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Who’s in control in Syria?

August 10, 2017 at 10:23 pm

A Syrian man sits on the debris after an Assad Regime fighter jet hit residential buildings in Damascus, Syria on 13 July 2017 [Mohammed Eyad/Anadolu Agency]

The map of who controls what areas in Syria keeps changing in the war torn country with clashes taking place on a daily basis between opposition groups and the regime.

In the early days of the 2011 revolution, the regime’s army, led by the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, controlled the entire country. As the days went on, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which was formed in July 2011, started to recapture some of the Syrian cities including, Aleppo.

Years after the revolution, the battle has involved external fighters from Lebanon and Iraq, coinciding with Iran and Hezbollah’s financial and military backing of Al-Assad. These developments have prompted the oppositions to unite as “one alliance”.

After a while, Assad started losing control over several Syrian cities, and rumors about the regime’s collapse began to spread.

In September 2015, Russia announced its military intervention and its air force began to bomb opposition-controlled territory. Russia has used numerous types of weapons in the war on Syria, including white phosphorus munitions, chlorine, mustard, sarin and cluster bombs, drums, mines and ground-to-ground missiles.

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After the brutal bombardment and military strikes on civilians, the Assad-allied multinational forces were able to advance in some areas of the Syrian coast and control the liberated eastern neighbourhoods of Aleppo and Ghouta.

Who’s in control?

According to Syrian political analyst, Ahmed Al-Masalma, the country has been geographically divided into different areas:

Assad’s army controls less than 20 per cent of the entire war-torn country, while the Iranian forces, including Hezbollah, hold some seven per cent, FSA controls 30 per cent, Russia dominates less than two per cent, Kurds 20 per cent and the rest is controlled by Daesh.

Al-Masalma added that in the southern part of Syria, the opposition controls more than 70 per cent of Daraa along with its countryside, Quneitra province and its suburbs. The eastern, western, north-western and north-eastern countrysides of Daraa are controlled by the FSA.

International forces

On the US involvement, Al-Masalma explained that the US possesses a military base in the Kurdish-controlled area of Al-Hasakah. It also has a base near the Al-Tanf border crossing along the Syria-Iraq border.

Several countries and military groups fight in Syria seeking more influence and control disregarding the dangers caused to civilians. The regime’s army backed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Quds Force, Lebano’s Hezbollah, Iraqi Shia Najbaa, Kata’ib Al-Imam Ali, the Iraqi Hezbollah, the Iraqi Shias, the Afghan Fatemiyoun, the Pakistani Zaynaboon, the Palestinian Jerusalem Brigade and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

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There are also several armed revolutionary battalions, such as the FSA battalions, Ahrar Al-Sham, Suqour Al-Sham Brigades, Jaysh Al-Islam, Northern Division (Forqat Al-Shamali), Nour Al-Din Al-Zenki, the Southern Front and the Northern Front.

Turkey has had a role in forming different Syrian factions such as Euphrates Shield forces. It provides these forces with air support, artillery and armament. In addition it boosts them with the Turkish Special Forces in the fight against Daesh and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Al-Nusra Front, which is now known as Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, is also fighting in Syria along with Daesh, the Turkistan Islamic Party, the central-Asia based Imam Bukhari Battalion and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian offshoot of the PKK.