In May, the World Health Organization gave Syria—which routinely bombs hospitals and runs a multibillion-dollar drug-smuggling business—a place on its executive board, while just last month Interpol allowed the country back into its networks, from which it had been banned since 2011. Meanwhile the U.S. has given tacit approval to many of its Arab allies’ restoration of diplomatic and economic ties with Damascus. Danielle Pletka writes:
[T]he Biden administration has unofficially reconciled itself to the idea that the best outcome in Syria is a Tehran-backed Bashar al-Assad regime. In addition to the likely withdrawal of U.S. troops in northern Syria, Secretary of State Tony Blinken—his [familial] memories of the Holocaust apparently shoved to the side—has signed on to a tacit agreement not to enforce Caesar Act sanctions against Arab leaders looking to normalize and subsidize Assad. The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019 mandates sanctions against Assad supporters, war criminals, and others complicit in Assad’s war on his people, and bars normalization.
What will it all mean? In the status-quo-ante dreams of DC fixers too young to know better (or perhaps too arrogant to care), Assad will reassert control over all of Syria, and then a happy confederation of Israel, the United States, and Russia will give the Syrian dictator the confidence he needs finally to oust Iran and Hizballah from his lands. Turkey and Russia will make sure there’s no homeland for Islamic State or al-Qaeda or other pesky Salafists who threaten our national security. Neat, tidy, and possibly with a cherry on top.
But this is not a realpolitik recipe for success. . . . Here is the reality: Assad will never drop Tehran because he owes his life to Iran. Iran will never drop Assad because the regime has had every possible incentive to do so over the last decade, and has never wavered. Together, Assad, Iran, and Russia cannot crush their opponents because . . . ten years of fighting has failed to make that happen. So what should the United States do? As always, the best guide is the intersection of morality and strategic interests.