More than two years into the Syrian conflict, dozens of factions are fighting for control in the war-torn country. They battle the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. They battle the militants of Hezbollah. And they battle one other.
How did Syria's crisis develop from a citizen revolution into a complex conflict in which different sects fight for the upper hand? Aaron Y. Zelin, Ayham Kamel and Elizabeth O'Bagy joined HuffPost Live's Ahmed Shihab-Eldin and Syria Deeply's Lara Setrakian to demystify the clew of warring groups and the international backing they receive.
"There are a bunch of different factions within the rebellion at this time," said Aaron Y. Zellin, fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The Free Syrian Army is a decentralized conglomerate of different groups; Islamist groups tend to be more organized; radical foreign fighters remain close to al-Qaeda.
The dynamic between these groups has changed over time, altering their popularity with Syrians. Zellin continued: "The Islamist groups have become the best fighters on the ground as well as have been able to provide some of the best governance in the areas that have been liberated in the north of the country."
As the Lebanese militants of Hezbollah have pledged support to Assad, however, it appears Syria's rebel groups need each other if they want a chance to overthrow the government. "Not one of them by themselves can topple the regime," Zellin said.
The U.S. announced in June it would arm Syrian rebel fighters in the wake of reports that Assad forces had used chemical weapons against the opposition. However, the mess of which groups to arm and to what extent to arm them further complicates matters.
"The U.S. is trying to signal that it is supportive of the opposition, but there is a recognition here that whatever weapons they send to Syria, they will do very little," said Ayham Kamel, analyst in the Eurasia Group's Middle East Practice. "They can not change the balance of power on the ground. They will likely be outmatched by Assad's forces with support from Hezbollah and Iran."
"This is very symbolic," Kamel concluded. "There is no easy solution for the Syrian crisis."
Watch the full discussion in the video above.