Russia’s intervention in Syria has made the pattern of alliances and enmities more complicated. Military powers in different configurations are backing the Assad regime and its local opponents. Let’s take a look at where these major players are placed.
The country is a long-term supporter of the Assad regime and now appears willing to hit any faction, Islamist or secular, fighting its beleaguered army. Russia’s initial claim that it was only striking ISIS positions was contradicted by reports that it is targeting other anti-regime groups too, including those under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, which have received training and equipment from the US.
Washington opposes the Syrian regime. But the country hasn’t done a lot to bring it down, and has even signaled that Assad could stay in a transitional role. The US has provided moderate rebels ammunition and training to fight the ISIS. However this was paused after a series of embarrassing setbacks. The US leads an international coalition which is bombing ISIS targets in Syria and occasionally the Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra.
Britain is bombing ISIS targets in Iraq from its strategic base in Cyprus. However Britain hasn’t officially joined the US-led coalition. Prime minister, David Cameron, wants to do so, but Russia’s intervention has complicated things.
Turkey strongly opposes Assad and has voiced concern over Russian incursions into its airspace. The country backs Islamist and moderate anti-regime fighters. Turkey has opened airbases to the anti-ISIS coalition and launched its own airstrikes.
Tehran, like Moscow, is an Assad ally. The country backs his regime militarily. Iran has provided the Syrian government with military equipment, advisers and Revolutionary Guards commanders to train and assist its armed forces.
Like the US, Saudi Arabia insists that Assad must go, and backs Islamist and moderate Syrian opposition fighters. Saudi Arabia has carried out airstrikes as part of the US-led coalition, and has provided anti-tank missiles to rebels fighting the regime in the north.
The Gulf state’s Al-Udeid airbase is a major operations hub for US forces. Doha has negotiated on behalf of the Islamist and moderate rebel fighters, and has even trained the rebels.
Opposes Assad and backs rebels fighting in the southern front near the Daraa and Suweida provinces. Jordan provides logistic support and training.