It's been over 16 months since the "Arab Spring" first reached the shores of Syria. 16 months of gun battles, defections and condemnations that have slowly loosened the iron grip of the ruling Assad regime. With heavy fighting in the capital of Damascus, and with much of the country now in the hands of opposition forces, it would appear as though one of the most authoritarian regimes on earth is on its way to way to total collapse. For many people around the world, that country's civil war might not appear to have particular significance for them. Yet the troubles in Syria could quickly escalate, causing very real consequences felt worldwide.
There are many outside players involved in the current conflict. Turkey has played a lead role in supporting the opposition forces of the Syrian regime, which fall under the banner of the "Free Syrian Army." The Turks allow them to operate on Turkish soil, provide them with funding, and offer them military cover. Military and financial aid has come from many Sunni Arab countries as well, most prominently Saudi Arabia. Not surprisingly, there's been a rise in radical Islamists that have joined the fight against Syria in recent months. Aside from being aligned with Sunni extremists, these Islamist militants also happened to be dedicated, more regimented fighters than their many of their more secular comrades. Perhaps not coincidentally, the United States has therefore also supporting anti-Assad forces.
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