Syria remains a strategically important country, housing Damascus (the capital of the former Islamic empires) with neighbouring oil-rich countries, and access to the Mediterranean Sea.
Enemies and allies
As the Syrian civil war rages on, there has been direct involvement from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards who have assisted their ally Bashar al-Assad throughout the conflict.
Contrarily, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) received heavy support from Western countries, namely the US, France, and the UK along with Turkey, who have all supported the war against the Syrian government.
The Syrian government had a traditionally anti-Western stance -- being a revolutionary socialist government, they have had close ties with the historic USSR and now its successor, the Russian Federation.
As a result of close ties with the USSR, Syria allowed Russia to build a naval base in Tartus along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. This is a liability in the eyes of NATO, as it gives Russian naval force access to the heart of the Mediterranean. FSA is a coalition of various militant outfits and splinter groups who have all worked, at some point, against the government in Damascus.
The FSA, unlike traditional military bodies, is not united under a structural hierarchy -- instead, there have been splinter groups that emerged from militant groups who are often regarded as terrorist organisations by the international community.
These groups have fought each other on various occasions and are backed by different donors, mainly from the Gulf states and Turkey.
It can be presumed that the Western interest in ousting President Assad is primarily to gain access to this area of regional importance.
A “regime change” or, in other words, establishing a friendlier government would allow pipeline projects to be resourced out into Europe through Turkey. Syria opposed and supported Iranian-proposed pipelines to be built as an alternative.
Put Israel to the mix
Israel, on the other hand, has claimed the Syrian territory, Golan Heights, which Israel occupied in the 1967 war. Syria had eventually recaptured it, but now it remains in Israeli control.
Therefore, Israel has interest in the Syrian conflict as well, also reports published by Haaretz (Israeli news agency) suggested that the FSA received direct medical aid from the Israeli controlled Golan Heights and, possibly, military aid as well.
Israel also routinely bombed Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) positions and they have argued that they were targeting Hezbollah positions in Syria -- with whom Israel has had a conflict with, notably since the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War.
The US, along with the UK and France, also routinely carried out air strikes on IS and also on the SAA, in some instances the US air force bombed the SAA positions which were followed up by IS advancements.
Some have fuelled the fire that burns Syria and some have attempted to assure their interests in the region through hybrid/proxy war
Media, the devious one
As the Civil War broke out, the Western-dominated media establishment were quick to portray Assad’s forces as the culprit and violators of human rights. They quickly poised a position of a condemnation of the SAA and its fight against a rather foreign funded insurgency within their territory. There have been images floating around the media that depict children as the sufferers of SAA and Russian “aggression.” However, often it has been proven to be false and manipulated.
There have been cases when the BBC and The Guardian used images from Iraq and recycled the image in order to portray the Syrian conflict, this was debunked by the British media outlet The Telegraph.
Also, the case of the Syrian boy, Omran, famously rescued by the White Helmets was a devious one. Later, when the RT documentary crew went to look for the boy in Aleppo and interviewed his father, they found out the boy was taken from his home to be taken photographs of in a hospital -- which later became viral.
Additionally, there have been images that are surfacing the internet that suggest the White Helmet have staged fake rescues in order to receive publicity. This was famously confirmed as the official Twitter of the White Helmets posted a video of the members carrying out the Mannequin challenge which was trending at the time. This embarrassing howler further damaged their credibility.
In addition to that, there are images of White Helmet members beheading a Syrian boy on video, there are images of those who are affiliated with this organization also waving Al-Qaeda flag after a successful attack. The White Helmets are one of the main sources of the Western media and Al Jazeera coverage from the beginning.
While the Syrian war is still far from being over, there has been progress made by the government and its allies in recovering areas. However, the conflict may take yet another twist as Turkey officially entered the conflict last month against the Syrian Democratic Forces (Kurdish armed group), who have been working with the Syrian government as well as the US in the fight against IS.
Turkey, with its domestic problems with the Kurdish minority and its political entities, has entered Syrian territory to directly combat with Syrian Democratic Forces.
The SDF (backed by US forces) have moved away from the IS front-lines to focus on their fight against Turkey. The SDF has, however, successfully managed to recapture vast territories from IS in the past three years, which goes to show the importance of SDF in the Syrian conflict and the eventual defeat of IS.
Russia, being the major power broker in this conflict, has a difficult situation on their hands, as Turkey, who has cooperated with Russia in the recent times, has joined the conflict against a side which was instrumental in the defeat of IS. However, it seems Russia will opt to play a mediating role in the fight between SDF and Turkey, for diplomatic purposes.
With vested interests in Syria, many different governments and private organizations have gotten involved in this humanitarian crisis. Some have fuelled the fire that burns Syria and some have attempted to assure their interests in the region through hybrid/proxy war. All in all, this has caused approximately 151,000 civilians deaths, and created 13.5 million refugees.
The war is being fought on multiple fronts, and has prolonged for seven long years -- a catastrophe that requires quick resolve. In order to truly understand the situation in Syria, it isn’t enough to just follow the news narrative, but to engage in research which may reveal some of the concealed parts of this bloody puzzle.
Ahmed Ashfaque Shahbaz is founder and editor of Qutnyti Blog.