reacted largely with rejection to Russia's airstrikes in autumn 2015. The accusation was that the Russian attacks mainly focused on opposition forces in northern and western Syria and not on the terrorist organization IS. US-equipped rebels who have been targeted by Russian attacks in the past with TOW missiles have requested the US to supply anti-aircraft missiles. TOW missiles were passed on to the radical Islamist alliance Jaish al-Fatah and were used by them against government troops in clashes near Khan Touman.

    During February and March 2016, fighting between CIA-backed rebels and Pentagon-armed rebels intensified. These conflicts became public in early April when it was revealed that the Pentagon-backed Kurdish-dominated military coalition called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) was engaged in gunfights with an Arab jihadist militia called the Army of Righteousness (Fursan al-Haq) controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces CIA and Turkey funded. The Los Angeles Times wrote that the US and Turkish military had therefore clashed. Turkey feared that the SDF's victories in Syria could lead to the formation of an independent Kurdish state on Turkey's southern border and spark separatist sentiments among Kurds in Turkey. According to US House Representative Adam Schiff (Democrats, California), the situation was seen as "a tremendous challenge" that was "part of the three-dimensional chess game that forms the Syrian battlefield."

    On September 17, 2016, several US fighter jets attacked Syrian Army troops who had long been surrounded by IS fighters near Deir ez-Zor . US officials said the attack, which is said to have killed more than 60 soldiers, was an accident and was intended to hit IS.

    In December 2016, outgoing US President Obama allowed arms to be exported to warring factions in Syria. Although observers saw the approval as more of a plan to better arm SDF fighters , Russian officials, concerned that anti-aircraft missiles could be leaked to enemy fighters, complained that the order was a "hostile act".

    The lack of a clear US strategy for action in Syria was criticized in 2013 by political scientist and former US security adviser Zbigniew Brzeziński . On January 25, 2017, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, announced in a television interview that he wanted to set up safe zones in Syria . Dmitry Sergeyevich Peskov , Russian President Vladimir Putin's press secretary, told the Russian news agency TASS that the American partners had not consulted Russia before this decision was published. It is also important, Peskow emphasized, that these targeted security zones do not worsen the situation of refugees in the country; therefore all possible consequences should be considered.

    In March 2017, the US increased its engagement in Syria and sent regular ground forces across the Turkish-Syrian border to the Manbij region . In the end, there were 500 members of American special forces, 250 Rangers and 200 US Marines in Syria . Observers estimated that the US wants to stop fighting between factions and coordinate the upcoming battle for Raqqa. As possible reinforcements, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit with 2,200 soldiers was sent by ship from the USA in mid-March, plus around 2,500 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division , who were initially ordered to Kuwait.

    Launch of several Tomahawk cruise missiles aboard the USS Porter during the air raid on the military airfield ash-Shaʿirat

    Under the new US administration , there have been changes in US policy in Syria and the envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley , announced on March 31, 2017 that it was no longer a priority for the US administration to persuade President Bashar al- remove Assad from office. However, after the April 4 poison gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun , which President Trump attributed to Assad, the situation escalated and Trump gave the order for US destroyers to shell a Syrian airfield with cruise missiles without first obtaining approval from the US Congress to request.

    In early May 2017, President Trump approved the arming of the YPG 's Syrian Kurds in order to be able to use them in the fight against IS. Weapons are said to include heavy machine guns, mortars, anti-tank weapons and engineering equipment. A few days later, Defense Minister Mattis tried to allay Turkish politicians' fears that the weapons could be leaked across the PKK's border in Turkey.

    According to statements by Secretary of Defense Mattis on May 19, 2017, the US strategy in the war against IS changed on Trump's instructions in such a way that it no longer tries to persuade IS fighters to flee previously safe areas, but that the goal is now that Containing and "wiping out" IS would be. The intention behind this is to prevent foreign IS fighters from being able to escape from Syria to their homeland.

    On July 19, 2017, it was announced that the CIA would stop arming and training moderate rebels . The associations fighting IS are exempt from this.

    After the IS was largely defeated at the end of December 2017, US Secretary of Defense Mattis warned President Assad against an attack on the Kurds allied with the US.

    In January 2018, the US confirmed its willingness to continue engaging ground forces in Syria in order to limit Iranian influence in the country and prevent future threats to Syria's neighboring countries.

    In February 2018, Iranian militias attacked SDF positions near Deir ez-Zor, which was repelled by US airstrikes.

    President Trump announced in late March 2018 that US troops would soon be withdrawn from Syria and ordered the freeze of approximately $200 million in funds originally earmarked for Syria's reconstruction.

    On April 14, 2018, US forces, with British and French support, carried out an airstrike on Damascus and Homs aimed at destroying chemical weapons manufacturing facilities. The government had previously been accused of repeatedly using such weapons.

    At the end of December 2018, President Donald Trump declared victory over the terrorist group IS and ordered the withdrawal of all US troops from Syria.

    In October 2019, the United States announced that it would again send soldiers to the northern Syrian region to secure oil fields. On October 31, 2019, reports confirmed US forces were patrolling the Turkish-Syrian border near the village of Kahtaniyah, east of Kamishli. The US engagement with Iran in Syria shifted to a “shadow war” in which US-backed Israeli air strikes on Iranian targets in Syria gained prominence in 2019 and 2020.

    In response to rocket fire on US personnel accommodation in Iraq in mid-February 2021, US warplanes, on orders from the new US President Joe Biden , attacked buildings on the Iraqi border used by Iranian militias in Syria with seven aerial bombardments on February 25.


    Patriot missile launch vehicle at Gaziantep

    From May 2012 at the latest, fighters of the Syrian opposition were trained and armed by the Turkish secret service . In March 2012, the Turkish government advocated a buffer zone on Syrian territory. The Turkish government repeatedly called on Assad to step down and closed the shared border in July 2012. From October 3, 2012, tensions increased. After isolated but repeated grenade hits in Turkish territory, Turkish forces launched retaliatory attacks on targets in Syria.

    After initially condemning Israeli airstrikes on government forces in Syria in May 2013, the Turkish prime minister days later accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons and advocated for US forces to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria support the rebels while urging President Assad to flee. At the beginning of 2014, it became known that the Turkish secret service MIT , contrary to official statements, had apparently smuggled weapons into Syria.

    Telephone conversations were made public during the campaign for the 2014 local elections in Turkey. In the recording, several men - including Prime Minister (then Foreign Minister) Ahmet Davutoglu, Hakan Fidan , Head of Domestic Intelligence General Yaşar Güler and State Secretary Feridun Hadi Sinirlioğlu - discuss military action in Syria and whether there is a justifying reason, e.g. B. could be created for this if necessary under false flags .

    The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey rose from around 100,000 in October 2012 to around 1.4 million in August 2014.

    On February 21, 2015, Turkey intervened in Syria with 572 people and around 100 armored vehicles in an operation called "Şah Fırat". The goal of the operation was to secure the remains of Suleiman Shah , grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire. A soldier lost his life due to an accident. It is not known whether Turkey encountered resistance during the operation.

    At the end of July 2015, after a suicide attack by a suspected IS fighter in Suruç , Turkey , with 32 victims and the murder of two police officers by suspected PKK fighters, the Turkish air force launched hundreds of attacks on Kurdish PKK and YPG positions and villages, as well as a handful of attacks on to fly IS forces in Syria and Iraq. While the US government viewed the Turkish attacks against the PKK as legitimate defense measures against terrorist attacks, critics of the Turkish government in particular saw electoral motives behind the escalation of the Turkish government, which wanted to weaken the political pro-Kurdish opposition.

    Turkey's involvement in the civil war by openly supporting Turkmen in Syrian territory with arms deliveries and covertly supporting Islamist fighters with arms deliveries led to tensions between Turkey and the governments of Syria and Russia, which these forces in northern Syria launched attacks from in late 2015 increasingly pressurized in the air and on the ground. After Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on November 24, 2015, under disputed circumstances, considerable diplomatic tensions arose. Turkey halted its airstrikes on IS targets after the Nov. 24 attack on the Russian plane. In early December 2015, Turkish troops marched into northern Iraq and set up camp near Mosul . The Iraqi government in Baghdad spoke of a "hostile act" and turned to the UN Security Council on December 11, while Turkish officials spoke of a training mission to train Kurds and Iraqis to fight IS in Mosul and the you can't finish.

    According to analysts from the Atlantic Council , Turkey is considered the founder and supporter of the Sunni Islamist rebel organization Jaish al-Fatah , which was formed in 2015 .

    On August 24, 2016, as part of a Turkish military offensive in northern Syria , Turkish troops, together with rebels supported by Turkey, entered Syrian territory and occupied Jarābulus , which had previously been abandoned by IS . An agreement had apparently been reached with the US beforehand to prevent a clash with Kurdish units of the SDF in the region. The main goal of the Turkish offensive was to forestall their advance against the IS in Syria along the Turkish border and to prevent a merger with Kurdish troops further west. It is considered certain that Turkey had previously coordinated this approach with Russia. According to press reports, Russian approval for the Turkish invasion was bought with Turkey's silence when the Russian and Syrian air forces smashed the trapped rebels in Aleppo at the turn of the year 2016/17.

    Furthermore, Turkish government representatives demanded from the USA that the Kurdish People's Defense Units be excluded from a future battle for the IS stronghold ar-Raqqa . Defense Minister Işık announced that Turkey would not allow the People's Defense Units to expand its territory under the pretext of fighting ISIS. Turkey's attempt to influence a future battle for al-Raqqa was initially thwarted by Syrian government forces advancing against ISIS in the rear while Turkey and its allies fought in al-Bab . In early March 2017, advancing Syrian Army troops established an east-west land bridge with SDF forces in the Manbij area, which handed over parts of territory previously captured from IS to the Assad government. As a result, the Turkish bridgehead on Syrian territory was effectively sealed off to the south.

    On March 29, the Turkish military offensive in northern Syria was declared over by the Turkish side. About 2000 km² of Syrian territory had been occupied in the course of the offensive.

    In mid-July 2017, it became known that the Turkish government was massing troops on the border with Syria in order to use them against the Kurdish-controlled areas ( Rojava ) in northern Syria. The target is said to be the province of Afrin , which separates the areas of Islamist fighters in north-western Syria from the territory occupied by militias and Turkish troops in a military offensive in northern Syria until March 2017. The background is said to be an agreement with Russia according to which the Russians would no longer defend the Afrin region against a Turkish attack.

    In November 2017, Erdogan's confidant Metin Külünk mocked the US for its cooperation with the YPG: "The PKK" (YPG) would soon be expelled from ar-Raqqa , Afrin and Manbij - what did the US then want to do? The Turkish President, for his part, appeared before supporters in December 2017 and announced that it would "cleanse" the Syrian cities of Afrin, Manbij, Tall Abyad , Raʾs al-ʿAyn and Qamishli of "terrorists". On January 20, 2018, under cover of airstrikes, Turkish ground forces and allied militias opened the Turkish military offensive on Afrin . The operation against the Kurdish region of Syria was dubbed "Operation Olive Branch" by Turkish officials.

    See also:


    The Syrian Republic gained its independence from France. On August 27, 2012, French President François Hollande called on the Syrian opposition to form an interim government that would become the legitimate representative of a new Syria. France would recognize such a government. At the same time, Hollande warned the Syrian leadership against using chemical weapons. This would be a reason for a military invasion of Syria.

    In June, France said it had evidence of four localized sarin nerve agent attacks in the cities of Khan al-Assal, near Aleppo, and Otaibeh, near Damascus. Samples that were examined in a French laboratory would have proven this. A short time later, the French foreign minister announced that the Assad government and its allies were responsible for the use of the chemical warfare agent. The US White House called for more evidence. In autumn 2014, France began to attack IS from the air as one of the factions involved in the civil war in Iraq and announced a year later, under the impression of the refugee crisis , that it also wanted to fight IS in Syria. After the terrorist attacks on November 13, 2015 in Paris , French warplanes began attacking targets in the IS stronghold of Ar-Raqqa . As a further response to the attacks, the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle was dispatched to the Syrian coast.

    At the end of May 2017, the media reported that France was said to be actively hunting down its own citizens in Syria and Iraq who had previously joined IS.

    Great Britain

    The House of Commons voted against British military involvement in Syria in 2013. Parliament authorized British air strikes against IS in Iraq.

    In July 2015, it was revealed that the Air Force was nevertheless carrying out attacks in Syria , with the knowledge of David Cameron , but without the consultation and approval of Parliament. On August 21, 2015, the Royal Air Force carried out the first drone kill in Syria using a Reaper drone . The attack killed two British IS fighters; another was killed by a US drone strike. Cameron justified the killings as self-defense. Following a corresponding parliamentary decision, British air forces also began attacks on IS positions in Syria in early December 2015. In July 2016, it was revealed that the UK had also deployed ground forces in the form of the SAS at Al-Tanf in Deir ez-Zor governorate .

    In December 2016, Peter Ford , former UK Ambassador to Syria, stated that at the start of the civil war the Foreign Office had predicted Assad's fall "by Christmas" and the dominance of "moderate forces" on the insurgency side, and was wrong on both counts lay. Since the kingdom itself had not deployed any troops against Assad, this would have motivated the opposition to launch an offensive that was hopeless from the outset and would have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.


    In the Syrian war from 2013 to the summer of 2018, Israel supported up to twelve rebel groups operating on the border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Initially, it was mainly American M16 rifles that were delivered, later, apparently to disguise the origin of the weapons, then non-American weapons, including rifles and ammunition from an Iranian delivery originally intended for Hezbollah, which was confiscated by Israel in 2009. Israel-backed militia fighters were paid an average of $75 a month by Israel for their efforts. The Forsan al-Jolan group is said to have received the greatest support . With the start of the Syrian army's offensive in southern Syria, which, among other things, brought the entire area bordering the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights under the control of the Syrian government, Israel ended its support.

    casualty numbers

    date estimate losses
    fatalities injured
    April 2014 UNHCHR 191,396 -
    April 2015 Syrian Observatory for Human Rights 220,000+ -
    Summer 2015 UNHCHR 250,000+ -
    February 2016 Syrian Center for Policy Research 470,000 1,900,000
    March 2016 Syrian Observatory for Human Rights 273,520+ 2,000,000+
    March 2018 Syrian Observatory for Human Rights 353,900+ -

    The Syrian government put the number of dead at 1,400 in mid-September 2011, including 700 members of the government troops. At the time, the United Nations already spoke of more than 2,600 victims. According to their findings, from March 15, 2011 to the end of February 2013, almost 70,000 people died. According to the UN, in May 2013 the death toll had risen to 80,000, while a million Syrians had fled the country and four million others were fleeing within Syria. In June 2013, the UN increased its estimate to at least 93,000 dead, for which the identity, time of death and location could be determined through various sources. Other reports of around 35,000 possible victims that lacked this data were not included in the count.

    The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that since the last figures were published in July 2013, it has stopped counting the number of people killed in the civil war because of the impossibility of independently verifying death figures. Nevertheless, the census continued and at the end of August 2014 it was stated that from March 2011 to April 2014 191,396 people had been killed. In the summer of 2015, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon estimated the death toll at at least 250,000 people.

    Organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International accuse government forces in particular, but also sections of the armed opposition, of torture and serious human rights violations in connection with the clashes . Amnesty International said in a 2015 report that "[s]ince 2011 the Syrian government has carried out an orchestrated campaign of enforced disappearances." The Syrian Network for Human Rights documented the names of a total of 65,116 people, mostly Civilians who "disappeared" between March 2011 and August 2015, some of whose whereabouts are still unknown. In March 2015, Human Rights Watch obtained a total of 53,275 photos from a fugitive forensic photographer who was hired by the Syrian military police to take photos of people who died in government custody, but also of scores of killed members of the Syrian armed forces. A total of 28,707 photographs could be assigned to a total of 6,786 people who had been arrested by the Syrian security authorities and died during their detention due to the inhumane prison conditions or the mistreatment they had suffered. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SMHR), in 2018 the number of people who had disappeared from detention increased to around 82,000 and the number of confirmed deaths from torture to 14,000. In its 2014 annual report, Physicians for Human Rights said that doctors, nurses and other medical personnel, as well as medical facilities, were the preferred targets for Syrian government forces. The use of child soldiers , on the other hand, is blamed exclusively on rebel groups.

    The use of chemical weapons , including isolated cases involving the use of sarin and mustard gas , and several cases involving the use of chlorine gas , were documented by observers during the conflict.

    In February 2016, an NGO estimated 470,000 deaths in the conflict, but this also included people who died from disease and a lack of care as a result of the collapse of the supply systems. Researchers from the Public Library of Science saw a significant increase in cases of classic tropical diseases across the region, such as leishmaniasis , which they attribute to the collapse of the Syrian healthcare system, spreading across Syria.

    In February 2017, Amnesty International again made serious allegations against the Syrian government in a report. Between 2011 and 2015, around 5,000 to 13,000 prisoners in the Saidnaya military prison near Damascus were sentenced to death and killed in mass executions without due process. The victims, mostly civilians, were summarily sentenced to death and hanged by a military court, while others died as a result of lack of care. The activists concluded that the killings must have been ordered by the government and that they were crimes against humanity . The Syrian government denied the report and insisted that executions only take place after due process. Likewise, in a November 2017 report, Amnesty International concluded that the systematic cutting off of food and medicine supplies in enclosed areas, combined with airstrikes, also constituted a crime against humanity. According to this report, too, all the warring parties have again broken international law.

    In 2015 SOHR activists estimated 55,000 deaths in Syria, in 2016 the group estimated it was 49,000 and at the end of December 2017 the activists estimated that over 39,000 people had been killed in Syria in 2017. More than a quarter of the victims in 2017 were civilians, government troops lost 3,000 soldiers and around 7,500 fighters, the majority of whom were IS members, were also killed.

    According to the British non-governmental organization Action on Armed Violence , about 45 percent of the civilian deaths and injuries killed by explosive weapons in the Syrian civil war are the result of airstrikes by the Syrian Air Force , Russian Air Force and the US Air Force (and their allies).

    poison gas

    Poison gas was used in the civil war in Syria. A distinction must be made between chlorine gas , which is not subject to the Chemical Weapons Convention and was still used in 2018, and mustard gas , which is subject to the Convention and was once used by IS, and the banned nerve agent sarin , which was first identified as the cause of death on April 29, 2013 near Sarakeb deceased woman could be materially proven, but whose authorship could not be proven.

    According to the official statement, after the complete destruction of the chemical warfare agents used by the Syrian armed forces in 2014, around 50 attacks with chemical weapons in Syria were known by spring 2018.


    Refugee tents in Turkey in September 2012
    Syrian civil war refugees in various countries in the Middle East (as of September 4, 2015)

    The neighboring countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey initially took in a significant number of refugees. In Jordan, the Zaatari camp was the fifth largest city with 80,000 to 100,000 inhabitants (as of 2013?). According to the Turkish government (as of February 2016), around 2,500,000 Syrian refugees live in Turkey. Satellite images showed that the first Syrian refugee camps in Turkey were set up in July 2011, shortly after the sieges of the cities of Deraa, Homs and Hama. By October 2012, around 100,000 refugees had been reported to the UN refugee agency UNHCR .

    Figures from 2012 to 2013

    In October 2012, around 360,000 people had found refuge in the four neighboring countries. They set up numerous refugee camps. Added to this is the number of refugees who are not registered with UNHCR. Egyptian government officials estimated the number of Syrian refugees living there at over 150,000. In December 2012, 500,000 refugees were already registered with the UNHCR in Syria's four neighboring countries and in North Africa. By the beginning of March 2013, the number of refugees had risen to more than a million, of whom up to 75% were women and children. In March 2013, Germany agreed to take in up to 5,000 of them.

    In March 2013, the UNHCR counted 688,000 refugees in Lebanon. Because the Lebanese government does not allow the construction of new refugee camps, the refugees have to live in self-built shelters, cheap pensions or on the streets. According to their own statements, the Lebanese government and the UNHCR need $1.7 billion to provide adequate care for the refugees.

    Figures for August 2013

    In August 2013, according to UNICEF , the figures rose to 4.2 million internally displaced persons and 2.6 million refugees who had fled the country. Of these, just under 2 million were actually registered as refugees by the UNHCR. Observers later concluded that 2013 also saw the flight to more distant countries, especially Europe, because many displaced Syrians believed the civil war would not end any time soon.


    In July 2015, UNHCR stated that there were now more than 4 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries and that there were 7.6 million internally displaced persons. In addition, by then more than 270,000 Syrians had already applied for asylum in Europe.


    In March 2017, the UNHCR declared that 5 million Syrians were now registered as refugees. The number of internally displaced people is around 6.3 million.


    In March 2018, the BBC reported that UNHCR now estimates that 5.6 million Syrians have fled abroad and that 6.1 million are believed to be internally displaced.

    In 2015, the alleged refusal of rich Arab oil states in the Persian Gulf to take in Syrian civil war refugees was criticized. Saudi Arabia has denied allegations of inaction. Around 2.5 million Syrians have been admitted. These completely different numbers can be partly explained by the fact that no counting of refugees according to the UN Refugee Convention is possible because the Gulf States have not signed the relevant protocols. In Sudan, where Syrians can travel visa-free, only 1,400 out of 45,000 refugees are registered with the UN.

    Syrian refugees eventually played a key role in the development of the 2015 Europe refugee crisis and related efforts to reform the European Union's asylum policy . In view of the influx of refugees in Hungary at the end of August / beginning of September 2015, the governments of Germany, Austria and Hungary made it possible for thousands of refugees to enter Germany as an emergency aid.

    destruction of world heritage sites

    Numerous historical monuments and archaeological sites are also suffering from the civil war, including all World Heritage sites located in Syria. Problems are war destruction, looting and targeted destruction by religious fanatics. Artillery shelling and other destruction of historical monuments and archaeological sites were reported from the beginning of the civil war. For example, the columned street in Apamea am Orontes /Qalat el-Mudiq was shelled on March 15, 2012, the old town of Aleppo with the market and the fortress was badly damaged and the crusader castle of Krak des Chevaliers , which had been occupied several times by troops from both sides, was hit by shelling and looting drawn.

    In addition to the destruction caused by hostilities, the looting of archaeological sites is increasing. The proceeds from selling antiquities are used to finance the delivery of weapons. The terrorist organization Islamic State in particular is financed by systematic illegal excavations, among other things. The site where Apameia was found on the Orontes has now been largely destroyed, as has Dura Europos, where, however, IS gunmen have also deliberately destroyed the Jewish synagogue, for example. The problem is not only that archaeological finds are smuggled abroad, but also that sites are completely destroyed. The illegal excavation holes irretrievably destroy any historical testimony about life and environmental conditions in the past.

    At the beginning of 2013, the Syrian Antiquities Authority presented an initial report that assessed the damage; various international organizations are now involved in monitoring. With the support of the International Council of Museums and UNESCO , educational work is being done to sensitize the local population in particular, who have so far proved to be the best protection against illegal excavations .

    The six World Heritage Sites in Syria were placed on the Red List of World Heritage in Danger by UNESCO on June 20, 2013 .

    risk of spreading to other countries

    Politicians from various countries, including the then German Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle , warned against military intervention in Syria. There is a risk of the fighting spreading to countries in the region. Everything must be avoided that could bring Syria closer to a proxy war. If that doesn't succeed, it could "conjure up a confrontation that reaches as far as Moscow or Beijing ". Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that actions that undermine state sovereignty could "at times result in outright regional war and even the use of nuclear weapons ". In an interview that President Assad gave to the Russian television channel Rossiya 24 in May 2012 , he warned neighboring countries against interference: Anyone who foments chaos in Syria could infect themselves with it. A few days earlier there had been fighting in the Lebanese city of Tripoli between Alawite opponents and Sunni supporters of the Syrian insurgents. Fighting erupted on May 12 after Lebanese troops arrested a Sunni Islamist accused of belonging to a terrorist organization. The detainee's supporters then blocked a road; Salafists demanded his release and said they would fight Lebanese troops if the blockade was lifted. In the fighting that followed, seven people were killed and fifty injured.

    Ever since April 2012, when Syrians shelled a refugee camp on Turkish territory, Turkey has considered requesting Article 5 assistance from NATO , which eventually led to Operation Active Fence in January 2013 . Damascus has accused Turkey of leaking weapons and money into Syria since the armed revolt began.

    Already existing tensions between Turkey and Syria were exacerbated when on June 22, 2012 a Turkish warplane was shot down by Syrian forces after it entered Syrian airspace.

    On November 3, 2012, three Syrian tanks accompanied by two armored personnel carriers entered the demilitarized zone on the Golan Heights . They fought a firefight with Syrian rebels in the village of Bir Ajam . Syrian mortar shells had previously hit the demilitarized zone. In response to these actions by the Syrian army, Israel lodged a complaint with the UN peacekeeping force stationed in the demilitarized zone. Two days later, according to the Israeli armed forces, an army vehicle was hit by several projectiles fired from Syrian territory on the Golan Heights near the demarcation line. The vehicle was damaged, but no one was injured. It was not possible to determine whether these shots were fired by the Syrian army or by the rebels. On November 11, an Israeli border post in the Golan Heights was hit by a Syrian mortar shell . A number of missiles fired by the Syrian army had already hit the Golan Heights. While the Israeli government viewed the shelling as an accident, Israeli forces fired at least one anti-tank missile into Syrian territory that same day as a warning. The Israeli government again lodged a complaint with the UN troops stationed in the Golan Heights. A day later, the Israeli army responded to a Syrian shell that landed near an Israeli military post by targeting the shelling artillery unit with tanks.

    In early 2013, both Sunni and Shia clerics in Lebanon called for armed support for members of their faith in Syria. When, in May 2013, Syrian troops and Hezbollah militias finally took control of the town of Kusair on the Lebanese border, Sunni volunteers from Lebanon returned to their hometowns and turned against members of Lebanon's Alawite minorities, whom they accused of being commissioned by Assad to threaten Sunni families in Lebanon. Heavy fighting erupted in late June 2013 when Salafist supporters of preacher Ahmed al-Assir , including singer Fadel Shaker , attacked the Lebanese army in Sidon . 12 soldiers were killed and 50 others wounded by June 23.

    In the spring of 2013, there were increasing clashes in Iraq between the Sunni minority and the predominantly Shiite-dominated government apparatus. Iraq's Sunnis are said to have been motivated by the successes of Sunni rebels in Syria to regain some of the influence they lost after the Americans overthrew Saddam Hussein and the elections that followed. After initially peaceful protests, there were several bomb attacks in April 2013, incited by religious leaders on both sides, resulting in numerous fatalities. At the end of May 2013, it became known that voluntary associations of Iraqi Shiites were fighting in Syria in unknown strength on the side of the pro-government associations.

    Territory gains by Kurdish groups on Syrian soil, which they had made after fighting with Islamist rebels on the Turkish border, raised concerns among the Turkish government. Her deputy prime minister said a de facto autonomous Kurdish region on Syrian soil would not be tolerated.

    On August 2, 2014, Lebanon's Arsal uprising flared up after Lebanese forces arrested a Syrian rebel leader near Arsal . This was the first time the Lebanese state had lost control of a city since the civil war. From August 9, the security forces returned to the city and brought calm to the region.

    international law

    In the absence of a UN Security Council resolution for military intervention, various approaches under international law were used by foreign powers to intervene in Syria. For example, supporting a legitimate government is permissible if invited to do so. Thus, the Arab League elected and supported the government of the Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Other states invoked the right to humanitarian intervention , such as the United Kingdom after the Ghouta poison gas attacks in the summer of 2013.

    In an interview in March 2018, the international law expert Pierre Thielbörger took the position that the state should be able to defend itself against insurgents to a certain extent, but that it had to respect human rights and international humanitarian law. The support of the Syrian government troops by Russia is also legitimate, due to the invitation of the Syrian government, but also has to comply with international law, about which there are great doubts. The deployment of the international coalition in Syria, which claims to fight against the IS by invoking the right to self-defense , is problematic under international law because the deployment of their troops in Syria without an invitation is also a violation of the ban on the use of force . Financial support for non-governmental groups without the permission of the Syrian government is a violation of the ban on intervention .

    According to journalists in 2019, the documented actions of the air forces of the Syrian government and the Russian Federation include targeted bombing of hospitals in opposing areas, which violates international law.

    International Reactions

    United Nations urgent debate on Syria on February 28, 2012

    Against the background of the debates about a military intervention in Syria, politicians from various countries fear an internationalization of the conflict, which could lead to an open, regional war; neighboring countries Lebanon and Iraq are most concerned .

    Because of the diplomatic stalemate at the level of the United Nations as a consequence of the threatening consequences for the region, since the G8 summit in Camp David in May 2012 the USA has been considering a solution to the crisis through a " Yemeni solution ", i. H. a stabilization of the existing political system in Syria, provided that Bashar al-Assad abdicates and goes abroad to give someone else the presidency. Such a solution is considered viable if Russia and China can be won over to it. In May 2012, various states, including the United States and Great Britain, expelled Syrian diplomats due to ongoing government violence against members of the opposition, which led to the Houla massacre , among other things.

    United Nations

    UN Security Council

    The United Nations Security Council , chaired by India, issued a statement on August 3, 2011 condemning human rights abuses and violence against civilians in Syria and “calling on all sides to end the violence immediately and calling on all sides to exercise maximum restraint and distancing from reprisals, including of attacks on state institutions”. In the run-up to the declaration, the veto powers China and Russia as well as 10 other states in the UN General Assembly ( Cuba , Iran , North Korea , Myanmar , Belarus , Zimbabwe , Venezuela , Nicaragua and Syria ) had spoken out against stricter formulations or a resolution. Security Council statements carry less weight than resolutions.

    On February 4, 2012, a resolution introduced by Morocco to the UN Security Council failed due to the veto of Russia and China. According to Russian foreign policy expert Dmitrij Trenin, Russia “felt the drafts as unbalanced. Russia's principles are: no regime change under pressure from outside, no military intervention, no unilateral condemnation of the leadership in Damascus. What prompted Russia to veto the last time was the demand that Assad's troops should leave the cities, without there being a corresponding demand from the opposition forces." The other 13 member states supported the resolution, which had previously been weakened several times because of the threatened veto .

    On July 5, 2013, the Security Council failed to pass a resolution to force access to around 2,500 civilians in embattled Homs who were stuck in neighborhoods besieged by government forces and pro-government militias. Because Russia rejected the text as unilateral and also wanted to include access to the villages of Nubul and Zahra, which had been under siege by rebels for months, which other Security Council members rejected, the resolution failed. One side insisted on the importance of Homs as a major city, while Russia pointed to the far greater number of people suffering in the villages under the siege. The 2,500 civilians in Homs, meanwhile, are said to be held hostage by the rebels, who would not allow them to accept an offer from the Syrian government to leave the city under the protection of the Red Crescent/Cross .

    On July 26, 2013, opposition representatives met with members of the UN Security Council. Among other things, the opposition members repeated their demand that President Assad announce his resignation before attending a peace conference in Geneva. The British representative on the Security Council took the statements as a strong commitment from the opposition and concluded that it is now up to the government to show the same commitment. The Syrian government had already confirmed in the week before the meeting its willingness to take part in a peace conference, albeit without any preconditions.

    On September 27, 2013, the Security Council passed Resolution 2118, which regulates the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles by the Syrian government forces. The dispute between Russia and the US on how to respond to government violations was resolved by announcing another Security Council resolution in the event.

    On December 18, 2015, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2258, calling for a ceasefire, the initiation of a peace process and the election of a future non-religious government of the country involving all Syrians, including those abroad, under United Nations control within 18 months. The fate of President Assad and the involvement of various insurgent groups, who are also considered terrorists, were left out of the text of the resolution. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was due to present a ceasefire plan and monitor it within a month.

    At a special session of the council on September 25, 2016, the representatives of the USA, Great Britain and France tried to address the suffering of the population in the besieged part of Aleppo and to put pressure on council member Russia. In the turbulent session, the western state representatives insulted Russia as an international outsider, US representative Power accused Russia of “ barbarism ” and, like the British and French representatives, demonstratively left the room when the Syrian government representative was about to start his presentation. Russia's representative Churkin , on the other hand, pointed to the increasing complexity of the conflict caused by US-backed terrorist groups across the region and praised Assad's government for its "restraint".

    Statements by senior UN officials

    In June 2012, the chief of the United Nations peacekeeping force , Hervé Ladsous , officially described the conflict as a civil war for the first time.

    From August 14 to 16, 2012, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator , Valerie Ann Amos , visited Syria to assess the humanitarian situation and discussed on-site opportunities for humanitarian access. Amos stated that around 2.5 million Syrians are now dependent on humanitarian aid.

    On September 5, 2012, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized the United Nations Security Council . The “paralysis of the council harms the Syrian people; it also damages his own credibility,” Ban told the United Nations General Assembly .

    On 27 May 2013, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay expressed her dismay at the suffering of the Syrian people. She referred to reports that in the fighting for Kusair, government forces used indiscriminate air and artillery attacks, rebel forces used civilians as a shield, women and girls were forcibly married to rebel fighters , and there were persistent reports of torture and executions by rebel forces.

    On June 4, 2013, the head of the UN commission of inquiry, Paulo Pinheiro, told the UN Human Rights Council in his report on the situation in Syria that nobody will win this war and that more weapons would only result in more civilian deaths and injuries.

    In the summer of 2016, the UN World Food Program supported four to four and a half million people in Syria every month. 70 percent of the aid goes via Damascus, the rest via third countries. Donor nations are in particular Germany (with almost half the amount in 2017) and the EU as well as the USA. Aid convoys were harassed in an apparent effort to see if those responsible for aid were not giving up. The head of the program, Jakob Kern, said the army was not interested in sending aid because the encircled areas were "medieval sieges" with the aim of starving people out. Likewise, the international law of the injured would be violated when it comes to first-aid equipment that is not allowed through. In special cases, such as Deir ez-Zor , which was surrounded by IS at the time, help from the air was also dropped as a last resort. In early 2018, constant supply reached 3 million people. According to Jakob Kern, a five-hour ceasefire, as announced by Russia for Ghouta in February 2018, is of no use for a complex operation such as supplying supplies across front lines.

    UN Observer Mission (2012)

    From April 21 to August 19, 2012, a United Nations Observer Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) based on Security Council Resolutions 2042 (April 14), 2043 (April 21) and 2059 (July 20) was conducted. UNSMIS was mandated to use 300 unarmed UN military observers to "monitor the cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties, and to monitor and support the full implementation of the envoy's six-point proposal." The ceasefire in force since April 12, 2012 was also based on the six-point proposal by Kofi Annan (joint special envoy for the United Nations and the Arab League ), which the Syrian leadership under President Bashar al-Assad approved on March 25, 2012 .

    Mission execution had been suspended since June 16, 2012 due to escalating violence towards observers. On August 16, 2012, the United Nations Security Council ordered the end of the UNSMIS observer mission because the conditions for a continuation were not met. At midnight on August 19, 2012, the mandate for the UN peacekeeping mission ended.

    UN General Assembly

    On May 15, 2013, the UN General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution tabled by Qatar strongly condemning human rights abuses by government forces in Syria. While the number of votes against remained the same at 12 compared to the last resolution of this type in August 2012, an increased number of abstentions from 33 to 55 in the vote is interpreted by observers as a growing rejection of the Syrian opposition by members of the General Assembly.

    UN Human Rights Council

    On August 22, 2011, the UN Human Rights Council set up an independent commission of inquiry to collect all reports of human rights violations in Syria since March 2011 and identify those responsible. The Commission publishes regular reports.

    On May 29, 2013, the Human Rights Council, in a (non-binding) resolution tabled by Qatar, Turkey and the United States, condemned the government's use of foreign militias in the battle for Kusair.

    Arab League

    On August 7, 2011, the Arab League issued its first official statement on the protests, calling for an end to violence against civilians.

    On November 2, 2011, the Arab League put together a peace plan that included not shooting at unarmed demonstrators, withdrawing the military from the cities, and releasing political prisoners . The Syrian government approved the plan, but the next day deaths resumed when demonstrators were shot at.

    On November 12, 2011, the Arab League decided four points:

    1. As of November 16, Syria's membership will be suspended and its delegation will be excluded from the negotiations.
    2. Members are asked to withdraw their ambassadors.
    3. Economic sanctions are imposed.
    4. The UN is called upon to protect the Syrian population.

    The sanctions announced on November 12 were imposed on November 27. In addition to a stop to trade with the Syrian government and central bank, they include a travel ban for members of the Syrian government and the freezing of accounts.

    In January 2012, the League approved a peace plan presented by Saudi Arabia and Qatar that would see Assad hand over power to Sunni Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa . Syria rejected the proposal; Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon had also spoken out against the plan. On January 22, 2012, Saudi Arabia withdrew its monitors. Two days later, the other Gulf States announced that they would also withdraw their monitors.

    On February 12, 2012, the Arab League asked the United Nations Security Council to deploy United Nations peacekeeping forces to Syria. In addition, it was decided to break off diplomatic relations with the Syrian government and to intensify contact with the Syrian National Council. However, they did not follow the proposal of some Gulf states to recognize the Council as the “sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people”. Iraq said it was still too early for that, Lebanon rejected the resolution altogether, and Algeria also reported concerns.

    Organization for Islamic Cooperation

    On August 15, 2012, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) suspended Syria's membership in the OIC at its summit in Mecca. Iran and Algeria voted against it in vain, while Pakistan and Kazakhstan demanded at least a condemnation of the rebels' acts of violence.

    European Union

    On May 9, 2011, the Council of the European Union decided to impose sanctions on those responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population in Syria. These are banned from entering the EU and the corresponding funds and financial deposits are blocked. The list of affected persons has been supplemented several times. An embargo was also imposed prohibiting "the sale, supply, transit and export of armaments and related materials of all kinds, including weapons, ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment and spare parts for the aforesaid items". However, efforts are now being made again to lift the embargo, at least with regard to non-lethal weapons - especially by France and Great Britain.

    On September 13, 2012, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning in the strongest terms the ever-increasing use of indiscriminate violence by President Assad's government against the Syrian civilian population, in particular the targeted killings of children and women and mass executions in villages. It called for an immediate end to the violence and for increased humanitarian action by the EU and approval by the Syrian government. It expressed regret that the UN Security Council had not yet adopted a resolution to end the violence in Syria. At the same time, it repeated its call for the Syrian president to resign.

    In May 2013, at the urging of France and Great Britain, the European Union lifted the arms embargo on the Syrian rebels. Each member state of the Union can therefore decide for itself whether to supply arms to government opponents.


    The German federal government ( Merkel II cabinet ) condemned the Syrian government for its attacks on the rebels. After Syrian attacks on Turkey in October 2012, Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (FDP) spoke of "serious incidents". In August 2012, the Federal Ministry of Defense confirmed the deployment of the German Navy's fleet service boat Oker "in international waters in the eastern Mediterranean".

    According to the image , the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) is passing on the knowledge it has gained to US and British partner services, from where it is also said to reach the Syrian rebels. According to the newspaper, BND employees are also stationed at the Turkish NATO base in Adana , from where they listen to phone calls and radio traffic from Syria. "We can be proud of the important contribution we are making to the fall of the Assad regime," said "a BND man," according to BamS . Accordingly, Germany plays a larger role in the Syrian conflict than previously known. In May 2013, the BND assessed the rebels' situation as precarious and saw the government on the rise, after the service had predicted imminent victory for the rebels a year earlier.

    In December 2012, the German Bundestag approved the participation of the Bundeswehr in the NATO operation Active Fence in Turkey. During the deployment from January 2013 to January 2016, German soldiers monitored and protected the airspace over the border area with Syria.

    In May 2013, Chancellor Merkel categorically ruled out arms deliveries to Syria. The EU had previously lifted the arms embargo on Syrian rebels at the urging of France and Great Britain. From 2014 onwards, the federal government delivered weapons to the autonomous region of Kurdistan in Iraq. No definite statements can be made about the exact whereabouts of these weapons.

    In August 2015, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bamf) announced that it would suspend the Dublin procedure for Syrians. Since then, the German federal government has not sent Syrian refugees back to the EU countries in which the Syrians were first registered - e.g. B. to Italy, Hungary or Greece. In November 2015, however, this rule was lifted again.

    After the terrorist attacks on November 13, 2015 in Paris , which are attributed to the IS, France began to intensify its airstrikes on IS positions in the civil war country, campaigned for an international coalition against the organization and officially asked the EU member states for assistance under Article 42 Paragraph 7 of the EU Treaty of Lisbon . The German government then announced in early December 2015 that it would be involved in a military deployment in Syria .

    On December 4, 2015, the German Bundestag decided on Germany's participation in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS). It was initially planned to use the Bundeswehr with up to 1,200 soldiers outside of Syria for support.

    In 2018, the German Attorney General obtained an international arrest warrant for Syrian Air Force intelligence chief Jamil Hassan for crimes against humanity.

    In February 2019, two former Syrian intelligence officials were arrested in Germany. The federal prosecutor accuses them of crimes against humanity. In 2011 and 2012, the men are said to have been involved in abuse.

    In March 2019 it became known that members of a Syrian peace initiative consisting of representatives of numerous Syrian families, tribes and religious communities meet regularly in Germany. The group describes itself as the " Council of the Syrian Charter ", has met secretly for more than two and a half years, according to media reports, and passed a draft for a new social contract. Syrian refugees in Germany have set up private initiatives to collect evidence for the prosecution of any Syrian war criminals who have fled to Germany.


    The People's Republic of China , like Russia, vetoed United Nations Security Council resolutions punishing the Syrian government for its crackdown on the opposition. China's representative in the Security Council explained his country's decision with the imbalance of the resolution, which only puts pressure on one party to the conflict in Syria. This would increase the risk of the conflict spreading to other countries in the region. In addition, China's representatives complained in a statement about the lack of cooperation in the drafting of the resolution of summer 2012 and accused individual states of having no interest in a peaceful solution. For example, the mission of the special envoy Kofi Annan was publicly declared prematurely failed and an expansion of his mission was sabotaged by setting preconditions and various obstacles. These states had still not shown any serious effort, but had started the talks with an "arrogant attitude".

    In early July 2013, China blamed the parties in the Syrian civil war for clashes in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region . Islamist separatists from the ethnic group of the Uyghurs , who campaigned for the region to secede from China, had previously become radicalized on the side of the opposition in fighting in Syria and, according to the authorities, are responsible for unrest in which 35 people died in the last week of June.


    Qatar has been supporting the Syrian rebels since 2011 and began supplying them with weapons flown in by the Qatari Air Force via Esenboğa in Turkey. However, Qatar has never officially acknowledged arms deliveries. First of all, old stocks were sent to Syria via Turkey, later modern weapons were also bought on the international market and transported to rebel groups.

    Largely insignificant at first, Qatar used its wealth to cement the country's role as a major regional power. The ruling family believe in an important role for Islam in politics and are happy to support "winners". States such as Jordan and the United Arab Emirates complained to the United States in 2013 about Qatar's thoughtless actions, and a Western diplomat said the country had simply overreached itself with its engagement in Syria.

    According to observations by analysts , the modern anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles of Chinese design ( FN-6 and HJ-8 ) procured by Qatar in 2013 ended up in the hands of Islamists. After the country of manufacture of these weapons was initially unclear, according to information from the summer of 2013, they were bought by Qatar in Sudan , where an armaments industry had emerged with Iranian and Chinese support in the previous years . Officials in Sudan deny these deliveries and claim to have only delivered ammunition in 2011 during the Libyan civil war . After Sudan's manufacturer's stamp from 2012 was found on rebel ammunition, observers doubt the statements and classify them as not credible on the basis of past deliveries to numerous crisis areas and simultaneous denials by Sudan. According to American officials, the new transports were picked up by Ukrainian cargo planes in Sudan's capital and flown to Turkey as before, from where they were passed on to rebel groups.

    Qatar is officially part of the American-led coalition against ISIS in Syria and is home to around 10,000 US soldiers. But in early June 2017, Qatar was accused by US President Trump, representatives of Saudi Arabia and other states of terrorist financing in Syria and subsequently isolated from these states. 12 organizations and 59 individuals from Qatar were put on sanctions lists, overflight rights for Qatari airlines were canceled by the Saudis, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt and direct flights to Qatar were suspended.

    Saudi Arabia

    Saudi Arabia's government is one of the strongest supporters of plans to overthrow President Assad because it wants to weaken Iran's influence in the region, with which it has been at odds for decades. The hostility began with the Iranian-Islamic Revolution , a movement that threatened the old elites, including the Saudi ruling family, from below. Because of Iran's Shiite faith, the rivalry has been stylized into a religious war that fueled old prejudices between Sunnis and Shiites, who Saudi Wahhabis view as heretics .

    Like Qatar, Saudi Arabia is actively involved in paying, arming and deploying opposition militias. For example, the Gulf States offer Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters a salary that is paid in US dollars or euros and is very high compared to other wages in Syria. Above all, soldiers of the Syrian army should be persuaded to desert. FSA sources also say they have received several shipments of weapons from Gulf countries, including Kalashnikov assault rifles , machine guns and anti-tank weapons. According to rebels and Western diplomatic circles, the weapons are said to have reached Syria via the Turkish border. At a meeting of the Friends of Syria contact group in February, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal is said to have described arming the Syrian opposition as an “excellent idea”. Infantry weapons, mortars and recoilless guns were procured from Croatia on the Saudi account and smuggled to Syria via Jordan. In January 2013, it was revealed that Saudi Arabia was also offering around 1,200 inmates on death row in its prisons a commutation of their sentences if they fought government forces in Syria. In addition, the families of the convicts, who are not allowed to leave Saudi Arabia while their relatives are deployed in Syria, were promised a monthly payment. Under pressure from Russia, which threatened to publicize the practice, the Saudis vowed to shut down the program. However, the existence of such troops became known through deserted members of these units, who had fled from Syria to their home countries of Iraq and Yemen.

    In August 2013, it was revealed that Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief, Bandar bin Sultan , had offered Russia's President Putin a deal to buy US$15 billion worth of Russian weapons for the Saudi armed forces and not to give up Russia's future gas supremacy in Europe threat if Russia scales back its support for President Assad and his government and stops blocking Security Council resolutions against Syria. In the same month, the Saudis began delivering Russian -made anti-tank missiles to rebels in southern Syria, now via Jordan, in what analysts say is an attempt to strengthen moderate opposition fighters in order to push back Islamist influences, which also pose a threat to the ruling house in Riyadh . Since the third quarter of 2013, Saudi Arabia has been accused of massive support for a group called "Liwa al-Islam" (Army of Islam), which has a Salafist base of values ​​and distances itself from al-Qaeda-related organizations such as ISIL. With Western support for the armed opposition waning in late 2013, Saudi Arabia announced it would take a more active role in fighting the Assad government, which the Saudi ambassador to Britain has described as a threat to regional stability would.

    Despite what appeared to be similar positions on religious issues, the Saudi Arabian ruling family increasingly found itself at odds with the ISIS militias as the conflict progressed. After attacks in Saudi Arabia, around 400 people believed to be close to IS were arrested in the summer of 2015 and the US-led coalition forces took part in airstrikes on IS positions in Syria. With the intervention of the Russian Federation in favor of the government in Syria, analysts are assuming increased military support from Saudi Arabia and the Sunni-dominated states of Qatar and Turkey in favor of the rebels. In particular , TOW guided missiles of American design have been purchased in large numbers by Saudi Arabia since October 2015 and also leaked to religious rebel groups in north-west Syria via Turkey, which the USA has now classified as “moderate”.

    Saudi Arabia was still threatening in September 2015 that under no circumstances would it accept a Russian commitment aimed at keeping President Assad in power.


    Jordan initially took in around 600,000 refugees and helped supply rebel troops. With the increasing radicalization of the conflict, Jordan joined the coalition against IS and, after the USA, flew the largest number of airstrikes against positions of the terrorist organization. The country had also become the focus of IS because supporters of the terror leader Zarqāwī , who was revered by IS, were being sentenced to death and were being held there in prisons, whom IS wanted to free. After the killing of a captured Jordanian pilot by IS in February 2015, King Abdullah II had the imprisoned terrorists executed.


    Syria's southwestern neighbor Israel was rather skeptical about the opposition uprising, but the Syrian opposition was repeatedly backed by Israeli airstrikes on Syrian army positions in the Golan Heights . From the Israeli point of view, there are also fears of further support and supplies for Hezbollah (see the 2006 Lebanon War ) and Hamas from the Assad government . Some voices called for intervention by Israeli forces in the conflict. According to press reports, areas on the Golan Heights were cleared for humanitarian purposes in order to take in refugees if necessary. There is also concern about a provoked spread of the conflict, for example with chemical weapons .

    After the arrival of seven seriously injured civil war refugees on the Golan Heights in February 2013, the Israeli army's medical intervention team set up a field hospital in the immediate vicinity of the border to provide medical aid to Syrians injured in the civil war. According to a 2015 report by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force , Israel is providing humanitarian aid across the Golan border. "Israel makes no secret of the fact that it is providing humanitarian aid to the Syrians on the Golan - with food, blankets, medicine and medical supplies - and does not ask whether they are combatants or civilians." Despite the state of war between the two that has existed since 1948 countries, almost 5,000 wounded Syrians, including more than 1,000 children, have been treated in Israel in the five-year period since February 2013.

    From 2013 to the summer of 2017, Israeli air forces carried out at least 19 attacks on targets in Syria, most of which were not immediately and officially acknowledged. The Israeli air force chief mentioned in the summer of 2017 that his troops had already hit around 100 targets in Syria. These included attacks on January 31, 2013 , February 14, 2013 , May 3, 2013 , May 5, 2013 , October 31, 2013 , February 24, 2014 , March 19, 2014 , June 23, 2014 , December 20, 2015 , May 2016 , September 13, 2016 , January 13, 2017 , March 17, 2017 , April 27, 2017 , June 24, 2017 , September 7, 2017 , September 22, 2017 , October 16, 2017 , January 9 2018 , on February 8, 2018 and on February 10, 2018 .

    According to observers, the targets were mostly in connection with the Hezbollah militia from Lebanon, which is fighting on the side of the Syrian government troops. Nevertheless, even according to observers, Israel does not see itself as a warring party in the civil war.

    Israeli commando units are said to have also been deployed on the ground in Syria. In the winter of 2016/2017, a unit of the Israeli secret service was said to have been dropped in Syria with helicopters in order to eliminate an IS unit that was apparently planning terrorist attacks against passenger planes. Details of the mission later became public because parts of the secret information collected by US President Trump were disclosed to the Russian ambassador in an indiscretion.

    In the early morning of January 13, 2021, there was one of the most extensive Israeli airstrikes to date on Iranian positions in Syria, including what appears to have been a 35-minute attack on positions around and in Deir ez-Zor and Bukamal, according to Lebanese media. A Germany-based Syrian NGO observer also attributed the attack to the fact that US President Donald Trump is stepping down in a few days and the Israeli leadership still wanted to use his backing for this attack.


    In connection with the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad government against its own people, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi announced on June 15, 2013 at a conference on "Syria support" in Cairo that he would "finally" break off all relations with the Syrian government. He is closing the Syrian embassy in Egypt and withdrawing Egyptian partners from Damascus. Morsi also advocated a NATO no-fly zone over Syria and warned Hezbollah and the Palestinians to support Assad.

    After the coup d'état in Egypt and the poison gas attacks in Ghouta , Egypt's new Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy spoke out against military intervention in Syria. The crisis can only be solved politically. He also stated that Egypt does not support jihadists in Syria, but also has reservations about Assad.


    The treatment of Syrian refugees escalated disputes between Morocco and Algeria that had been smoldering for decades . Both countries accuse each other of driving out refugees in the border area, including many women and children, and preventing them from visiting their relatives in the other country. According to the Moroccan interior minister, 77 people, including 43 children and 18 women, are affected. A human rights organization in Oujda , northeast Morocco , spoke of several hundred Syrian refugees in the city since June 2013 and criticized Morocco's refusal to grant them refugee status.


    After the fall of Muammar al-Gaddafi , the Libyan government had already offered to help the rebels in their fight against the government in Syria in 2011. Several hundred fighters, often veterans of the Libyan Civil War , joined the rebel movement in 2012.

    According to the UN , significant stocks of weapons from Libya's arsenal, including land mines and shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, were also taken to the rebels, although the initiators of these transports are not known.


    Sudan is considered a close ally of Iran and should therefore side with the government in the civil war in Syria . Nonetheless, following South Sudan 's secession in 2011 (which meant the loss of most of its oil fields), Sudan appears to have been supplying arms to both sides through its Military Industry Corporation due to its precarious economic situation . As a suspected arms supplier to the Syrian armed forces and the Free Syrian Army , Sudan must be considered a classic war profiteer .


    Venezuelan oil was supplied to Syria during Hugo Chávez 's lifetime , probably to circumvent the Gulf States' energy embargo. From the Venezuelan perspective, the Assad government, as an ally of Iran, is also seen as an ally in the region, since it is obligated to cooperate with the common adversary, the United States. It is not known whether there have been further oil deliveries to Syria under the new Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro .


    Belarus and Syria have had close political and economic ties since 1993. Therefore, even before the civil war in Syria, Belarus appeared as a supplier of arms to the Syrian armed forces, especially the Syrian Air Force . Even after the beginning of the civil war, the Belarusian leadership does not seem to have moved away from it. In 2012, the USA therefore imposed sanctions on the state-owned armaments company Belvneshpromservis . The President of Belarus Alyaksandr Lukashenka does not seem to have been impressed by this, as sanctions by the EU are already in place against his government due to his autocratic rule.

    North Korea

    Totalitarian North Korea openly supports President Assad and his Ba'ath Party and declares its solidarity with the government in "defending the country's sovereignty, peace and stability" . North Korea arms deliveries to Syria are suspected. The Assad government also thanked the North Korean leadership for "supporting and encouraging our just cause against the interference of world powers in our internal affairs".

    At least two North Korean cargo ships carrying weapons components bound for Syria were captured by UN Security Council member states between February and August 2017. The recipients listed were on the sanctions lists of the European Union and the USA.


    Syrian and Russian media, but also individual scientists from well-known British universities, spread disinformation about the White Helmets , disinformation about chemical weapons attacks and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons . They denied mass murder and torture by Bashar al-Assad 's Syrian regime or declared that the White Helmets were paid actors.

    See also



    feature films




    • Fritz Edlinger, Tyma Kraitt: Syria. A country at war. Backgrounds, analyses, reports. 2nd rev. Edition Vienna. Promedia 2015 ISBN 978-3-85371-398-3 .

    Articles, analyzes and studies:

    web links

    Commons : Syrian Civil War  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
     Wikinews: Portal:Syria  - in the news


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