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Why What Happens in Syria Matters Beyond Its Borders

It's a dangerous neighborhood.

It's a dangerous neighborhood.

Photographer: Bulent Kilic/AFP

Updated on

The eight-year war for control of Syria has drawn in outside powers including the U.S., Russia, Iran and the European Union. In the latest chapter, Turkish tanks rolled into northeastern Syria to push back a Kurdish militia long seen as a key part of the U.S.-led international campaign that destroyed Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate centered in Syria. The Turkish offensive has already delivered a major advance for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its backers in Moscow and Tehran, another reminder that what happens in this Middle Eastern country will continue to reverberate far beyond its fragile borders. Here are some reasons why.

A country of about 20 million before a 2011 uprising against Assad descended into war, Syria stands at the center of conflicts that have convulsed the Middle East. To the north lies Turkey, which has battled for decades against Kurdish separatists and is loath to allow the rise of a Kurdish proto-state from the chaos of Syria’s war. To the east is Iraq, whose own long-running conflict contributed to the rise of Islamic State. Syria also borders Israel, with which it technically remains at war, and Lebanon, long a center of instability. Assad’s alliance with Iran and its Lebanon-based Hezbollah proxy have provided a further layer of volatility.