Syria air strikes: Who is fighting who?

The friends and foes of the key players

Tom Brooks-Pollock
Wednesday 02 December 2015 14:25
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Other Western nations believe Russia should drop its support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad
Other Western nations believe Russia should drop its support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad

The regime

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaks during a TV interview in Damascus

Control is now almost exclusively confined to terrirory in the west of the country, but has regained ground under cover of Russian air strikes.

Friends: Iran, Hezbollah, Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, Russia, Iraq.

Foes: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United States, France, Bahrain, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, as well as rebel groups including the Free Syrian Army, Isis, the Army of Conquest (Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar ash-Sham), and the Khorasan Group and Syrian Turkmen brigades.

Russia

Vladimir Putin has said he is waiting for an apology from the Turkish leader

Began air strikes in support of the regime in September. US says it is targeting mostly "moderate" opposition.

Friends: The regime, Iran, Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, Hezbollah, Kurdish militias.

Foes: Rebel groups fighting Assad.

Turkey

President Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a decisive victory in the Turkish parliamentary election on Sunday

Involved in its southern neighbour’s civil war since its inception in 2011, has carried out air strikes against Kurdish and Isis positions, and armed the Free Syrian Army.

Friends: Syrian Turkmen Brigades, Free Syrian Army, Army of Conquest.

Foes: The regime, Iran, Hezbollah, Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, Russia, Kurdish militias, Isis.

Kurds

Kurdish forces have been at the forefront of the fight against Isis in Syria and Iraq

Including northern militias such as the People’s Protection Units (YPG), Kurdish People’s Party (PKK), Jabhat al-Akrad and security forces of Syrian Kurdistan.

Friends: Iraqi Kurdistan, Free Syrian Army, Arab tribesmen, the United States, Jordan, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Morocco, France, UK, US, Russia, the Syrian regime?

Foes: Isis, Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar ash-Sham, Turkey, Qatar.

Isis

These can either take the form of small operators collecting from local communities or big ticket donations.

Controls a swath of Iraq and Syria home to up to five million people.

Friends: Other extremist radical groups, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, during periodic periods of co-operation; sympathetic individuals in the Gulf states.

Foes: The regime, Iraq, Iran, Hezbollah, Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, Russia, Kurdish militias, the US, UK, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Free Syrian Army, other extremist rebel groups, Turkey.

Iran

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reportedly said the film American Sniper encourages violence against Muslims

Officially denies it deploys combat troops, but hundreds of Iranian personnel reported to have been involved in recent regime offensives on rebel-held areas, part of a regional Shia-Sunni power struggle with Saudi Arabia.

Friends: Syrian regime, Hezbollah, Shi’ite militias, Russia, Iraq.

Foes: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Isis, extremist Sunni militias including Isis, Jabhat al Nusra, Free Syrian Army.

Saudi Arabia

The Saudi royal crest

The main backer of armed rebel groups opposed to Bashar al Assad’s regime, including the Al Qaeda-linked Army of Conquest.

Friends: Army of Conquest, Free Syrian Army, Turkey, UAE, Qatar, Jordan, US, UK, France.

Foes: The regime, Iran, Hezbollah, Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, Isis.


France

Has intensified air strikes on Isis-held positions following the Paris attacks.

Friends: The US, Free Syrian Army, Gulf states.

Foes: Isis, the regime.

UK

Eight Tornados are already stationed in Cyprus

Since rejecting military strikes against Assad in 2013, provides logistical support to the US and its allies, as well as the Kurds. That may be about to change.

Friends: The US, France, Sunni Gulf States, Kurdish militias, Free Syrian Army.

Foes: The regime, Isis, other extremist groups.

US

Barack Obama

Began to strike Isis, Jabhat al Nusra, Khorasan Group targets in September 2014, having rowed back from attacking Assad over his apparent use of chemical weapons.

Friends: France, Sunni Gulf states, Kurdish militias, Free Syrian Army, UK.

Foes: The regime, Isis, other extremist groups.

“Moderate” Syrian rebels

Numerous fragmented opposition factions loosely grouped as the Free Syrian Army. David Cameron claims there are 70,000 – but they may be too disparate to be make air strikes effective.

Friends: Kurdish militias, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, the US, France, the UK.

Foes: The regime, Russia, Iran, Iran-backed Shi’ite militias.

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