The situation in northern Syria is complex and changing by the day. The Kurds have effectively switched sides, Turkey has invaded and Russians are filming themselves touring military bases that just hours before were filled with US troops.
The country, already torn apart by a civil war that has raged since a popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad during the Arab Spring in 2011, has long been the site of proxy wars between various other countries, all with their own competing aims.
Now, the events in Syria could well influence the power dynamics of the Middle East for years to come.
What’s the latest?
Turkish forces are currently on a collision course with the Syrian army as they both advance into an area of Syria that had been, until recently, been relatively peaceful.
Russia has said it is working to prevent a conflict between the two sides, but one Turkish soldier has been killed. Dozens of civilians are dead and 160,000 have been forced to flee their homes.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump announced new sanctions against Turkey on Monday to try to pressure Turkey to accept a ceasefire, and Vice President Mike Pence has flown to Ankara for talks.
“They say ‘declare a ceasefire’. We will never declare a ceasefire,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told reporters after a visit to Baku.
OK, give me the background.
The situation on the ground is incredibly complicated and involves multiple groups with different aims, objectives and alliances.
It might help to begin with a map. The single country of Syria currently has roughly eight different power-brokers, though their influence varies dramatically.
Who are the good guys I can get behind?
Hmm, there aren’t any really aside from the civilians caught up in the violence, at least 50 of whom have been killed in recent days.
It’s probably more helpful to talk about winners and losers.