Not a World War: The nineteen nations ‘involved’ in Syrian war

GettyImages-485922198
Syrians walk amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following reported air strikes by regime forces in the rebel-held area of Douma in 2015 (Photo: Getty)

 

13 April 2018 | Karl McDonald | iNews

All the countries that have bombed, are bombing or will bomb Syria

In the wake of an alleged chemical attack by Bashar al-Assad‘s forces in Syria, western nations have again hinted that they might intervene more forcefully in the protracted civil war which has drawn in the whole region and countries further afield.

Donald Trump has threatened “nice and new and ‘smart’” missiles in a tweet that could conceivably come to be considered a declaration of war with Russia, while Macron, May and others appear to be preparing their own response.

But, of course, it’s not the first time western powers have considered intervening in Syria. In fact, they’re already intervening in Syria. From the United States to Russia and Norway to Qatar, the war hasn’t wanted for outside influence.

For simplicity, we’ll create two umbrella groups for noting who is attacking who: Assad (meaning Syrian government forces, their militia supporters and international backers) and rebels (meaning anti-Assad forces formed after the initial 2011 protests, including Islamist and non-Islamist militias). Isis, Syrian Kurdish forces and the Iran-allied, Lebanon-based militia Hezbollah all feature too.

Here’s who’s there, and doing what:

Australia

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott
(Photo: Getty)

Part of the American-led joint task force, Australia has been bombing Isis in Iraq since 2014, extending to Syria in 2015. Operation Okra, as it’s called by the Australian military, has also included humanitarian supply and air drops of arms to Kurdish fighters in the north.

For: rebels. Against: Isis

Bahrain

King Hamad Al-Khalifa of Bahrain (Photo: Getty)
King Hamad Al-Khalifa of Bahrain (Photo: Getty)

The tiny Gulf state took part in air strikes on Isis in 2015.

For: rebels. Against: Isis.

Canada

Canadian Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau walks from the parliament to give a press conference in Ottawa on October 20, 2015 after winning the general elections. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Justin Trudeau halted strikes on Syria (Photo: Getty)

Canada also joined the US-led force bombing Iraq and then Syria, but Justin Trudeau suspended the country’s air strikes in 2016 after his election. Around 600 troops were on the ground in September 2016, engaging Isis forces alongside Kurdish peshmerga.

For: rebels. Against: Isis.

France

Emmanuel Macron favours more strikes on Assad (PETER DEJONG/AFP/Getty Images)

France, which controlled Syria under a mandate for 20 years after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, has been interested in the war since the initial protests. From backing the rebels verbally in 2011 and sending non-military supplies in 2012, it called strongly for intervention against Assad in 2013 only for Barack Obama to demur.

It’s been arming rebels since 2013, and taking part in airstrikes on Syria since 2015 – attempting to hit Islamist targets without strengthening Assad’s hand. Emmanuel Macron remains one of the loudest voices calling for fresh intervention against the Syrian government.

For: rebels. Against: Isis, Assad.

Germany

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel Campaigns Ahead Of Regional Elections
Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor (Photo: Getty Images)

The Germans have sent jets to support French forces against Isis, without specifically taking part in airstrikes themselves. Its 1,200 troops in Syria, however, are the biggest deployment of Bundeswehr anywhere in the world at the moment.

For: rebels. Against: Isis.

Iran

If North Korea is down to its last dollar, Kim Jong Un will be the one to get it - so sanctions may not work (Photo: Getty)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Iran has been involved from the first protests in supporting its ally Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which it sees as important in avoiding Sunni dominance of the region. It has troops on the ground in combat roles, losing around 2,000, in addition to providing technical support and billions worth of financial backing.

The country also controls some other militias active in Syria, with an estimated 70,000 troops in total taking orders from Tehran. It has also attacked anti-regime rebels with missiles fired from Iran.

For: Assad. Against: rebels, Isis.

Iraq

Iraqi forces – with Hezbollah milita (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Awkwardly for the United States, which had hoped for continuing influence in Baghdad, Iraq has facilitated Iranian planes passing through its airspace and provided some support to Assad.

The fight against Isis also took place simultaneously in Iraq as it raged in Syria, and government troops alongside militias were involved in taking back multiple Isis-held cities. Iraqi militiamen remain involved on the ground.

For: Assad. Against: rebels, Isis.

Israel

Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images))

Although officially neutral, Israel has launched many attacks into bordering Syria during the course of the war. It reportedly targeted convoys affiliated to either Assad directly or Lebanon’s Hezbollah – a longtime Israeli enemy – more than a hundred times by December 2017. Its warplanes, said to be on recon missions, have also come into conflict with Syrian anti-aircraft defences.

Israel has also provided medical aid in southern Syria, including to anti-Assad rebels. However, it told Russia that its issue was with Iran and Hezbollah, not Assad personally, when Moscow launched its invasion.

Against: Hezbollah, Iran.

Jordan

Jordan's King Abdullah II (Photo: Getty)
Jordan’s King Abdullah II (Photo: Getty)

Bordering Isis-controlled areas of Syria at times within the war, Jordan joined air strikes in 2014 after the terror group threatened explicitly to overthrow the Jordanian king. One of its pilots, shot down on a mission, was burned to death by terrorists.

Against: Isis.

Libya

Libya has descended into civil war since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi (Photo: Getty)
Libya has descended into civil war since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi (Photo: Getty)

The post-Gaddafi government of Libya sent arms and volunteers to Syria in 2011 before its own state collapsed into several parts.

For: rebels. Against: Assad, Isis.

Netherlands

Prime Minister Mark Rutte

The Dutch military has been involved in air strikes on Isis and support for rebel groups.

For: rebels. Against: Isis.

Norway

A reindeer herd walks on the beach in Jarfjord, Norway. Photo: Getty

As well as donating a large amount of money to humanitarian and refugee causes, Norway’s special forces allegedly invaded southern Syria last year in an operation to help embattled rebels. Norway has been part of the US operation, supporting and training rebels.

For: rebels. Against: Isis.

Russia

US President Donald Trump chats with Russia's President Vladimir Putin (Photo: Getty)
US President Donald Trump chats with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (Photo: Getty)

A Syrian since ally since the 1950s – including through the rule of Bashar’s father Hafez al-Assad – Russia’s involvement can be split into two phases: support and direct intervention.

From the beginning it has supported Assad with arms of greater sophistication that many of those supplied to rebels, including reinforcing robust air defence.

However, from September 2015, Russia stepped its involvement up to full-scale intervention, with its air strikes turning the tide of a stalemated war significantly in favour of Assad. Russia attacked other rebels as well as Isis, unlike the US coalition. The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria has said its strikes, including in Aleppo, killed a large number of civilians.

For: Assad. Against: Isis, rebels.

Qatar

Doha, Qatar

Qatar has supported rebels from early on, offering money to regime defectors. More arms supplied to rebels – including, allegedly, (non-Isis) Islamist ones – came through Qatar than any other country, while it also provided training on its own territory.

For: rebels. Against: Isis, Assad.

Saudi Arabia

Ivanka Trump sits next to Prince Faisal bin Bandar in Riyadh (Photo: Getty)
Ivanka Trump sits next to Prince Faisal bin Bandar in Saudi Arabia (Photo: Getty)

The Saudis have provided a large amount of arms to anti-Assad forces as well as taking a support and intelligence role in the war. It has taken part in in air strikes against Isis.

Saudi Arabia is also engaged in conflict in Yemen against Iranian-linked rebels, and remains staunchly opposed to Iran on a strategic level.

For: rebels. Against: Isis, Assad.

Turkey

Turkey's powerful president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The Turkish army is currently active in northern Syria, fighting against Kurdish forces to prevent the creation of a future state which could destabilise Kurdish regions of southern Turkey.

The country has been heavily involved in the war from the beginning, including supervising the creation of the Free Syrian Army, the rebel umbrella group which drew western money and support and fights against both Assad and Isis. It has also launched missiles into northern Syria.

In 2016, it clashed directly with Assad’s forces during an incursion intended to push back Isis and Kurds from the border, while it recently captured YPG-controlled Afrin in the north of the country.

Turkey also shot down a Russian fighter jet in 2015, but later normalised relations with Vladimir Putin.

For: rebels. Against: Kurds, Isis, Assad.

United Arab Emirates

A glimpse of the future according to Richard Watson
Dubai (Getty Images)

The UAE sent four F-16s to take part in air strikes on Isis in 2016 and has also been involved in supporting rebels – though less keenly than Qatar or Saudi Arabia, according to reports.

For: rebels. Against: Isis.

United Kingdom

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May at the Polish Social and Cultural Association in west London, on 29 March 2018.
Prime Minister Theresa May (STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP/Getty Images)

Britain has provided intelligence from its Cyprus base to rebels since the early stages of the war, but a vote on intervention against Assad specifically was lost in the House of Commons in 2013 after Labour voted against it and 30 Tories rebelled against their own government.

However, from 2015 onwards, it carried out air strikes on Isis, including targeting oil fields under its control. The strikes are still taking place – and the Government publishes reports on what they do.

For: rebels. Against: Isis.

United States

US President Donald Trump (Photo: Getty)
US President Donald Trump (Photo: Getty)

The US has provided support for rebels since the beginning of the war and has on several occasions attempted to build coalitions of countries to oppose either Assad or Isis. Barack Obama pulled back from intervening more directly despite Assad crossing a “red line” in 2013, but the country, along with Gulf allies and western allies, has been bombarding Isis since 2014.

The combined forces led by the US have carried out over 11,000 air strikes in total. Since 2017, it has been sporadically hitting Syrian government targets as well as Isis and al Qaeda-related ones.

Donald Trump has promised more missile attacks on Assad in the wake of an alleged chemical attack.

For: rebels. Against: Isis, then Assad.

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