This map of the Middle East, showing which entities actually control what territory, was published by Frank Jacobs on the Strange Maps web site. Here’s Jacobs’ key to the map.
- The Syrian central government (in light grey), based in Damascus, controls a coastal strip of territory in a patchwork shared with a number of rebel forces. The interior of the country is lost to government control, except a single light grey island in a sea of dark grey (for IS): the besieged city of Deir ez-Zor.
- The ‘official’ rebels (in green) control a fragmented archipelago of territories, spread across the north, middle and south of the country – also concentrated in the east, but without coastal access. Aleppo, in the north, is on the front line between government and rebel forces, with horrific consequences for the city and its people.
- Large parts of northern Syria are controlled by the Syrian Defence Forces (in red): a contiguous zone in the northeast, and a smaller zone in the northwest. Both are separated by the zone of contact between Turkey and Islamic State, although that zone has gotten a bit narrower since the takeover by the SDF of Manbij. The SDF, by the way, are mainly Kurdish forces, and the area they control is often referred to as Rojava – Kurdish for ‘West’.
- The Islamic State controls not only the largest part of Syria, but has also spilled over into Iraq, where it dominates mainly Sunni areas in the centre, up to and including the city of Mosul in the north. The IS’s territory is surrounded by enemies, but has the advantage of being contiguous, with the exception of two exclaves, one in southwest Iraq, and another one in southeast Syria.
- What remains of Iraq is controlled in the south by the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad (in light blue), and in the North by the Iraqi Kurds (in yellow).
- The map also reflects the mainly unrecognised secession of Northern Cyprus (in dark blue) and the de facto secession of Hezbollah-dominated areas within Lebanon (in green) – both facts on the ground predating the Syrian conflict, and likely to survive it.
Source: Frank Jacobs | Big Think
Saddam Hussein of Iraq was, and Basha al-Assad of Syria is, a ruthless dictator who would stop at nothing to stay in power. But they were enemies of jihadist terrorists such as ISIS, Al Qaeda and their successors, and were not necessarily anti-American.
Without the U.S. war with Iraq in 1991 and full-scale invasion in 2003, the government of Iraq would have remained in control of its territory within its official boundaries. Ditto for Syria without the current U.S. support of what Jacobs calls “official” rebels to overthrow Assad.
Would letting Iraq and Syria alone have been worse—either for their people or for us Americans—than what exists now?