Syria's Civil War: Government Victory or Frozen Conflict?


  • Aron Lund

Publish date: 2018-12-14

Report number: FOI-R--4640--SE

Pages: 79

Written in: English


  • Syria
  • Middle East
  • war
  • insurgency
  • non-state actors


This report analyzes the state of the civil war in Syria in 2018 and surveys the main actors inside and outside the country, with a particular focus on President Bashar al-Assad's central government. It investigates likely key questions ahead, as Syria heads into an endgame that may produce a "frozen conflict," leaving major territorial and political disputes unresolved as military contestation fades into the background. In recent years, Syria's war has evolved toward a tentatively stabilizing and potentially long-lasting territorial configuration. By late 2018, all three areas still outside government control (the Tanf zone, northwestern areas including Idlib, and the Kurdish-dominated northeast) are protected by political and military arrangements imposed on Syria by Russia, the United States, and Turkey and to some extent Iran. If these foreign powers were to revise their policies, Syria's emerging status quo could change or even be radically upended. On the current trajectory, however, Syria seems likely to remain divided between Assad's authoritarian central government, which rules most of the population but will struggle to recover economically, and one or more rival political orders surviving inside foreign-protected peripheral enclaves.