As part of its efforts to provide a nuanced understanding of the conflict’s dynamics and trends, the ‘Wartime and Post-Conflict in Syria’ (WPCS) team of the Middle East Directions Programme has collectively reflected on the mass of research on Syria produced in the past decade. For the purposes of this blog, we defined ‘research’ in a broad sense, and included academic research, policy research, investigative journalism, and other relevant forms of (grey) literature on Syria.
Syria’s decade-old conflict – which began with a peaceful uprising and turned into a full-scale, internationalised civil war – is fading into the background as the US and EU’s foreign policy priorities shift elsewhere. For all the overlapping and shifting crises that “the Syrian war” has encompassed, including proxy wars, it is commonly described today as a conflict frozen by foreign intervention. On the surface, the situation inside Syria may appear stagnant. After all, the same decades-old dynasty is still ruling over two-thirds of Syrian territory (including its main cities) and a majority of the country’s resident population, propped up by its Russian and Iranian allies. As such Syria might seem, to any Western policy maker newly introduced to the Syria file, to have returned to pre-2011 ‘stability’.