Who Is Fighting Whom in Syria – New York Times

Middle East

The aftermath of a barrel bomb attack in a rebel-held area of Aleppo, Syria, earlier this month.


September 30, 2015

The Syrian civil war, now in its fifth year, involves multiple countries with overlapping and at times conflicting agendas. Competing visions of how to manage the conflict, which has led to a major global refugee crisis as well as the rise of the Islamic State, dominated discussions at the United Nations General Assembly this week. But despite days of meetings and diplomatic maneuvering, the crisis has only intensified. Here is where some of the main foreign actors stand.
United States
BACKS: More moderate elements among the rebel forces in Syria.
OPPOSES: The government of President Bashar al-Assad, as well as the Islamic State and other Islamic extremist groups.
HOW IT IS FIGHTING: The United States leads a coalition conducting airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State and other extremist groups. It has been carrying out a covert program to train and equip Syrian rebels and a separate Pentagon program to train the moderate Syrian opposition to fight the Islamic State. The Pentagon program has drawn few recruits.
BACKS: Mr. Assad, the leader of Syria, which has been Russia’s only persistent ally in the Middle East for decades.
OPPOSES: The Islamic State, which several thousand young Russians have joined. Russia says it fears a so-called blowback of militants coming home to carry out attacks. But Western nations question whether Russia uses that as cover to counter any threat to Mr. Assad’s rule.
HOW IT IS FIGHTING: Russia has long supplied arms to Syria, but Russian pilots carried out their first airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday, dropping bombs near the central city of Homs, according to American officials in Washington. Despite Russia’s stated goal of attacking the Islamic State, Homs is not under the control of the militant group. Other rebels who oppose Mr. Assad say they were the targets of the attack. Russia has deployed military equipment — including 32 warplanes — and soldiers to a Syrian airfield near Latakia for weeks, according to the United States, and Russian drones have been conducting reconnaissance flights over areas controlled by opponents of Mr. Assad.
BACKS: The United States-backed coalition and, tacitly, rebel forces in Syria.
OPPOSES: Principally the Assad government and Kurdish groups allied …Read More