Syrian regime makes big gains in 2018

Almost eight years into Syria’s civil war, President Bashar al-Assad seems closer than ever to securing a comeback at home and in the Arab region, analysts say.

As 2018 ends, the Moscow-backed government in Damascus is in control of nearly two-thirds of Syria, after notching up a string of victories against rebels and jihadists.

And after a shock announcement by the US this month that it is to pull all 2,000 of its troops out of Syria, the regime also seems on track to regain influence in parts of the country under Kurdish-led control.

On Friday, Damascus sent troops to a northern area near the border with Turkey to stave off a long-threatened Turkish assault on the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces there.

It did so at the invitation of the Kurds, who feel exposed by the shock withdrawal announcement by the US, their principal backer.

The Kurds reaching out to the regime represented the latest in a string of achievements for Assad, said Mutlu Civiroglu, an expert in Kurdish affairs.

“He is consolidating his power day by day diplomatically and militarily,” he said.

Assad had previously threatened to retake SDF-held oil-rich territory, whether through ongoing talks or by force.

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