Turkey intervenes in Syria: a review thus far

Map illustrating the conflicted areas in Syria.

Map illustrating the conflicted areas in Syria.

Evan Rocha, Staff Writer

As the Turkish army begins their intervention in Syria, things seem to be turning around for good in Syria. ISIS loses more ground every day, thanks to a combined effort by a multitude of international powers. However, the situation in Syria isn’t as cut and dry as many people would think.

First and foremost, the conflict isn’t simply between ISIS and everyone else (i.e. “The Good Guys”). There are a variety of factions involved in the Civil War. The Syrian government, led by Bashar Al-Assad, is the same government criticized for chemical weapons attacks against its own citizens in 2013. They are allied with the Russians and Syrians, and they control the vast majority of Syria’s populated land. Syria is not a large country, but even so most of the land in Syria is desert. Most of the developed land in the country is in the west, where Al-Assad’s government is located.

ISIS is mainly located in the east of the country. Most of this land is desert, and really overstates ISIS’ presence on most maps. In reality, ISIS controls a few populated cities along very thin habitable areas of land between massive swaths of desert. For a while, this meant that they got to control Syria’s oil refineries. In response, the US and other countries have been bombing oil refineries in ISIS territory for the past few years. This has led to a gradual decrease in revenue for ISIS, which, combined with a loss in land, has really pushed back their efforts.

But ISIS isn’t the only terrorist group in Syria. Al-Nusra, another terrorist group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, has been occupying large regions of western Syria, and various other terrorist organizations control their own regions and no-go zones. A completely unrelated group are the Kurds, an ethnic group located in Northern Syria, once again separated into various groups, most of whom want to form a region known as ‘Kurdistan’. They aren’t terrorists, but almost nobody is allied with them. They’re a third party, motivated only to protect their own region, and they saw the weakness of the Syrian government fighting terrorist groups and seized the opportunity to declare an independence of sorts. However, no nation officially supports them as they exist in a diplomatic limbo, and the Turks especially dislike them because they don’t want to risk Kurds running the border into Turkey.

Lastly, the US and NATO maintain a small presence in southwestern Syria, mostly to secure a zone between Syria and Israel. A lot of different groups with varying motivations are fighting for control of Syria. This leads to a lot of intertwining alliances and conflicts between various groups. ISIS may be losing ground in particular, but Al-Nusra remains a problem, the Kurds have only been growing, and the actual government of Syria is currently on much of the western world’s bad side. Time will show what will result of Turkey’s intervention, but it will surely make a significant impact.

Map Key:

Red= Syrian Provisional Government

Black= ISIS

Yellow=Kurds

Green=Al-Nusra

Blue=US/NATO

Purple=Turkey