The civil war in Syria expanded in its dimensions at a number of identifiable points. Starting off as a civilian uprising, it morphed into a civil war. From the outset, both the government and the rebel sides had a built-in structural drawback. For the government, it was a shortage of loyal manpower. The regime was built on a narrow base. It could be assured of the active loyalty only of members of the Alawi sect to which the Assads themselves belonged, along with members of other minority sects and certain elements of the Sunni Arab population loyal to the regime. The alliance of the regime with Iran and with Russia enabled it to continue its war despite its manpower shortages. The rapid emergence and rise to dominance of Islamist and jihadi groups among the rebels, particularly in the vital northern front, further complicated the issue of state support for the insurgency.