• The Chemical Exception

    Office of the Press Secretary
    June 26, 2017
    Statement from the Press Secretary
    The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children. The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack.
    As we have previously stated, the United States is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.
    [End Statement]
    The above warning will probably suffice in dissuading the Assad regime from conducting another...

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  • Syria: Policy Made in Tampa?

    Last week the US Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesman for the anti-ISIS (ISIL, Daesh, Islamic State) coalition announced what seemed to be a major clarification of American policy in Syria. Referring to a Syrian town on the Iraqi border, Colonel Ryan Dillon said the following: “If they [Assad regime forces] want to fight ISIS in Abu Kamal and they have the capacity to do so, then that would be welcomed. We as a coalition are not in the land-grab business. We are in the killing-ISIS business. That is what we want to do, and if the Syrian regime wants to do that and they’re going to put forth a concerted effort and show that they are doing just that in Abu Kamal or Deir el-Zour or elsewhere, that means that we don’t have to do that in those places.”

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  • Lawlessness in Syria's Regime-Held Areas and the Future of Governance in Syria

    Lawlessness is a major problem in Assad regime-held Syrian cities, especially those on the coast. This is despite the large number of security agencies that control those areas, along with armed militias that commit daily abuses against civilians and government institutions—violations the government ignores as it relies on the militias’ continued support. Such lawlessness raises questions over the regime’s ability to control the areas it holds and whether it can still be thought of as part of the solution in Syria. 

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  • The Battle for Deraa and Iran's Plans in the South

    On February 12, 2017, the opposition operations center known as al-Bunyan al-Marsous announced the beginning of the battle for the regime-controlled district of Manshiya, dubbed al-Mawt wa-la al-Madhalla. The operation hoped to push the regime away from the border crossing with Jordan following a series of regime attempts to advance in that direction. The Manshiya district is the only remaining regime-controlled section of “Deraa al-Balad” (the southern half of Deraa city), where the Syrian popular uprising first erupted on March 18, 2011. 

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  • Are Kurdish-led Forces Trying to Reconcile with Former ISIS Members in Syria?

    The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US backed multi ethic alliance led by Kurdish forces to fight the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh), issued a statement on May 15th ensuring the protection of ISIS militants in Raqqa, the de-facto capital of ISIS in Syria, as well as their families if they surrender before the end of the month regardless of their position. The SDF issued this deal during the last stage of the assault to capture Raqqa, which so far has effectively removed the group from former ISIS territories. Although the success of this maneuver is unclear. It may indicate that the US and its local allies are finally considering the implications for a post-ISIS Syria and ways to deal with some of the significant challenges.

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  • Assad’s Syrian State Strategy and the Disappointments of De-escalation and Decentralization

    De-escalation and decentralization may soon disappoint those who see such programs as possible solutions for Syria. To be sure, Syrians will welcome any reprieve from violence. And American and European officials may acquiesce to political proposals that they have long since lost the leverage to shape. Even so, neither de-escalation nor decentralization will work unless Western officials do what they have spent six years not doing: craft a coherent and comprehensive strategy to guarantee security in, and promote the viability of, autonomous areas in Syria.

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  • Missing a Syria Strategy?

    The Trump administration stands accused by some commentators of having entered into an escalating military situation in eastern Syria without the benefit of an objectives-based strategy. The truth or falsity of the accusation can best be judged by President Trump, National Security Advisor McMaster, Secretary of Defense Mattis, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dunford. They are the ones most likely to know if Syrian regime aircraft and Iranian drones are being shot down in pursuit of a national security objective and consistent with a strategy aimed at achieving that objective. If a strategic context exists it should be shared with the Congress.

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  • The Perilous Race for Post-ISIS Syria

    Iran and its proxies have already begun to shape post-ISIS Syria, and eastern Syria is the most important theater. Yet recent events show that Iranian-backed forces advancing there will inevitability collide with two hostile forces, and compete with one of them. The first lies south in the al-Tanf border area, where US special forces and their Arab partners continue to take ground from the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh). The second force lies to the north, where the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) could follow their current Raqqa offensive with an attack on ISIS in Deir Ezzor. Iran will come under great pressure to try to counter these advances. If it and the United States stay the course in the current atmosphere of strategic confusion, it is difficult to see how they can...
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  • To Defeat Extremism, Protect Civilians

    For the past six years, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic has reported comprehensively and eloquently on the systematic, deliberate, and criminal targeting of civilian populations throughout the course of the Syrian revolution. The overwhelming preponderance of the Commission’s evidence-rich indictment has fallen on the regime of Bashar al-Assad: a family, entourage, and a cast of enablers holding governmental titles and military ranks; people who will, justice permitting, ultimately face legal accountability. But a Commission that has focused nearly all of its attention on the regime, on ISIS (ISIL, Daesh, Islamic State), and on the multi-named Al Qaeda element operating in Syria, now has an additional player to consider: the United States of America.

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  • How Russia Can Secure the De-Escalation Zones in Syria

    In the month since the Russian-sponsored “de-escalation” agreement went into effect in Syria, continued outbreaks of violence and the dismal track record of previous cease-fire deals have raised doubts over whether warring factions will comply with the truce.

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