Syria is a
country geographic region in the Middle East, located between Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, and Lebanon. It is currently being fought over by a psychopathic dictator, beheader lunatic Islamists, international Islamist terrorists, Shia Islamist fanatics, a hodgepodge of other Islamists from who knows where, persecuted minorities trying to secede, even more persecuted minorities just trying to stay alive, Turkish proxies, The Judean People's Front, and "moderate" rebels.
Oh, and various oil rich Sunni theocrats, oil rich Shia theocrats, oil rich borderline dictators, people who reeeally need to know when not to get involved, and Allah knows who else are backing one or more of the various groups.
- 1 History
- 2 Relations with Israel
- 3 Relations with Lebanon
- 4 Religion
- 5 Language
- 6 Civil war
- 7 External links
- 8 References
Syria was inhabited thousands of years before Creation Week. It has been part of numerous empires, including the Egyptian, Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Hittite, Persian, Roman, Ottoman, and French ones.
In Classical times Syria was a wealthy, populous province of the Greek-speaking part of the Roman Empire. Saul was on his way to Damascus, Syria to arrest Christians when he fell off his ass and became one himself. Christian, that is.
The confusing history of Syria in the 20th century can be illustrated in narratives such as "Syria gained its independence from France" when Free France liberated Syria from Vichy France. It was once briefly united with Egypt as the United Arab Republic from 1958-1961. After that, the Baathists took over, and they later split into the Iraqi faction (eventually led by Saddam Hussein) and the Syrian government faction led by Bashar al-Assad today.
Syria (led by Shias) was part of the coalition against Iraq (led by Sunnis) during the 1991 Gulf War. Part of the reason why is Syria hoped to gain a Shia ally in southern Iraq and weaken the Sunnis.
Today Syria is predominantly Muslim, with a significant Christian minority. Al-Sham, or the region that incorporates Syria and some neighboring territories, is considered as much of an Islamic holy land on the journey to Mecca, as Mecca itself. Syria has been an active competitor in the tourist trade with religious pilgrims for much of its history. In the current political environment and stalemate among warring belligerents, many fighters and religious pilgrims view Mecca as under occupation by the takfir Saudi state. Syria is seen as an alternative site for the hajj by some to fulfil their religious obligation, awaiting the day the caliph has amassed a strong enough force to march on the Hejaz (the Red Sea coast of the Arabian penninsula) and retake Mecca.
Syria and al-Sham play an important role in several Islamic apocalyptic traditions. Belief in the return of the Mahdi is not limited to Shi'a, it's just a difference in understanding who he is. Numerous hadiths connect up the return of the Mahdi, who is going to make things right again, with the land of al-Sham. The disorder and chaos at the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 marked the beginning of an apocolypyical revival with more than half of respondents to a Pew Research survey in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia expecting the imminent return of the Madhi. Foreign jihadis from all corners of the earth have flocked into Syria to be part of the End Times events.
Relations with Israel
Like many Arab countries, Syria has frequently been defeated on the battlefield by Israel. In 1948 Syria was part of the Arab coalition that failed to stop Zionists who in that year founded Israel, taking over (most of) previously British-administered Mandate Palestine from indigenous Arabs. In the 1967 Six-Day war, Israel chased Syrian troops deep into Syrian territory, then kept and occupied the Golan Heights. This land continues to be occupied and colonized by Israel to this day.
Israel bombed an alleged "terrorist training camp" in Syria in 2003 and bombed an alleged nuclear reactor research station in 2007. Syria in turn funds and arms groups in Lebanon that fight against Israel. Israeli airplanes also periodically bomb Syrian military sites in the Golan Heights near the front lines with rebels. Additionally, Israel sometimes targets Hezbollah during these strikes, which is illegal under international law.
Israel shares a 15 kilometer (9 mile) de facto border with a Daesh branch called Shuhada al-Yarmouk. This group controls a 150 square kilometer area (57 square miles) and 12 villages along the border. It has fought al-Qaeda and other rebel fighters in Syria as it has held out along this shared border. Despite Israel conducting numerous drills of a mock Syrian invasion scenario, it has refused to attack these Daesh fighters at all, even though they are within shooting range.  This is because Israel doesn't mind who's on their border, even if it's Daesh, as long as they don't attack Israel. For some time, Israel provided hospital care to al-Qaeda fighters and other rebels fighting along the border in Syria.
Relations with Lebanon
With its capital and largest city, Damascus, having lost its ancient direct links to the Mediterranean Sea in Beirut and Tripoli, Syria has long depended on and used Lebanon as an economic resource. Syria invaded Lebanon in 1976 and occupied it until 2006. Syria is frequently accused of being behind political assassinations in Lebanon. Today, Syria has good relations with Lebanon, as they both cooperate in fighting terror cells along their shared border.
There are many diverse religious groups in Syria, complicating politics and giving the government an excuse to keep a tight lid on everyone.
- Sunnis are the majority, about 68% of the population.
- Shi'as are about 16% of the population, most of whom are Alawis, a minority sect within a minority sect that most of the ruling class belong to. The Alawis (Alawites) splintered off of Shi'a Islam in the 9th century and integrated pagan, gnostic, and Christian doctrines. Alawi literally means "those who adhere to the teachings of Ali," the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. Sunnis consider the sect heretical (just like they consider all Shi'as to be heretics). This has been used as a justification for sectarian killings and execution of government soldiers. Often, if a soldier is captured, Sunni jihadi groups will ask "Sunni or Nusayri" (a slur for Shi'a), and kill you if you say Shi'a. Sometimes you will be told to pray, as Shi'as and Sunnis pray differently.
- Druze are about 3% of the population; they are an ethnic group with their own monotheistic religious outlook separate from others. They are mostly centered in a certain area in the south of the country.
- Christians make up about 11% of the population, including the Assyrians, the people the area is actually named after.
- There are also 40,000 or so Yazidis in Syria, whose religion consists of a "Gnostic core belief structure with other elements of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Manichaeism, and Islam," and who are often persecuted for the unintentional (but mythologically related) resemblance of their object of worship, the Peacock Angel, to Satan in Christianity and Iblis in Islam. In August of 2014 Daesh started trying to kill their men and turn their women and children into sex slaves. They partially succeeded.
In 1973 Hafez Assad introduced a new constitution which deleted any reference to Islam as the religion of the state and was seen by opponents of the Assad government, primarily the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, that the Alawite-Ba'athists were not only secularists, but anti-Islamic as well.
There are hardly any Jews left. Is is likely that any remaining are Israeli spies in various factions that are trying to assess threats to Israel's security and provide them with locations of Hezbollah officials so Israel can illegally bomb them.
Syrian people speak primarily Arabic, spoken by 87% of the population. 9% of people, mostly in the north, speak Kurdish, although many of these speak Arabic as a second language. Assyrians, who speak Neo-Aramaic, comprise 1% and live in small communities in the northeast.
The current civil war in Syria began in 2011, during the Arab Spring. This war isn't as simple as the government and the rebels; instead there are a litany of different factions, each with their own interests.
Sometimes referred to as the Baathist or Alawite regime. The original Arab nationalist government installed in 1973, now led by President Bashar al-Assad. It controls portions of the west, north, south, and center. Supporters of the government include most of the minority groups: the Alawites, Christians, Druze, and secularists, who fear retaliation from Sunnis and extremists. It's also supported by a significant portion of Sunnis who just want peace in the country, as Sunnis comprise the majority of those serving in the Syrian Army. The National Defense Force is a pro-government militia made up of volunteers trained by the government, basically reservists tasked with holding unimportant towns. Hezbollah, being mostly Shia, has also thrown itself behind the government, participating in many major battles, but acting mostly as a backup force.
There are many different rebel factions involved in this conflict, many of whom have fought with one another at some point. The most powerful faction is the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. Formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, it controls large sections of land in the northwest, totaling over 2,700 km2, and it maintains a presence in the south and center. It is able to dictate terms to other factions and eliminate most rebel dissent. Throughout the war, it has learned new tactics, mastering suicide bombing, tank warfare, and siege. In July 2016 Jabhat al-Nusra severed ties with al-Qaeda and renamed itself Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, or Levant Conquest Front. The break with al-Qaeda is seen as the group positioning itself as the dominant force among the "Syrian opposition", and as an attempt to rebrand as a moderate alternative to Daesh in a possible negotiated settlement (although no one is falling for it).
- Various other Islamist groups exist, including Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya (Movement of Free Islamic Men of the Levant), Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), and Liwa al-Tawhid (Brigade of Monotheism). These groups coordinate and mediate with both al-Nusra and more moderate rebels.
- Then there's the now-defunct Free Syrian Army, originally created in 2011 by defectors from the Syrian armed forces. They have received extensive funding and support from the United States and its allies, most importantly TOW missiles, with which it and other rebels have destroyed hundreds of Syrian Army tanks and vehicles throughout the war. Many of its members have since abandoned the secular resistance in favor of Islamist groups. The FSA and allied groups have control over some swathes of land in the northwest, mainly some 2,000 km2 along the Turkish border, as well as another region in the southwest totaling 2,900 km2, but their control over these territories is considerably more tenuous than that of either the government or Daesh. For example, if al-Nusra wanted to travel through FSA turf, there was nothing the FSA could realistically do about it.
Otherwise known as the Islamic State. The extremist Sunni organization, which demands everyone join them or die. It intends to first set up a regional 'state', then conquer the entire middle-east, and eventually the entire world. It has taken over the eastern and central part of the country, but has recently been pushed out of the north entirely. Their notoriously violent tactics have earned them the derision of the entire international community; even al-Qaeda regards them as too extreme.
Syrian Democratic Forces
Also known as Rojava, a secular democratic rebel group which doesn't align with any other faction, and the only good guys in this. Controls two strips of land that amount to 34,000 km2, most of the northern border and about a fifth of the country. Its main armed component is the majority-Kurdish YPG (People's Protection Units), which was always the main group in the north opposing Islamist extremists as well as the Syrian government. They're secularists, so much so that Daesh and al-Qaeda consider them to be atheists. Turkey doesn't like these Kurds, as they threaten Turkey's supply line to
DAESH Syrian rebels, so Turkey often enjoys shooting and shelling over the border at Kurdish troops for fun. Moderate Syrian Arab rebel groups operate in some Kurdish areas as an organizational component, allying with the much stronger YPG to fight Daesh. The US has dropped over 100 tons of weapons and supplies to these groups, as well as assisting with organization and military strategy. SDF has achieved the most success against the Daesh, killing thousands of Daesh foot soldiers and liberated huge swaths of land.
In 2013 Amnesty International reported extensive attacks on civilian areas from shooting demonstrators to aerial bombardments, ballistic missile attacks and chemical weapons. By mid-August 2014, the international community removed and destroyed most of the Assad government's chemical weapons stocks. As part of a diplomatic solution based on a joint U.S.-Russian proposal, the Obama administration withdrew the threat of military force and the Assad government agreed to give up its chemical weapons and join the international Chemical Weapons Convention.
Both the government and rebel groups have been accused of indiscriminate attacks against civilians, although a consensus existed that the government's atrocities eclipsed those of the rebels (or at least until Daesh gained prominence). The Assad government accuses the rebels of terrorism, and often says all of these groups share the same ideological goals as Daesh, which is at best an exaggeration, and at worst propaganda.
By August 2014, the United Nations estimated nearly 191,000 have died in the civil war, with 3 million refugees in neighbouring countries and 6.5 million internally displaced. Out of a total population of 22 million, nearly half have lost their homes. Now, the death toll is above 250,000 by conservative sources and knocking on 370,000 by the most liberal sources.
In late 2014, al-Qaeda overran a small contingent of the Free Syrian Army guarding U.S. manufactured TOW missiles which were then used in the capture of two of government's major military installations. They have since used these missiles to destroy dozens of tanks and hundreds of other government vehicles.
Throughout the war, there have been various accusations of war crimes from all sides. Mainly the rebels have accused government forces of indiscriminate attacks against populated areas, using unguided bombs and chemical weapons.
When the rebels could not be stamped out by ground forces, the Syrian government decided to employ its large air force in a tactical, and later strategic campaign intended to win the war and end rebel resistance. The government essentially decided to launch a full-scale bombing campaign of rebel-held civilian areas, with the goal of destroying any civilian infrastructure that the rebels could use for support and demoralizing the rebel groups to push them to give up. This is similar to the (successful) US-UK bombing campaign over Nazi-held Europe, which made little distinction between civilian and military targets, and purposefully tried to break the will of the German people to continue the war. That doesn't excuse the war crimes committed by the Syrian government; it merely puts them in historical context with the tactics other successful nations have used during wartime. That said, both the civilian bombings in WWII and in Syria are technically war crimes.
Another accusation leveled at the government is that it has used brutal siege tactics against civilian areas in an effort to starve and crush the rebels there. In some cases, the people living in these towns are able to leave the towns for government-held areas to avoid being killed, but sometimes a good many of them choose not to. The government sieges have been extremely successful, causing many rebel-held towns to declare truces in exchange for humanitarian aid, or surrender and peaceful withdraw their fighters. The rebels have also laid siege to several government-held towns and fired 'hell cannons' (unguided artillery) and rockets indiscriminately at them, often killing civilians who many rebels see as guilty of supporting the government. Some rebels have used the "but they did it first" argument to justify these sieges.
Course of the War
It is pretty safe to say that the war started due to a Sunni dislike of the ruling Shia-Christian axis. This 'regime' severely limited Sunni political rights, awarding governmental positions to mostly non-Sunnis, despite Sunnis making up 68% of the population. The Sunnis were always pretty poor compared to the rich Shias and minorities, so it's understandable that they'd be angry about their economic situation. There was a major drought that caused thousands of Sunni farmers to leave their villages and move to slums in cities. When it became clear that war was coming, Christians, other Shias, and Druze allied with the government, fearing that Sunnis would repress their rights if Sunnis took power. The Sunni Kurds remained neutral, and have since sparred with the government, rebels, and Daesh.
Seeing the uprising in Egypt and Libya, thousands of people got out of their homes, protested in the streets of cities like Daraa, Homs, Hama, Aleppo, and Damascus. They called for political reforms to give more power to the Sunnis and economic reforms to reduce poverty. Some teenagers graffitied "the people want the fall of the regime" on a school in Daraa. These youths were arrested by the police, which the protesters got angry about. Within a week, this became the main chant of the protesters, who called for the government to be replaced with a less sectarian one. The police, after failing to disperse the protesters, started shooting at a couple of mobs in Daraa and other cities. After weeks of these mass mobs failing to be dispersed by the police, the Army was called in to clear out the protesters. The Army took this to mean shoot at them with tanks and machine guns. After the Army surrounded protester strongholds and dispersed most of these, some medium-level Army officers who sympathized with the protesters deserted their posts in the night and went to protester camps, joining them and plotting to militarily overthrow the government. When it became clear peaceful change wasn't going to happen, the protesters decided to take up AK-47s, dig trenches, and shoot back at the Army. The protesters started flying the old 1950s flag and calling themselves the Free Syrian Army, stating that their objective was to defend civilians and thus topple the government by violence. The government took this to mean war, and seeing a threat to its existence, decided to launch a conventional military campaign to crush the uprising.
The insurgency grew, fed by support from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States, and al-Qaeda. The prevailing opinion among Western and Sunni powers was that the rebels would win relatively quickly and establish a democratic state where everyone is happy.Needless to say, that did not happen. As government attacks on pro-rebel civilians increased, psychological trauma led a good many rebels to become Islamists. A good example was the rebel leader, Zahran Alloush calling for a genocide of Shias. Note that he said this after years of daily bombing and shelling of a besieged rebel pocket near Damascus. Many others joined al-Qaeda and Daesh, believing that they were the better fighters. Westerners tried to clean up Alloush's reputation and image to make him "leader of the Syrian opposition" in the Geneva talks aimed at staving off Western boots on the ground in favor of a negotiated diplomatic solution. 
Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri ordered seasoned al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq to cross the border into Syria, join up with sympathetic rebel camps, and gain experience. A few hundred did this, and over many months, they gained clout with rebels, who realized what good anti-government fighters they were. They formed an official al-Qaeda branch called Jabhat al-Nusra, meaning the Support Front. Many Islamists joined up with this group after watching it succeed in battles with the government, and al-Nusra slowly gained strength and support from the rebel movement. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq, ordered his Iraqi fighters into Syria as well, who worked independently from al-Nusra. Zawahiri didn't want this, insisting on separate branches for Iraq and Syria. Al-Baghdadi disagreed, wanting a united jihad that he was to lead. When Zawahiri ordered his group, Islamic State of Iraq, out of Syria, Baghdadi refused. Zawahiri then disowned him, leading al-Nusra to fight Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Daesh). This was a showdown that resulted in a partition that benefited ISI the most, as it secured dozens of towns within days.
When the chasm between al-Qaeda and Daesh broke open, Daesh made power grabs to secure control. They systematically crushed multiple rebel and al-Qaeda pockets, securing a heartland along the Euphrates River. In addition, they began fighting with every group in the country. Since everyone else was too busy fighting each other, Daesh was eventually able to take over half of the country land-wise (there is a lot of desert).
Meanwhile, the rebels were slaving away fighting the government in the west and south. Large gains were unable to be fully secured, as several government counteroffensives succeeded in capturing strategically significant areas that denied total rebel control over any one province. This was described by some as an "army in all corners" strategy, that sacrificed some areas in the name of maintaining overall legitimacy. Major cities like Aleppo, Damascus, and Daraa remained contested, while the government pushed the rebels out of Homs and Hama. Due to the lack of rebel success, many rebels turned to other groups that promised them success through religious methods. Groups like Ahrar al-Sham, Jaish al-Sham, and others formed the Islamic Front, a counterpart to the FSA that rivaled it in strength. These groups played an increasing role in both warfare and governance activity.
US and international intervention has primarily focused on bombing Daesh targets, and al-Qaeda and affiliated targets have also been hit before. The latter was an attempt by the US to eliminate extremists and strengthen the moderates, but it largely failed.  The US has armed and coordinated airstrikes with the Kurdish YPG in the north, and has also attempted several times to form a large 'democratic force'. Most attempts to do this have failed, with only the most recent, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, succeeding in taking large areas from Daesh.
Russian intervention began as material support for the government, but after terrorists allied to Daesh blew up one of their passenger airplanes, they officially joined in the fight, and began bombing targets… in areas that the rebels and not Daesh were located. Instead, they mainly targeted other rebels such as al-Qaeda, the Islamic Front, and other more moderate groups. However, Russia has bombed Daesh many times in Syria since its campaign started, striking infrastructure that Daesh could use to support its occupation. Strikes have also been consistent along front lines with the Syrian Army, shoring up the Army's flank and enabling it to advance against Daish.
A Russian bomber plane entered into Turkish airspace for a few seconds (Russia disputes the route) and was subsequently shot down by a Turkish F-16, leading to quite a bit of tension. One of the pilots was shot by
Turkey's proxies 'moderate rebels' as he was parachuting down, which is technically a war crime. Given that the Russian pilot's mission was to kill those rebels, it's slightly understandable why they might be a bit pissed.
Over 6,000 Russian airstrikes against rebel forces, which averaged 60 sorties per day, resulted in large Syrian Army advances in the northwest. Dozens of towns and villages were recaptured, some of them held by rebels for many years. A major rebel supply line from Turkey was cut, which put pressure on rebels and caused major gains for both the Kurds and the Army in the north; the Army and the Kurds reached an understanding that they would avoid conflict to fight other groups instead. Major rebel strongholds that were previously viewed as secure were lost, and a complex political reorganization occurred. Hundreds of moderate Sunni Arabs decided to join the Kurds under the US-backed group Syrian Democratic Forces. This group advanced against the rebels, seizing several towns.
On February 26, 2016, a UN-brokered ceasefire took effect. The ceasefire was between the government and all rebel groups, except for Daesh and al-Qaeda, who the government was still allowed to fight. Aftr the time of implementation (midnight), calm fell over many rebel-held areas as government bombing stopped. While sporadic clashes between the Syrian Army and al-Qaeda still occurred on a few fronts, almost all other fronts remained static. The ceasefire between rebels and the government allowed the government to shift thousands of troops to fight Daesh. The Syrian Army captured many areas from Daesh in the desert, and it conducted dozens of airstrikes against Daesh positions. The Army launched an offensive against the Daesh-held city of Palmyra, and succeeded in capturing the city and its surroundings. 
In June 2016, the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces launched on offensive to take the city of Manbij. 2 months later, it seized the city after a violent battle that cost Daesh thousands of fighters. The Syrian Democratic Forces continued its advance on Daesh, which largely withdrew from its positions, re-prioritizing other fronts.
In July 2016, the Army advanced against the jihadis and successfully besieged the jihadi-held portion of the city of Aleppo. The jihadis, led by al-Qaeda, launched a massive counterattack with suicide bombs and tanks to break the siege. They succeeded, and began a massive upsurge in violence in the battle for the city. This weeks-long battle was the most violent to date: it featured tank battles, house-to-house fighting, suicide bombs, tunnel bombs, heavy artillery, and constant airstrikes. The government succeeded in re-imposing the siege, and continued the violent battle with the jihadis.
In August 2016, Turkey, alongside a large force of Islamist mercenaries, invaded part of Syria, taking control of an area held by Daesh. Daesh withdrew from this area preemptively and had few casualties. The Turkish-backed Islamists subsequently attacked Kurdish fighters in a large offensive backed by Turkish tanks in which dozens of civilians were killed. Daesh then withdrew from the border, and the Turkish-backed rebels seized the border. They were only able to do this because of large foreign support from Turkey and the US.
In the fall and winter of 2016, the Syrian Government launched a massive offensive to recapture Aleppo city. The offensive was a total success, with thousands of jihadis killed or surrendered and all of the city retaken. This marked a major turning point in the war, as Syria's largest city and symbol of rebel resistance in the public perception was captured by the government through simple military might.
With Russian support, it is virtually impossible that the government will be toppled. Continued Russian air raids will result in large Syrian Army advances against Daesh, as well as significant rebel ground losses, but are unlikely to eliminate the rebels as a regional force. US airstrikes and support for the Kurds will continue to result in large territorial losses for Daesh in the north, losing Arab-majority areas to a combined Kurdish-Arab force, including Daesh's capital city Raqqa. It is also unlikely that Daesh loses its core territory along the Euphrates river, as there is no armed force close enough to contest that area.
- Syria: Muslim Brotherhood Pressure Intensifies. Defense Intelligence Agency. 22 April 1982. Declassified document regarding Hama massacre with background of Ba'athist-Syrian Muslim Brotherhood tensions dating back to 1963.
- Syria's war: Who is fighting and why, Vox
- See the Wikipedia article on Syria.
- How Syrians Are Dying - The New York Times
- Army of the Lavant>The End of French Rule
- ; reports indicate many have defected to Daesh.
- Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response, CRS, September 17, 2014, p. 17.
- "UN Details Rampant War Crimes By ISIS And Assad's Regime". 27 August 2014. http://www.businessinsider.com/r-islamic-state-and-syrian-government-committing-war-crimes-un-2014-8. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
- "Syria and Isis committing war crimes, says UN". 27 August 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/27/syria-isis-war-crimes-united-nations-un. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
- "UN Commission: ISIS Not The Sole Agent Of Death And Destruction In Syria". The Huffington Post. 16 September 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/16/un-commission-syria_n_5828414.html. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/16/world/middleeast/2-military-bases-in-syria-fall-to-rebels.html?_r=0 TOW missiles proved decisive in the outcomes of the 1980-1988 Soviet-Afghan war and the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
- 'The hospitals were slaughterhouses': A journey into Syria’s secret torture wards by Louisa Loveluck and Zakaria Zakaria (April 2 at 7:33 PM) The Washington Post.
- Did Hillary Clinton think a military victory was possible in Syria?
- Obama reportedly says Hillary's criticism of Syria policy is horseshit.
- Was Zahran Alloush really a moderate leader?, Ali Mamouri, Al-Monitor, January 14, 2016. [English&utm_campaign=679b6993f7-Week_in_review_Feb_15_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-679b6993f7-102393845#]
- The Death of Zahran Alloush, Syria Comment. The death of Zahran Alloush by a Putin airstrike effectively ended the Geneva talks before they got started, leaving no Western-backed "Syrian opposition" to sit across the table to concoct a Western backed power sharing scheme, virtually assuring the survival of the Assad government in its present form without opposition and continued Russian and Iranian influence in the region.