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Why Is there a Civil War in Syria?


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The Syrian Civil War is an ongoing multi-sided armed conflict in Syria fought between the Ba'athist Syrian Arab Republic led by President Bashar al-Assad, along with its allies, and various forces opposing both the government and each other in varying combinations.


The unrest in Syria, part of a wider wave of the 2011 Arab Spring protests, grew out of discontent with the Assad government and escalated to an armed conflict after protests calling for his removal were violently suppressed. The war is being fought by several factions: the Syrian government and its international allies, a loose alliance of Sunni rebel groups (including the Free Syrian Army), the majority-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Salafi jihadist groups (including al-Nusra Front), and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), with a number of countries in the region and beyond being either directly involved or providing support to one or another faction.


Iran, Russia and Hezbollah support the Syrian government militarily, with Russia conducting air operations since September 2015. The U.S.-led international coalition, established in 2014 with the declared purpose of countering ISIL, has conducted airstrikes against ISIL as well as against government and pro-government targets. Turkey, on the other hand, has become deeply involved since 2016, actively supporting the Syrian opposition and occupying large swaths of northwestern Syria.


International organizations have accused the Syrian government, ISIL, opposition rebel groups, and the U.S.-led coalition of severe human rights violations and of massacres. The conflict has caused a major refugee crisis. Over the course of the war, a number of peace initiatives have been launched, including the March 2017 Geneva peace talks on Syria led by the United Nations, but fighting continues.

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