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Wednesday, 18th June 2014

Dynamic Stalemate: Surveying Syria's Military Landscape

Source: Brookings Institution

From A Complex Affair:

The conflict in Syria has become an intensely complex affair, incorporating overlapping political, religious, sectarian, ethnic, and tribal narratives. The anti-government insurgency currently involves approximately 100,000- 120,000 fighters—roughly 7,000-10,000 of whom are non-Syrian nationals—divided among over 1,000 distinct armed units.1 A majority of these factions are further organized into an assortment of coalitions, fronts, and temporary local alliances known as ‘military operations rooms.’ Meanwhile, government forces—principally the Syrian Arab Army (SAA)—have both encouraged and adapted to the war’s sectarian overtones, primarily deploying Shia and Alawi units in front-line operations alongside increasingly profes- sionalized paramilitaries and Shia militias composed largely of foreign fighters. All the while, both sides receive considerable levels of support from foreign states, organizations, and individuals.

The foregoing refers only to the dynamic of Sunni militias fighting against the Syrian government. The conflict, however, is by no means two-dimensional. Other elements include, but are not limited to, the role of the Kurdish autonomist group, the Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat, and its armed wings, the Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (YPG) and Yekîneyên Parastina Jin; the eruption of fighting against the al-Qaeda-disavowed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS); the interest-specific role of Lebanon-based Hizballah in backing President Bashar al-Assad; the damaging role of fre- quently incompatible or mutually conflicting policies of opposition-supporting Gulf states; and increasingly evident divisions within the political and military components of the two main Western-backed opposition structures, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (or Syrian National Coalition; SNC) and the Supreme Joint Military Command Council (SMC).

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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

Adrian can be reached at adrian.janes@freepint.com

More articles by Adrian Janes »

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