As of tomorrow, the civil war in Syria will have lasted for seven years, with no end in sight. James Stavridis, a retired American admiral and the former supreme commander of NATO, explains why and how the U.S. can help end the war while protecting its interests against Iran and Russia:
The small contingent of U.S. troops present in eastern Syria only marginally stabilizes territory liberated from Islamic State (IS) while preventing Iranian and Syrian government forces from seizing the region. The Trump administration has ended the CIA’s arm-and-equip program for the Syrian moderate opposition, a program that was created under President Obama [and] was never sustainable or substantial. In effect, the U.S. has allowed whatever leverage it had on the ground to atrophy significantly.
This is a mistake. . . . It cedes the region to Russia and Iran; puts at risk our closest ally in the region, Israel; discourages our friends in the Sunni world (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states); and continues the drift of Turkey out of the trans-Atlantic sphere, weakening NATO significantly. After Bashar al-Assad, the big winner of the civil war is Vladimir Putin, who has gained greater power at minimal actual cost. Because he has employed proxies, there have been few Russian casualties. The Russian public sees Putin as a strong global actor who gets things done. Meanwhile, they see the U.S. as weak and distracted by its daily domestic drama. We must get into the game or risk being permanently marginalized in a crucial region of the world. . . .
First, [the] U.S. must work with the international community to find an effective means of getting resources [and humanitarian aid] to the region. . . . Second: repair relations with Turkey. In the end, U.S. policy in Syria rests on the U.S. and Turkey working together. . . . While the campaign against IS proved successful, it is not sustainable to stabilize former IS-held areas with a Kurdish ground force that is not credible to Syrian Arabs and is vehemently opposed by a NATO ally. . . .
Third, [the U.S. should] threaten additional, immediate sanctions of Russia. Putin is directly responsible for the Syrian government’s actions. Options at the UN have been exhausted. . . .
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