Over the last eight years the Syrian conflict has developed into one of the worst humanitarian tragedies of modern times. More than half a million victims, 5 million refugees abroad and 6 million internally displaced: the figures only capture part of Syria’s catastrophe. In addition, there is the less quantifiable damage to the country’s social fabric.
On 7 August 2011, the then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared the Syrian issue to be a ‘domestic affair’ for Turkey and that his country could not stay idle in the face of the political crisis in Syria. Almost eight years later, the Syrian crisis has indeed become an issue of Turkish domestic politics, albeit not in the way President Erdogan envisaged. At the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2011, Turkey was seeking to project its power throughout the Middle East, seeing its immediate neighbourhood as Ankara’s hinterland.
Five years of Islamic State (IS) rule across Iraq and Syria have wrecked the shared border between the two countries and created a fragile security situation in the area commonly known as “Syraq”.
After announcing in December that the US will withdraw its troops from Syria, President Donald Trump and the White House back tracked a number of weeks later, declaring the withdrawal may yet take a number of months.
After 8 years of conflict, Syria is a country in ruins.
On January 24, the Syrian-Kurdish forces backed by the US anti-Islamic State (IS) coalition barely repelled a counter-attack carried out by IS militants in the Syrian village of Baghuz Fawqani, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates where the river crosses the Syrian-Iraqi border.
In the summer of 2013, most commentaries on the Syrian civil war’s effect on Iraq’s Sunni population argued that the rise of Syria’s Sunnis against the government in Damascus had emboldened their co-religionists across the border, providing a morale boost to the Iraqi community that feels marginalized by a Shia-dominated Iraqi state, closely allied to Shia Iran. However, what was neglected in these assessments was the “cause and effect” relationship between the Syrian civil war and the deteriorating security situation in Iraq.
After nearly eight years of conflict, Bashar al-Assad has effectively won the civil war and Syria is now entering a new phase. While large parts of the country remain out of government hands and violence will undoubtedly continue as Damascus looks to reassert full control, domestic and international focus is increasingly turning towards the post-conflict phase.
The Syrian regime's reliance on foreign forces (Russia, Iran and its Shia militia proxies) to turn the tide in its favor since 2015 has cast doubt on its ability to regain long-term sovereignty. Hybridity of security governance includes not only those foreign forces, but also the absorption of pro-government Syrian militias and even former rebel groups which have returned to the fold.