Syria. Syria’s relations with the western world thinned slightly during the year. President Bashar al-Asad visited France July 12-14. He met his colleague Nicolas Sarkozy and also negotiated with Lebanon’s new president Michel Suleiman. Sarkozy repaid the visit to Damascus in September, thus becoming the first Western leader to visit Syria since the assassination of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri in 2005, which many suspected was behind Syria.
However, the United States behaved coldly and in February tightened its sanctions on several high-ranking Syrian government representatives. On Oct. 26, U.S. troops in Iraq scoured about a mile into Syrian soil, killing eight people, according to Syrian sources, all civilians. Anonymous US sources confirmed the information but said it had killed a leader in the Islamist al-Qaeda network.
One of Hizbullah guerrilla’s highest-ranking commander, Imad Mughniyah, was killed by a car bomb in Damascus on February 12. Israel withdrew from the deed and no one else took on the responsibility. Mughniyah, an icon of Hizbullah, was accused, among other things, of being involved in bomb attacks against US facilities in Beirut in 1983 and against the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1994.
On September 27, 17 people were killed when a car bomb exploded on the outskirts of Damascus. The deed occurred near military buildings, but all victims were civilians. Syria blamed Islamists from the militant group Fatah al-Islam, active in especially northern Lebanon.
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The regime’s offensive against oppositionists continued. Former MP Riyad Sayf was arrested in January along with several other regime critics. He and eleven others were sentenced to six years in prison each for demanding democratic reforms in the Damascus Declaration. In October, they had their sentences reduced to two and a half years. Syria also felt the economic crisis. In May, the government cut fuel subsidies, which led to a 300 percent increase in the price of diesel.
From the outset, the civil war in Syria had been a war between the Islamist dictatorships in the region on the one hand and Syria on the other. From 2015 further with the participation of Russia, Hezbollah and Iran and with the potential to quickly develop into military conflict between the major powers. While the United States sought to step on the brakes to prevent the development of such a scenario, Turkey and Saudi Arabia stepped on the accelerator.
With the prospect of a drastic escalation of the war, Russia and especially the United States put maximum pressure on their allies in the war, and by the end of February 2016, they managed to negotiate a ceasefire. Excluding the ceasefire, al-Nusra was front and IS – in line with the December UN resolution. Turkey’s price was that the Kurdish YPG was also exempted from the ceasefire. Turkey wanted to continue its war against the Kurds. The ceasefire was thus only partial. The war against al-Nusra, IS and YPG continued. Still, the following two months were marked by a significant decline in the war actions. In areas where women and children had not previously been able to arrive, they now came out in the daylight after 2-3 years. A limited peace descended upon the country. But it was only a temporary stay in the fighting. Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their jihadi movements were interested in resuming the fighting, as was the Assad regime which still held out hope for victory. At the end of April, therefore, the ceasefire finally collapsed. Already at the beginning of the month, Syrian government forces and Russian aircraft had removed IS from the historic city of Palmyra and they were now continuing the advance towards Deir Azzor. However, the toughest battles came around Aleppo. In late July, government forces managed to surround the eastern jihadi controlled part of the city. Many thousands of jihadis and about 250,000 civilians were thus under siege. Just a week later, however, jihadis managed to break the siege. Further north, the YPG and Syrian rebels managed to push IS back. In the middle of the month, they captured the strategically important city of Manbij from IS. That caused Turkey to invade Syria. First with a dozen tanks that quickly rose to over 100 as well as heavy artillery. Turkey’s discourse was that they wanted to fight IS, but the Islamic State (Turkey) had no problem with IS in the 2 years the movement had controlled the border area. Only when it suffered defeat for the Kurds did Turkey move to the rescue and attack the YPG. Local self-defense groups and militias in the liberated towns and villages were exposed to Turkish bombings. Turkey and the United States are now open on both sides of the conflict. The United States drew the shortest straw and tried to get the YPG to withdraw over the Euphrates, which the Kurds refused. Turkey was now an open part of the war.
In May, the Danish Folketing decided to enter the war in Syria. In July, the Danish Air Force carried out the first bombings in Syria in support of Syrian jihadis.
In late July, al-Nusra broke the front with al-Qaeda and changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (The Front to Conquer al-Sham (the classic name for the Levant: Syria and Iraq)). The previous 6 months there had been speculation and persistent rumors and an imminent breach. al-Nusra contained two strong tendencies: the foreign jihadis that made up about 1/3 of the front fighters. They were there primarily because of al-Qaeda’s perspective of a caliphate. However, the majority of the fighters were Syrians who had a national perspective alone. al-Nusra had been weakened by ongoing Russian (and North American) bombings, and at the same time Qatar promised open financial and military support if it broke with al-Qaeda. In other words, the Jihadi movement should be made “the living room”. This realization also reached al-Qaeda, which in late July gave its approval to a rupture. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey could now more openly support the movement financially and militarily. However, the United States was not immediately persuaded. The superpower added Jabhat Fateh al-Sham to its terrorist list.
The United States and Russia signed a ceasefire agreement in Syria at the beginning of September, instructing each of their groups of military organizations to suspend the mid-month fighting. As in the spring, however, IS and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham were exempt from the ceasefire. However, after a few days of ceasefire, the agreement went up in the bond. The reason was that the United States, Britain, Australia and Denmark bombed Syrian government forces outside Deir al-Zor. The attack cost somewhere between 62 and 90 soldiers and allowed IS to encircle the Syrian regime’s air base outside the city. Both the US, UK and Australia were quick to apologize for the attack. Denmark did not apologize. As in the war against Libya in 2011, Denmark’s military role was to carry out the attacks that other Western countries cannot carry out. US s political purpose of the attack on the Syrian troops was to test the reaction of the Syrian regime and its Russian allies. The Russian and Syrian response to the attack was to intensify the attacks on Aleppo, after which the ceasefire finally collapsed. In addition to the Danish military support for IS was Denmark now formally at war with Syria. (Truce teeters after raids on Aleppo, Syria troops, The Daily Star 18/9 2016; Denmark error bombs in Syria – and what should we then ask about, believe and learn? Peace Researcher Jan Øberg 19/9 2016).
According to Countryaah reports, the population of Syria in 2008 was 21,362,418, ranking number 54 in the world. The population growth rate was 3.070% yearly, and the population density was 116.3346 people per km2.