Recently headlines have been muted about Syria and while the eye of the Western media has been drawn away a conflict still endures.
As it stands, Assad is the dominant force in Syria. However it has taken the regime a long time to regain a foothold on the nation. At one point the FSA “Free Syrian Army”, held huge swathes of territory in South West Syria, and more in the North West, but after Russian intervention on the side of Assad the FSA have been pushed out of the south. The YPG/SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) who are mainly Kurdish forces currently control the majority of the north after winning the region from ISIS. The government of Bashar Al Assad regained territory from FSA and ISIS territory, most focused in East and South West, as well as North West.
Assad’s grip on the country is its strongest its been since before the protests that sparked the civil war but he still lacks control of significant areas of the country, namely Idlib Provence and most if not all of northern Syria. Trump’s withdrawal has been called moronic by most inside Washington, despite America’s unclear position in the war, and America’s NATO allies have felt insulted by the President’s sudden decision to pull out of the region.
It is very likely that Turkey had something to do with Trump’s decision, especially considering they released the Pastor Trump and Erdogan were at loggerheads about. Trump wouldn’t need much persuasion, as he has said and proven many times he has no interest in remaining in the Middle East.
The extremism and ideology of ISIS thrives in poverty and in times of extreme hardship, it is not something you can destroy or fight, it is something you battle with education, food. That is the only way to stop ISIS recruiting.
At this stage in the Syrian civil war, ISIS is no longer President Assad’s main threat. He will send reinforcements to hold the former ISIS regions but Assad will now focus on the FSA, or “Free Syrian Army” as well as the YPG/SDF Kurds in the north. The North contains vital resources like oil that are critical to the recovery of the Syrian economy, resources that Assad will not want to leave in Kurdish hands.
The FSA currently only hold Idlib province, and retaking it is going to be extremely difficult. With the Turkish military entrenched in many territories held by the FSA, and maintaining outposts in Idlib, It seems the only way Assad will be able to retake Idlib province and any other areas held by the FSA is through dialogue. The FSA has surrendered many places through Russian mediated talks, they could do it again with Idlib.
The main loser of Trump’s withdrawal is not NATO however. It is the Kurdish SDF. The Kurds that have been the West’s most reliable allies on the ground but now find themselves surrounded by enemies with no powerful support.
The Kurds have had many battles with the Turkish military, some involved many casualties such as when Turkey invaded Afrin with the support of the FSA. One of the main reasons it didn’t go any further was because of US intervention that may not be a factor in the future.
This might force the Kurds into the arms of Assad but there are a number of stumbling blocks mainly due to ideology differences. The Kurds have created a democratic region which enshrines civil liberties for both genders and all ethnicity in a codified constitution. The region’s politics is also heavily socialist with co-operatives forming a large part of the economy alongside private property. This is also controlled locally by councils and is in complete contrast to Assad’s authoritarian governing, and Baathist politics and policies. The Kurds face a stark choice of trading their liberty for their lives should Turkey and Assad both mount serious campaigns into the “Democratic Federation of Northern Syria”, the new name of the region.
At this stage fighting on is not something which is in the Kurdish people’s benefit, they have never stated that they are looking for independence rather autonomy. And their best bet now is to go into negotiations with the Syrian government, and attempt to retain their hard-fought democracy within Syria. A tricky task but they face an armed struggle they cannot win.
As of now, it seems the winner of the war will be Assad and his Russian allies. He controls most of Syria, and with Trump pulling out leaving the Kurds vulnerable he may also end up controlling all of the north once again.
Ultimately President Assad wants a united Syria under his control, and it looks like he will get it.