2011

Protesters form coalition against Assad

Tension grows between protesters and the ruling regime of Bashar al-Assad. In July, a loose confederation of defecting military organizations form the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Although all these groups oppose Assad, they have different end goals and foreign supporters. Ethnic Kurds in northern Syria form defense units.

Russia increases arms sales to Assad.

Squares are foreign groups

Russia

Lines are military support

SYRIA

Circles are local groups

Regime

loyalists

Free

Syrian

Army

Kurds

The Arab League votes to remove Syria’s seat.

Gulf

states

SYRIA

Squares are foreign groups

Circles are local groups

Kurds

Russia increases arms sales to Assad.

The Arab League votes to remove Syria’s seat.

Free

Syrian

Army

Gulf

states

Regime

loyalists

Russia

Lines are military support

SYRIA

Squares are foreign groups

Circles are local groups

Kurds

Russia increases arms sales to Assad.

The Arab League votes to remove Syria’s seat.

Free

Syrian

Army

Gulf

states

Regime

loyalists

Russia

Lines are military support

2012

Uprising becomes violent

A military fight starts between regime loyalists, the FSA and the newly-formed Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria. Kurdish forces start to participate in the conflict and clash with the FSA but avoid major fighting with the Assad regime. Additional outside groups begin to aid various factions in Syria. Iran and Hezbollah send support to Assad while the United States sends support to the FSA, but in a limited way due to concerns about Islamic extremists in their ranks.

Hez-

bollah

Russia

Iran

Regime

loyalists

Arrows are direct fighting

Jabhat

al-Nusra

Kurdish

YPG

Free

Syrian

Army

Gulf

states

al-

Qaeda

U.S.

Jabhat

al-Nusra

al-Qaeda

Hez-

bollah

Free

Syrian

Army

Regime

loyalists

Russia

U.S.

Arrows are direct fighting

Gulf

states

Iran

Kurdish

YPG

Jabhat

al-Nusra

al-Qaeda

Hez-

bollah

Free

Syrian

Army

Regime

loyalists

Russia

U.S.

Arrows are direct fighting

Gulf

states

Iran

Kurdish

YPG

2013

Fighting intensifies

Citing mounting evidence that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, the U.S. threatens direct military action. At Russia’s insistence, Assad gives up chemical weapons to prevent a direct U.S. attack. Hezbollah and Iranian ground troops enter the fight. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) begins to actively fight in Syria.

Hez-

bollah

Russia

Iran

Regime

loyalists

Islamic

State

(ISIS)

Jabhat

al-Nusra

Kurdish

YPG

Free

Syrian

Army

Islamic

Front

Gulf

states

U.S.

Turkey

al-Qaeda

The Islamic Front is formed as a parallel structure to the FSA.

Jabhat

al-Nusra

al-Qaeda

Hez-

bollah

Free

Syrian

Army

U.S.

Regime

loyalists

Russia

Turkey

Islamic

Front

Iran

The Islamic Front is formed as a parallel structure to the FSA.

Gulf

states

Islamic

State

(ISIS)

Kurdish

YPG

Jabhat

al-Nusra

al-Qaeda

Hez-

bollah

Free

Syrian

Army

U.S.

Regime

loyalists

Russia

Turkey

Islamic

Front

Iran

The Islamic Front is formed as a parallel structure to the FSA.

Gulf

states

Islamic

State

(ISIS)

Kurdish

YPG

The Islamic State is born

As ISIS enters Syria from Iraq in 2013, fighters defect from anti-Assad rebel groups and join ISIS as they take over local provinces and seize oil fields and a major regime air base. Now controlling large swaths of territory in both Syria and Iraq, ISIS declares a pan-Islamic caliphate and changes its name to the Islamic State in 2014.

Free

Syrian

Army

Jabhat

al-Nusra

Islamic

Front

Iraq

ISIS

fighters

Foreign

fighters

Islamic

State

Free

Syrian

Army

Jabhat

al-Nusra

Islamic

Front

Iraq

ISIS

fighters

Foreign

fighters

Islamic

State

Free

Syrian

Army

Jabhat

al-Nusra

Islamic

Front

Iraq

ISIS

fighters

Foreign

fighters

Islamic

State

2014

The Islamic State complicates matters

The U.S. and Gulf states commence airstrikes against the Islamic State. Backed by coalition war planes and helped by Iraqi Kurds, Kurdish YPG forces rebuff an Islamic State onslaught at Kobane on the Turkish border. The Kurdish YPG ally with some FSA groups and fight back the Islamic State.

Russia

Iran

Hezbollah

Kurdish

YPG

Regime

loyalists

Jabhat

al-Nusra

Islamic

State

Free

Syrian

Army

Islamic

Front

Gulf

states

U.S.

Turkey

al-Qaeda

Jabhat

al-Nusra

al-Qaeda

Hezbollah

U.S.

Free

Syrian

Army

Regime

loyalists

Russia

Turkey

Islamic

Front

Iran

Gulf

states

Kurdish

YPG

Islamic

State

Jabhat

al-Nusra

al-Qaeda

Hezbollah

U.S.

Free

Syrian

Army

Regime

loyalists

Russia

Turkey

Islamic

Front

Iran

Gulf

states

Kurdish

YPG

Islamic

State

2015

Russia intervenes militarily and France retaliates

The FSA makes significant gains against the Assad regime. In September, Russia, a longtime Syrian ally, launches an air campaign to push back Assad opposition. In November, France bombs the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Islamic State's de facto capital, in retaliation for terrorist attacks in Paris.

The Russian naval base at Tartus in Syria is Russia’s only hold on the Mediterranean. Russia claims its target is the Islamic State but most strikes hit the FSA.

Russia

Iran

Hezbollah

Kurdish

YPG

Regime

loyalists

Jabhat

al-Nusra

Islamic

State

Free

Syrian

Army

Islamic

Front

al-Qaeda

Gulf

states

France

U.S.

Turkey

After terrorist attacks in Paris in November, France launched attacks against Islamic State targets in Syria.

The Russian naval base at Tartus in Syria is Russia’s only hold on the Mediterranean.

Jabhat

al-Nusra

al-Qaeda

Hezbollah

U.S.

Free

Syrian

Army

Regime

loyalists

Russia

Turkey

Islamic

Front

Iran

Gulf

states

Islamic

State

Russia claims its target is the Islamic State but most strikes hit the FSA.

After terrorist attacks in Paris in November, France launched attacks on Islamic State targets in Syria.

Kurdish

YPG

France

The Russian naval base at Tartus in Syria is Russia’s only hold on the Mediterranean.

Jabhat

al-Nusra

al-Qaeda

Hezbollah

U.S.

Free

Syrian

Army

Regime

loyalists

Russia

Turkey

Islamic

Front

Iran

Gulf

states

Islamic

State

Russia claims its target is the Islamic State but most strikes hit the FSA.

After terrorist attacks in Paris in November, France launched attacks on Islamic State targets in Syria.

Kurdish

YPG

France

2016

Russia says it will pull military out of Syria

Putin announced in March that Russia would begin withdrawing its military from Syria, potentially winding down nearly six months of airstrikes that have bolstered Assad's regime. Russia would still keep open both Russian air force and naval bases in Syria.

Russia

Iran

Hezbollah

Regime

loyalists

Jabhat

al-Nusra

Islamic

State

Free

Syrian

Army

Kurdish

YPG/

SDF

al-Qaeda

U.S.-led

coalition

Turkey

Jabhat

al-Nusra

al-Qaeda

Hezbollah

Turkey

Free

Syrian

Army

Regime

loyalists

Russia

U.S.-led

coalition

Iran

Kurdish

YPG/

SDF

Islamic

State

Jabhat

al-Nusra

al-Qaeda

Hezbollah

Turkey

Free

Syrian

Army

Regime

loyalists

Russia

U.S.-led

coalition

Iran

Kurdish

YPG/

SDF

Islamic

State

A fractured Syria

As of fall 2015, the Assad regime mostly has control in western Syria, including the coast and Damascus. The rebels and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra have strongholds in the north and south. The Kurdish forces have held on to their territory in much of the north along the border with Turkey. The Islamic State has control along the Euphrates River, allowing them to flow from Iraq into Syria.

Incirlik

air base

TURKEY

Aleppo

Raqqa

Jabhat

al-Nusra

SYRIA

Russian

air base

Contested

area

Contested

area

LEB.

IRAQ

Damascus

100

0

MILES

JORDAN

TURKEY

Incirlik

air base

Kobane

Adana

Tal Abyad

Manbij

Mar’a

Wasitah

Tamakh

Ayn Isa

Med.

Sea

Aleppo

Idlib

Jabhat

al-Nusra

SYRIA

Russian

air base

Deir al-Zour

Contested

area

Contested

area

Palmyra

Abu Kamal

LEBANON

Beirut

IRAQ

Damascus

0

100

JORDAN

MILES

TURKEY

Incirlik

air base

Kobane

Adana

Tal Abyad

Manbij

Mar’a

Wasitah

Tamakh

Ayn Isa

Mediterranean

Sea

Idlib

Aleppo

Jabhat

al-Nusra

SYRIA

Hama

Russian

air base

Deir al-Zour

Contested

area

Contested

area

Abu Kamal

Palmyra

LEBANON

IRAQ

Beirut

Damascus

0

100

MILES

JORDAN

As the conflict continues, increasing amounts of Syrians are displaced from their homes. As of October 2015, the United Nations estimates there are more than 4 million registered Syrian refugees, most going to Lebanon, Turkey or Jordan.

4,180,631

registered Syrian refugees

9,500

Jan. 15, 2012

Oct. 19, 2015

4,180,631

registered Syrian refugees

9,500

Oct. 19, 2015

Jan. 15, 2012

4,180,631

registered Syrian refugees

9,500

Jan. 15, 2012

Oct. 19, 2015

This is in addition to the estimated 7.6 million Syrians who are internally displaced as of December 2014. They have been driven from their homes but have stayed in the country. As of August 2015, an estimated 250,000 Syrians have died since the conflict began. These numbers add to more than 12 million people who have either fled the country or have been killed or displaced. This is more than half of Syria's population of 22.4 million in 2011.

Internally

displaced

Registered

refugees

Killed since

conflict began

Not displaced

7.6 million

4.2 million

250,000

10.6 million

22.4 million total population in 2011

Registered

refugees

Killed since

conflict began

Internally

displaced

Not displaced

4.2 million

250,000

7.6 million

10.6 million

22.4 million total population in 2011

Registered

refugees

Killed since

conflict began

Internally

displaced

Not displaced

4.2 million

250,000

7.6 million

10.6 million

22.4 million total population in 2011

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