Assad in Russia (c)

Khan Shaykhun is Thightening the Syrian Knot

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This article sheds light on events in the run-up Khan Shaykhun chemical attack on April 4, 2017 as well as its context and likely consequences for the war in Syria.

Read the full article in German.

In the weeks prior to the April 4 chemical attack on Khan Shaykhun, fierce battling between government and rebel forces had taken place along several fronts across Syria. Political landmarks such as the end of Turkey’s mission “Euphrates Shield” and its expected pivot towards expulsing Kurdish forces from the border region fell into the same period.

No solid proof of the identity of the attack’s perpetrators has materialised thus far. International reactions were mixed, with Western governments largely putting the blame on the Syrian regime. A “retaliatory” US cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base took place on April 7.

It is furthermore not entirely who has been controlling the area around Khan Shaykhun and might thus have been the target of the April 4 attack. The term “rebels” is indiscriminately used for a broad range of groups that differ in their origins, aims and motifs as well as in their supporters from abroad. At the same time, the near-total absence of observers that are not associated to any of the warring parties makes an accurate tracking of the conflict almost impossible. The author thus argues that the Syrian civil war is both an information and a proxy war.

While most international actors state the fight against terrorism as a uniting purpose, the conflict lines are increasingly tangled and sometimes obscure.  Turkey’s direct involvement as a regional power, every so often at odds with the interests of its NATO partners serves as a case in point.

The author concludes by arguing that the war in Syria is increasingly likely to turn into a frozen conflict, with the country split into several zones of influence. External interference and influence will continue to shape the course of the war in the Levant.

Translation / synopsis: Bernhard Voelkl

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About the Author
David Fussi

David Fussi

David is a student of political science and oriental studies at the University of Vienna. His research focuses on the Middle East and Northern Africa. He is especially interested in the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Libya and also the role of religious actors in the region. David travelled to the Middle East several times and speaks Arabic.

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