When Bashar al-Assad launched a war on his own people that left half a million dead, drove millions from their homes, and left his country ruins, he became a pariah in the Arab world and many governments severed their diplomatic ties with Syria. More recently, however, Arab leaders have been welcoming him back into the fold. David Adesnik explains that they have done so with tacit U.S. approval:
The administration has not offered any clear rationale for supporting engagement. The primary cause seems to be fatigue. With unstinting support from Russia and Iran, Assad has demonstrated his staying power. The administration does not appear to want to invest the diplomatic capital necessary to keep him isolated.
On moral grounds, the case for isolating Assad is unassailable. But it is also in the United States’ narrow self-interest. Increasingly, the Syrian regime resembles a narco-trafficking cartel, flooding the region with an amphetamine-like drug known as Captagon. Damascus also remains an integral part of the Iranian network that transfers advanced weapons and hundreds of millions of dollars to Hamas and Hizballah—the U.S.-designated terrorist organizations that brought the region to the brink of war earlier this month with rocket attacks on Israel.
Assad’s rehabilitation has only come this far because the administration gave his neighbors the green light. A reversal could stop the process in its tracks.