Nearly six years since it began, the Syrian conflict rages on. With no political solution in sight, the fighting looks set to continue.
The conflict has morphed into multiple wars conducted by many actors: from government forces, their local and international allies Hezbollah, Iran and Russia, to a wide range of opposition forces, Kurdish forces and extremist groups such as ISIS.
The Islamic State
It is unclear what kind of Syria will emerge from this destruction. Will the state remain united? Will it fragment? How will it be governed? Who will govern it? The outcome will have major implications for the Middle East as a whole.
The implications of the Syria conflict go far beyond Syria's borders. The conflict has exacerbated the problems of the neighbouring states.
The origins and power base of ISIS are in Iraq. ISIS capitalized upon the power vacuum in Syria to expand and establish its so-called ‘caliphate’. ISIS controls large areas of Syria and Iraq.
Cities under ISIS control
Syrian Kurds have established a semi-autonomous region in Syria, a development not foreseen prior to the conflict. This has raised fears in Turkey that its territorial integrity is under threat.
Nearly 5 million people have fled Syria. The vast majority are in the neighbouring states. Nearly one in three in Lebanon is a refugee.
The presence of such large numbers has placed huge strain on public services such as housing and education. With the war ongoing, refugees are not likely to return soon. Many may never return.
These impacts will be felt for many years to come. Isolated and short-term policies cannot deal with these issues. Only long-term strategies can.