Syria Update: December 2016


The current situation in Syria, with red representing the Syrian government and green/black representing rebel groups. The cluster of circles near the center of the picture is where Palmyra sits.

Evan Rocha, Staff Writer

Recent developments in the ongoing conflict and civil war in Syria have shown distinct gains and losses for both the Syrian government and ISIL and other terrorist groups.

A nearly four-year long conflict for the city of Aleppo is coming to a close as Syrian Arab Army forces (the military of the Syrian government) start to constrict surrounded rebel forces. The rebels previously controlled a large swath of land to the west and north of the city, but SAA forces have managed to carve out a perimeter and have been closing in since early this year. The rebels have now been confined to a small area, only a few miles wide. Secretary of State Kerry has urged the Syrian and Russian governments to “show grace” as they move in on the city. Over 50,000 citizens have fled the city over the past few days, and with more surely to come.

Meanwhile in the center of Syria the ancient city of Palmyra is on the brink of being taken over by ISIL forces. ISIL had previously been evicted from the city nine months ago, and are currently in a position to retake it. The first time ISIL had been in control of the site, they had demolished a number of historically invaluable artifacts and structures. ISIL has been known to destroy historical sites before, such as the ancient Assyrian cities of Nineveh and Nimrud. In fact, destruction of cultural history has been a trademark of radical Islamic terrorist groups for a few decades now. The destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan by the Taliban is one of the most notable events.

These destructions are carried out because most of these structures were built either for or by societies that follow pagan beliefs. The ancient Assyrians predated Islam by nearly two thousand years and worshipped a whole pantheon of gods and goddesses that go strictly against ISIL’s strong hatred for non-Islamic religious worship. Even though most today would consider them historical treasures, ISIL has stated that they intend to destroy any “polytheistic” or other heretical artifacts.

So even as a major rebel stronghold in Aleppo falls, ISIL still maintains a strong hold on the eastern half of Syria and is expanding through the sparsely populated deserts that make up the center of the country. While many major population centers are falling back under Syrian government control, ISIL shows no signs of losing much power in the east.

The recent election will also change the situation. Clinton had been a staunch supporter of “moderate” rebels, much to the chagrin of Russian and Syrian officials, but Trump’s “relationship” with Putin will produce a completely different and previously unseen result.