The Kremlin Seeks to Expand Its Influence in Syria—at America’s Expense

Although most Americans, inside and outside of Washington, may not see Syria as an area of conflict between the U.S. and Russia, Vladimir Putin undoubtedly sees it that way. And he is acting accordingly, most notably by sending 300 military police and additional troop units to the northeastern part of the country, an area where the U.S. has been a dominant force for several years. Anna Borshchevskaya writes:

Putin has had his eyes set on augmenting the Russian presence in northeastern Syria for a long time, at least since the U.S. announced its partial withdrawal in the fall of 2020. A reduced American presence, it seemed, would give the Syrian Kurds no choice but to make a deal that would allow Damascus to regain control of this region and thereby bring Bashar al-Assad closer to victory. Putin’s hope has proven premature to date, but the region is fragile, and he has not given up, as the additional deployments show.

More recently, on February 16 and 17, 2021, Moscow hosted the fifteenth round of separate peace talks to discuss Syria’s constitutional process in Sochi under the rubric of the Astana talks—a trilateral forum composed of Russia, Iran, and Turkey that Moscow established four years ago, ostensibly to negotiate an end to the Syrian conflict. In reality, the Astana peace talks created an alternative track sidelining the United States and promoted Russia as a peacemaker that favored Assad and silenced genuine opposition.

Syria may not be a priority for the Biden administration, but it is a priority for Putin. A growing Russian presence in the country will only further hurt American, and more broadly Western, interests.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Russia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Vladimir Putin


To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy