The Changing Face Of The War In Syria
For four years, Syria has been torn apart by a civil war. In recent weeks and days the nature of the conflict has changed. Syria has proved to be a complex battleground. The alliances are well established. Spheres of influence and levels and types of support have been in place for some time. Despite the war’s fluidity, it has been relatively easy to predict what may occur. This has changed within the last few weeks.
Within the last week or so there have been numerous changes in the chemistry of the Syrian battlefields. Only two weeks ago, it appeared that the siege of Aleppo may be reaching a conclusion. There was talk of humanitarian aid and the opening of corridors. The fighting remained on several reasonably well defined fronts and ebbed and flowed around these.
So what has changed?
A simple answer is lots. There have been tactical and political decisions made by a number of the participants that have altered the landscape. The consequences of this, in the short term at least, have been more bloodshed and an increase in hostilities.
Syria has, for the first time, used air support against Kurdish fighters in the town of Hasaka. These forces are being trained by US Special Forces to tackle Islamic State head on. They are key partners in the fight against the so called Islamic State. Syrian Government planes launched air attacks on Kurdish troops who had US Special Forces in close support. For the first time in this conflict, the US scrambled it’s own fighters. The rhetoric following this move has been clear:
We view instances that place coalition personnel at risk with the utmost seriousness and we do have the inherent right of self-defence when US forces are at risk. Captain J Davies, Department for Defence
What is surprising is that there had been a Syrian assault here at all. The Syrian Government know that the Kurds are engaged against Islamic State. Assad’s men themselves are engaged against the threat of Islamic State. Why then, hinder operations against them? Why choose to open up a new front against a different opponent – one quite clearly and unequivocally backed by the United States?
It may be that Assad simply wanted to rein in Kurdish activities. Assert his power and limit any opportunity for the Kurds to grow in confidence. Kurdish forces have been accused of aiding rebels in Aleppo. This does suggest that there is now a concerted effort to limit their operations.
The Kurdish question has also prompted Turkey to become involved in matters. The Turks are fearful of the Kurds trying to create an independent state. Kurdish gains in Syria have been close to the Turkish border and the traditional Kurdish homeland straddles both sides of the Turkish / Syrian border. However, the Kurdish fighters have made attempts to ease tension with Turkey. They have stated the intended limits of their advance and it would fall well short of the border with Turkey.
Russia has also adapted her tactics. Within the past few days, Russian submarines have launched cruise missiles in Syria from their Mediterranean fleet. This has been combined with increased bombing of rebel forces in Aleppo. The situation there has deteriorated once again. Barrel bombs are reported as having been used: resulting in the last remaining rebel held hospital no longer being in use.