Opinion: who fights who in Iraq and Syria and who doesn’t

On the ground in Syria, we see various rebellion groups fighting against Assad and among themselves. Besides the notorious ISIL/ISIS (IS), there are different groups which are aligned with the just as notorious Free Syrian Army (FSA) or Al Qaida (AQ) or both and in all cases there are also at least indications of alliance with IS in the battles against Syrian Armed Forces (SAF) in Syria. Assad gets support from Iran and Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon and various volunteers in the same manner as other combatant groups do. In the middle of this turmoil, Kurdish Armed Forces (KAF) have carved out an area of Syria in which they basically engage in battles against all but mainly against IS and SAF.

In Iraq, the KAF have long before the conflict in Syria started already carved out the Northern area which was at time even protected by a no-fly-zone and seriously contested by Iraqi Armed Forces (IAF) between the 2 Iraqi wars. In the middle of the vacuum created by those Iraqi wars and the withdrawal of the Western International Coalition (IC), IS was able to conquer large parts of Iraq and defeat IAF rapidly before their campaign was finally brought to an halt. Iraq becomes direct support from Iran in its struggle against IS and indirect support from remaining small units from IC.

In the air, the picture is entirely different. In Syria and Iraq, the International Coalition conducts daily missions and the local Air Forces only play a minor role in the combat operations. IC mainly operates from bases in Jordan and Iraq with support from naval vessels in the Mediterranean Sea. Besides ongoing negotiations with NAVO-partner Turkey to use its bases for operations in Syria and Iraq, Turkey itself has engaged in sorties in Northern Iraq which appear to focus mainly against Kurdish forces and/or PKK.

And since a few days, Russia has entered the equation in Syria and continuous to expand its operations Syria and is obviously preparing to do the same in Iraq. In Syria, Russia has opted for direct air support from bases in Syria and added naval launched cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea earlier this week. A similar or even wider combination can be expected for Iraq in case Russia would join the campaign there. With this new development and further expansions to be expected in the near future, it is interesting to take a closer look at the constellations so far in Syria and Iraq. Continue reading