Security Scenarios for Syria in 2021-2022 (An executive summary of a longer report)

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By Serhat Erkmen, Nicholas A. Heras, Kirill Semenov


Syria is a geographic entity divided into three main zones of control, each ruled by local actors with the strong and seemingly indefinite support of powerful foreign actors. These three zones are one zone in western, central, and eastern Syria controlled by the Syrian government, a second zone in northwest and northern Syria along the Syrian-Turkish border controlled by the Syrian opposition and supported by Turkey and a third zone in northeast Syria controlled by the Autonomous Administration of Northeast Syria (AANES) and its military the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - which is supported by the United States and several of its allies that are part of the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The common perception by observers of the Syrian conflict is that it is frozen; that Syria will be indefinitely divided into these different territorial zones of control.

This assumption obscures the fact though that a significant amount of fluidity on the ground within Syria's three main zones of control is possible. Each of these zones has its own unique characteristics and local customs that must be understood to draw broader assessments on how the wider Syrian conflict might be resolved one day.

The Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), convened a select group of Syria experts - Serhat Erkmen from Turkey, Nicholas A. Heras from the United States, and Kirill Semenov from Russia - to analyze the security dynamics in each of the zones and to assess the future scenarios over the next year that could develop in those zones and in the interactions between them.

The ideas expressed are those of the authors not the publisher or the authors' affiliation.

Published in July 2021

All rights reserved to GCSP

Part of the Syria Transition Challenges Project