I agree, Denise, this course certainly changed my perception of the Syrian Civil War. Before, I did not know much about it except for hearing the terms Assad and ISIS/ISIL. It was really a power play between international countries, really with no regard to Syria itself. The greater nations were simply using Syria as a pawn in their international chess match. Including the government of Bashar al-Assad and the umbrella category of “rebel” groups, 9 different players were directly involved in the Syrian conflict, and possibly more. Russia desires Syria as its only foothold in the Middle East, and its only Mediterranean port, Tartus. Iran wants to use Syria in its fight against Saudi Arabia and its desire for hegemonic dominance and spread of influence. The US couldn’t topple Assad, but also couldn’t support ISIS, so they had to support the Kurdish YPG and Syrian Democratic Forces. The Kurds, for their part, just want independence and autonomy, and fought ISIS. Turkey, on the other hand, while sheltering millions of Syrians fleeing the conflict, supported the Free Syrian Army, and opposed the Kurdish independence movement on their southern party, fearing its success would cause a chain reaction of Turkish separatist movements. Labelling the Kurdish YPG as terrorists, Turkey, by opposition to true freedom fighters, implicitly supported ISIS. Israel was shelling the southern border, because they feared the influence of Iran (rightfully so), and the threat of Hezbollah stealing military technology. In sum, many of the belligerents of the Syrian Civil War do not care about Syria for its sake or independence movements, but only for their stake in their international, diplomatic interests.