The Kremlin’s increasingly assertive foreign policy, including its invasion of Ukraine and intervention in Syria, came unexpectedly to many in the West. These events were nonetheless mere extensions of the worldview held by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The U.S. decision to stay in Syria will prevent the immediate takeover of valuable natural resources and infrastructure in Eastern Syria by Iran, Assad, and Russia. Yet the pro-Assad axis is continuing to build out options to challenge the American presence over time.

The war in Syria is not over. Key actors are positioning to advance their interests in the next phase of the conflict as the U.S. draws down its forces. ISW and Syria Direct summarize key developments in March 2019.

Turkey and Russia are deepening their military cooperation in Syria in a dangerous sign of a wider shift to a closer strategic relationship between the two countries' leaders.

ISIS is re-establishing capable insurgent networks in multiple historical strongholds and linking them together. The U.S. and its partners should not view the current relative security in Baghdad as confirmation of the defeat of ISIS.

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