By Tony Sasse

Basically because Syria is up for grabs, and the big players are in it to win.

That explains why the big money and munitions keep flowing into Syria, and the little people are flowing out.

It takes a lot of money to fight a war. The Syrian civil war has been going since 2011, six years to date, and no end in sight. A prolonged war is usually won by the side with the best supply of munitions, and that means the best financial backers. The Spanish civil war was won by Franco on the back of German and Italian fascist support, overcoming Stalin’s support for the Republicans.

So who outside Syria wants to back the winner? And how committed are they to the cause? That is the real determinate of who will eventually win this war.

The other key factor will be who can stand back and watch whilst others fight in this multi-party war.

President Assad has the support of Russia, Iran and the Shiite Hezbollah from Lebanon. On the back of this he has made some key gains recently, particularly retaking the city of Aleppo, but has not been able to hold onto all his gains of recent times. Christians have not been troubled by his regime according to media reports. Iran is aggressively expanding its influence across the Middle East and would consider victory in Syria to be a major achievement indeed. Russia wants to keep and expand its naval base on the Mediterranean Sea at Tartus, and to have a satellite state in Syria. Hezbollah wants a clear supply route and safety behind it when it refocuses on its main game, Israel.

The USA despite its recent attack on Assad for the use of chemical weapons is mainly focused on defeating the radical Islam forces, ISIS which hold swathes of land in the eastern part of Syria, and the Al-Nusra front (al-Qaeda proxy) which holds part of the north-west and was the target of the chemical attack recently. Ironically these 2 groups hate each other. Under Obama, these groups have been targeted, and Trump is continuing this policy as they make no bones about aiming to destroy the USA and western civilization.

The Free Syrian Army started as defectors from Assad in 2012, and has received some support from The West, but not nearly enough to win. Recently the FSA has been supported by Turkey, which has moved to ensure a small buffer near its long border with Syria, and to counter the success of the Kurds with whom the Turks have a long running dispute. The Turks have benefited substantially from this war as major supply routes run through their territory, and oil exports from ISIS must flow past them as well, a nice little earner.

ISIS and Al-Nusra despite American pressure from the air have attracted recruits from young Islamist jihadi’s from all over the world and still hold territory of value. They are funded by Sunni oil states such as Saudi Arabia, who are desperate to hold back Iran, a Shiite state. Iran is supporting Yemeni rebels against a Saudi backed regime, and has strong influence in Iraq, the Saudi’s cannot allow the Iranian influence to get any bigger.

Finally the Kurds have carved out for themselves a decent block of land across the top of Iraq and Syria, their ethnic identity being the dominant force rather than a political or religious one. They seem pretty secure at the moment.

My guess? The Americans (with Australia) must ensure the defeat of the radical Islamist groups. But they won’t fund the FSA properly. Assad and the Russians hope to let the USA defeat the Islamists, then either broker a deal or eventually defeat the FSA remnant. The Kurds will keep their winnings much to Turkey’s chagrin. All of this might take a while. Then maybe the people of Syria can reconstruct what remains of their oil-rich country.

Tony Sasse is a medical specialist in Victoria, and adj. Prof at a Melbourne university where his research is located. He has a life-time of interest in politics and history, particularly military, having been involved in both. He was raised on a dairy farm, has run a rural Intensive Care Unit, and consults in tech start-ups. He is married with 3 adult children who are keen to point out that his opinions are definitely his own. He writes exclusively for’s Opinion section.

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