The specter of conflict has always hung over Syria since the country was formed in 1918 and the secular Baath party rose to prominence in 1947. However, the last twelve months will stand out as being among the bloodiest in the nation's history.
2013 has been a big year for Syria - from chemical weapons scares to the constant to-and-fro-ing of the Geneva peace talks, the pace of developments in the country this year has been astounding and has profoundly impacted and altered the domestic, regional and indeed the international political scene.
Regime or the rebels?
This time last year, the momentum of the war was decidedly in the favor of the rebels. Just last December, the U.S. joined Britain, France, Turkey and the Gulf states and formally recognized the National Coalition fighting Assad's regime as "the legitimate representative" of the Syrian people. The rebel forces were in control of Aleppo and had made inroads into Damascus.
Now, twelve months later, the pendulum of time has swung in the regime's favor. President Assad's forces have killed key rebel leaders and taken back positions in the Syrian capital and the crucial northern province, Aleppo. Although still in control of some key suburbs of Damascus, the rebel forces have been scattered from their strongholds from across the country. Western support too seems to have cooled down after extremist elements have come to dominate the rebel ranks.
There’s no telling who -- from regime to rebel -- will have won by close of year; but there’s no doubt that the Syrian people lost.
On the international front, Assad narrowly avoided a US-led Western military strike after he killed nearly 4,000 civilians in Damascus in a pre-dawn chemical weapon strike. Fears of an all-out regional war were dampened after the UK's Parliament and the U.S. Congress voted against the strike - and after Assad ally Russia stepped in and protected Damascus.
In the region, tensions between Israel and Syria flared as Hezbollah - Israel's biggest foes in the region - deepened their involvement with the Syrian regime. Jordan prepped its northern borders for a potential conflict and all Syria's neighbours - Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey - saw thousands upon thousands of refugees flood into their borders as violence in their homeland raged on. According to recent UN statistics, two million people from Syria have sought refugee status in neighboring countries.
As the international community struggles to get the parties together for the US-Russian led Geneva II peace conference, the Syrians continue to suffer. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, over 115,000 people have died in the conflict so far and one out of every three Syrians is in urgent need of humanitarian aid - and these numbers are rising.
In late 2012, no one could have predicted that the Syrian conflict would have degenerated into an all out sectarian war - Christians are being targetedand the bloodbath between the Sunnis and Shiites shows no sign of abating. 2013 has been a crucial year in the conflict - but developments on the ground have become increasingly more difficult to follow as Syria falls apart.
To help you understand where Syria stands as we enter 2014, here is a month by month calendar breakdown of all that went down in Syria in 2013. Twelve troubled months and counting. Who knows where the next year will take us...