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CIAO Focus, May 2013: Syria's Civil War

Despite what the sectarian vision of Syrian society might lead one to believe, much of the population united to take part in peaceful demonstrations that began in March 2011. The mobilization brought together participants from very diverse social and ethnic backgrounds. The Syrian regime opted to suppress the protests more and more violently, and the opposition was forced to arm itself as a result. This escalating violence finally led to a countrywide civil war in late 2012.

The key problem in Syria today is not the regime’s survival. Despite the limited effectiveness of the Free Syrian Army (FSA, or al-Jeish al-Suri al-Hor), the strategic configuration is asymmetrical and the regime in Damascus is incapable of seizing back the initiative. It lacks resources and the Syrian army’s counteroffensives are local and limited. Unable to recapture lost territory, the regime must refocus its military forces on areas crucial to its survival, particularly Damascus. It is therefore engaging solely in battles to hold on to current positions, disengagement operations, and airstrikes on opposition areas to force the population to flee.

The real challenge lies in the insurgency’s internal dynamics. From this standpoint, the developments that occurred in the final months of 2012 are critical. Then, regime forces pulled out of the cities north of Aleppo and the eastern portion of Aleppo, which means that for the first time, the opposition controls a homogeneous territory in northern Syria, bordering Turkey, an unambiguous supporter of the uprising. While fighting continues throughout Syria, it is in the north that the armed opposition is building the institutions that will subsequently serve as models for the whole country.

-- Adam Baczko, Gilles Dorronsoro, and Arthur Quesnay, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


From the CIAO Database:

The Syrian Opposition's Leadership Problem

Building a Syrian State in a Time of Civil War

Blurring the Borders: Syrian Spillover Risks for Turkey

The Moral Enigma of an Intervention in Syria: A Just War Analysis

Syria's Kurds: A Struggle Within a Struggle

CIAO Atlas: Syria


Outside Sources: *

The Syrian Heartbreak (MERIP)

Syria's protracted conflict shows no sign of abating (BBC)

Syria Undercover (Frontline)

Syria Live Blog (Al Jazeera)

Latest Stories on Syria (Haaretz)' or '85'='85/Syria-1.476734

* Outside links are not maintained. For broken outside links, CIAO recommends the Way Back Machine.