Written by Tharushan Fernando
21 Oct, 2015 | 10:25 pm
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited Moscow on his first overseas trip since the civil war which broke out in 2011. President Bashar met with President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday evening.
Russia launched air strikes in Syria last month against Islamic State militants and according to Mr Assad, Russia’s involvement had stopped the spread of “terrorism” becoming “more widespread and harmful”.
Where did Syria’s War start?
The unrest in the country began in 2011 when nationwide protests took place against President Bashar al-Assad’s government, whose forces responded with violent crackdowns and the conflict gradually evolved from prominent protests to an armed rebellion after months of military sieges.
The armed opposition consist of of various groups that were either formed during the course of the conflict or joined from abroad while the north-western country houses the the main opposition faction the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front allied who is allied with other small Islamist groups some of which operate under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
The Inter rebel struggle: The war within the war
Following the start of the Arab Spring in 2011, protests in Syria against the Assad administration were suppressed and became violent and in 2012, the al-Nusra Front was established by the Islamic State of Iraq as the official branch of al-Qaeda in Syria while the al-Nusra Front was eclipsed by its own creator, and al-Qaeda severed its ties to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in February 2014, after an eight-month power struggle
Syria’s two sided conflict eventually became a war being fought on multiple fronts as the FSA designation by the West as a a moderate opposition faction allows it, under the CIA-run programmes,to receive sophisticated weaponry and other military support from the U.S. and some Gulf countries that effectively increases the total fighting capacity of the Islamist rebels.
And in the east of the country, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a jihadist militant group originating from Iraq, made rapid military gains in both Syria and Iraq. and subsequently ISIL eventually came into conflict with other rebels, especially with Al-Nusra, whose leaders of which did not want to pledge allegiance to ISIL.
By 2014, ISIL controlled a third of Syria territory including most of its gas and oil production , which gave it the power to establish itself as the main anti government force
Syrian Civil war; Is it Russia vs USA?
However the war with government as well as the inter rebel fighting are not the only concerns for Syria.
On September 17, 2014 the U.S House of Representatives voted to authorize the executive branch to train-and-equip Syrian rebels against ISIL forces and one of the groups that United States intended to train-and-equip was the Islamist Army of Mujahedeen and the United States was set to send 400 troops and hundreds of support staff to countries neighboring Syria to train 5,000 opposition soldiers a year for the next three years.
Following which a Coalition was named to take on the ISIL which included the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Turkey, Italy and Denmark.
While the US backed the rebels to fight ISIL,Russia took a different approach and extended it support to the Syrian Government with military aid in the form of weaponry, training, and military advisors.
In October 2011 and again February 2012, Russia blocked Western-backed resolutions in the United Nations Security Council because those resolutions left the possibility of sanctions, or even military intervention, against the Syrian Assad government open.
As of 2015 Russia wanted a united front against ISIL that includes the Assad government but Western powers however have stated that the Assad government shouldn’t have a place in a coalition against ISIL.
Russia’s air strike campaign sparked the most recent disagreements between USA and Russia, while the US stand strongly on the view that Moscow’s actions in the fight against various terrorist and Islamist groups in Syria (not only ISIS but also groups such as Jabhat al-Nusram, which essentially is an Al-Qaeda branch) not only as excessive autonomy, but also as a challenge to U.S. policy in the region
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