Even before President Trump ordered military strikes on a Syrian airfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, responded with loaded language directed not just at Syria, the alleged perpetrator of the attacks, but also another country that she sees as equally responsible. That would be Russia, the most powerful ally that Syrian President Assad has in the civil war. Haley lay the blame firmly at Russia's feet. Now that the United States has attacked Syrian military targets for the first time in the six years of the war, it's good to keep in mind, what countries support the Syrian regime?
Russia is of course the biggest and one of the most important. But it's not alone. Iran is also a large supporter of the government, and it sends military equipment to the Syrian army. Those are the only two countries that have gotten involved militarily, but there are other allies that have supported Assad and the Syrian army in other ways. For example, take Iraq, which also supports the Assad regime by providing diesel fuel and allowing Iran to use its air space. Other countries seen at times as siding with Syria are China, Lebanon, Venezuela, North Korea, Algeria, and Belarus, although their roles are all significantly smaller.
If you're wondering why these countries are allied with Syria — whose government controls just a fraction of the country — then you might need to do some reading up. In the case of Iran, it seems likely because the rulers of both countries are Shia, as opposed to Sunni like in much of the Arab world. But there's more to it than that. According to The National Interest, it could have plenty to do with the other nations in the region all being pro-Western. Iran may want Syria by its side as another country that opposes the West.
As for Russia, The Economist explained that the ties between the two countries go back decades — more than four, to be precise. "During the cold war, a newly independent Syria aligned with the Eastern block. As a young man, Hafez Assad, Bashar's father, learned to fly fighter jets in the Soviet Union," the magazine explained. Russia also has its sole Mediterranean naval base on Syrian territory. But even more than that could be Syria's opposition to the West, too.
That may leaving you wondering where the United States lies not just with Syria but with these other countries, too. In the case of Iran, the two nations had been sort of at a détente until this year. The real concern, though, would be Russia given its status as a nuclear power and its stronger ability to match America militarily. Russians in the country did get a warning before the attack, but it didn't warm them up to the idea.
So far, Putin has called the attack a violation of international law and said in a statement, "This move by Washington has dealt a serious blow to Russian-US relations, which are already in a poor state." Russia also pulled out of an agreement with the U.S. Air Force that was meant to avoid accidents between jets from the two nations.
How things progress from here remain unclear, but Russia and Iran seem in it for the long haul with Syria.