The beggining of the civil war
• The Syrian Uprising, begun on 15
March 2011, is an actual armed
conflict in Syria between forces loyal to
the Ba’ath government and those
seeking to oust it.
• By April 2011 the protests grew
nationwide becaming part of the North
African and Middle Eastern protest
movements: The Arab Spring.
The roots of the conflict
• The Syrian uprising started as a reaction
to the Arab Spring, a series of anti-
government protests across the Arab
world inspired by the fall of the Tunisian
regime in early 2011. But at the root of the
conflict was anger over unemployment,
decades of dictatorship, corruption and
state violence under of the Middle East’s
most repressive regimes.
• Bashar Assad presented himself as a
reformer in 2000 snd he has served as
President since then, when he succeeded
his father, Hafez al-Assad, who led Syria
for 30 years until his death. Critics have
called any changes largely superficial, and
Assad's crackdown on protests in March
2011 sparked the current civil war.
MARCH 2011: Syrian government troops open fire on crowds of
people protesting the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The upheaval spirals
into armed conflict as members of the military defect to join the
JUNE 2012: The Action Group for Syria – which includes the
U.S., Russia, the Arab League and other world powers – agrees to
a peace plan. The Geneva communiqué sets out a blueprint to end
the fighting and create a political settlement. The government and
opposition are urged to follow it to negotiate a peace.
JULY 2012: The Red Cross declares the conflict a civil
war, crossing an important symbolic threshold with
implications for potential war crimes prosecutions in the
future. As the fighting continues, the death toll continues
MAY 2013:U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets
with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. They agree
to work towards bringing the Syrian government and
opposition to peace talks in a few months’ time. The
2012 Geneva communiqué would be the basis for
SEPTEMBER 2013: Negotiations between U.S. and Russian
diplomats produce a sweeping agreement about securing and
destroying Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. The deal averts a
potential military attack and is said to restart the peace process.
AUGUST 2013: The Assad regime is accused of using chemical
weapons in an attack on Syrian civilians that killed hundreds. U.S.
President Barack Obama had said a year earlier that such an attack would
cross a “red line.” The Americans contemplate a military response as
tensions escalate across the board.
JANUARY 2014: The first round of peace talks around the 2012 Geneva
communiqué finally take place after a number of delays. The discussions
last for one week, with future talks planned for a few weeks' time. .
FEBRUARY 2014: A second round of talks is held. Discussion grinds to
a halt when the Syrian regime refuses to discuss opposition demands for
an interim government to be formed, says UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi.
"I apologize that these two rounds have not come out with very much," he
JANUARY 2014: The first round of peace talks around
the 2012 Geneva communiqué finally take place after a
number of delays. The discussions last for one week,
with future talks planned for a few weeks' time. .
FEBRUARY 2014: A second round of talks is held.
Discussion grinds to a halt when the Syrian regime
refuses to discuss opposition demands for an interim
government to be formed, says UN mediator Lakhdar
Brahimi. "I apologize that these two rounds have not
come out with very much," he adds.
In August 2012, President Barack Obama said the U.S. would
reconsider its opposition to military involvement in the Syrian
civil war if Assad's regime deployed or used chemical or
biological weapons. He called such action a "red line" for the
In June 2013, U.S. officials said that line had been crossed.
They reported that Syria has used sarin gas on multiple
occasions, killing up to 150 people.
Shortly after, Obama authorized sending weapons to the
Syrian rebels for the first time.
A purported chemical attack in August 2013 pushed the U.S.
even closer to action.
Obama labelled the alleged attack an "assault on human
dignity" and called for direct military action in Syria However,
he agreed to pursue a diplomatic solution backed by Russia
before launching any strikes.
British politicians voted against a military response in Syria on
Aug. 29, 2013. Prime Minister David Cameron, pictured, lost the
vote with 285 against the idea compared to 272 in favour.
Cameron said he "strongly" believes in the need for a tough
response to alleged chemical weapons use, but also believes in
respecting the will of the House of Commons.
The U.K. vote was not binding, but in practice the rejection of
military strikes effectively tied Cameron's hands.
In the days leading up to the vote, the U.K. had seemed a likely
participant, along with the U.S. and several other allies, in a
possible military strike against the Assad regime.
Russia is one of Syria's most important international allies.
Syria has been among Russia's top customers for international
arms exports, with contracts in the billions, according to
reports. The trade, while legal, raised concerns over whether
Russia was arming Assad's regime with weapons to use
against the rebels.
An official said in July 2012, however, that Russia would not
deliver weapons to Syria while the situation remains
unresolved. And by December, as Assad's grip weakened,
Moscow sought to distance itself from the regime.
In June 2013, President Vladimir Putin told Obama that Russian
and U.S. positions on Syria do not "coincide". But the two
leaders said during that month's G8 summit that they shared an
interest in stopping the violence.
Russia firmly opposed the American plan for military action
after the August 2013 chemical weapons accusations. It backed
a diplomatic solution that saw the Assad regime turn over its
Mohammed Morsi, then Egypt's Islamist president, announced
on June 15, 2013, that he was cutting off diplomatic relations
with Syria and closing Damascus' embassy in Cairo. The
decisions were made amid growing calls from hard-line Sunni
clerics in Egypt and elsewhere to launch a "holy war" against
Syria's embattled regime.
Morsi also called on Lebanon's Hezbollah to leave Syria.
But weeks later, Morsi was ousted as president, leaving Egypt
in the hands of an interim government. And that government
has signalled a change in direction.
Egypt's foreign minister told reporters in July that "there are no
intentions for jihad in Syria," while still supporting a change of
regime in the country.
The country refused to back a military strike on Syria and has
urged the warring parties to launch peace talks.
Relations with Syria had been strained for decades, but the
chilliness thawed somewhat throughout the 2000s. The
uprising and civil war have changed all that.
Syrian forces have shot down a Turkish military set near the
countries' shared border; the Syrian government maintains the
flight had violated its airspace.
The latest blow to relations came in May 2013: Turkey accused
a group with links to the Syrian intelligence service of setting
of car bombs that killed 46 people in a Turkish border town.
Syria has rejected allegations it was behind the attacks.
Turkey has said it will defend its interests by force if necessary,
and has received the backing of its NATO allies.
A top Israeli military intelligence official said
in April 2013 that the Assad regime used
chemical weapons the previous month in its
battle against insurgent groups.
The claim was based on visual evidence of
alleged attacks. It was the first time that a
senior Israeli official had levelled such an
accusation against the Syrian regime.
Israel launched an airstrike against a
suspected Syrian weapons site in May 2013.
Dozens of Syrian regime soldiers were killed in an ambush
inside Iraqui in March 2013, amid heightened concerns that
Iraq could be drawn into Syria's civil war.
The fact that the soldiers were on Iraqi soil in the first place
raises questions about Baghdad's apparent willingness to
quietly aid the Assad's embattled regime.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, pictured, has told The
Associated Press that he feared a victory for the anti-Assad
side would create a new extremist haven and destabilize the
wider Middle East.
His comments reflect fears by many Shiite Muslims that Sunnis
would come to dominate Syria should Assad be toppled.
Assad's regime is backed by Shiite powerhouse Iran, which
has been building ties with the Shiite-led government in
Baghdad in recent years.
Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia has backed
the opposition groups that are trying to
topple Assad's Shiite regime.
It's suspected that the Saudis have even
provided the opposition with arms, as have
its allies in Qatar and Turkey.
The Saudis are also believed to have strong
ties with opposition leader Ahmad Jarba.