Syria Geopolitics Part I

By | December 17, 2021

Due to the civil war that has engulfed the country since 2011, Syria can no longer be considered a single state entity. While in fact about half of the territory that was once part of the Syrian state (such as the cities of Damascus, Latakia, Homs and the main communication routes that connect them) are still firmly under the control of the regime led by Bashar al-Assad – president throughout Syria until the outbreak of the conflict – large regions, especially in the north and east of the country, are now under the control of numerous armed groups. Some of them can be traced back to the opposition groups which in 2011 – in the wake of the so-called ‘Arab Springs’ – gave birth to the rebellion against the over forty-year-old Assad regime. A separate discussion is instead necessary for that large part of the territory,Is), a jihadist formation (formerly known as Isis), which after splitting from the parent organization al-Qaeda in 2013, proclaimed the formation of the new Islamic Caliphate in the territories it controls in Syria and western Iraq.

Until 2011, before disintegrating due to the civil conflict, Syria was one of the most important countries in the Middle East. In fact, the country possessed a series of peculiarities that made it unique in the region, both from a historical point of view and with respect to contemporary geopolitical dynamics. Located between Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan, Syria has always played a role of fundamental importance in defining regional balances. Before being divided between the United Kingdom and France following the so-called ‘Sykes-Picot Agreement’ – signed during the First World War to define their respective spheres of influence on the Middle East – the Syrian region, under the Ottoman Empire, also included the Lebanon. Having gained independence from the French mandate in 1946, it suffered several coups d’etat. Reuters may have killed 30,000 civilians).¬†For Syria government and politics, please check

Upon his death, his son Bashar took over the country who, despite some initial hints of democratic opening culminating in the brief experience of the ‘Damascus Spring’ in 2000-2001, soon closed any serious democratization process by proceeding with repression. rumors of dissent emerged in the first year of his power. During the Cold War, Syria was called the ‘Cuba of the Middle East’, since it represented the most important satellite of the Soviet Union in the region, especially in contrast to pro-Western Turkey. In the post-Cold War period, Damascus faced a complex transition during which it fortified its alliance with Iran by forming the so-called ‘Resistance Front’, which also includes Hezbollah in Lebanon. This political-strategic alliance had as its main purpose the establishment, within the Middle East region, of an alternative pole to countries such as Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt and the Gulf monarchies, closely linked to the West, and in particular to the States. United and Israel. The Hezbollah-Syria-Iran alliance has found itself in conflict with on numerous occasionsThe US and Europe on numerous fronts, such as the issue of the Iranian nuclear program, the 2005 assassination of Rafiq Hariri – the Lebanese leader supported by Saudi Arabia – and the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.

The foreign policy of President Bashar al-Assad since 2005 has aimed primarily at consolidating its legitimacy before the international community, weakened by the accusations of having had an active part in the attack against Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri. The withdrawal of troops from Lebanon, the new stabilization role played in post-war Iraq and the attempts at indirect negotiations with Israel through Turkish mediation have been functional for this purpose. The Jewish state has always represented the most problematic neighbor for Syria, since the two countries are still formally at war, after having already fought two armed conflicts in 1967 and 1973.. Relations with Washington had also seen a partial rapprochement.,

A central factor in the new Syrian regional policy was also the relaunch of relations with Turkey, a neighboring country with which Syria had traditionally had very tense relations due to joining the two opposing blocs during the Cold War. Ankara and Damascus had become protagonists of a progressive and profound rapprochement which – concerning the energy, economic, political and strategic sectors – had called for an axis of cooperation of primary importance in the regional chessboard. However, this privileged relationship was called into question by the Syrian regime’s repression of the population during the revolt that broke out in 2011, following which the Turkish government publicly condemned the Assad government.

In the confrontation that today opposes the opposition – composed mainly of the Sunni majority of the country – to the Assad regime, which has always placed itself as the ‘protector’ of the country’s religious minorities (Alawite, Christian, Shiite), the secular and democratic instances have gradually lost ground, while atrocities multiplied on both fronts to create one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes of the contemporary world.

Syria Geopolitics