International Security Consulting Firm Reviews Russia’s Involvement in the Syrian Civil War

The Syrian civil war has developed into an incredibly complex conflict. Amidst the Arab Spring fervor of 2011, the Syrian civil war began with protests in the city of Daraa. Government security forces responded to these initial demonstrations by opening fire on protesters. Shortly thereafter, an armed opposition arose calling for the toppling of President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.

Syrian Civil WarBy 2012, combat between opposition and regime forces reached Damascus and Aleppo, resulting in a stalemate on both sides.

In August 2013, according to a U.N. report, regime forces killed a large number of civilians by deploying sarin gas outside of Damascus.

During June 2014, a jihadist opposition faction proclaimed the creation of the Islamic State (IS) in western Syria and eastern Iraq. Due to their brutal tactics and rapid expansion, IS forces became a target for U.S.-led airstrikes in August 2014.

Since then, the Syrian civil war has churned onward, resulting in over 250,000 deaths, and the dislocation of millions.

Russia drastically increased its participation in the Syrian civil war in late September 2015 by initiating a campaign designed to strike targets fighting regime forces. With Assad’s approval, Russian aircraft bombed targets in northwest Syria. Some analysts noted that the majority of Russian targets included Western-backed opposition groups, not IS forces.

In early October, Russia launched 26 cruise missiles from ships in the Caspian Sea. The missiles traveled more than 900 miles, flying over Iran and Iraq before hitting their targets in Syria. In addition to conducting air and missile strikes, Russia bolstered its presence at the Humaymim airfield near Latakia. On October 15th, Russia continued its involvement in the Syrian civil war by providing air support for a new offensive by Assad’s forces aimed at retaking a strategic highway between the cities of Homs and Hamah.

International Security Consulting Firm Lists 5 Rebel Factions in the Syrian Civil War

Although there are a multitude of opposition groups relating to the Syrian civil war, the following is a breakdown of 5 major rebel factions battling Assad:

  1. Islamic State (IS) – Originally an offshoot of Al-Qaida in Iraq, IS is an extreme Islamist group led by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. IS employs brutal tactics such as beheading, rape, and torture in order to enforce Sharia law and instill fear. Currently, IS controls a large swath of territory in eastern Syria and western Iraq.
  2. Al-Nusra Front (ANF) – ANF is Al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria. Though a jihadist group, ANF began cooperating with other rebel groups, such as the more moderate Free Syrian Army, back in April. There have also been reports that US backed groups have surrendered weapons and supplies to the ANF in the past.
  3. Free Syrian Army (FSA) – FSA is a loosely organized group of brigades, some of whom defected from the Syrian military, under the supervision of the rebel Supreme Military Council (SMC). Brigadier General Salim Idris leads the FSA with the intention of providing a moderate alternative to the Islamist rebel groups.
  4. Islamic Front – The Islamic Front is a large coalition of Islamist groups that banded together to oust the Assad regime and establish an Islamic state in Syria. Despite similar goals, the Islamic Front does not work closely with IS or ANF.
  5. Popular Protection Units (YPG) – The military arm of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, YPG protects autonomous Kurdish towns and villages in northeastern Syria. The YPG routinely enter combat with IS forces and have received material support from the US.

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