December 16, 2016


A Trump Strategy to End Syria's Nightmare (MICHAEL O'HANLON, Dec. 15, 2016, WSJ)

President Obama's approach--with its focus on defeating Islamic State and displacing Syrian President Bashar Assad simultaneously, while devoting few American resources to the tasks--has failed to stop or even contain this humanitarian disaster. Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, half of the country's prewar population has been displaced and nearly 500,000 have been killed. The conflict provided a sanctuary for ISIS that it used to take a quarter of Iraq and to catalyze attacks on Western targets. ISIS is losing ground, but it and the country's al Qaeda affiliate are far from defeated, and the war remains far from over.

President-elect Trump has stated that his priority in Syria will be to work with Russian President Vladimir Putin to hasten the defeat of ISIS. Any attempt to push Mr. Assad out of power would be deferred. In Jordan, as I learned on a recent trip, many see this approach as more realistic than trying to defeat ISIS while simultaneously expediting Mr. Assad's ouster. The acute threat posed by ISIS, as well as the al Qaeda affiliate operating in the country, makes such a strategy appealing. [...]

To achieve peace, Syria will need self-governance within a number of autonomous zones. One option is a confederal system by which the whole country is divided into such zones. A less desirable but minimally acceptable alternative could be several autonomous zones within an otherwise still-centralized state--similar to how Iraqi Kurdistan has functioned for a quarter-century.

Ideally, Mr. Assad would go. But the prospect of his ouster is not realistic now, given recent battlefield trends and Russia's role. More plausibly, he could rule an autonomous zone in a new confederation. Less desirably, he could remain president of the country for a time, provided that Sunni and Kurd areas did not have to suffer his direct rule or the presence of his security forces again.

The best time to remove Assad was immediately after toppling Saddam.  This change in focus would also have allowed the Shi'a and Kurds to deal with the recalcitrant Sunni, forestalling the creation of ISIS.

Now it's best to kill as many as the Salafi, who have conveniently gathered under the ISIS flag, as possible and then dispose of Assad. Both the Russians and Iranians have declared him expendable.

Posted by at December 16, 2016 8:54 AM