Great power competition in Syria: from proxy war to sanctions war

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Raymond Hinnebusch


This paper examines the latest phase in the Syrian conflict, roughly from 2015 to the current time, a period when agency has largely passed from Syrians to rival great powers which have become the ultimate shapers of developments, above all Russia and the US, but with China recently playing a greater role.  Russian and American foreign policy goals in Syria are outlined; next analyzed is how their intervention helped shape a semi-proxy war in Syria. Then the transition to a sanctions war over reconstruction is examined: the various phase of sanctions inflicted on Syria and their impact on it. Then the case of Syrian sanctions is located within the global battle between Washington’s “sanctions hegemony,” and rival great powers seeking a multipolar world, including a look at the impact of the Ukraine war on this contest and on the battle for Syria. Finally attempts  at push back by global and regional players against US sanctioning of Syria are examined. The paper ends with a conclusion summarizing how the global struggle has affected Syria and how outcomes in Syria will affect the latter.

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