Syria

A new chapter began in Eastern Ghouta, part of Damascus governorate, on March 22. The government-imposed siege ended in certain towns and Syrian regime forces seized control of areas through a negotiated agreement between the Syrian regime and its Russian ally on one hand and opposition factions—the Rahman Corps and later Jaysh al-Islam—on the other. The terms of the agreement allowed the regime to begin forcibly displacing people from their homes.

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There is no evidence that US President Donald J. Trump has any intention of changing Bashar al-Assad’s calculus in Syria, according to H.A. Hellyer, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

US, British, and French forces conducted airstrikes on chemical weapons facilities in Syria on April 14. Hellyer said the strikes on Syria were a “continuation of an as yet incoherent strategy.”

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The morning after US, French, and British jets targeted chemical weapons facilities in Syria, US President Donald J. Trump took to Twitter to declare “Mission Accomplished.”

That declaration—the two words that former US President George W. Bush came to regret—has left many scratching their heads.

“I found the comment itself puzzling because I don’t know what exactly the president (or the briefers at the Pentagon press conference) mean by it,” said Faysal Itani, a senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. “They seemed to pitch it as meaning ‘successful operation.’”

Itani said there was no doubt that the strikes hit their targets without any loss of US lives or equipment. “But if ‘Mission Accomplished’ is supposed to mean that Bashar Assad has been deterred from using chemical weapons, the most that I can say is ‘maybe,’” he said.

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The United States and its European allies have launched strikes against Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack blamed on Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

US President Donald J. Trump announced the strikes on April 13.

In remarks at the White House, Trump said he had "ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad."

Trump, who earlier this month talked about getting US troops out of Syria, said: “We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents."

The president said the strikes were aimed at preventing the use of chemical weapons, which he described as “a vital national security interest of the United States.”

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The attacks on Syrian targets are not aimed at ending the regime of Bashar al-Assad, even though the United States called on that regime and its leader to step aside nearly seven years ago.  For this murderous crime family and entourage to be brought down, a much more sustained military campaign—one involving a robust ground combat component—would be required.  This is not the American objective.

Yet even as these assaults leave Mr. Assad with the title of president of the Syrian Arab Republic, they have the potential to do significant good.  It all depends, however, on what comes next.  If the follow-up falls short—as it did one year ago—the current round of sound and fury will signify precisely nothing.

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As missile strikes are contemplated, France's ambassador to the United States says political transition in Damascus must be explored

The United States and its European allies should explore with Russia and Iran the possibility of a credible political transition in Syria that can end the seven-year war in that country, France’s ambassador to the United States, Gérard Araud, said at the Atlantic Council on April 12.

The Syrian war has created security and political challenges for not just Syria’s neighbors, but also Europe. “To face these threats what we need is to stabilize Syria, and to stabilize we need a credible political transition,” the French ambassador said. “The goal of the West should be political engagement with Russia, Turkey, [and] Iran with a view of political transition.”

Such a process has been attempted by the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, but it has made little headway. Araud said this was because the Assad regime’s delegation has not discussed political transition.

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Atlantic Council's Frederic C. Hof says Assad will not be deterred by a one-off strike

With missile strikes imminent in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, the looming question is: what next, said Frederic C. Hof, a nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

“The most important thing here is what’s next,” Hof said at the Atlantic Council on April 11. “Critically, this is what was missing almost exactly one year ago.”

“The objective here, narrowly, has to do with deterring future chemical use and perhaps more broadly deterring mass homicide, but it all depends on the follow-up,” he said. “If Assad sees this as he saw the incident one year ago, as a one-time, one-off event then it will accomplish precisely nothing.”

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US President Donald J. Trump is weighing his options as he decides how to respond to an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria. He has not ruled out military strikes.

In a tweet on April 11, Trump warned Russia that missiles targeting its ally, Syria, "will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!'"

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US President Donald J. Trump said on April 9 that he will respond within forty-eight hours to an alleged chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has denied responsibility for the attack.

Assad was supposed to have given up his chemical weapons under a deal reached in 2013.

Here is a timeline of events that led up to that agreement and a look at how it has been consistently violated ever since.

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Syria presents newly minted US National Security Advisor John Bolton with his first foreign policy crisis.

On April 9, hours after US President Donald J. Trump vowed Bashar al-Assad’s regime will pay a “big price” for an alleged chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held Damascus suburb, unidentified jets were reported flying over Lebanon and the Syrian news agency said that a missile attack on an air base in central Syria had been thwarted. The Pentagon denied US jets were involved.

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