This reference guide provides a baseline for identifying Syrian opposition groups. The guide aims to permit researchers to track how groups realign as the Russians commence operations. It seeks to inform the development of policies that aim to protect Syrian rebels willing to cooperate with the U.S. in order to defeat ISIS and marginalize al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.
Russian airstrikes continue to primarily target Syrian opposition groups throughout northwestern Syria, including areas along the Turkish border in northern Latakia Province. Russian warplanes violated Turkish airspace and harassed Turkish F-16s in at least two separate incidents over Hatay Province of southern Turkey on October 3 and 4, prompting an emergency NATO meeting on October 5. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) also claimed airstrikes targeting ISIS-held positions northeast of Palmyra.
Russia conducted a second round of airstrikes in Syria on October 1, targeting rebel-held positions in the provinces of Homs, Idlib, and Aleppo. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has repeatedly claimed that the airstrikes are targeting ISIS positions in these rebel-held areas. These airstrikes are the first Russian strikes confirmed by the Russian MoD that have targeted positions in ISIS-held terrain.
An alleged Russian airstrike hit the rebel-held town of Talbisah north of Homs City. Talbisah is home to Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, hardline Islamist Ahrar al-Sham, and a number of other local rebel groups, all of which are active in local governance efforts in the area. If confirmed, the airstrike would signal Russian intent to assist in the Syrian regime's war effort at large, rather than securing the regime's coastal heartland of Latakia and Tartous.
These charts contrast international leaders’ positions on Assad before and after mainstream media coverage of Russia’s deployment of aircraft to Syria, marked here as September 4, 2015. Several leaders softened their stance on the Syrian leader following Russian intervention, undermining the United States’ stated goal of achieving a negotiated political solution in which Assad is not in power.