This report examines Russia’s military and diplomatic campaign in Syria, the largest and most significant Russian out-of-area operation since the end of the Cold War. Russia’s experience in Syria will shape its military thinking, influence promotion and personnel decisions, impact research and development for its arms industry, and expand its influence in the Middle East and beyond for the foreseeable future. Yet despite the importance of Russia’s involvement in Syria—especially as the United States competes with countries such as Russia and China—there has been little systematic analysis of Russia’s campaign in Syria. This research aims to help fill the gap and provides some new analysis and data. It conducts a broad assessment of the Russian campaign—including political objectives, diplomatic initiatives, and civilian targeting—which places the military campaign in a wider context. In addition, it compiles a data set of Russia’s civilian targeting and analyzes satellite imagery of Russian activity.
Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is constantly looking for opportunities to enhance its status as a regional superpower and promote its Islamist ideology in the Arab Middle East. Libya is the newest arena in which Erdoğan is trying to capitalize on inter-Arab rivalries, this time in service to his desire to lay claim to gas under the seabed of the Mediterranean.
Most Syrian refugees in Lebanon have thought many times about going home but in the end deemed the risks too great. Donors should increase aid allowing the Lebanese government to continue hosting the Syrians, so that any decision they make to leave is truly voluntary.
The Desert Hawks were a pro-Assad paramilitary group of 5,000 – 12,000 fighters that fought in the Syrian civil war between 2014 – 2017. Its postmortem highlights how the politics of coercion and the economics of loyalty can link in a wartime autocracy. Having amassed their fortune and influence in Syria before 2011 as part of the patronage systems of the Assad family, the brothers Mohammad, Ayman and Ibrahim Jaber created the Desert Hawks when wartime manpower shortages threatened regime survival.
Turkey and Syria are now at war – but the ultimate arbiter of what happens next is likely to be Vladimir Putin.
The current escalation in Idlib between Turkish and Russian-backed Syrian forces has two dimensions: the immediate Turkish involvement in Syria and the broader Turkish-Russian rapprochement. An assessment by Salim Çevik.
Russia and Turkey are not natural partners in Syria, but share enough overlapping interests to maintain dialogue about the direction of the conflict. Ankara’s position in the Syrian civil war has been shaped by its initial risk averse approach to the conflict and refusal to use military force to try and shape outcomes. In eastern Syria, Ankara was initially unable to upend the American war strategy and its reliance on the Syrian Kurds, a group Turkey has labeled a terrorist organization. In Syria’s West, the Russian entrance into the war directly challenged Ankara’s support for the anti-regime insurgency, which had made considerable gains in Idlib before September 2015.