Who’s fighting who in Syria?

  • By Viktor Larsen

who is fighting who is syria

 

Confused? The situation is far from straight forward, apologies if any arrows have been lost under others. A simplified look at who is supporting, fighting and condemning whom:

The West

USA is bombing the Syrian Government and Dawla rebles. They are condemning Russia, Lebanon and Iran along with any other nation who shows support to Syria. They are training and arming the other rebel factions in an attempt to enforce US backed regime change in the country, a move that breaks international law. They support the actions of the UK and Saudi Arabia and are allies of Turkey. The US are also allies to the Kurdish rebels who aim to create their own country from land taken from Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Saudi Arabia is bombing the Syrian government and Dawla rebels.

France & Canada have both also been involved in airstrikes in Syria in support of the USA.

UK although already militarily active in Iraq has only taken part in a small number of drone strikes in Syria, most famously against it’s own British citizens. The UK is according to their latest press statement, “waiting to see how the war reacts to Russian involvement”. On the face of things the UK is pro-war, ready to engage. They are strong allies of the USA and also wish to over throw the Syrian government. The UK is already bombing Dawla targets in Iraq. Much like the USA and the other western alliance members the UK condemns Russian involvement in a rather hypocritical stance.

Israel supports and is supported by the USA, condemns Lebanon and is hostile to all Arab and Muslim states. Israel wishes to take the Golan Heights region from Syria, an ambition that has previously resulted in war.

The East

Russia is bombing and using cruise missiles against rebels in Syria. Russia is widely reported to be in support of the Syrian government. Officially Russia is only targeting Dawla rebels.

Lebanon is in support of the Syrian government and trying to stabilize it’s northern border with Syria.

Iran is in support of the Syrian government.

The Middle Ground 

Turkey is a member of NATO, and an ally to the USA. Turkey is not in support of the Syrian government however is not bombing or engaging in military action against the government. Although not bombing Dawla rebels themselves directly, Turkey is allowing the USA to use it’s air bases to do so (this is why Turkey has the black arrow in the above graphic). Turkey is however bombing Kurdish rebels in what it sees as defense of their own sovereign borders.Turkey borders both Syria and Iraq.

The Rebels

Several rebel factions trained, armed and supported by the US coalition are fighting against both the Syrian government and the Dawla rebels. There is much debate as to the level of control the US maintains over such groups or indeed what would happen should any particular group come to power.

Kurdish rebels, legally and officially held by Turkey as terrorist groups, there are several different Kurdish factions. Kurdish rebels have attacked inland Turkey in devastating terror attacks over the recent weeks. The Kurdish groups are all fighting on the ground against the Dawla rebels. However there is an alternate motive for the Kurdish groups, they wish to establish their own state, using land that is currently Iraqi, Syrian, Turkish and Iranian. The Kurdish groups are supported by the USA, meaning that two of the US allies, Turkey and Kurdish Rebels are fighting each other.

Dawla, there are too many theories and explanations to try and hazard a guess at the truth. One mainstream theory seems to be that they emerged from the multitude of US and Israeli backed rebels and simply become uncontrollable, developing ambitions for their own state.


  • All parties are fighting Dawla (who go by many names).
  • The Western coalition headed up by the USA is also bombing the Syrian Government and condemning Russian involvement.
  • The UK has postponed full scale airstrikes in Syria until they have assessed the implications of Russian involvement.
  • Turkey is stuck in the middle, an ally of the Western alliance, yet at war with the Kurds.
  • The Eastern alliance seeks to support the sovereign government of Syria.

At least this is the situation for today. The balance is an ever tipping scale in Syria with new parties arriving, nations changing their stances on military action, condemnation, support and aid in a very fluid arena.

Whilst nations and rebel factions play war games it is the innocent civilians and families who are having their lives stolen away in death or torment.

The EU’s disastrous management of a large wave of refugees into the continent has done little to assist the building humanitarian crisis.

V.Larsen@theinternational.org.uk