A Brief Timeline of Modern Syria
World War I – 1914-18
July, 1914 – World War I begins, ultimately pitting Britain, France, Russia, and the United States against Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. Britain and France promise independence to Arabs if they revolt against the Ottoman Turks.
May, 1916 – British and French governments secretly sign the Sykes-Pico agreement, which divides up the Ottoman-controlled Middle East into French and British mandates, a blatant violation of their promise of independence.
November, 1917 – British government issues the Balfour Declaration promising a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
October, 1918 – Arab insurgents capture Damascus, backed by British troops. Arabs elected the General Syrian Congress, which rules Syria for nearly two years.
November, 1918 – World War I ends.
French Mandate – 1920-1946
July, 1920 – The French Army occupies Damascus with cooperation of the British, defeating the independent Arab government. France seizes control of what is today’s Lebanon, Syria, and Hatay Province in southern Turkey.
1920-21 – France implements a divide and rule strategy by creating separate regions for Christians, Alawites and Druze.
August, 1925 – Syrians rise up in a two-year, nationalist revolt against French occupation. The French army crushes the revolt killing insurgents and civilians, including bombing Damascus, one of the first aerial bombardments of civilians in history.
September, 1939 – Germany invades Poland and World War II begins.
June, 1940 – Germany occupies France and creates the Vichy government, which also controls France’s colonial empire.
July, 1941 – Free French and British Army take control of Lebanon and Syria. The Free French promise Arab independence, but French leader General Charles De Gaulle quickly reneges.
August, 1943 – Nationalist parties win Syrian parliamentary elections held under rule of the Free French. Syrians elect Shukri al-Quwatli president, a nationalist who opposes French occupation.
January, 1944 – Syria is declared an independent republic, but France remains the colonial power with the backing of French troops.
May, 1945 – World War II ends in Europe.
Mass demonstrations against the French break out in Damascus. The French military launch a vicious air and artillery attack on the city, eventually killing over 400. But the nationalist movement forces the French to acknowledge Syrian independence.
Independence and Early Years of the Republic – 1946-66
April, 1946 – All French troops depart Syria; the country becomes fully independent.
April, 1947 – Michel Aflaq and Salah-al-Din al-Bitar cofound the Arab Baath Socialist Party, a leftist and nationalist party critical of imperialism and Syria’s ruling elite.
May, 1948 – Israel declares independence from Britain and defeats Arab armed forces, including Syrian army. Israelis see a great victory for the Jewish people; Arabs call it the Nakba (catastrophe).
March, 1949 – Syria’s defeat by Israelis helps precipitate a coup against President Shukri al-Quwatli. Three military coups take place within one year.
August, 1955 – Shukri al-Quwatli reelected president.
October, 1956 – Britain, France and Israel attack Egypt after its president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, nationalized the Suez Canal. Syria sides with Egypt.
February, 1958 – Putting into practice their pan-Arabist ideology, Syria and Egypt merge to form the United Arab Republic (UAR). Nasser dissolves Syrian political parties, angering the Baathists and others.
September, 1961 – Syrian army officers, unhappy with Nasser’s domination, seize power and withdraw from the UAR.
March, 1963 – After a military coup, a Baath Party cabinet comes to power and appoints Amin al-Hafez president.
Assads Rise to Power 1966-2011
February, 1966 – A military faction within the Baath Party overthrows their civilian leaders and arrests the leftist leadership. Hafez al-Assad is appointed defense minster.
June, 1967 – “Six Day War” pits Israel against Syria, Egypt and Jordan. Israel seizes East Jerusalem and the West Bank of the Jordan River from Jordan, the Gaza Strip from Egypt, and the Golan from Syria.
November, 1967 – UN Security Council unanimously passes Resolution 242, which calls for return of all Arab land–including the Golan–in return for peace between Israel and Arab countries.
November, 1970 – Hafez al-Assad becomes president in a military coup.
March, 1971 – Assad holds a plebiscite that elects him president.
October, 1973 – “Yom Kippur War” pits Israel against Egypt and Syria. Syria regains a small part of the Golan, but most remains under Israeli control.
June, 1976 – The Arab League sanctions Syrian intervention in Lebanon’s civil war. Syria initially sides with the conservative, Maronite Christian leaders.
March, 1978 – Israel invades Lebanon and seizes control of southern Lebanon up to the Litani River in an effort to weaken Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
June, 1979 – Islamist extremists attack the Syrian army’s Aleppo Artillery School, killing 83 cadets and wounding scores.
June, 1980 – Assad escapes assassination by a Muslim Brotherhood member who attacks him with a hand grenade. The next day Syrian forces murder over 500 Muslim Brotherhood members and other political prisoners being held at Palmyra Prison.
September, 1980 – Iran-Iraq War begins. Iran sides with Iran because of long-standing opposition to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
December, 1981 – Israel annexes the Golan by transferring governing authority from military to civilian rule.
February, 1982 – In the city of Hama the Muslim Brotherhood calls for general strikes and an uprising against Assad. The Syrian military ruthlessly crushes the rebellion, killing over 10,000 people.
June, 1982 – Israel invades Lebanon again. The Syrian army faces major losses and withdraw from some areas. In September, under Israeli guidance, right-wing Lebanese massacre Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. The PLO eventually agrees to withdraw from Lebanon.
May, 1983 – Syria and Libya sponsor a Palestinian defector from the PLO, Abu Musa, in a failed effort to split the PLO and remove Yasser Arafat from power.
Lebanon and Israel officially end fighting, but Syrian troops remain in Lebanon.
August, 1990 – Iraq invades Kuwait. Syria joins the Gulf War coalition and sends 14,500 troops to participate in Operation Desert Storm against Iraq.
October, 1991 – Israeli-Palestinian peace talks begin in Madrid with Syrian participation. Syria and Israel discuss return of the Golan. The Madrid talks lead to signing of the Oslo Accords, in which Israel agrees to the creation of a Palestinian state and the PLO recognizes Israel.
January, 1994 – Basil Assad, Hafez’ son who was being groomed as successor, dies in a car crash. Bashar al-Assad later returns from studies in London to take Basil’s place.
June, 2000 – Hafez Al-Assad dies of natural causes. Bashar becomes president.
November, 2000 – Bashar Al-Assad releases over 600 political prisoners, raising hopes of greater political tolerance.
September, 2001 – Government arrests opposition members of parliament and other political activists, indicating a return to authoritarian practices.
March, 2003 – United States government invades and occupies Iraq but finds no weapons of mass destruction, the main justification for the war. Syria opposes the war.
March, 2004 – Kurds in the northern city of Qamishli rise up against the Syrian government. Security forces kill dozens of protestors and force hundreds to flee to nearby Iraqi Kurdistan.
May, 2004 – United States imposes economic sanctions on Syria, claiming the Assad regime supports terrorists and insurgents in Iraq.
February, 2005 – Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is assassinated in a Beirut bomb explosion. Many believe Syria was responsible, leading to months of demonstrations calling for withdrawal of Syrian troops.
April, 2005 – Syria withdraws troops from Lebanon, but some secret police remain.
September, 2006 – Islamic extremists attack US Embassy in Damascus.
September, 2007 – Israeli planes bomb northern Syria, claiming Syria was building a nuclear weapons facility. Syrian government says it was a conventional military base.
October, 2008 – US helicopters attack a home under construction near Al Sukariya, Syria, claiming it killed a major terrorist. The attack killed six construction workers.
May, 2010 – The United tightens economic sanctions on Syria, arguing that Assad promotes terrorism in Iraq and Lebanon.
The Uprising – 2011-present
December, 2010 – Street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi immolates himself in Tunisia, setting off widespread demonstrations known as the Arab Spring.
January, 2011 – Popular demonstrations in Tunisia overthrow the dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.
January, 2011 – Mass demonstrations and general strikes overthrow Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak, but the military remains in power.
February, 2011 – Syrian government legalizes Facebook and YouTube in response to Arab Spring uprisings.
March, 2011 – Pre-teen children detained, tortured and killed for scrawling anti-regime slogans on a school wall.
Demonstrations against regime brutality break out in the southern city of Daraa and later in Damascus.
Assad announces political concessions, including releasing some political prisoners, lifting the country’s nearly 50-year-old state of emergency and granting citizenship to Kurds. Assad asserts that the protests are sponsored by Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia.
April, 2011 – Kurdish students demonstrate in the northern city of Qamishli. Kurds oppose Assad but are suspicious of the opposition led by conservative Islamists.
May 2011 – Largely non-violent protests met with tanks and live ammunition in major cities, including the suburbs of Damascus.
Assad grants amnesty to more political prisoners.
June, 2011 – Government mobilizes tens of thousands of supporters, who unfurl a giant Syrian flag in Damascus. Assad retains support among religious minorities, some Sunnis, the business elite and military.
July, 2011 – Some opposition leaders meet in Istanbul to form the Syrian National Council (SNC), a group that hopes to unite exiled and domestic opposition forces. The SNC is formally announced in August.
July, 2011 – US Ambassador Robert Ford attends an opposition rally in Hama. Government instigates demonstrators to attack the US Embassy in Damascus. The Obama administration calls for Assad to step down.
July, 2011 – Opposition conference in Damascus calls for legalizing opposition parties and other reforms. Broadcast live on state TV.
July, 2011 – Seven defecting Syrian soldiers announce formation of Free Syrian Army (FSA), which will wage armed struggle against the Assad regime.
July, 2011 – Syrian parliament passes a new law allowing formation of other parties. But the opposition criticizes the law because the Baath Party remains the leading party under the constitution. In practice the loyal opposition has little power.
September, 2011 – Some rebels, including the Muslim Brotherhood, call on the West to create a Syrian no fly zone to help topple the regime. Others rebels oppose it.
October, 2011 – Russia and the People’s Republic of China block a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria, fearing it could be used to justify western military intervention.
November, 2011 – The FSA attack the Harasta Air Base near Damascus, a significant blow to the Assad regime.
Arab League suspends Syria and imposes economic sanctions because Syria didn’t abide by the League’s peace plan. Assad says the Arab League is carrying out the desires of western powers.
December, 2011 – Rebels bomb Baath Party offices and other targets in central Damascus. Bombings and attacks continue through the following summer.
December, 2011 – Syria agrees to allow a visit by an Arab League delegation, but many thousands of anti-Assad protesters demonstrate in Homs. The Arab League suspends its mission in January due to security concerns.
February, 2012 – Al Nusra Front (The Support Front for the People of Levant), affiliated with Al Qaeda, publicly announces its formation.
March, 2012 – UN Security Council proposes a peace plan and appoints former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as negotiator.
The Muslim Brotherhood publically endorses armed struggle, although it had been quietly organizing armed groups earlier. It forms the Commission of the Revolution’s Shields as a military coalition but fails to gain much support inside Syria.
May, 2012 – A Pro-Assad militia massacres 108 people, including 34 women and 49 children, in the town of Houla, near Homs. Nations around the world withdraw their ambassadors in protest.
Syrian regime holds parliamentary elections that include loyal opposition parties. Rebels argue that the elections merely legitimize the Assad dictatorship.
June, 2012 – Public acknowledgment that the CIA vets armed militias so they can be armed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Syrian military shoots down a Turkish plane that entered Syrian airspace. The incident heightens tensions between the two countries.
The UN sponsors a Geneva conference of major powers to discuss a peace plan for Syria. Participants include the United States, Russia, Britain and China. It becomes known as the first Geneva talks but no consensus emerges. Geneva 2 and 3 take place in early 2014.
July, 2012 – FSA bombs Damascus intelligence headquarters, assassinating three major officials, including Assad’s brother in law. Syrian Army and security services set up checkpoints throughout Damascus.
August, 2012 – Kofi Annan resigns as UN negotiator in frustration with lack of progress in peace talks. The UN and Arab League appoint Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi as the new envoy.
September, 2012 – Most of the historic Aleppo souk (market) is gutted by fire.
November, 2012 – Unable to establish support inside Syria, the SNC dissolves and members form the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. Al Nusra and other ultra-conservative Islamists refused to join.
December, 2012 – Free Syrian Army leaders create the Supreme Military Council in an effort to coordinate all the militias in Syria. But the SMC fails to become a broad-based coalition.
December, 2012 – The United States puts Al Nusra on its list of terrorist organizations, citing is affiliation with Al Qaeda.
December, 2012 – United States and some allies recognize the new National Coalition as the Syrian people’s “legitimate representative.”
January, 2013 – Israeli jets attack a Damascus military research center, claiming to stop shipments of Syrian arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Rebel groups regularly fire rockets and mortars into Damascus, often hitting civilian areas.
March, 2013 – A coalition of the FSA and Islamist rebels take Raqqa, capital of Idlib Governate. Syrian air force begins intensive bombing of rebel controlled areas in Idlib.
A government-controlled area in Khan al Asal attacked with a small amount of chemical weapons. The United States and rebels blame Assad. The Syrian government blames the rebels and presents evidence to the UN.
April, 2013 – Obama authorizes CIA to train and arm rebels in Jordan.
The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), an Al Qaeda affiliate, changes its name to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), openly admitting its activities in Syria for the first time.
May, 2013 – A rebel commander, Abu Sakkar of the Farouq Brigades, eats the internal organs of a Syrian soldier to show his contempt for the government. The resulting video causes widespread revulsion.
Government troops massacre Sunni civilians in the district of Baniyas. Pro-Assad militia kill over 300 people.
A bomb attack almost assassinates Syrian Prime Minister Wael Nader Al-Halqi.
Israel launches two different missile strikes at a warehouse allegedly storing advanced surface-to-surface missiles and other targets.
June, 2013 – Syrian army and Hezbollah fighters take back control of Qusayr in northwest Syria. The government hails the victory as a turning point in the war, but the battle proves Pyrrhic.
At a Cairo conference of Sunni clerics, over 100 prominent Imams sign a declaration calling for jihad in Syria.
July, 2013 – ISIS engages in increasingly brutal actions in Idlib Governate, including beheading of FSA commanders. Civilians in Raqqa complain about ISIS repression and imposition of a harsh version of Shariah law.
Israel attacks a missile depot in Latakia.
August, 2013 – The ISIS claims credit for capturing the Mennagh airbase, north of Aleppo, after a nine-month siege.
Sarin gas attack kills hundreds of civilians living in rebel-controlled areas near Al Ghouta outside Damascus. Assad blames the rebels. President Obama announces plans to bomb Syria, but popular opinion forces him to back down. Russia and the United States pressure Syria to eliminate its chemical weapons.
September, 2013 – UN weapons inspectors confirm use of Sarin in Al Ghouta but don’t say who is responsible.
November, 2013 – Rebels attack the military vehicle depot in Harasta, just north of Damascus. Rebels dig a long tunnel and plant bombs under the administrative building, killing over 150 soldiers and several generals.
Israel again attacks the Latakia missile depot originally bombed in July.
November, 2013 – Major rebel groups form the Islamic Front with the aim of creating an “orthodox Islamic state.” The Front excludes Al Qaeda-affiliated rebels as well as the FSA.
December, 2013 – In a huge setback for the western powers, the Islamic Front seizes US weapons and supplies in FSA warehouses in Atmeh, Syria, near the Turkish border. The United States and
Britain temporarily suspend non-lethal aid to the rebels.
January, 2014 – Al Nusra, Al Tawheed and other rebels groups attack the ISIS in Raqqa, freeing civilian and rebel prisoners. Fighting also breaks out among rebel groups in Aleppo. ISIS eventually retakes Raqqa.
A Qatar-funded report from a Syrian defecting police photographer indicates over 11,000 people were killed and tortured in security forces’ prisons.
Geneva II peace talks begin in Switzerland. The West wants to discuss establishing a transitional government, but the Assad representatives insist on discussing only rebel terrorism. Nothing tangible emerges from the Swiss meetings.
February, 2014 – Ayman al Zawahri, head of al Qaeda internationally, formally expels ISIS from Al Qaeda and throws his support behind the Nusra Front, another Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.
The third set of peace talks end in Geneva without progress.
Israel launches another missile attack near the Syrian-Lebanese border.
March, 2014 – After an offensive lasting months, Syrian and Hezbollah forces take back Yabroud, a rebel town near Lebanon.
April, 2014 – Chlorine gas is used in the rebel-held village of Kfar Zeita, Hama Governate. Each side blames the other for use of chemical weapons.
UN Human Rights commission issues a report detailing systematic torture by Syrian government. It also criticizes instances of torture used by extremist rebels.
May, 2014- Through a negotiated settlement, rebels evacuate the old city area of Homs. The government claims a victory.
Arab League and UN negotiator Lakhdar Brahimi resigns, telling the UN Security Council it must stop the flow of all outside arms to Syrian combatants.
The United States, France and other countries offer a UN Security Council resolution to allow the International Criminal Court to prosecute Syrian war crimes. The measure excludes any possible prosecution of the United States or Israel for its actions in the Golan. Russia and China veto the measure.
June – ISIS seizes wide swath of territory in northern Iraq, giving it greater credibility in Syria as well. Kurdish forces take control of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk and assert the right to form an independent Kurdish state. Negotiations continue with Baghdad government.
July – ISIS, which renamed itself the Islamic State, launches a military offensive against the Iraqi Army and Kurdish peshmerga. The Iraqi Army collapses and the peshmerga retreats. The ISIS engages in ethnic cleansing to drive out Yazidis, Christians, Shia Muslims and others who oppose its rule in northern Iraq.
August – The US commences a bombing campaign against the ISIS in Iraq, arguing that it must stop the humanitarian crisis affecting the Yazidis and others. When the Yazidi crisis ends some weeks later, however, the US escalates the bombing in an effort to defeat ISIS.
September – US starts bombing ISIS and al Nusra targets in Syria. President Obama claims the support of 40 countries, but the US carries out the vast majority of air strikes, and no allied country commits ground troops. US announces plans to arm and train units of the Iraqi Army, Kurdish peshmerga and “moderate rebels” in Syria.
October – Unable to gain military headway against ISIS in Iraq, the US announces plans to send an additional 1500 advisors, for a total of 3000. Advisors will fly helicopter combat missions and accompany Iraqi troops into combat. President Obama plans to ask Congress for $5 billion to cover the costs of the war in 2014, a figure that will likely increase significantly.
November – President Obama announces plans to ask Congressional approval for the new wars in Syria and Iraq. Syrian Army bombs ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, a city previously bombed by the US. Rebel groups complain that by focusing the war on ISIS, the US is helping the Assad regime.
January – The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) drive the IS out of the Syrian city of Kobane in the first major setback for IS. The YPG is affiliated with the PKK, a nationalist group based in Turkey that calls for Kurdish autonomy not independence.
February – Obama administration introduces war authorization bill to legalize bombing in Iraq and Syria. Democrats seek to limit the war while Republicans seek to expand it. Bill languishes.
— Civil society activists accuse Assad regime of using chlorine gas. Kurdish peshmergas say Islamic State also uses chlorine gas against their fighters.
— Iraqi government, Shia militias and Iranian combat troops launch offensive to take back Tikrit, Iraq. US refuses to provide air support.
Iraqi forces take back Tikrit from IS.
UN human rights investigators say the Islamic State is guilty of genocide for its attacks on the Yazidi religious minority in Syria.
At a meeting in Vienna, Iran, the US and other major powers agree to curtail Iran’s development of nuclear weapons in return for lifting economic sanctions. The plan is scheduled to be implemented in January 2016. The agreement, while lowering tensions on the nuclear issue, does not resolve sharp US-Iran differences on Syria.
Turkey allows US to conduct bombing raids from at a major Turkish air base in return for agreeing to attack IS positions inside Syria. But the large majority of Turkish air strikes hit the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) not the IS.
US Congress still has not voted war authorization for US air attacks on Syria and Iraq, one year after attacks began. The Obama administration claims the right to wage war against the IS based on the 2001 Congressional vote to fight Al Qaeda. The Islamic State did not exist in 2001.
A bomb killed Sheikh Wahid al-Balous, a leading Druse cleric in Syria, along with 27 others. The Druse, a religious and ethnic minority, had tended to support Assad or remained neutral. Pro- and anti-Assad forces blame each other for the bombing.
Russia begins bombing Syria in support of the Assad regime. The majority of bombing hits rebel groups opposed to Assad with some hitting the Islamic State held areas.
In testimony before Congress, U.S. Army Central Command chief General Lloyd Austin admits that only “four or five” U.S.-trained rebels were actually fighting in Syria.
Over a period of several months, Syrian Kurdish rebels expel the Islamic State from all of northern Syria except one city near the Turkish border. US drops 50 tons of arms and supplies to aid Kurdish rebels.
According to Edward Snowden documents published in the Washington Post, the CIA has spent $1 billion on training rebels in Jordan while the Pentagon spent an additional $500 million for a separate program in Turkey.
Islamic State terrorists attack civilian targets in Paris. France begins bombing IS held areas in Syria.
Major powers meet in Vienna to form the International Support Group for Syria. They propose a political solution that would include UN oversight of elections and rewriting the Syrian constitution. But since no Syrian participate in the meeting, it’s implementation remains in question.
Iraqi troops, Sunni tribal fighters and US air attacks drive the Islamic State out of Sinjar, Iraq.
Islamic State driven out of Ramadi, Iraq.
Assad forces kill Ahrar al-Sham leader Zahran Alloush. The Saudi backed rebel was considered a ruthless dictator in the area under his control, Gouta, near Damascus.
A couple in San Bernardino, California — who said they were inspired by IS — open fire on a holiday party killing 14 and seriously wounding 22.
UN Security Council Resolution 2254 passes unanimously. It calls for a ceasefire, rewriting the Syrian Constitution and holding new elections within 18 months. Serious disagreement remains on how to implement the resolution.
By the end of 2015 some 900,000 refugees have fled to Europe causing a major political crisis in a number of countries. About half were estimated to be from Syria.
Saudi Arabia beheads Sheikh Nimer al Nimer, a Shia cleric opposed to the Saudi dictatorship. Large demonstrations break out in Iran and other Shia Muslim countries. The tensions make a political settlement in Syria more difficult because a peace agreement would include Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The US and Russia announce a peace plan that calls for a ceasefire, delivery of food and medicine to besieged cities, and a coordinated military effort against the Islamic State and Al Nusra. Most rebel groups reject the plan. The two countries can’t agree on which rebels are extremist. IS and Al Nusra launch attacks on Assad held cities.
US-financed rebel groups in Syria face serious setbacks during offensive by pro-Assad forces. IS, al Nusra and other extremist groups continue to control swaths of northern and eastern Syria.
Syrian Kurds declare parts of northern Syria to be under a federal democratic system. Kurds and all other religious/ethnic groups would control their own region within the Syrian state.
Russia announces plans for a partial military withdrawal from Syria.
Syrian Army, with help from Russian air force, retakes the eastern city of Palmyra, famous for its ancient monuments and ruins.
IS attacks the airport and a metro stop in Brussels, Belgium, killing 32 and wounding over 300.
US and Russian peace plan falls apart as all sides resume fighting. Assad’s forces reject ceasefire and launch new attacks to retake Aleppo.
May – Pentagon admits that the US wars in Iraq and Syria cost $12 million/day.
The New York Times and Al Jazeera reveal that Jordanian intelligence operatives have stolen millions of dollars in US and Saudi funded weapons intended to arm rebel groups.
In a leaked internal memo, 51 US State Department diplomats criticize the Obama administration’s Syria policy and call for more US military action to remove Assad from power.
Russian planes and troops continue to fight in Syria despite Putin’s promise of a withdrawal in March.
Syrian Kurds led by the PYD (Democratic Union Party) drive Islamic State fighters from several cities and towns, and are poised to take the city of Jarabulus. That would have meant Kurdish control of a contiguous strip of territory in northern Syria adjoining the Turkish border.
To prevent further PYD advances, Turkey sends tanks, artillery, troops and Turkish-backed rebels into Syria. President Recep Erdogan says the troops intend to fight the IS but battles quickly break out with the PYD forces. Turkey begins to run electrical lines across the border in anticipation of a long occupation.
US and Russia announce yet another peace plan. All parties are to cease fighting for seven days, during which the UN will provide relief supplies to besieged cities. If the ceasefire holds, Assad’s air force will stop offensive actions, and the US and Russia will carry out coordinated air strikes against IS, Al Nusra and other extremist groups. The text of the peace plan was not publically revealed, however, and critics say the plan will likely fail because neither side can agree on who is a terrorist, nor can they control fighting on the ground.
US sends 40 Special Forces troops to help Turkish Army’s occupation of northern Syria.
The US bombs a Syrian army base near Deir Ezzor, killing over 60 and wounding over 100. US claims it was an accident.
Syrian and Russian air forces resume attacks. US claims Russian plane bombed a UN relief convoy driving from Turkey to besieged portion of Aleppo.
US, Iraqi, Kurdish and Turkish armies begin battle to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from IS. Shia militias also participate.
Syrian Democratic Forces, composed of Kurdish fighters and Arab allies, begin assault on Raqqa, headquarters of Islamic State in Syria. US air force and some 500 combat troops participate in the offensive.
Islamic State has used chemical weapons over 50 times in Iraq and Syria, according to the London intelligence group HIS Conflict Monitor.
Syrian, Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah troops retake eastern Aleppo, which had been rebel held since 2012. Assad claims this battle is a major victory and turning point in the war. Opponents say savage government bombing resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths and destruction of much of eastern Aleppo.
Iraqi troops bogged down in Mosul in street to street battles resulting in heavy losses and civilian deaths.
Foreign affairs ministers from Russia, Turkey and Iran meet in Moscow to discuss a ceasefire and Syria peace settlement. Neither the US nor Syria was present. The fighting stopped in some areas where Turkish controlled rebels operated. It was sporadically enforced elsewhere.
Residents of Damascus suffer from severe shortage of drinking water starting December 22. The government blamed rebel attacks; rebel groups say Assad’s military inadvertently bombed the pumping facilities north of Damascus.
Syria and Russia sign a 49-year agreement to maintain large air force and navy bases near Latakia and Tartus, Syria. The agreement provides the bases to Russia at no cost and can be renewed every 25 years. Syrian authorities cannot arrest Russian personnel for any reason. A similar provision included in US base agreements often angers local residents because of their loss of sovereignty.
Peace talks convene in Astana, Kazakhstan, that include Russia, Syria, Iran and Turkey. A few rebel groups allied with Saudi Arabia and Turkey also attend but the US, European countries and major rebel groups do not. The conference ends with sharp denunciations between the rebels and Syrian government.
Human Rights Watch accuses the Syrian military of dropping chlorine gas on civilians during the battle to retake Aleppo that ended in December. A UN panel reached a similar conclusion in a report late last year.
A UN commission of inquiry says the Syrian Air Force deliberately bombed and fired missiles at an international aid convoy in Aleppo in September. The attack resulted in 14 deaths and became a major international incident because it came after the US bombed a Syrian military base. The Syrian government rejected the report, saying rebels had attacked the convoy.
In a major escalation, the Trump administration sends 400 troops to Syria, including Army Rangers and a Marine artillery unit. The US has upwards of 1000 troops on the ground and continues to fly bombing raids aimed at defeating IS in Raqqa. When the US first began bombing Syria in September 2014, it promised never to put US “boots on the ground.”
Top military officers from the US, Russia and Turkey met in Turkey in an effort not to attack one another while fighting in Syria. All three countries are flying bombing raids and sending troops to aid allies on the ground. Each claims to be fighting terrorists, although they can’t agree on which armed groups are actually terrorist.
The US military begins a major offensive in northern Syria to retake the IS controlled-city of Raqqa. The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and its allied Syrian Democratic Forces participate in the ground assault.
A US missile hits an apartment building in Mosul killing over 200 civilians, during an Iraqi Army assault to retake that Iraqi city.
Air Wars.com reports that over 1000 civilians have been killed by US airstrikes in Syria and Iraq last month, a significant increase. (see http://www.airwars.com) Critics say the deaths result from loosened rules of engagement by the US military. The Trump administration denies the claim.
The Trump administration accepts the reality of Assad’s rule in Syria and says it plans to focus on defeating the Islamic State and other terrorist groups.
Over 70 Syrians in the town of Khan Sheikun, Idlib province, die from exposure to nerve gas. The Trump administration and rebels say the Syrian air force dropped a bomb containing the gas. The Assad government strongly denied the charge, saying a bomb fell on a rebel arms depot that was storing chemical weapons.
The Trump administration reverses policy annunciated only a few days earlier and attacks Assad as the main enemy in Syria. US Navy launches 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase in retaliation for the chemical weapons incident. Russia, Iran and Syria say any additional US attacks would “cross a redline” and threaten retaliation.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the US has a military base in southern Syria near the Jordanian border, the first such acknowledgement of a US base in Syrian territory.
(All citations for the past 10 years come from the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, BBC and similar mainstream media.)
Reese Erlich welcomes your comments and suggestions to improve this timeline. Email him at