The first shots in Syrian war were fired by Al-Assad army in March 2011 on the demonstrator of Arab Spring. In July 2011 protesters started responding back and some Syrian troops from Assad army joined them. They called themselves the Free Syrian Army and that uprising became a civil war. During Jan 2012, Al-Qaeda forms a new terrorist organization in Syria namely Jabhat-Al-Nusra. In the mid of 2012 Iran, Assad’s most important ally intervenes on his behalf. By the end of 2012, Iran started sending daily cargo flights and hundreds of officers. At the same time oil-rich Arab state, Saudi Arabia began sending money and weapon to the rebel group via Turkey. The main objective of Saudi Arabia at that time was to counter the Iran influence.
Iran steps up its influence in mid-2012 when Hezbollah which is a Lebanese Shia group backed by Iran invades to fight alongside Assad. The Gulf state, Saudi responded by sending even more money and weapons to the rebels. Saudi was leading the effort this time, at this time Jordan also opposed Assad’s dictatorship.
Entry of USA and Russia
By the end of 2012, the middle east was divided between Sunni powers on one side supporting the rebels and Shia on other side supporting Assad. In April 2013, Obama administrations sign a secret order, authorizing the CIA to train and equip Syrian Rebels. In August 2013, Assad used chemical weapons against civilians in the town of Ghouta. Obama thought of national security interest of U.S and responded to Assad’s regime by Air Strikes. Thus, the USA now had become the participant of the Syrian war. In 2014 Feb, Al-Qaeda breaks upon internal disagreements over Syria. The new group calls itself ISIS. ISIS doesn’t fight Assad, it fights other rebels such as Kurds who were fighting for creating a new state called Kurdistan.
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Then in September 2014, exactly one year after the US bombed Assad, it started performing air strikes against ISIS. At the same time, Turkey started bombings the Kurds. This created a lot of confusion among the Kurds and that on whose side the US was standing.
Russia intervened Syria in September 2015 on its behalf. Russia’s statement over the intervention was to bomb ISIS, but it bombed anti-Assad rebels.
In early September 2015, Russia deployed military tanks into Syria, despite being warned by Western countries that Russia’s involvement in Syria can provoke the civil war. Syria has been known as the closest ally of Russia in the Middle East. In the early 20th century, Arab countries like Syria gained their independence from Western colonial powers; thus, rejected western dominance. In 1971, USSR was allowed to use the Syrian port for the ship patrolling the Mediterranean Sea.
Russia is the main defender of Al-Assad’s regime. Russia’s initial interest is to keep US troops out of Syria. The fact that the US had been preoccupied countries like Iraq, Afghanistan for the past decades has given Russia an opportunity to regain its influence in middle eastern countries.
Bottom of the Line
In geopolitics, a proxy war doesn’t necessarily mean that a player has an interest on the region, nobody really cared about Afghanistan in the 1980s and yet it was a battlefield in which the Soviet Union and the USA were flexing their muscles. A similar situation has now been created in Syria in which USA and Russia are playing a game of poker and calling each other bluff.