With so many nations involved in the Syrian Civil War, many have been left wondering who is fighting who in Syria. Without counting international input, there are three main forces fighting within Syria: Bashar Al-Assad, rebel groups and ISIS.
The Civil War began during the 2011 Arab Spring when peaceful protests broke out against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s authoritarian regime. Many Syrians were dissatisfied with Assad, partially because the gap of inequality between the poor and the rich increased under his rule.
Assad reacted to the protests by violently crushing activists, leading to increased frustration amongst the people and an armed revolt of rebel groups.
France is currently investigating Assad over alleged crimes against humanity during this civil war.
There are around 1000 rebel forces that are against Assad, totaling 1000 fighters, according to the BBC. Some of the most prominent include the Free Syrian Army, the Islamic Front, the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front, independent groups, Jihadist groups (including ISIS) and Kurdish groups.
ISIS, also known as the Islamic State or ISIL, is known for the major human rights violations it has committed while taking over territory in Syria and Iraq. ISIS believes that establishing an Islamic State with Islamic law, or Sharia, will create a just and equitable society, and has demanded allegiance from Muslims worldwide.
ISIS also opposes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and wants to end his rule. Within Syria, ISIS has taken territory from Assad, rebel groups and Kurdish tribes. Whether forces are for or against Assad, they are all opposed to ISIS.
David Vila, professor of religion and philosophy, said that both Assad and ISIS are “monsters,” but explained that Assad is an Alawite, which means he is part of a minority religious branch of Shia Islam. As a member of a minority group himself, Assad protected minorities against more radical Muslims.
“Kind of ironically, Assad was a protector of Christians in Syria,” Vila said.
Robert Moore, assistant professor of history, said that a primary reason that this war has been so bloody is because it is not located among the central players of the state.
Assad has three main allies in maintaining his power and fighting off rebels forces and ISIS: Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah. While Russia has supported Assad throughout the war, Russia has been in the news lately because it recently began airstrikes in Syria.
The U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are among the main forces opposed to Assad.
U.S. state department spokesperson John Kirby has announced that Iran is likely to be invited to key international talks with Russia and the U.S. to discuss the Syrian civil war.