Throughout 2018, five key powers have competed for influence in the Syrian civil war — Turkey, Russia, Iran, the United States and Israel. The interests of these countries have prevented further regional spillover from the conflict, but they have also sustained the government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. As the conflict enters its final stages, the possibility of a breakout conflict involving one of the five overseeing powers is very real. As we go into the new year, we take a pictorial look back at Syria over 2018 and consider what 2019 holds, especially in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump's Dec. 19 announcement of a U.S. withdrawal from the conflict.
Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, wearing red ribbons, raise a rebel flag as they stand alongside Turkish soldiers on high ground along the Syrian-Turkish border, north of Azaz on Jan. 28, 2018. Turkey launched operation "Olive Branch" on Jan. 20 against the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia in Afrin, supporting Syrian opposition fighters with ground troops and airstrikes.
(MAAN AL-SHANAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A rocket attack on al-Shaffuniyah, in the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus, sends flames into the sky on Feb. 28, 2018. Because the Turkish-Russian partnership prevents Iran and the Syrian government from attempting offensives in northwest Syria, loyalist forces have instead trained their focus on Damascus and the surrounding area to the southwest.
(AMMAR SULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters approach the town of Sharran -- controlled by Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) -- north of the city of Afrin, on March 6, 2018. Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist organization and has bombarded the region with airstrikes and artillery fire.
(NAZEER AL-KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images)
A map showing ground held by the various competing factions in the Syrian civil war over 2018.
U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discusses allied military strikes against Syria at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 2018. The U.S.-British-French operation was conducted in response to the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons on April 7 in the city of Douma.
(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian soldiers on a government-guided tour in Damascus' southern Qadam neighborhood on April 29, 2018, run at the sound of gunfire from Islamic State positions in Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp on the edge of the capital.
(LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli Merkava Mark IV main battle tanks deployed near the Syrian border in the Golan Heights on May 10, 2018. Early in the morning on May 10, Iranian and Syrian Arab Army units launched an anticipated retaliatory strike against Israeli military targets in the Golan Heights.
(MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Mohammad Naesan (fourth from right) sits in front of his destroyed house in Kobani, Syria, on May 27, 2018. Naesan, who lives in the nearby Martyr Kawa district, repaired his one-story house by hand after it was heavily damaged in fighting.
(DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A spokesman from the Manbij military council of the Syrian Democratic Forces gives a news conference in the strategic northern town on June 6, 2018. The leading Syrian Kurdish militia said on June 5 that it would withdraw from Manbij, easing fears of a direct clash between NATO allies Washington and Ankara.
Nasr al-Hariri, the chief negotiator for the Syrian opposition, speaks during an interview in the Saudi capital Riyadh on July 26, 2018. A delegation from the Syrian Democratic Council -- the political wing of the U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces, which controls much of Syria's north -- traveled to Damascus on July 27 to discuss electricity infrastructure.
(FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) shakes hands with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu before their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on Aug. 24, 2018. Russia has a multipronged plan when it comes to Syria and wants to prevent the conflict from giving way to an international war by mediating between Israel and Iran and by balancing the priorities of the Syrian and Turkish governments in Idlib province.
(ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AFP/Getty Images)
Chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, reacts during a news conference to present the latest report on human rights violations on Sept. 12, 2018, in Geneva.
(FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrians chant slogans and wave opposition and Turkish national flags during a demonstration against the Syrian government in the rebel-held town of Maarat al-Nuaman in the north of Idlib province on Sept. 21, 2018. The major Syrian offensive on Idlib province threatened to create another massive spillover of refugees from there into Turkey, which strengthened Turkey’s resolve to oppose such action, while also eliciting warnings from the United States and its European allies.
(OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian rebel fighter from the National Liberation Front walks down a street in the rebel-held al-Rashidin district of western Aleppo's countryside near Idlib province on Oct. 15, 2018. Russia was increasingly irritated at Ankara's lack of progress in dismantling some of the more extreme rebel groups in Idlib, such as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham -- the latest incarnation of Jabhat al-Nusra -- which has continued to carry out attacks on Russian forces.
(AAREF WATAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces and U.S. personnel gather in the Kurdish-held town of Darbasiyah in northeastern Syria bordering Turkey on Nov. 4, 2018. Renewed tensions between Ankara and Syrian Kurds raised threats against Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria.
(DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A Turkish military convoy moves through Kilis, Turkey, near the Syria border on Dec. 22, 2018. Turkey has reinforced its military deployment in the southeastern province for a possible operation against Syrian Kurdish militias.
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