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Why Civil Wars Are Lasting Longer

In Syria and Elsewhere, New Norms Are Changing the Face of Conflict

A man carries water during the siege of Eastern Ghouta, Damscus, February 2018. Bassam Khabieh / Reuters

The Syrian civil war, now approaching its seventh year, is a proxy war many times over. A fragmented opposition, long backed by outside powers, is continuing to fight the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, itself propped up by Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah. Turkey, a NATO ally, not only supports rebel factions but has recently invaded part of northwestern Syria in order to wrest the canton of Afrin from Kurdish control. The Kurds—the most reliable troops in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS)—are in turn backed by the United States. And on February 10, Syrian forces shot down an Israeli F-16 after an Iranian drone penetrated Israeli airspace. Despite multiple attempts to negotiate an end to hostilities, the level of foreign involvement in Syria means that the war will not cease until external actors decide that it should.

Although particularly complex, the Syrian civil war is an example

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