Syria. According to
COUNTRYAAH, the conflict that some began to call a third world
war continued to rage in Syria. Before the end of the year,
four of the five permanent members of the UN Security
Council (the United States, the Russian Federation, France
and the United Kingdom), as well as the regional powers of
Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, were militarily involved in
the war. With the Russian Federation and Iran as important
exceptions, the outside world was generally hostile to the
regime. Despite this, a US-led alliance of Western and Arab
states engaged primarily against one of the regime's many
opponents: the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, which the
UN Security Council in November identified as a threat to
world peace. The conflict was a major contributor to the
great refugee crisis in the world - about 5 million people
had left the country in just under five years. Almost half
of the 250,000 dead were estimated to be civilians.
At the beginning of the year, the Kurdish militia YPG
(People's Defense Units) drove back IS from the city of
Kobane on the border with Turkey, an area that has been the
focus of the world's attention. In June, YPG also took Tal
Abyad further east at the border, with the support of the
In March, other Islamist groups entered Idlib, the
capital of the province of the same name in the northwest.
It was the second provincial capital that the government
lost control of, after ar-Raqqa which fell in 2013. The
regime lost its last stronghold in the province, an air
base, in September.
IS in May took Palmyra in the middle of the country and
destroyed there temples and other remains in the ancient
city that the UN agency UNESCO classified as a World
Heritage Site. The group also beheaded an 83-year-old museum
manager who was responsible for the archaeological
excavations in the city.
In July, Turkey also began to bomb IS's positions in
Syria, although several of the Turkish attacks were aimed at
Kurds, primarily Iraq but also in Syria. As a result, NATO
member Turkey fired US allies in Syria.
Amnesty International accused the government of war
crimes because of repeated air strikes against Duma, a
rebel-controlled suburb of Damascus. The Human Rights
Organization raised alarms that many civilians were cut off
from supplies. In August, around 100 people died and at
least 200 were injured when a well-visited marketplace in
Duma was hit by at least four robots in one of the worst
massacres so far during the war.
The Russian Federation and Iran increased their military
involvement, and in September the Russian Federation also
began bombing inside Syria, from aircraft and ships.
According to Moscow, the attacks were aimed at IS, but
others claimed that it was rather other opponents of the
al-Assad regime being attacked.
Attempts to broker peace occurred. UN envoy Staffan de
Mistura made several proposals and during the summer he held
individual consultations with conflicting parties. During
the autumn, representatives of 17 countries that
participated in the conflict and the UN, the EU and the Arab
League gathered for talks in Vienna. This resulted in a plan
for a transitional government to be established within six
months and elections held within 18 months. In December, for
the first time, a large number of Syrian resistance groups,
both armed and political, gathered to try to find a way to
resolve the conflict. The talks took place in Saudi Arabia.
The UN Security Council then adopted a resolution on a
ceasefire and peace talks that were intended to begin after
the New Year but would not include IS.