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Issue Brief June 14, 2021

What choices remain for the United States in Syria?

By Nate Rosenblatt and Jomana Qaddour

Syria is home to one of the world’s most complex conflicts. The chaos caused by the Syrian regime and its allies — within Syria, across the Middle East, and beyond — poses immediate and enduring threats. Considering its foreign policy promise to defend democracy and human rights, the Biden administration does not have the luxury of ignoring what happens in Syria. Accepting that there are fewer options for the United States today than there were ten years ago does not mean normalizing the Assad regime or turning a blind eye to Russian and Iranian efforts to tip the balance of power in the region.

In a new issue brief from the Atlantic Council’s Syria program, “What Choices Remain for the United States in Syria?,” Nate Rosenblatt and Jomana Qaddour describe the challenges the United States faces in Syria, including Russia’s attempt to expand the UN Strategic Framework as well the struggle to keep the UN humanitarian border crossings open in northern Syria. The memo then lays out the three potential strategies in Syria: one prioritizing the withdrawal of US forces, a second protecting humanitarian access and ensuring progress on limited, critical files, and a third maintaining US support for, as well as coordination with, partners to dial up the pressure on the Syrian government and its allies.

The paper ultimately argues that the Biden administration should seize this opportunity to establish a clear strategy in Syria by aligning its defense, development, and diplomatic capabilities with those of its global allies and partners to shape a better outcome in Syria.

Through our Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative, the Atlantic Council works with allies and partners in Europe and the wider Middle East to protect US interests, build peace and security, and unlock the human potential of the region.

Related Experts: Jomana Qaddour

Image: A convoy of U.S. vehicles is seen after withdrawing from northern Syria, at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in the outskirts of Dohuk,, Iraq, October 21, 2019. REUTERS/Ari Jalal