Small Wars Journal

The New U.S. Strategy in Syria

The New U.S. Strategy in Syria by Matthew RJ Brodsky and Bassam Barabandi - National Review

As the civil-war aspect of the Syrian conflict winds down, the great power struggle among states is intensifying. It appears the Trump team has discovered that its ability to help solve the former will determine how it fares in the latter.

To that end, the president’s team is fine-tuning an approach to Syria to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS, freeze the conflict elsewhere in the country, and reinvigorate the peace process according to UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

To achieve these objectives, the administration is relying on a combination of public messaging and behind-the-scenes diplomacy, but perhaps most important, they are backing it up with a forward-leaning military posture. If recent developments are an indication of future results, the U.S. may finally have a foundation it can build upon. And that’s not just bad news for Russia but for Iran as well.

The early dividends of this strategic shift can be seen in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold in Syria and home to some 3.5 million people. The issue of Idlib was bound to cause friction in the Russian–Iranian alliance with Turkey, which already has boots on the ground and is invested in maintaining stability in the area. Despite this temporary partnership, President Erdoğan is against turning the territory over to the Assad regime and his Russian and Iranian backers, or allowing them to indiscriminately bomb and starve the population into submission.

But that didn’t mean that finding common ground with Turkey’s prickly president would be easy for the Trump administration. After all, the bilateral U.S.–Turkish relationship is already fraught with tension and Erdoğan is staunchly opposed to the U.S. alliance with the Kurds. Add to it the fact that Russian president Vladimir Putin has been diligently working to pry Turkey out of NATO’s orbit, and one could see how making any kind of positive progress was far from a slam dunk...

Read on.