MESOP Arguments & Analysis – “After the Geneva Talks: Re-setting U.S. Strategy for Western Syria”

(Ilan Goldenberg, Nicholas A. Heras, and Paul Scharre, War on the Rocks)

“Instead of so aggressively pursuing negotiations, U.S. strategy in Syria and Iraq must start by changing conditions on the ground first before negotiations can proceed productively. U.S. actions should aim to fill the security and governance vacuums with acceptable and sustainable alternatives that eliminate safe havens for those who threaten the United States and its partners with terrorist attacks and regional destabilization. This means shifting from an approach where the United States focuses on whom it is against (Assad, ISIL, Jabhat al-Nusra) to one that emphasizes whom it is for. Otherwise, it risks pursuing a strategy that defeats one enemy but yields to another. A bloody Assad takeover of Syria, for example, would not only be horrific from a humanitarian perspective but would lead to perpetual instability and permanent pockets of extremism. Therefore, the first phase of any American policy must be to empower acceptable elements in the Syrian opposition so that they can become the center of gravity for rebel forces on the ground.”