Attempts to make sense of the prolonged, bloody conflict in Syria which threatens Turkey’s southern border and long ago spilled over into Iraq, are everywhere and always complicated by the constantly shifting alliances among the various groups fighting for control of the country.
For instance, commentators were taken off guard in April when al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra appeared to be working in tandem with rival ISIS in a push to control the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus. The siege – which transformed the camp into what Ban Ki-Moon called “the worst circle of hell” – also saw Palestinian militiamen forge awkward alliances with the Assad regime in the face of the militant assault.
Just this week, Turkey began bombing raids on ISIS targets, marking a departure from the country’s previous position and leading many to question why, given widespread suspicion that Turkey has been cooperating with ISIS for some time, Ankara would suddenly decide to go on the offensive (as we’ve shown, Erdogan’s motivation is purely political, but the official line is that a suicide bombing in Suruc forced the President’s reluctant hand). Turkey has also funnelled money to ISIS’ rivals in Syria in an effort to support any and all efforts (well, aside from those of the YPG) to overthrow Assad.
As for the US, it’s virtually impossible to say which groups the CIA has or hasn’t supported over the course of the war and indeed, many suspect US intelligence of funding and training the very militants who eventually became ISIS (a suspicion that was recently confirmed in a leaked Pentagon document).
Through it all, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has desperately clung to power although a speech delivered last Sunday suggested that the strongman’s grip on the country had weakened materially in the face of a manpower shortage.
Amid the chaos,